An Insider's Account of Willow Creek's Deepening Apostasy

Excerpts from "Protestant No More:  Willow Creek Infiltrated by a Mystic Quaker Movement Called Renovare"

 by Mary Fairchild - March 2003

Editor's Note: The unsettling information in this firsthand account by a Willow Creek insider clearly shows how the "Church Growth" principles of consensus, tolerance and ecumenism that were implemented years ago by Willow Creek have left them wide open to the infiltration of New Age teachings and Eastern mysticism, under the guise of "Christian experience." This should be a warning that Willow Creek and other CGM churches, regardless of their orthodox Faith Statements, are actually leading their congregations through a consensus process that dismisses the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, while embracing the alternative "truths" of mysticism, spiritualism and other false belief systems. Do not be fooled by these wolves in sheep's clothing.

For more history on mysticism, read The Evangelical Attraction To Mysticism at the Berean Beacon website. To learn more about Quaker mystic Richard Foster and his unbiblical teachings, go to the Lighthouse Trails website report.

Many good Christian leaders have difficulty perceiving the spirit of compromise. I went back to Willow Creek earlier this year only to discover my plans to serve in the women's ministry as a Biblical "Titus 2 woman" serving the younger were, in actuality, going to be a "spiritual guide" for a New Age Movement. Mystic ways of praying (repeating and meditation) and relating to God were being taught along with frequent references to Quakers. Terms like "covenant", "covenant groups", and "lectio divina" where frequently used. They gave out free books in the mentor training class in January (Sacred Companions by David G. Benner, and Spiritual Mentoring by Keith Anderson & Randy Reese). One class included a clip from the movie The Matrix. The movie was recommended and had keen insight for us in some way. We were told to avail ourselves to the classics of Roman Catholic mystics, and do timelines on our lives...

The classics the women's ministry were instructing us to "avail to" were mystical writings from around the fourth to fifteenth century. The mystics taught how to unclutter the mind and remove any rational thought so the mind is totally passive. This opened them up for the "Presence of God" which is actually a form of Zen meditation. Quaker quietists believe in a similar manner that "God is within" and they believe a "Quiet Revolution" is coming and declare there will be a coming incomparable "harvest." They are predicting the greatest harvesting of souls in the history of the world. An important difference to understand is that the Holy Spirit indwells (believers) and the occult meaning behind the concept of "the god within," "the light within," or "the Christ within" has a different meaning.

It's a strategy for ecumenism without regard for doctrine. Renovare is the organization behind this movement out of the traditions of Quakerism and it is directed by Rich Foster and William L. Vasivig.

At the Wednesday night service at WCCC we were introduced to a "spiritual formation leader", Mindy Caliguire. This was a special night of prayer for those who had concerns about our situation in Iraq and it was a last minute idea to fill-in because Randy Travis cancelled his concerts. It had received TV coverage due to the Iraq situation. This guide was not on TV but she led us in ways best described as that of the "New Age." We were instructed to relax our arms and put our palms up and be silent and meditate. She was praised by Bill Hybels for how "deeply" she had just been praying and was introduced as someone who is very actively working behind the scenes in the spiritual direction of the elders and the church.

On page 41 of the membership book Willow Creek currently claims to be "interdenominational," emphasizing that all true believers are one with Christ and each other, regardless of denominational background. This is an important change in that "nondenominational" rejects all man-made doctrines and strives to follow only what the Bible teaches and "interdenominational" accepts all beliefs. This makes a "grave" difference. Just like the old Jesuit Philosophy, "the end justifies the means," or "if one's goal is to promote worthy spiritual causes, one may adopt questionable means to attain those goals"...

One night Sibyl Towner was speaking to the woman next to me. She was excited telling of how she had used some sort of spiritual exercise on a 3 year old. She said she had used it 66 times and offered it the woman she was speaking to. She was excited because she felt that the 3 year old "was ready" somehow because she enjoyed the game where she likes being "found" by the great shepherd.
Spiritual Formation leaders at Willow Creek
1. Mindy Caliguire: 
head of spiritual formation for elders at WCCC; spiritual retreats on website; teaches at women's classes at WCCC.

