Megachurch pastor Bill Hybels announced Tuesday he is stepping down from Willow Creek as senior pastor. This resignation came just weeks after the Chicago Tribune published allegations of misconduct from several women.
He told the church publicly last year that he was planning to step down in October, but he resigned Tuesday, saying he would be a distraction to the church’s ministry. Hybels writes: “As Lynne and I have watched this, it has been extremely painful for us to see this controversy continue to be a distraction that is hindering our Elders and church staff, as well as the WCA staff, from carrying out the work of these fantastic ministries.”
“The passionate and faithful leaders of this church have a very important job to do. They have a congregation to lead, people to pastor, a Care Center to run, youth ministries to support, and so many other causes to rally around-like our upcoming Celebration of Hope, when we highlight the extraordinary work of our global partners who faithfully and effectively serve the poor. And the WCA has an equally important job to do, as they equip and empower church leaders across the globe.”
In March, the Chicago Tribune published allegations that Hybels made suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to a staff member to hotel rooms. The newspaper also reported allegations of a consensual affair with a married woman, and the woman who said she had an affair later retracted her allegations.
Though Hybels has denied all the allegations, he did acknowledge he made a few mistakes. “In recent times, I’ve been accused of many things I simply did not do. However, let me humbly acknowledge three things I have done.”
“First, my first response to some of these recent accusations was anger. I confess to feeling very angry these last few weeks as I watched harmful accusations fly around without accountability. I felt attacked and knew that my loved ones and this church family would be affected. I sincerely wish my initial response had been one of listening and humble reflection. If I could go back, I would have chosen to listen first, and then to seek to learn and understand. I apologize for a response that was defensive, instead of one that invited conversation and learning.”
“Secondly, 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.”
“Thirdly, I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid. I was, at times, naive about the dynamics those situations created. I’m sorry for the lack of wisdom on my part. I commit to never putting myself in similar situations in the future.”
Hybels had announced last year that he would be stepping down in October 2018. He already named his successors – Heather Larson, who will be lead pastor, and Steve Carter, who will be lead teaching pastor. He said he plans to seek counsel during his withdrawl but he plans to return to Willow Creek as his home church.