Bill Hybels, founder of one of the largest evangelical megachurches in the country, announced his resignation as senior pastor on April 10, six months ahead of schedule, according to the Chicago Tribune.
His departure comes weeks after recent allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced from several women from the congregation, ranging from suggestive comments to invitations to hotel rooms, which Hybels denied as "flat-out lies."
"It has been extremely painful for Lynne [his wife] and I to see this controversy continue to be a distraction," Hybels told the congregation in an April 10 meeting at Willow Creek Community Church's main campus in South Barrington. "I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid. I was naive about the dynamics those situations created. ... I commit to never putting myself into similar situations again."
"I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar," Vonda Dyer, a former leader of the church’s vocal ministry, wrote in a statement recounting Hybels' unwanted sexual advances 20 years ago. "For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.”
Betty Schmidt, a current member and former elder, said that Willow Creek elders had misquoted and misrepresented what she told them when she met with them during the church-led investigation.
“Women need to know that if they muster the courage to tell their stories church leadership will listen with compassion and fairness,” Schmidt wrote in response to a FAQ document released by the church entitled "Willow Creek Response to Local Media" that has since been taken down. “That has not happened here. Yet. I hope and pray it will.”
The Chicago Tribune reports:
The Chicago Tribune examined allegations investigated by elders and other claims of inappropriate behavior by Hybels by interviewing current and former church members, elders and employees, as well as reviewing hundreds of emails and internal records.
Elders of the church — appointed members who oversee Willow Creek’s administration and pastor — had conducted the three reviews after claims about Hybels came to their attention more than four years ago.
Pushing for an independent investigation were three former teaching pastors — one with an allegation of her own — and the wife of a longtime president of the Willow Creek Association.
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