2. John & Nancy Ortberg: 
teaching pastors at WCCC; various websites on seminars and speaking engagements around; the world; books; ministry; 1995 John and Ruth Barton unveiled the "spiritual formation" at WCCC; 1996 John was responsible for the push for equality of women at WCCC.

3. Ruth Haley Barton: 
co-author of book with John Ortberg; presented spiritual formation in 1995 with John Ortberg at WCCC; President of Chicago chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality; spiritual formation minister at WCCC; spiritual formation speaker for NAPCE pastors conference involving one-on-one spiritual directors and training.

4. Sibyl Towner: 
Sibyl is heading up mentoring for women at WCCC and various other ministries there; trainer for the Hungry Souls Website with Karen Mains from Mainstay Ministries; teaching staff for women's ministries at WCCC.

5. Keri Wyatt Kent: Is teaching women's ministry classes at WCCC; Involved in Cenacle Retreat House Spirituality Center-Interactive Retreats where you can experience "God within" in a variety of ways-through art, walking the labyrinth, Franciscan priest's prayers, chanting, meditation, Indian sound mysticism, and other journeys to your creative center; she frequently speaks at MOPS.

6. Susan Shadid: teacher from the Middle East who taught spiritual mentoring with Sibyl Towner in the women's mentoring classes recently. She also has websites for WCCC promiseland.
In the Friday morning women's study, Practicing Our Faith by Dorothy Bass, taught by: Keri Kent, Lynn Siewert, Sibyl Towner, and Charlotte Tofilon. The acceptance of "traditions" of other faiths is being taught through the month of May. Last fall's women's classes were equally disturbing in topics. Meditation techniques and the writings and traditions from the Jesuits, the Quakers, and the Black church are being mixed with Scripture and New Age ideas.

A video of Mother Theresa was shown, during the Friday study, where she vividly prayed to Mary for a cease fire and there was a cease fire. They didn't use this to discuss true Christianity but left it up to us and many were in awe. It was merely an example of compassion they said. While reading from Hebrews 12:1-2 Lynn Siewert pointed out that one of the words in the verse, "hinders", also means "encumbers" and that is a Quaker word! She then goes on to tell her woes of being a busy mom who broke down one day in her business. She began reading this book we were using for class, Practicing Our Faith, and one day she just took the two words "be still" and meditated on them for two hours! This has helped her to say "no" to business...

I called the leader of the women's ministries I knew from about 10 years ago and she was let go after 9/11. She was aware of some of the influences of the women in leadership as relating to Catholic traditions. She is not very involved now and had been busy with family over the past few years. She encouraged me to go to leadership because I may be on to something especially if the spiritual formation was in any way leading to having another direct you in prayer in some way. I affirmed that the books did just that and that there were more in the bookstore promoting the same. She said that Mindy Caliguire, the spiritual guide, had been an intern with her husband and that they started a church in Boston and had returned. The associate pastor, John Ortberg, had gotten together with Ruth Barton about 5 years ago and started a focus on "spiritual formation" with a book they co-authored.

I got a call from the women's ministries volunteer about becoming a mentor at Willow. I told her I hadn't had an interview yet and I wasn't even a member. I only attended recently in the past few weeks. She said as long as I attended the class that was good enough since they were understaffed. Then I let her know that I was concerned about some of the references to Catholic, Quakers, and the Jesuits in class. She told me she was just reading a book on "Quakers." And then she added, "We must avail ourselves to the classics!" I was concerned that the church was not Protestant anymore so I asked about these influences from other religions. She said Sibyl Towner had been a volunteer for 8-9 years and has recently headed up mentoring in the past year and a half. She has inspired the liturgical influences like "lectio divina." I told her I didn't agree with these meditations and the "breath prayers" as described by Sibyl. I warned her that this form of meditation could open people up to the wrong spirit and hearing voices. She replied, in defense, that in the Old Testament God spoke to people. I told her God doesn't speak to us today as he did in the Old Testament and that she may be opening herself up to other spirits and they are not of God. I shared the Scripture Matthew 6:6-9 with her about how to pray.

