24 Aug

i was sitting at the edge of my seat, anxiously waiting for hybels to make his announcement.  as a former starbucks partner (the internal terminology used for employees) and manager, the cancellation of howard schultz at the willow creek annual global leadership summit was particularly disappointing.

i’ve had the privilege of meeting and speaking with howard on more than one occasion, sharing cocktails and conversation with him and other senior leaders during the starbucks leadership conference in NOLA; and again had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the business legend (who is really more like an iconic company rock star), during a closed session for selected managers in our region prior to the company launching their version of instant coffee called VIA  in chicago – a bold move for a respected coffee company.

VIA ultimately led to me being fired from starbucks…but that’s another story, for another time.

howard and his leadership team had, as hybels put it, ‘a tough decision to make.’  and though i haven’t agreed with every decision the senior leaders at starbucks coffee company have made (which, by the way, includes my being fired), i do respect their leadership and think we have much to learn from them.

i was looking forward to howard speaking at the conference, and was disappointed to hear news that he had cancelled.  even more frustrating was the reason why.

as bill hybels addressed howard’s cancellation, he stated emphatically, ‘willow is not only not anti-gay, willow is not anti-anybody…the mat at every door on this campus has always read ‘welcome.’  he continued, ‘we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the scriptures, which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage, and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.’ <this statement was received with thunderous applause> to watch video of the announcement, head to kurt willems’ blog.

hybels then encouraged those attending the conference to purchase howard’s most recent book, Onward and to go out and buy a cup of starbucks coffee.  whether you agree with hybels’ position on sexuality or not, he handled the situation with grace.  given the circumstances, it could have gone much, much worse.

yet here’s the rub :: i wonder — was it necessary for hybels to make the polarizing distinction of marriage being solely ‘between a man and a woman’ in the midst of a ‘we’re not anti-gay’ speech?  isn’t making a public declaration denying the rights of gays to marry in at least some sense anti-gay?

i’m not saying hybels should have misrepresented his church and endorsed same-sex marriage, or sexual behavior.  if willow doesn’t bless and celebrate same-sex unions, that’s their right… and through relationship and conversation, i believe many gay christians would still find willow to be not only not anti-gay, but quite welcoming and accepting (in fact many already do, making willow their place of worship).

but making a statement that lacks clarification, conversation, and relationship in a public forum that smacks of traditional anti-gay rhetoric, in my opinion, is unhelpful in elevating the conversation with the gay community.  had he left that portion of the statement (and the term ‘homosexual’) out, i would have been much more pleased with the speech.

what do you think?

note :: this isn’t a bill-bashing moment.  i respect him and his leadership, and think we have a lot to learn from willow creek.  yet just like i don’t agree with every decision starbucks has made, i question the language used in the announcement of howard’s cancellation.


8 Responses to “anti-gay?”

  1. Jillian S August 24, 2011 at 4:25 PM #

    Hi! I followed over from facebook because this is important to me. I *think* that the way he phrased marriage wasn’t to exclude LGBT marriage as much as to possibly define the context for when willow would be okay with men/women having “full sexual expression”? Still… words heard are different than sitting and re-reading a sentence a few times.

    Personally, I have been really invested in thinking about what I say, the words I use and how they come across. I catch myself making mistakes (not on purpose!) and it takes practice–for me anyway. I wish the church/individuals spent much more time being very aware of these things– especially when trying to bridge the gap. (My pastor here in Austin had an LGBT related miscommunication in his message on Sunday… I was intrigued at how from the pulpit he diplomatically handled the moment in which he realized he misspoke.)

    Thanks for the good thoughts. Now I’m sorry I moved away from Peoria before we could have had a proper chat!

  2. the WayWard follower August 24, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    so true… it takes LOTS of practice. and i’m sure we’ll continue to err and mess up… but it’s important we continue to try to build bridges. imperative, even.

    i’ve found andrew marin’s ‘love is an orientation : elevating the conversation with the gay community’ particularly helpful in understanding the dynamics of dialogue. even more helpful is actually asking people from the LGBT community how *they* feel about the discussion. • what words/phrases make you ‘shut down’? • what would you like to hear/not hear? • if there was one thing you’d like to say to the evangelical community, what would it be?

    hearing stories from people who have lived through the hurt caused by the church on this issue has helped not only deepen my understanding, but also deepen my conviction that we must do something different. the status quo is simply unacceptable.

    • Jillian S August 24, 2011 at 7:09 PM #

      “hurt caused by the church”—ah, now there’s something else I have encountered/experienced (long stories… etc). grr. So frustrating.

      Yes! I follow the Marin Foundation & read Andrew’s book a few years back. So helpful. Have you read Wesley Hill’s Washed & Waiting? I went to Wheaton so a school chum made sure I got a copy. Wesley’s story is probably one that most Christians would feel more comfortable with engaging–nonetheless, he really broke my heart.

      • the WayWard follower August 24, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

        i’ve not read it; i’ll have to add it to my list!

  3. Ric Booth August 31, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

    Your “here’s the rub” observation is spot-on. Bill Hybels and all evangelical leaders who, like Bill, try to straddle this fence need to realize what they are saying when they say committed, same-sex relationship/unions/marriages = homosexuality = gay = sin. All churches are, of course, anti-sin. As long as they hold fast to this interpretation of the 6 clobber verses, they will be anti-gay. This line of argument is going by way of the Jim Crow Laws. It simply does not compute.


  1. follow-up. « the WayWard follower - January 30, 2012

    […] following is a follow-up response to the many comments my anti-gay? post generated on tony campolo’s red letter christians site.  you can also read the […]

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