Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



LGBTs have historic meeting with influential church
by William Burks

This article shared 7276 times since Wed Jun 11, 2008
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

On Sun., June 8, 30 members of LGBT families attended Willow Creek Church in suburban South Barrington and met afterwards with Rev. Bill Hybels as part of the 'American Family Outing' sponsored by Soulforce and three other organizations.

Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner and pastor of Revolution Church in New York, led the group, which included Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes.

'The [ post-worship ] meeting was quite successful in a number of ways,' Lutes said, who attended with his partner and their three adopted children. 'This was about making connections—person-to-person and family-to-family—and I think we did that. I respect Willow Creek for having the courage and the willingness to really have a meaningful conversation about this.'

'You can't really have honest, healthy conversation with somebody that you don't know or trust or you might fear just because they're unknown,' Lutes said. 'Now, we're not unknown. They're known to us, and we're known to them, and we hope in some yet-to-be-defined way that we can keep the conversation going with them.'

Paige Schilt, Soulforce's media director, characterized the meeting as 'very productive, very intense, ' and 'one of the deepest' of the series of church meetings the organization is sponsoring over the course of six weeks.

Mary Lou Wallner, who believes the homophobic teachings she received from Willow Creek and that she passed on to her lesbian daughter to be partly responsible for her suicide in 1997, said that in addition to Hybels, Willow Creek staff attending the meeting included Ron Ercoli, one of the church's community care leaders, Justin Poling, a member for 30 years, and Betty Schmidt, a church elder whom Wallner knew and she spoke with privately after the meeting.

Schilt said at the end of their meal, Lutes asked Hybels if he 'would take up the challenge of speaking more clearly on behalf of our community when he can—certainly as someone who believes that reparative therapy doesn't work and that sexual orientation of itself is not sinful. Even though there's still distance between that position and our totally gay-affirming position, there's still a lot he could do in terms of leadership on things that would create a lot more safety and protection for our community. And he responded really positively to Jeff's offering that challenge to him.'

According to Lutes, Hybels 'has no trouble with people being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and he does not believe it's a choice, so he seemed appalled when we shared with him that many churches force LGBT people to get married in order to deal with their sexual orientation. He couldn't believe that. But we were surprised that he didn't seem to know about that. But that did not seem to make any sense to him whatsoever. Essentially what he advocates or what Willow Creek advocates, is celibacy. And that's where we differ.'

Bakker also highlighted Willow Creek's acknowledgement that 'a lot of the things that have been very hurtful of people in the past—as far as reparative therapy and that type of thing—that they agreed was dangerous, and thought that people can't change their sexuality.' The issue 'boiled down to, 'We accept all people, gay and lesbian people, but they have to be celibate. And I felt like, you know, that's a little unrealistic.'

Bakker said that of the seven Bible verses typically cited as condemning homosexuality, Willow Creek agreed that six of the seven do not refer to modern-day same-sex relationships. While he viewed this as progress, the church holds that the creation story in Genesis in which 'God created male and female' is sufficient to justify requiring celibacy of homosexuals. 'I wonder if the same thing was expected of them, if they'd be able to do that,' Bakker said, referring to the Willow Creek team who hosted the meeting.

Wallner said, 'It boils down to the fact that if we're saying that God made homosexuals homosexual, would a God of love and grace and mercy relegate them to a life of solitude, with no companionship and no ability to have a partner for life, and all of that? That's where everything gets hung up.' She remains hopeful that the church will look eventually at 'marriage equality, which is what we need to be fighting for.'

On its Web site, however, Willow Creek has a link on homosexuality under its 'Ministry Quick Links,' referring inquirers to 'A Safe Place' as 'a Support Community providing a redemptive community of grace, biblical truth and relational support to those struggling with same-sex attractions.' Stating that 'this workshop is currently 'under construction' and is in the process of developing the leadership required for a new curriculum' to be introduced in the fall of 2008, the Web site provides links to organizations that promote reparative therapy for homosexuality, including Exodus International, Desert Stream, NARTH and Leanne Payne's Pastoral Care Ministries.

'I think that they're at the very beginning,' Bakker said, 'and that they're saying, 'We're going to try and not carry books like this, we're going to try to make it clear that we don't agree with certain things [ that may have been said in the past ] .' But that was just [ Sunday ] , and I don't know … I don't think it was empty rhetoric. They seemed like they were going to respond in some ways and in positive ways. But, honestly, as usual, the proof is in the pudding.'

Peterson Toscano, a theatrical performance artist who said he 'spent 17 years and more than $30,000 on three continents trying to change his sexual orientation,' is currently involved in a movement of ex-gay survivors helping those who have been damaged by reparative therapy to accept their orientation.

He said he described for the Willow Creek team the 'harm that comes from reparative therapy that I've seen in myself and over a thousand other ex-gay survivors—psychological, emotional, spiritual harm, harm to one's career, finances, relationships, physical harm that often comes to people, sexual harm, developmental harm,' so that 'well-meaning Christians who think that they're doing good trying to encourage gay persons to change will hear that [ it ] causes more harm than good. And I think they definitely heard that message.'