Hungry Souls website (

This Hungry Souls website, in which Sibyl Towner is planning to train mentors, details experiences by Karen Mains as she anxiously awaits to hear her "voices." They're geared up for growth complete with "telementoring calls," and "pilgrimages back to the sacred Spanish mystic sites."

Sibyl Towner called me after speaking with the volunteer and reading my comments on the Mother Theresa video. We covered all of the information I shared with Pam and I asked her why not choose a great woman of faith like Elizabeth Eliot who is not compromising like Mother Theresa. I discussed my problem with the meditating and breath prayers with her also. I also shared my concern for her misleading innocent women with her teaching which may open them up to evil spirits since this type of prayer is how the occult prays and it's not found in Scripture. She tried to have me see how Psalm 1:2 taught this method. Although it describes one who meditates on the Scriptures day and night I see no indication of choosing one or two words to repeat over and over for hours or even half a day as they are beginning to teach in these classes.

We need to read all of God's word so we can have more resources to guide us in our daily decisions. When we pray to God He already knows all about what is on our mind but he wants us to relate with us and when we read the Bible we learn what He is like and what He wants for us to do. Habitual, formula prayers dominate in pagan religions. They appeal to human nature and its "felt needs." Who wouldn't want to recite a prayer or mantra that promises easy access to higher powers that will fulfill your dreams and satisfy your wants? Our finite dreams and wishes fall far short of God's wonderful plan for us.

Promoted writers and leaders of this movement at the WCCC

1. Richard J. Foster  Renovare & Christian Mystic Quaker and Fuller psychologist, Foster teaches all the techniques of the New Age such as quietism, mantras, centering, Buddhism, Yoga, T. M., exercises of Ignatius Loyola, Eastern religion and so on….

2. Tilden Edwards author: Spiritual Friend, Paulist Press, 1980 Episcopal priest; founder and director of Shalem Institute For Spiritual Formation. His vision is that contemplative spirituality can have a powerful effect on today's national life.

3. Parker Palmer believes that a life illuminated by spirit and infused with soul will transform education. His on-line [no longer available] transcript follows the Dalai Lama. He is a Quaker.

4. Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits Ignatius was the first general of the Jesuit army. They infiltrated churches to destroy all that were not related to the mother church. One of the bloodiest times in the history of mankind, the Jesuits were probably the most cruel and fierce as they justified torture and murder for the church. Loyola's spiritual exercises were used by the Jesuits and they would put themselves into a trance and levitate.

5. George Fox founder of Quakerism Mothers of Feminism; The Story of Quaker Women in America by Margaret Hope Bacon, Harper & Row Publishers, 1986; The Quakers by Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, Greenwood Press, 1988, Westport, CT. In deep depression and hopelessness Fox hears a voice and promotes it as the "Light within." Perhaps out of his devotion to his over-indulging and well-learned mother, he pushes a strong egalitarian movement and sets up women preachers as he twists Scripture to make sense of his "experiences" and explain his unscriptural choices.

6. Gilbert Bilezikian and Egalitarians  Bilezikian is the founding elder and influential theologian at WCCC. Egalitarians assert that women should be pastors, elders, and co-heads of families. They twist Scripture just like George Fox did to make this possible.

7. John Ortberg & Ruth Barton Egalitarian and New Age influences. Together they opened up "spiritual formation" at WCCC with the introduction of their new book and curriculum An Ordinary Day With Jesus.

Richard Foster

Al Dager writes: "A large part of Renovare's spiritual disciplines involve meditation on the writings of selected spiritual masters associated with the "Christian" contemplative tradition. Most, of course, are Roman Catholic, particularly those mystics from the fourth through the fifteenth century..

