New accusations surface against Hybels
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 8/06/18, 01:02 pm
A lead pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago resigned Sunday, saying the church mishandled accusations of sexual misconduct against former pastor and founder Bill Hybels. The New York Times reported Sunday on new claims by a woman who served as Hybels’ executive assistant in the 1980s. Pat Baranowski, now age 65, was newly divorced when she got the job, and she moved in with the Hybels family for two years. She said that when Hybels’ family was out of the house, he fondled her on numerous occasions and once had oral sex with her. He also allegedly asked her to procure pornographic videos for research and watch them with him. After she confronted him about his behavior, she said, he gradually distanced himself from her until she agreed to resign her position. She told a therapist and the Rev. Don Cousins, one of Willow Creek’s founding leaders, about the alleged harassment, and both corroborated her story for the Times. Cousins left Willow Creek in 1992 and currently pastors Discovery Church in Orlando, Fla.
Hybels denied the accusations and said he never had an inappropriate relationship with Baranowski. He retired early from Willow Creek in April after the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today reported he inappropriately touched women, had uncomfortable one-on-one meetings with them, and made remarks about their looks. The church’s elders said after his resignation that they did not “hold him accountable to specific boundaries.” Steven Carter, the lead teaching pastor, resigned Sunday, saying he had a “fundamental difference in judgment” with how the church handled the situation. “At this point, however, I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor,” Carter wrote on his blog, “when my soul is so at odds with the institution.”
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.
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