Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of the multi-campus Willow Creek Community Church, received standing ovations from the congregation after he addressed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct over the weekend.
“I was not afraid to come to this meeting tonight. I know the heart of this church. I knew that you would give all of us an even hearing. You wouldn’t rush to judgment,” Hybels said at a “church family meeting” Friday night, according to Chicago Tribune.
During the meeting, the congregation was told about three inquiries overseen by elders over the last four years that have cleared Hybels of misconduct.
Three leaders on the board of Willow Creek Association, a nonprofit organization related to the church, earlier resigned over what they believed was an insufficient inquiry.
“I will do my level best if you allow me to continue to serve here until October when I will retire. I’m going to serve my heart out,” Hybels added, after which the congregation stood up and applauded.
Hybels first announced in May 2012 that he would start the process of succession. He named his successors — Heather Larson, who will be lead pastor, and Steve Carter, who will be lead teaching pastor — last October and said he would be stepping down in October 2018.
Larson and Carter moderated Friday’s meeting.
Feeling “heartsick,” Carter said Friday on Facebook, “We are committed to prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to pastor each soul that is hurt, confused, disheartened. I am absolutely convinced of this: God’s love for us is unwavering … And this I also believe: the Church has the potential to shine brightest in moments like these when we put God’s love on display. Dear Church, may we have the courage to search for the light and live into the love He calls us to. We can do this together.”
On Thursday night, the Tribune published an extensive investigation of the allegations, in which former members of the church, including those who resigned from high-level leadership positions, argue that the church’s investigations have been deficient. The Tribune report also alleged a pattern of behavior against Hybels that includes suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss, and invitations to hotel rooms.
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Source: Christian Post