Shortly before he was scheduled to address 165,000 people at the annual Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz withdrew, thanks to a petition signed by only 700 people on the website Change.org.
The petition objects not to the purpose or content of the annual leadership summit, but to former associations of the host. Willow Creek Community Church once had a relationship with Exodus International, a Florida-based ministry that reaches out to homosexuals wishing to leave the lifestyle.
Change.org called for a Starbucks boycott, calling Willow Creek “an anti-gay church” and saying that not denouncing conversion therapy “is tacit approval.”
A growing number of corporations working with churches and ministries on various projects have been targeted by homosexual activists deeming them “hate” groups recently; Schultz is the third to act on a petition by Change.org in particular.
“‘Hate’ is too big a word to be thrown around with so little discretion,” noted Focus on the Family President Jim Daly. “It is a damaging and dangerous thing to hang such an emotional epithet on a person or group because they think differently about some issues than you do. Believing what the Bible says about human sexuality is a personal conviction, not an act of persecution.”
Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels said at today’s summit the church let Schultz out of his contract without penalty after discussing the petition with him.
“If organizers would have called us, we’d have said Willow Creek is not anti-gay. Willow Creek is not anti-anybody,” he said. “It’s founded on the idea that all people matter to God. We don’t check orientation at the door.”
Noting Schultz “had to read through some tough e-mails,” Hybels encouraged conference attendees to send him something nicer — and to continue buying Starbucks coffee.
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