Marcus Bieschke, Lead Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church’s Crystal Lake campus, announced this past Sunday that he will be removing himself from his position due to his “heart and values” not being in full alignment with the direction the church is going.
In a letter delivered to the church via email, Pastor Bieschke explained that he “will conclude [his] role as Willow Crystal Lake’s Lead Pastor on December 1” and that his decision was “accepted by Senior Leadership.”
“Over the past 20 months, it has become increasingly clear to me that my heart and values are not in full alignment with Willow’s current direction,” he mentioned in his letter. “I cannot pastor and lead to the best of my ability without being fully aligned in these fundamental areas.”
Bieschke continued: “I’ve longed for and encouraged Willow to pursue a different path toward healing. But due to a difference of opinion on what that path should be, I believe I must depart.”
Pastor Bieschke’s resignation comes approximately 3 months after another Willow Creek Lead Pastors decided to step down due to his convictions of being unfit for leadership. Lead Pastor of Willow Creek’s Wheaton campus, Reece Whitehead, announced his resignation on July 21, 2019.
In a letter written to the Wheaton church community, he said, “I have too often associated my identity in the fruit of my labor (results), rather than resting in the truth that I am God’s child. As a consequence, I have developed a blind spot in my leadership that has impacted some of the Willow Wheaton staff.”
In March of 2018, Willow Creek Community Church founder Bill Hybels was accused of several accounts of sexual misconduct. Around the time of Whitehead’s resignation, the new elder board released its final statement regarding the allegations against Hybels.
The board charged Hybels with “unchecked sin and intimidating behavior.” The elders “unequivocally supported” the testimonies of the women who accused Hybels of sexual misconduct. The board also pleaded with Hybels to “reflect on his years in ministry” and “repent where necessary.” Hybels declined any interaction at the time.
For those who attend any of the Willow Creek campuses, lend your support and comfort to any that are hurt and healing. For those across the country and around the world—pray. Pray for Bill Hybels’ repentance, for Reece Whitehead’s humility, and guidance for Marcus Bieschke.
Finger-pointing, judgemental attitudes, and words of condemnation have no place in the church when it comes to dealing with fellow Christian leaders who have fallen from grace. The mercy of God needs to be on full display, and Willow Creek Community Church needs the power of God in order to continue impacting the greater Chicago area.