After Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz decided not to speak at a church that once supported 'ex-gay' therapy, chairman Bill Hybels insists his church is not anti-gay.

Schultz was scheduled to deliver a talk Friday titled How Starbucks Fought for its Life Without Losing Its Soul during the Willow Creek Association's annual Global Leadership Summit taking place Thursday and Friday at its South Barrington, Illinois church headquarters. The Willow Creek Community Church has 6 Illinois campuses.

Starbucks confirmed that Schultz had withdrawn from the summit, but denied the about face had anything to do with a petition launched last week that asked Schultz to repudiate the church's connection with the “ex-gay” group Exodus International.

Exodus believes gay men and lesbians can – and should – alter their sexuality. The group says this can be achieved through “reparative” therapy, the discredited pseudo-science that opponents say confuses shaming gay people into being celibate with conversion and creates real psychological harm.

Willow says it cut ties with Exodus in 2009.

At the summit, Pastor Bill Hybels insisted that his church is not anti-gay and added that he would attempt to mediate a meeting with the people behind the petition.

“This whole thing is sad to me on a number of different levels. If the organizers of this petition had simply taken the time to call us, we would have explained to them, as we have to many others, that Willow is not only not anti-gay, Willow is not anti-anybody,” Hybels said to a thunderous applause.

But later, Hybels conceded that gay church members are expected to remain celibate.

“What is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the scriptures, which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)