Former professor accused of sexual misconduct

By Tennyson Bush

2.7.2020

On Tuesday, two Wheaton alumnae accused Gilbert Bilezikian, an emeritus professor of New Testament, of sexual harassment in a blog post by Julie Roys (‘87), a popular Christian writer and podcaster who lives in the Greater Chicago area.

The alumnae, Donna Ray and Ellie Cowan, studied with Bilezikian in the mid-1980s. According to his faculty profile, Bilezikian started teaching at Wheaton in 1966 and retired in 1992. He is often credited with inspiring the megachurch movement. Bilezikian, who is now 92 years old, has previously denied allegations against him.

The most recent allegations followed a Jan. 28 statement by Willow Creek Community Church, where Bilezikian was a founding member, confirming that the New Testament professor had “engaged in inappropriate behavior” toward Ann Lindberg, a long-time congregant.

“We are heartbroken for what this congregant experienced and are deeply sorry for the pain this has caused her and her family,” the Willow Creek Elder Board said in a statement.

On Jan. 29, following the confirmation of abuse by Willow Creek, President Ryken announced in a message to all faculty and staff that a previously closed investigation into Bilezikian’s behavior while he was a Wheaton professor was being reopened.

“It saddens us deeply that a long-serving member of our community would be found to have engaged in such misconduct,” President Ryken wrote.

Wheaton first began its investigation when allegations against Bilezikian were posted on an anonymous blog in 2018. A few months later, Lindberg contacted Wheaton and spoke to Human Resources Director Karen Tucker and Title IX Coordinator Diane Padilla. Following the phone conversation, Wheaton “took other investigative steps, including contacting Willow Creek,” according to the statement.

“Based on the limited information available at the time, the college was unable to find sufficient evidence to conclude that misconduct occurred,” the statement said. “After receiving credible new information Monday, we have reopened our investigation and have again reached out to Willow Creek for additional information.”

The administration declined to comment further following the accusations by Ray and Cowan.

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