Like other occultists, Foster encourages his followers "astral projection," the ascension to heavenly places and into the "Presence." Foster takes his followers on spiritual journeys up beyond the heavenly places and into the "Presence of God", face to face with the Creator of the universe through the use of Eastern meditative techniques. His book, Celebration of Discipline, instruction is offered using guided imagery in occult practices of visualization, meditation and even astral travel.

Media Spotlight gives a long list of those supporting Foster's Renovare including: Renovare's Steering Committee *Sister Thomas Bernard, Director. The Spirituality Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. *Isaac Canales, Ass. Dir. Hispanic Ministries, FTS* *T. Eugene Coffin Counselllor, Memorial Gardens, Crystal Cathedral. *Richard Felix, President, AZUSA Pacific University. David Allen Hubbard, President of Fuller Theological Seminary…*Robert A. Seiple, Pres. World Vision, Inc. Renovare's Board of Reference Ted W. Engstrom, Tony Compolo, Richard Felix, Roger Forster, William C. Frey, Millare Fuller, Henry Gariepy, Michael Harper, Roberts Hestenes, Jerry R. Kirk, Clarence A Kopp, Sr., David LeShana, Peter Lord, Carl H. Lunquist, David and Karen Mains, Martin Marty,
Renovare's speaking platform are: (Many are from Fuller Theo. Seminary). Eugene Coffin, Crystal Cathedral, Bob Seiple, World Vision, Inc…..

Foster reciprocated John Wimber's endorsement by commending Wimber's honesty in the forward to "Power Healing." He affirmed Wimber's apostolic role and claimed that "John speaks with confidence as one who is living out of the divine center." That "divine Center" is an Eastern mysticism term, meaning "God is a universal consciousness, residing within everyone, guiding them on the path to evolutionary perfection."

Renovare is merely one of the many avenues for incorporating this mysticism and ecumenical teaching into society, and specifically, Christianity. Foster and Vasivig have held many conferences and in 1991 had their second "National Conference on Personal Spiritual Renewal of Christian Leaders": "with more than one thousand pastors and leaders in attendance, the directors praised occultist/psychiatrist Carl Jung as a great psychiatrist emphasized personal renewal through 'meditative prayer' involving 'centering down' to become quiet and passive, then used guided imagery and visualization of Christ" "Foster called for unity in the body of Christ through the five streams of Christianity, the contemplative, the holiness, the charismatic, social justice and evangelical. Vasivig recalled that his first experience of "meditative prayer using visualization was taught to him personally by Episcopalian mystic Agnes Sanford.

Roman Catholic mystics, particularly of the fourth to the fifteenth century are associated with these same teachings. Besides Jacob Boehme and George Fox, some like-minded mystics include Thomas Merton, Ingatius Loyola, Henry Suso, Dorothy of Montau, Julian of Norwich and so on.

Tilden Edwards

"Together I think both the Catholics and Protestants vaguely have sensed that we share a time of grouping together toward and emerging, reconstellated understanding of direction in which none of us is yet thoroughly confident. Thus, in regard to readings, as in all other dimensions of the program, there is a common sense of humble searching and equality.
Five levels of reading are involved in the first year.."p. 223; criteria for selection of individual: 4. Have a B.A. degree or equivalent, 5. Express commitment to Truth through a particular major religious tradition and at the same time are open to learning from other traditions. p. 208; Roughly 50 people applied for the first program in September, 1978. Our main disappointment was in having no black applicants. ..we chose a group of almost equal numbers of men and women and of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a good mix of parish clergy, religious community members, chaplains, seminary faculty, advanced students, formation directors, and laity working in various church and community situations. ..they really need apprenticeship to a master..but in this relatively "masterless" time, ,this is not likely to happen. They do need to be with someone who is their director, who can help them attend to the Master of Loving Truth within. There is that dimension of charisma involved that can only be attended as an unfolding process. A program can provide launching, sensitising, and securing platforms, but oh, how puny these look beside the spirit's movement in a person when the time has come. A program at its best stands as midwife, attending the birth of deeper spiritual sight through cleansing, aligning, resting.

