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Hybels retires early from Willow Creek Church

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/11/18, 12:18 pm

Pastor Bill Hybels announced Tuesday night his early retirement from Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago following accusations of sexual misconduct made by women several times during his years in ministry. Hybels was scheduled to retire as senior pastor in October after more than 40 years of leading the megachurch but said at a Tuesday night meeting with church members he would step down immediately because the controversy was a distraction to the church’s ministry. Last month, the Chicago Tribune reported accusations from several women and ministry colleagues who said Hybels made suggestive comments, gave extended hugs, kissed one woman without permission, and had one extramarital affair, though the woman reportedly involved in the affair has since denied it happened. Church elders said they investigated the accusations and found them unsubstantiated. At the time, Hybels called the complaints against him “flat-out lies,” but he took a more conciliatory tone at Tuesday’s meeting and in a statement posted on the church’s website. “I apologize for a response that was defensive, instead of one that invited conversation and learning,” he said. “I realize now that in certain settings and circumstances in the past I communicated things that were perceived in ways I did not intend, at times making people feel uncomfortable. I was blind to this dynamic for far too long. For that I’m very sorry.” Pam Orr, Willow Creek’s highest-ranking elder, said the elders of the church accepted Hybels’ resignation and were looking to the future: “While Bill has been the Senior Pastor since Willow Creek’s beginning, Willow has never been about one person. Willow Creek is Jesus’ church and He promised to build it.” Hybels founded Willow Creek Community Church in 1975. Today, more than 25,000 people attend worship at its seven locations in the Chicago area, and it provides leadership training to tens of thousands more through the Willow Creek Association. Hybels is also stepping down from the association’s board.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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