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Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/23/18, 11:27 am

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women. “Bill acknowledged that he placed himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid,” the elders wrote. “We agree, and now recognize that we didn’t hold him accountable to specific boundaries.” A report Saturday by Christianity Today added to accusations against Hybels of pursuing intimate relationships with women he worked with or ministered to. Former Zondervan publisher Maureen Girkins told the magazine that Hybels insisted they meet alone and commented on her looks. “A good example would be the first time he saw me dressed casually,” she said. “He made a big deal of how I looked in jeans and said I needed to dress sexy more often.” A church member, Julia Williams, told Christianity Today that Hybels came up to her and stroked her thighs while she was using a weight machine at the YMCA. She said she quit going to the gym to avoid him. The accusations against Hybels became public in a report last month by the Chicago Tribune. Since then, Hybels has resigned as pastor of the church and as chairman of the board of the Willow Creek Association, and two publishers have suspended publication of his books. In Saturday’s letter, the Willow Creek elders said they would investigate every new report of inappropriate behavior and “walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well and are committed to working together on appropriate next steps with him.”

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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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  • Susan P
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 01:05 pm

    This is really disheartening, but confirms Billy Graham's, Mike Pence's and the practice of many other men I'm sure to always include 3 people when opposite genders are working together, or meeting in only public settings. These practices help to protect both males from accusation and females from inappropriate behavior.

  • GMR
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 01:42 pm

    The careful boundaries are laughed at when stated but when you do not keep the stated boundaries, again, laughter is the result. The boundaries are a one time, for all time committment;  not a situational standard.  

  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 01:42 pm

    Agreed.  And it’s a shame the liberal media has ridiculed Vice President Pence for that practice. 

  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 03:53 pm

    I agree that it is best to meet with door open or with another person around. This is not always possible in the secular workplace, as I've found out. On numerous occasions in my professional career I as a man had to take a trip with a female. On some occasions these trips were overnight, staying in the same hotel (different rooms of course), and eating meals together. I recognized ahead of time the potential vulnerabilities and made my mind to make every effort to be circumspect in action and word. 
    As an employer I've interviewed and hired many people, most of them female due to the line of work I administrated. Ideally I would have my office door open or at least staff near by.
    I'm raising this matter because employers have power over their employees or interviewees, and this power can get in their head.  Accountabilty partners and accountabiilty measures could help. But ultimately one must understand and take to heart what Jesus says when he speaks that from within comes evil. (Mark 7:21). In today's workplaces some opposite sex people are going to be in situations together, and at least one of them must keep the situation pure.

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 03:13 pm

    Yes, Old Mike, and the same liberal media that shames Mike Pence for sticking to that standard is the same liberal media that wil be trashing Bill Hybels for NOT sticking to that standard.

  • Francesca
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 04:38 pm

    If elders are only encouraging Hybels to have a season of reflection, they are doing him damage and disservice.  There are enough accucations to give credibility to reports of his behavior.  He needs to confess of his wrongdoingto the Lord and the individuals involved and repent.

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 06:41 pm

    The elders are still sugarcoating the offences. The man clearly has been an unrepentant womanizer his whole tenure. The one comfort all those women ... and his wife ... have is that God knows. And He will give them justice, either in this life or the next.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 04/23/2018 11:11 pm

    Hybels has already announced he’s retiring. That’s probably why his elders are going easy on him. 

  • Thomas Peck
    Posted: Tue, 04/24/2018 11:02 am

    What is sad here is that his actions cannot just be acknowledged as him doing a sin and being repentant, instead the words are clouded to diminish it not as sin but 'poor judgment' and a failure to keep 'boundaries' and instead of repentance 'time of reflection'.  Stand up and be a man, Mr. Hybels, repent of this sin.

    This is what happens when a church blends theology and psychology and embraces egalitarianism so that everything is approached not out of love, but out of softness and fear of offense or even worse, fear of lawsuit.  

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Thu, 04/26/2018 10:36 am

    Amen. "Quit ye like men."

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 04/26/2018 10:35 pm

    It is not just liberal media that has ridiculed Pence.  World published a column about the Pence rule a while back.  Some responders stated that the rule inhibits womens' chances at success. One even stated that a man who feels that he cannot risk meeting with a woman in private should therefore not take that job.  So there is pressure from all sides against this policy.

    But I commend those who have repeated above what I repeat yet again: we hear not a peep about any shenanigans by Pence or Graham--none!--whether in the recent or distant past. This proves that even one's enemies will not accuse one of bad behavior if there is nothing there. There really is no excuse for us to settle for less, whether in our personal lives or in public figures.