This faithfully appropriated integrative sight is what "makes" a good spiritual director. It is not the accumulation of knowledge. It is the nakedness of sight. The program can be taken for graduate academic credit...some are taking it as part of academic doctoral programs in Christian Spirituality at Catholic University..and some as part of master of divinity programs. (pp. 210-212, Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, Paulist Press, 1980,).

Parker Palmer

"As we go into these five days together, let us remember one thing about the soul. It is like a wild animal: tough, self-sufficient, resilient, but also exceedingly shy… if we are willing to go into the woods and sit quietly at the base of a tree, that wild animal will, after a few hours, reveal itself to you. And out of the corner of your eye, you will glimpse something of the wild preciousness that this conference is looking for.

I ask for guidance for myself and, as Quakers say, hold the entire conference in the light, to be here, to be present to each other in the right spirit, speaking our truth gently and simply…ground in our own experience and expanded by experiences that are not yet ours. Compassionate toward that which we do not yet understand, not only as a kindness to others but for the sake of our growth and our students and the transformation of education. Amen."

Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits

Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) spent time reading about pious Roman saints and the life of Christ while recuperating from a broken leg. Feeling too inadequate, he confessed his sins for three days at a shrine of the Virgin Mary. As his conscience troubled him deeply he chose to earn his salvation by obedient service to the Roman church and the pope rather than accept Christ's free offer of salvation. He soon planned to bring Catholic turned Protestants back to the Roman Church which he thought was the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Counter-Reformation brought new life to the inquisition. The Inquisition virtually destroyed Protestantism in Spain and halted its growth. The Inquisition became one of Europe's bloodiest times and one of the bloodiest times in the history of mankind. Loyola was responsible for torturing and killing Protestants. He started up the Jesuits. He was the first general of the Jesuit army. The Jesuits, an order of priests, were probably most the most cruel and fierce of all the Catholic organizations in their tactics. They believed that "to kill or torture is justifiable, if it is done for the cause of the church. He used to put himself into a trance and levitate like many other Roman Catholic Jesuit priests. Around 1550 the Jesuits began infiltrating every religion and denomination. Their job was to infiltrate and destroy churches other than the mother church. Before long, Jesuits had become teachers and professors in universities throughout Europe. Eventually they started their own schools, colleges, and universities. They saw education as a way to serve the church by strengthening people who were already members and reclaiming those who had become Protestants.

The Roman Church remained convinced that it was the Kingdom of God on earth, and it saw the Protestant Reformation as a threat to that Kingdom. The church determined to regain what it had lost and to put the whole world under its religious domination once and for all. A Christian is condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. Over 100 anathemas against Christians have been pronounced by the Roman Catholic Councils of Trent and Vatican II. These condemnations are still in effect today. A Catholic is condemned by the Word of God. There is a judged for the one who rejects Me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (John 12:48). If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:9)

They still infiltrate churches today. They also infiltrate many Bible schools and Seminaries around the world and keep them from teaching the fullness of the word of God. Education was and is used to reach others and strengthen their own and their hallmark is "the end justifies the means." (History of the World by A Beka Book, 1995, Pensacola Christian Collage, p. 221, Church History and the Things to Come by A Beka Book, 1993, Pensacola Christian Collage, p.50) 

George Fox

The Quakers sought equality for women from their beginnings and had women teachers and circuit preachers known to abandon their large families at the start. In some of their earlier travels they appeared to enjoy arguing with young theologians and even went to such extremes as walking through the streets naked to oppose hypocrisy. Their acts were considered to be under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. Some of their experiences were described as response to falling deeply in love and they would follow whatever the Spirit wanted. The nickname "Quaker" came from the shaking aroused by inner struggles of individuals facing their inner motives "under the Light" in the Quaker meetings. They believe they have revived true Christianity and all other religions are false.

