The twitterverse and blogosphere are a buzz (at least within an active subsection) about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's decision to withdraw from Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit this year, apparently under pressure from gay-rights groups. ?You can read my take on the situation here.
Don’t Blame Howard Schultz
I have been told that Bill Hybels will be addressing the controversy this morning during the first session of the conference. I am glad Bill will address it from the main stage, not ignore it. ?The evangelical church needs to be talking about this issue in ways that are constructive, civil and loving — and I know that Bill will do that, even if I disagree with him on some of the issues (though I suspect we agree on more than we disagree on… I will blog more about this later).
Some people have been criticizing Schultz for giving in to pressure and/or not taking this chance to be part of a broader conversation. ?I think it is unfair to blame Schultz or to expect anything else from him.
1. As far as I know, Schultz has no special relationship to the WCA, Willow or Hybels. ?He is simply a speaker at a conference. ?Nor is he an evangelical Christian. In a real sense, he has no dog in this fight. ?If speaking at Willow is a good thing for him and Starbucks, then great. ?And if people learn and are inspired by him (and by his books), then even better. ?But that is probably as invested as Schultz is in the Summit.
2. He is a business guy who has to make decisions that make the most sense for his business. ?Period.
3. It so happens that his business has tons of LGBT employees and customers. ?Offending them is probably a bad business call.
4. Schultz has recently faced some criticism from LGBT employees — any more controversy in this area is probably not what he needs or wants.
5. My guess is that his personal position is a pro-gay one. ?I wouldn't be surprised if he withdrew largely based on personal conviction.
So I don't think it is fair to blame Schultz. ?I will miss hearing him — I am fascinated by his leadership and the company. ?But I don't blame him for skipping out.
I also don't blame Willow or Hybels, as I have explained here.
One thing that is interesting, is I think that conservative evangelical Christians forget how out-of-step their views on LGBT people are in terms of the rest of the world. ?Now some hold this as a badge of honor, while others (I think rightly) are uncomfortable with the discord — even if they themselves hold traditionalist views on homosexuality. ?But this should hopefully be a teaching/learning moment, especially for a movement that claims to want to reach the LGBT population (and already has a lot of us in your pews, whether you want to admit it or not). ?I am hopeful that Bill will model a good approach to the discussion today — and that maybe soon, we will see an actual, public and civil discourse on the issue, within the circles of evangelical Christianity.
Now I am off to Summit… and very excited about it!
I would love to hear your thoughts.