Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has withdrawn his name from the speaking schedule at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit thanks to an online petition at Change.org—the same site credited with convincing TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie to issue his puzzling apology to the anti-Focus of the Family crowd last month.
Starbucks officials have reportedly denied that the petition had anything to do with Schultz’s decision to withdraw, but circumstances suggest otherwise. In June a customer’s open letter to Starbucks regarding “one of the most brazen and unapologetic displays of homophobia I have ever witnessed in my entire life” went viral when the customer blogged about seeing a Starbucks manager reprimand a gay employee. In 2008 Joseph Hooks and Dorothy Baker sued the coffee company, claiming they had been fired for being gay.
While Mycoskie’s response to the outcry over his appearance at a Focus on the Family event was clumsy given the shoe company has no history of activism or controversy, Schultz’s withdrawal is at least predictable.
Ironically, this comes just as Willow Creek is rumored to be rethinking its views on homosexuality:
Willow Creek Community Church says it cut ties with Exodus in 2009…
Church spokeswoman Susan DeLay told the paper that Willow’s views on homosexuality had evolved.
“They were one of the few Christian organizations having conversations with people who struggle with being gay,” she said.
Of course, these rumors may really be just rumors:
Willow Creek decided to sever ties with the Florida-based ministry in 2009, Christianity Today reported, but the decision only became public in June.
Church officials described the move as a shift in approach rather than a change in belief. Susan DeLay, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek, said the church continues to welcome those who are attracted to people of the same sex.
“Willow Creek has a whole host of ministries for people dealing with these issues, and we would never intend for them to feel sidelined,” she told Christianity Today.
Either way, Starbucks’ and TOMS Shoes’ hesitation to be linked even indirectly to those who minister to homosexuals make it clear that other ministries should expect to be increasingly undermined by both business and political interests—even if those interests are unrelated to the ministry’s work.