Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
So the Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz declined to speak at Willow Creek Church’s Leadership Summit because the church once affiliated with Exodus International. A petition at Change.org with just under 800 signatures provoked the CEO to change his plans. I must admit I am puzzled over this. I can understand a gay activist viewing Exodus as a gay change organization but the relationship with Willow Creek ended in 2009.
Now here is why the title of the post says that Willow is under more than one gun. At the same time the Change.org petition took Willow to task for ever being affiliated with Exodus, Peter LaBarbera is protesting, with a sign and everything, outside the church’s Leadership conference because Willow broke with Exodus.
What is odd about AFTAH’s protest is that Exodus has not been particularly high on AFTAH’s list of groups either. In 2010, AFTAH accused Exodus of capitulating to gay interests when they dropped the Day of Truth.
Through all of this, Willow Creek reacted in a pretty classy manner. Bill Hybels gave praise to Schultz, wants to meet with the Change.org people and to my knowledge has said nothing about AFTAH’s sign. He maintained his beliefs, repeated his view that all people are welcome at Willow and even said buy Starbucks coffee.
Clearly, in America, there is tension between gay rights and traditional religious views of sexuality and we are sorting all of this out in real time. Regarding this particular dust up, I think Willow could have handled the break with Exodus better. I think it should have been made public when it happened and clear reasons given. Also, when it did come to light, they did not comment about accusations that they had gone soft on homosexuality, nor make it clear what the issues were.
However, in the present, I like how Hybels handled Schultz’s decision. Reacting with grace is a much better reflection of what he says he believes than retaliation or defensiveness.