My heart has been breaking for the damage being done to the Kingdom these days. If there has been abuse, I certainly want healing. However, most of what I have been reading seems so twisted from the truth.
You and I worked closely together for many years. We are both witty and sarcastic, and our private office space allowed us to comfortably be ourselves on a daily basis without any scrutiny. Today, recounting some of the phrases and words used, or time spent alone, it might seem inappropriate and salacious. At the time however, it was just harmless, consensual banter between co-workers. I’m unclear how you can accuse Bill of so much wrong doing, when you yourself were involved in some of the same behavior? You know it was in jest. But taken out of the era and situation, things might look different.
- You have forgotten the movie nights after the midweek services and then long talks we had alone in either your car or mine in the empty Willow parking lot long after midnight?
- Do you not remember the times you responded to a question I asked with a “fuck you”? That was not a one-time thing, but was a normal response from you in your office.
- You don’t recall the way you consistently teased me that the I.T. guy was obviously at my desk too often and that he had ulterior motives? You would stand and make faces as he was under my desk working on something, grinning and making gestures.
- When I was able to procure information from someone or do a difficult task, you told me I could probably get things done because I was an attractive, 20-something year old woman.
- I remember you referring to worship leader Darlene Zschech as a Victoria’s Secret model on several occasions.
- Your wife remarked so often on my looks and the fact that it was intimidating that I was your assistant, that I asked you if there was a problem with us working together. I was concerned that maybe it wasn’t going to work out if her insecurity was getting the better of her.
- You don’t remember Bill “grooming” you? I do. After you were told by Bill that you dressed like a “college professor” and needed to dress appropriately for your position, I was the one asked to get you new clothing. I bought pants, shirts, belts and sweaters and you picked what you wanted and paid me for those items. 34x34 pant, right? It was humbling for you, but there was nothing inappropriate about Bill trying to guide your whole self as an up and coming leader. Only saying he did that for women sounds creepier, but he actually did that for everyone he was mentoring. Trying to encourage and create the best in everyone.
- You don’t remember taking walks alone with me at St. Mary’s of the Lake while the retreat participants were having their solitude time? It wasn’t weird. We were co-workers waiting and planning for the next session.
My point in this is not to complain. We were friends. Nothing inappropriate happened. But to an outside observer that might not have been so obvious. I considered you like a big brother. You gave me counsel, challenge and encouragement. But that was it. Nothing about our banter or teasing meant more than that. Taken out of context today, with people who didn’t know us or the culture might not understand.
Only one time did I think you were out of line, and I told you so 2 minutes after that happened. I stayed current. (It regarded my midweek attendance. You yelled at me and powered up in an inappropriate way.) I considered quitting. You apologized. We moved forward.
Can you please explain to me how some of the accusations you are now championing are any different? How is it that now you are the one to give women a voice? We have a voice. It’s our job to use it. To be current and to go to someone if they have harmed us. You have nothing to say about any of it. If anything, you are part of the problem.
Absolutely the women who have come forward have had their own experiences with Bill. But I think my viewpoint shows a bit of the culture at the time. There was probably a naïve “buddy” culture that didn’t place enough emphasis on male vs female. It shows that Bill was possibly more relaxed and felt too comfortable with women, but that was for the women to make a boundary and speak up if anything made them feel uncomfortable.
Please help me understand how you can stand for these accusations against a man that, although certainly very flawed, is not a sexual predator. Dallas Willard has to be flipping over in his grave. You know he would never have participated in something like this. This has brought sadness and division in the Church. That grieves Christs’ heart. Please tell me why you proceeded like this. What am I missing?
Executive Assistant to John Ortberg for 7 years
I want to make it clear that I am not making this statement at the bequest of anyone. I only learned of these accusations 3 weeks ago and have been processing ever since. The hypocritical nature of what John has said has really been bothering me. Because of that, I wrote this letter hoping to open channels of communication and perhaps bring some truth to this saga. I have reached out 2 times over the past 3 weeks to John and sent him this letter. He has not responded. That is why I now come out publicly to share my story so it may be used to counter balance the public’s over-inflated view of my one time boss and friend.
UPDATE: May 15, 2018
As of today, I still have not received any response from John.
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This is a link to a CT article I was interviewed for in 1999. It reflects my thoughts on speaking up for yourself even then.