Willow Creek Community Church, a Chicago-area mega-church that gained fame 20 years ago for its “seeker-sensitive” approach to evangelizing non-Christians, has announced that it will no longer partner with Exodus International, a national ministry that reaches out to individuals wishing to leave the homosexual lifestyle.
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said that Willow Creek’s move reflected an emerging tendency among some evangelicals to shy away from dealing with controversial issues. “The choice to end our partnership is definitely something that shines a light on a disappointing trend within parts of the Christian community,” Chambers told Christianity Today, “which is that there are Christians who believe like one another who aren’t willing to stand with one another, simply because they’re afraid of the backlash people will direct their way if they are seen with somebody who might not be politically correct.”
But that all changed after Willow Creek’s head pastor, Bill Hybels, agreed to a meeting in 2008 with members of SoulForce, a homosexual activist group that specifically targets churches and Christian organizations. According to the Chicago Tribune, Hybels was one of the nation’s few mega-church pastors who had agreed to meet with the homosexual group. Others, including Joel Osteen, pastor of the massive
Lakewood Church in , did not respond to SoulForce’s request for a sit-down. Houston
“Bill Hybels is to be commended,” said Jeff Lutes, a spokesman for SoulForce. “They were the first church that responded to our letters and to begin to have conversations with us and show willingness to meet face to face. By being willing to sit down at the table with us, they’ve demonstrated courage.”
Cindi Love, executive director of SoulForce, applauded the news that Willow Creek had decided to stop working with Exodus International, calling it a “red letter day” for her group, which would ultimately like to see evangelicals take a tolerant — or even embracing — stance toward homosexuality.
Meanwhile, Chambers said decisions such as Willow Creek’s to cut ties with ministries that help individuals overcome same-sex attraction “highlight a reticence in the church to stand up for biblical truth….” He added that such moves are “coming at a time when we’re going to have to stand up for what we believe. I think there’s a way to stand up. We have to find that way.”