Willow Creek media relations manager Susan Delay said that because the church and Soulforce had agreed on a closed meeting, she did not attend and could not comment on what transpired or whether Willow Creek might change its ministry, theology or classes relating to homosexuality based on the meeting: 'We evaluate all our classes over the summer—and there are many of them—and we take into consideration feedback from pervious participants. As to whether that particular class will be changed, I couldn't say at this time.'

Willow Creek, begun in 1975, moved to South Barrington in 1981 and is located on a 155-acre campus housing facilities costing nearly $117 million. The church has been voted 'the most influential congregation in America' in a national poll of pastors.

Soulforce is a national civil-rights and social-justice organization seeking freedom for LGBT people from religious and political oppression. The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Church, National Black Justice Coalition and COLAGE ( an organization for children, youth and adults with one or more LGBT parents ) collaborated on the event.

This article shared 7276 times since Wed Jun 11, 2008
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

OP-ED The Black church was one of R. Kelly's enablers 2021-10-13
- The long-awaited justice for R. Kelly's survivors finally came last month when a New York federal jury found him guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. For nearly 30 years, underage Black girls and their families have ...

Gay News

Urban Village Church hosting drag worship service, Pride prom Oct. 10 2021-10-04
- On Sunday, Oct. 10, Urban Village Church (UVC) will host a drag worship service at its Wicker Park site, 1012 N. Noble St. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. (CST) with performances from local drag artists, including ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Thirteen Days 2021-09-29
- Thirteen Days. adapted by Brian Pastor from the book by Robert F. Kennedy At: City Lit Theatre at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1030 West Bryn Mawr Ave., Tickets: $27-$32. Runs through: Oct. 24 Palace Intrigue has been ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Carl Bean dies, LGBT History Month, military events, Dykes on Bikes 2021-09-19
- Archbishop Carl Bean—an openly gay former Motown singer, longtime AIDS activist and leader in the LGBTQ church movement—died at age 77, The New York Daily News reported. In a statement entitled "The Giant Sleeps," the Unity ...

Gay News

Former bishop who pushed for LGBTQ+ inclusion dies at 90 2021-09-19
- Retired Newark Bishop John Shelby Spong—a best-selling author and cleric known for his progressive theology and his support of women and LGBTQ+ clergy in The Episcopal Church—has died at age 90, Episcopal News Service reported. "It ...

Gay News

Affirming Powerhouse Church establishes permanent home in Chicago 2021-09-18
- Powerhouse Church has come a long way in a decade. Out Pastor Keith McQueen recently told Windy City Times about the church's history. "We actually started in Indianapolis in 2012, and after a series of supernatural ...

Gay News

Pope again refuses to bless same-sex marriages 2021-09-18
- Pope Francis told reporters recently on a return flight from Hungary that the Catholic Church is unable to bless same-sex marriages because marriage is a divine sacrament between a man and a woman, per The Advocate. ...

Gay News

Catholic theologians urge protections for LGBTQ+ people 2021-09-14
- More than 750 of the nation's leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators and writers have joined New Ways Ministry in voicing support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, according to a New Ways press release. ...

Gay News

Wisconsin priest resigns over allegations of 'improper behavior' 2021-07-21
- Citing allegations of "possible improper behavior," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the resignation of its top administrative official: Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who previously served in Wisconsin, the ...

Gay News

WORLD Historic ruling, Pope Francis, photo contest, Methodist Church 2021-07-04
- In a first-of-its-kind decision in Latin America, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Honduran state guilty of the extrajudicial execution of transgender activist Vicky Hernandez, which occurred June 28-29, 2009, according to The Washington ...

Gay News

NCLR campaign to highlight LGBTQ-welcoming faith-based service providers 2021-06-16
--From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights launched the "We Serve with Love" campaign, which seeks to demonstrate that faith-based service organizations and programs are ready to serve low-income LGBTQ people and ...

Gay News

Contradicting Vatican, U.S. Catholics to bless LGBTQ+ people at start of Pride month 2021-06-01
--From a press release - In response to the Vatican's March statement that blessings for same-sex couples are not possible under Church teaching, hundreds of Catholics across the U.S. have signed up to participate in an online blessing service to mark ...

Gay News

Pfleger reinstated at South Side church after investigation 2021-05-25
- Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners that the Rev. Michael Pfleger will return to the pulpit at his South Side parish after a Chicago archdiocese panel found "insufficient reason to suspect" that he is guilty of sexual-abuse ...

Gay News

Evangelical Lutherans select first transgender bishop 2021-05-10
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church elected its first openly transgender bishop on May 8, The Hill reported. The Rev. Megan Rohrer, who uses the pronouns they/them, was elected bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Sierra ...

Gay News

Groundbreaking drag-queen ministry candidate speaks at Illinois UMC 2021-04-16
- Hope United Methodist Church (in Bloomington, Illinois) celebrated Drag Sunday on April 11 with a message from Ms. Penny Cost, Religion News Service reported. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference's Vermillion ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.




About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.