In 1654 pairs of north-country farmers or women who had received calling from the Quaker Light, set out to reach all parts of England. Huge crowds gathered at a rented hall in a tavern in London and at an orchard in Bristol:

John Audland, who very much trembled…stood up, full of dread and shinning brightness on his countenance, lifted up his voice as a trumpet, and said "I proclaim spiritual war with the inhabitants of the earth, who are in separation from God."…some fell on the ground, others crying out under the sense of the opening of their (spiritual) states…Oh, the tears, sighs and groans, tremblings and mournings…in the sense of our spiritual wants and necessities…We are forced to meet without doors, and that in frost and snow, when several thousands have been assembled together.

Margaret Fell, wife of George Fox, instructed to "let the Eternal Light search you…for this …will rise up and lay you open…naked and bare before the Lord. …Keep down your Minds that questions and stumbles at the power of God.
Puritan Francis Higginson writes during the summer of 1652: Groups met in homes or on crags sometimes a hundred or two hundred in a swarm…..and continue all night long. They have no singing of psalms, no reading or exposition of Holy Scripture, no administration of sacraments….Their speaker for the most part uses the posture of standing, or sitting with his hat on, his countenance severe, his face downward, his eyes fixed mostly towards the earth, his hands and fingers expanded, continually striking gently on his breast, …his voice low, his sentences incoherent…Some stand in the market place…and cry "Repent, repent, woe, woe, the judge of the world has come." They exhort people to mind the Light within, to hearken to the voice and follow the guide within them, to dwell within…The priests of the world (they say) do deceive them, ….they speak of living under the cross, and against pride in apparel and covetousness. (The Quakers by Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, Greenwood Press, 1988, Westport, CT.)

George Fox was the founder of Quakerism. He was indulged by his mother who was considered to be "more learned" than most women. George was described as an inward and serious child and was kept away from playing with the other children since he was different and quite withdrawn. His mother had encouraged him to spend many hours of solitary meditating and Bible reading. After the death of his mother he wrote that his spirit was in travail. As an adolescent he writes in his journal that he continued in his "religious struggles." After seeking on a pilgrimage for anyone who could answer his spiritual yearnings he had a religious experience where he actually heard a voice say: "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition."

From then out the Quakers believed that Jesus Christ was the light within that everyone had the potential to experience. The "light" was always given a capital "L." He believed that "there was that of God" in all men, in the American Indian, the African Black, and in all men. We are all a "holy community" where no one has dominance over another and where there is no reason for war. For a long time Fox had been promoting equality of men and women. In 1648 he stood up and opposed a meeting of Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Anglicans when a woman was silenced and not allowed to speak in the church. Fox said that because the church is a spiritual household in which Christ is the head that women may be allowed to prophecy and speak. In 1656 He wrote a tract called The Women Learning in Silence: or the Mysterie of the woman's Subjection to her husband, as also, the Daughter prophesying, wherein the Lord hath, and is fulfilling that he spake by the Prophet Joel, I will pour out my Spirit unto all Flesh. Fox explained that he thought that people respond "to a certain measure" of their attained "Light" of the teaching of Christ in their heart. He taught that 1 and 2 Timothy, where Paul writes that women are to keep silent in churches, is only "Paul's attained level of knowledge on the subject."

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
Every Word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar. Proverbs 30:5-6

In his second tract he believed Paul was merely speaking to a particular group of unsaved women who had not been raised to that "certain level of understanding" so he did not actually condemn the preaching of all women. He continued to write and defend women and stated that the Holy Spirit is available to everyone and no one had the right to stop it. As his followers turned to him for advice and counsel, Fox was compelled to bring others to the liberating experience he knew and to also confound false teachings. He likened the experience of the Holy Spirit as to that of mother nurturing her baby at her breast. In 1652, in Lancashire, Fox converted a large group of seekers. This was the beginning of the Society of Friends once called the Children of the Light.

In 1669 when he married a convert he was determined to exemplify marriage as a union of equals. Their marriage was considered a spiritual partnership and neither hindered the other's leading of the Spirit. After his death his wife, Margaret Fell, traveled and counseled until her death.

