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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am

Summit lineup changes; interest still strong

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

It was probably inevitable: The speaker lineup for the Global Leadership Summit has changed.

Organizers made the announcement less than three weeks ago. The news came through one of a steady stream of almost weekly updates and marketing emails for the annual two-day event scheduled Aug. 9-10 this year.

Some previously announced speakers, concerned about sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Hybels, the megachurch pastor and author who helped develop the summit, decided not to participate this year.

But local interest in supporting the summit and attending remains strong, a key organizer said through an email response Friday.

“We're expecting 5,000 in attendance this coming August and our early registrations have already exceeded where we were” at the same time last year, said Kelly Byrd, a Sweetwater Sound executive and local host team leader.

“We've experienced zero pushback from our over 50 corporate and nonprofit partners here at the Fort Wayne GLS, and it looks as if we're on pace to exceed last year's record numbers here at our local GLS.”

The summit originates from Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, a northern Chicago suburb, and is broadcast to hundreds of communities.

Fort Wayne has had the prestige of being the largest-attended satellite site. Last year, rather than remain at Grand Wayne Center downtown, the local summit site was Memorial Coliseum and at least 4,200 people registered, Byrd announced the first day.

Hybels spoke in Fort Wayne in February 2017 for Habitat for Humanity's first “Build on Faith” leadership conference. He since “accelerated his retirement” from Willow Creek and related positions, officials said in a May 17 email. He will not appear nor speak at this year's summit, the email said.

I've attended the summit, along with other leaders from the church I attend, for at least eight years. I, like other attendees, became used to Hybels' self-reflective, engaging and thought-provoking opening sessions and other appearances during the summit.

But accountability comes with leadership. And when there's a perception and certainly allegations of such wrongdoing, a true leader knows when to step down, at least partly in the interest of the organization's ongoing vitality. Sometimes the retreat comes with private encouragement from other organization leaders.

Willow Creek acknowledged, among other things, “caring deeply for the women who have stepped forward and brought their concerns to light,” while also “walking with Bill Hybels during an appropriate season of reflection.”

The email said at least three speakers, Denzel Washington, A.R. Bernard and Lisa Bodell, decided due to the “challenging circumstances” not to participate. They have been replaced, including with previous summit speakers John Maxwell and T.D. Jakes. Additional information can be found online at

This year's summit still promises to be highly informative and engaging.

“While we were saddened by the recent events and allegations regarding Bill Hybels – those of us close to the Global Leadership Summit experience have always known that's its a ‘leadership movement' that has always transcended any one person,” Byrd said in his email.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at