After new allegations surfaced over the weekend about Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels, the entire leadership of the church is stepping down and has apologized to women who accused the megachurch’s founder of sexual harassment.
The Board of Elders of the Willow Creek Community Church announced Wednesday they will all leave by year’s end.
In a statement on the church’s website, the elders apologized for being slow to take seriously all the women who came forward with accusations against church founder Bill Hybels.
The statement read in part:
We are also deeply grieved about the new accusations that came to light this past weekend, and our collective hearts break for the pain that Ms. Baranowski has carried these many years.
These painful and troubling events have scarred these women, their families, and tarnished our church. On Sunday, our church was further shocked to learn about Steve Carter leaving. We are sad to see Steve leave our church after years of teaching and shepherding our congregation and will certainly miss the way he used his gifts to bless us. Steve advocated for a number of action steps with respect to investigation and transparency, several of which were already in process when he made the request. We invited Steve to participate in setting up an outside, impartial investigation council, and we reached alignment with Steve in many areas. There were also other requests Steve made that we were not able to accommodate, and in the end, he felt he needed to leave Willow. We wish Steve and his family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.
Hybels, who resigned in April, has denied the groping allegations dating to the 1980s. The accusations over the weekend included one that says he encouraged a woman to rent porn and then watched it with her.
Lead pastor Heather Larson admits she made mistakes and that “trust has been broken by leadership.”
Willow Creek is hosting its 23rd annual Global Leadership Summit, starting Thursday, even though several speakers backed out and over 100 churches cancelled plans to broadcast the event.
It is not known how many more will completely severe ties to the megachurch which has made millions off of its pastors name and personality over the years.