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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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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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  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 08/06/2018 04:28 pm

    Satan knows the secret weakness (es) of every one of us. The higher we rise in the Lord’s service, the more Satan throws things into our path to derail us. 

    Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world, but we must continually claim that and throw ourselves under The Lord’s protection for it to be effective. Self-reliance is one of the world’s/Satan’s deceptive gods. 

  • notalemming's picture
    Posted: Mon, 08/06/2018 09:38 pm

    Another sad situation in the 501(c)3 organization some call church.  None of us are without sin, but when mere men are given such accolades and kudos for that which is not theirs to claim, the fall is sure to come.  I don't understand why Baranowski ever agreed to anything Hybels asked her to do!  How is this different from the stories coming out of Hollywood?  Women have been objectified longer than men have been emasculated, and we continue to tow the line of low self worth, why?  Is the church not teaching from where self worth comes?  Go into any 501(c)3 building these days and take an objective look around....why are some women dressed "to kill"?  I don't suggest women wear burkas, but for the sake of the men folk, tight clothing and clevege are not fashion statements!!  Under no circumstances is what Hybels did remotely justified, but we have a responsibility to not put stumbling blocks before our breatheren.  With that said, Hybels clearly has some knee therapy to do.  And the Church needs to step up and risk being "politically incorrect" by preaching humility and what it DOESN'T look/behave like.