The Willow Creek Community Church has long had a policy of both men and women in leadership roles - which was (and is still) counter to what many other churches teach. From their site:

We believe churches should be led by men and women with God-given leadership gifts. This includes the concepts of empowerment, servant leadership, strategic focus, and intentionality (Nehemiah 1–2; Romans 12:8; Acts 6:2–5).

I'd really like to know how they came to this view and especially their Biblical basis for this belief (beyond the verses quoted above which, while they are about leadership, do not mention women specifically).

  • Does this help? media.willowcreek.org/wp-content/files_mf/…
    – Kramii
    Nov 19, 2013 at 22:39
  • There is also a book called "How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership" that would be worth looking at as it has contributions by senior WC leaders.
    – Kramii
    Nov 19, 2013 at 22:46
  • @Kramii: to answer your question - the link doesn't really help. I'm familiar with some of the items on that list but they don't answer my specific question. The book though is a great tip - thanks! Has anyone here read it and can provide a summary of the WC position? Nov 20, 2013 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


Willow Creek has held an egalitarian stance about women in leadership since their inception. Yesterday Lynne Hybels reposted the chapter in the book mentioned above on her blog. The link is below. I attended Willow for two years in the 1990s and benefitted greatly from the women on the teaching team and the stellar leadership of the mixed-gender elder board. It was a defining time in my personal and spiritual growth.

I would like to point out that while it is true that some churches do not hold this perspective, I believe that is mostly Southern Baptists, fundamentalists, and of course the Catholic church.

There are MANY denominations with a long legacy of fully including women in church leadership: Free Methodist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, Foursquare, Nazarene, Society of Friends, and of course many mainline churches. Christian organizations like Compassion, World Vision, Intervarsity, as well.

A founding elder at Willow, Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian, wrote the classic book on this subject: Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family. I highly recommend it as a good introductory text on egalitarianism. Hope that is helpful.


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    Thanks for this! Can you please summarise the link in your answer? Then I can accept it. Great first contribution here, welcome to Christianity SE. Nov 21, 2013 at 8:30

I am quoting sections from Bill Hybel's words on Evangelicals and Gender Equality by Lynne and Bill Hybels:

First, the history from Bill's youth pastor role:

Our approach to leadership was pragmatic; it seemed obvious that we needed male leaders for the guys to relate to and female leaders for the girls to relate to. In actual experience, it was easier to find high school girls who were spiritually mature and skilled in leadership than it was to find guys. From a practical standpoint, it would have been unthinkable not to allow girls to lead.

Then, "In 1975, the high school youth ministry “birthed” a church for adults called Willow Creek Community Church." In this section Bill writes:

I have to confess that at that point I was not absolutely convinced theologically that including women in leadership was the right thing to do, but neither was I convinced that it was prohibited.

Then, when they started to get attention from both Christian and secular media, the question came (with my emphasis):

Did we have a rational defense for our position? In response, we commissioned our elders to do an intensive, eighteen-month scriptural study of the issue of women in leadership. I did not feel it was right to sideline the women whom God seemed to be using while we did this study, so we pursued a parallel track of study and continued observation of how God worked among us through the leadership efforts of both men and women.

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a Wheaton College professor and Willow Creek elder, led the study. The conclusions of the study were published in 1985 in Bilezikian’s book, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family. In summary, we concluded that before the Fall, men and women related to each other as co-regents, both bearing the image of God and called to join together in caring for the world he had created. Both men and women were responsible to fulfill their ministries of service for God’s glory in the manner God had gifted them and to the degree to which they had been apportioned faith. Tragically, in the Fall, this cooperative relationship between men and women was deeply wounded. We believe God’s gracious plan for redemption is that everything that was broken through sin—including the relationship between men and women—might be restored to the beauty that existed during the first days of Creation.

TL;DR: the Willow Creek elders concluded that, before the Fall, men and women were equal partners and so this should be the pattern within the church.

  • (@GWallace) This text came from the link provided in GWallace's answer. If she answers my request to make her own summary, I will re-evaluate that as a possible accepted answer instead of mine. Mar 2, 2014 at 19:58
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    Met Bill Hybels once completely by accident on a business trip in Shanghai. We were staying in the same hotel. He told me that the (Chinese) hotel manager was a Christian. He advised me to let the him know I was a Christian so that I could get my room upgraded.
    – guest37
    Jun 24, 2017 at 17:38

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