Willow Creek guts leadership in wake of Hybels scandal
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 8/09/18, 11:48 am
The entire board of Willow Creek Community Church and its remaining lead pastor, Heather Larson, announced at a church meeting Wednesday night they were stepping down. Their departures follow the abrupt resignation of Lead Teaching Pastor Steven Carter on Sunday and the publication of another report of sexual harassment involving church founder and former Pastor Bill Hybels. The New York Times reported Sunday on accusations by Pat Baranowski, who served as Hybels’ executive assistant in the 1980s and said he fondled her on numerous occasions and once had oral sex with her. Hybels denied what was revealed in the report, saying he never had an inappropriate relationship with Baranowski. Hybels retired earlier than planned 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.
In a lengthy statement on the church’s website, the Willow Creek board said an outside governance expert would recommend changes to how the church was run, and a group of Christian leaders would investigate Baranowski’s accusations. Board members plan to exit gradually beginning next Wednesday through the end of the year. Steve Gillen, pastor of the church’s campus in Glenview, Ill., will take over as interim lead pastor.
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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