Pastor Bill Hybels to Speak at ORU Commencement

Influential megachurch pastor Bill Hybels will give the commencement address for Oral Roberts University's class of 2009, the charismatic school announced Tuesday.

The 42nd annual ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 2, at 1 p.m. at the ORU Mabee Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., is expected to deliver an address titled "When God Whispers," which was the title of a message he had delivered late last year at Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch of televangelist Robert H. Schuller in Garden Grove, Calif.

Though ORU at times describes itself as a charismatic university, the Christian liberal arts university in recent years has attempted to rebrand itself as an interdenominational school. Still, the practice of speaking in tongues is common and encouraged at ORU, which is alma mater to respected Christian leaders including Ron Luce and Don Moen as well as embattled ministers such as Kenneth Copeland and Ted Haggard.

In the past, ORU has been criticized for endorsing unorthodox doctrines of faith, including the "Word of Faith" doctrine, which critics say has been used for self promotion and justification of economic materialism.

Last year, the university settled a lawsuit with two former professors who sued the year before, claiming they were forced out after uncovering financial and ethical wrongdoing by the school's former president and family.

Next year, the school will host a landmark gathering of Pentecostals and Charismatics, who were once relegated to the theological fringe but have grown to become part of one Christianity's fastest-growing sectors.

Founded in 1963 by evangelist Oral Roberts, ORU serves students from throughout the United States and over 60 countries, representing 40 denominations. The number of for-credit students served for fall 2008 was 3,067.

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