Puritan values were challenged as the Quakers pushed gender equality and disorder to the Puritan's reverence for order and the Scriptural role of the man as the sole authority of his household. William Penn, who believed that religious liberty must be available to everyone, helped the Quakers secure their own colony while remaining ambivalent to their roles of women. (Mothers of Feminism; The Story of Quaker Women in America by Margaret Hope Bacon, Harper & Row Publishers, 1986).

Gilbert Bilezikian

Selections from the article "Femme Fatale: The Seduction of the Evangelical Church," World Magazine, March 29, 1997: The move (to inclusive language Bibles) fits with the trend toward egalitarianism-the denial of any distinctions between men and women-in the church and home. Egalitarians assert that women should be pastors, elders, and co-heads of families. Gilbert Bilezikian, professor emeritus at Wheaton College and author of Beyond Sex Roles, puts it bluntly: "There cannot be authentic community as described in the New Testament without the full inclusion of the constituency of members into the ministry life and leadership of the group." After reading the book Mothers of Feminism; The Story of Quaker Women in America I could see obvious parallels with Belezikian's book Beyond Sex Roles. He's been promoting the Quaker's feminism all along.

Mr. Bilezikian is a founding elder and influential theologian at Bill Hybel's Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. Willow Creek's rapid growth and it's influence on other evangelical churches through the 2,200-member Willow Creek Association makes it position on the issue important. Willow Creek has had women elders since its founding in 1978. But in the past year the church has made explicit among its leaders the reasons for its position-and demanded a level of agreement from staff and prospective church members.
John Ortberg & Ruth Barton

John Ortberg had gotten together with Ruth Barton about 5 years ago and started a focus on "spiritual formation." She's a graduate of Wheaton College, recently served as president of the Chicago chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. She is currently working on a degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and ministering in the area of spiritual formation at Willow Creek. Ruth is a trained spiritual director and speaks often to conferences and groups. NAPCE, North American Professors of Christian Education, annual conference 2001; this conference explored the journey to spiritual maturity in four communities; African, Asian, Hispanic and the Willow Creek Community Church experiences. "Ruth Barton 'champions' the rapidly emerging spiritual formation emphasis at Willow Creek." At the National Pastors Convention February 26-March 1, 2003 meetings were planned one-on-one with spiritual directors to explore your presence and call in your life. You get to embark on an hour-long journey through the prayer experience of Labyrinth. A personal guided meditation tour to help you "deeply" relate with God…Ruth was scheduled to teach seminars on spiritual transformation. General session speakers included John Ortberg and Rob Bell(well known at WCCC). John Ortberg and his wife, Nancy, both teach at Willow. John claims to be "passionate about spiritual formation" as his write up states on the website along with his wife they are selling teaching videos there.  

Teaching videos are sold by the Ortbergs on spiritual formation. Note Nancy's New Age term "centering" and John's terminology "Rule for Life" which was written by St. Benedict in the early years of monasticism and is still used in monasteries and convents; also used in the discipleship of a New Age by Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul.

"The rule" can be roughly translated into modern English as follows: "The one upon the Way leaps forward, leaving the world of fluid life. He makes the great transition and leaves the watery way behind. He walks upon the water and is not submerged therein. A chela with a light leads him by the hand from light into a greater Light. (John's current book is titled, You Can't Walk On Water Until You Get Out Of the Boat)

Mr. Ortberg's teaching became the basis for a draft position paper dated January 1996. The paper, which was distributed only to Willow Creek's ministry leaders, says the church "has sought to ensure an appropriate level of consensus on this issue with new staff members" to avoid an environment that "would be destructive to authentic community and effective ministry." The statement makes clear the church's belief that "when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunity for ministry," despite "a few scriptural texts that appear to restrict the full ministry freedom of women."

Willow Creek has had women elders since its founding in 1978 (compromise #1). In 1995 John Ortand and Ruth Barton were allowed to begin "spiritual formation" at Willow Creek Community Church (compromise #2). In 1996 John Ortberg taught a two hour class to church ministry leaders to seek "an appropriate level of consensus on the issue of the church's belief that "when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunity for ministry," despite "a few scriptural texts that appear to restrict the full ministry freedom of women." 

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