News » Religion

Starbucks CEO Cancels Speech at ’Anti-Gay’ Church

by Rachel Zoll
Friday Aug 12, 2011

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz cancelled an appearance at one of the most prominent megachurches in the country after an online petition condemned the congregation as anti-gay - a charge the church denies.

Schultz had been scheduled to speak Friday at The Global Leadership Summit organized by the Willow Creek Association, based in South Barrington, Ill. The annual event draws tens of thousands of viewers via satellite. Past speakers have included former President Bill Clinton, GE's Jack Welch and rock singer Bono.

A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed Schultz would not speak as scheduled, but she declined to say more.

However, at the start of the event Thursday, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, Bill Hybels, said Schultz had cancelled suddenly after a petition was posted on the Internet a week ago that said his participation would be unacceptable.

The petition at accused the megachurch of "anti-gay persecution" over Willow Creek's past relationship with Exodus International, a Christian ministry that offers to help gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation. Willow Creek cut ties with Exodus in 2009, church spokeswoman Susan DeLay said.

Hybels said that Willow Creek does expect its members to follow biblical ethics and reserve sex for marriage between a man and a woman, but welcomes worshippers of all backgrounds.

"To suggest that we check sexual orientation or any other kind of issue at our doors is simply not true," Hybels said. "Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week."

Hybels asked members of the audience to write Schultz "with genuine Christian love" and say he'd be welcome at any future summit.

"Buy a cup of coffee in the next couple of days and show some Christian goodwill," Hybels said.

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  • , 2011-08-12 11:04:22

    I’m glad he cancelled. I would cut up my Starbucks card and never go there again. And I’m from Seattle.

  • , 2011-08-12 12:18:31

    Finally someone willing to stand up! That’s right folks, us " gays" spend money on coffee too. Get use to it, things are changing, people are starting to realize that we do have a voice, our money and our votes matter, glad he cancelled, Starbucks would have lost a tremendous amount of customers otherwise.

  • , 2011-08-12 19:18:54

    Are they anti-gay? Is the guilty before proven innocent? I really don’t know.

  • That Long Beach guy, 2011-08-13 00:47:35

    If they cut ties in 2009 then maybe they don’t persecute or preach against the gay community. I don’t know. Some can correct their past attitude and be a partner for change. I applaud Starbucks for their progressive stance. I just don’t want to condemn without proof. However, above it all religion does cause much more harm than good.

  • , 2011-08-13 12:15:33

    honestly, if the church cut ties with exodus in ’09, and is valid in their claims to have same sex couples attending their church...this should not have come up. The Starbucks CEO surely canceled due to the fact that having a company’s public figure speak in a church setting can cause unrest in the media.

  • JPtheROBOT, 2011-08-13 23:20:46

    Everyone pointing out that they cut ties with Exodus in 2009 is missing the point that they STILL condemn gay people, by circuitious route of "marriage is for man and woman only" and "sex outside marriage is wrong". It’s still an anti-gay stance, if not a surprising one for a religious institution.

  • , 2011-09-03 09:02:21

    It is telling that Pastor Hybels used the term "same sex attraction" isn’t it? It means, as they themselves have many times said, "there are no homosexuals, just straight men who struggle with same sex attractions." This false claim underlies their past support of Exodus, which makes the very same false claim. They specifically don’t say they welcome gay people, because the term gay means that the speaker is comfortable with their homosexuality. They also have not said that they disavow the work that Exodus does. Just because they don’t welcome controversy that the Exodus brand brings with it, does not mean they don’t still approve of the work Exodus does. It’s horrible, destructive work. Let’s hear Hybels say that gay people are just fine in the eyes of God, and that his church accepts them just the way they are. It’s clear that they want gay people to come there so they can make them not gay, or at the very least celibate, since they don’t allow sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Does Hybels think we are idiots? Does anyone really buy his doublespeak?

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