Thursday, August 25, 2011

Willow Creek: Not Hate, Just A Double Standard

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz caused controversy recently by cancelling an appearance at the Chicago area mega-church Willow Creek in response to a petition calling the church homophobic. The petition cited the church's former, though long lived, relationship with the ex-gay para organization Exodus International, along with their statement following the dissolution of the relationship that the move did not indicate a change in their position. Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels recently responded to the controversy.

Personally I don't believe that anyone should be forced out of saying anything by threat of boycott. But I am suspicious of Mr. Hybels' claims that Schultz's decision was a business decision. It seems to me that a mere 700 some signatures on an online petition would hardly be enough to frighten the CEO of Starbucks, no matter how bad times may have gotten for the company. I think it more likely that Schultz had his attention drawn to the church's position on LGBT people by the petition and the buzz it got and decided he no longer wanted to speak there. Being a wealthy East Coaster, who isn't even a Christian (let alone and evangelical), he likely wasn't particularly comfortable with their position, decided to distance himself from it and gave them the courtesy of not making a big deal out of it by claiming their position had nothing to do with it.

I also enjoyed Mr. Hybel's take on what it looks like to love LGBT people as a church at Willow Creek. He claims to hold everyone there to a single Biblical standard, but in reality it is a double standard for the church's
queer members. If a straight person falls in love the standard for them is marriage and a family. If a queer person falls in love on the other hand the standard is denial and life long celibacy. And there will always be opposition from gay Christians like myself, and straight allies, who believe that Scripture, properly understood, does not support such a double standard.

I am sure that Willow Creek treats its gay congregants with respect (especially the celibate ones). As a matter of fact from what I've read from Andrew Marin the church is quite welcoming to the LGBT community, if not affirming. I'd even imagine the church leaders avoid the issue of homosexuality when they can, knowing that many of their congregants, both gay and straight, may not feel the same way they do. And while I frankly see no reason to castigate a church that at least seems to be heading in the right direction, the reality is there will always be opposition from the gay community to that heterosexists double standard.

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