Willow Creek Community Church plans to hold a service Tuesday (July 23) in hopes of moving on from the troubles involving its founding pastor, Bill Hybels.
In what they said will be their last public statement about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Hybels that have torn the church apart over the last year, the church’s elders called on past and present church attenders to attend a service of “worship and reflection” at the evangelical Christian megachurch’s main campus in suburban South Barrington.
They also called on Hybels to repent.
“After such a traumatic experience, what does it look like to enter into a gospel-centered season of reconciliation?” said an email update from elders sent to members Friday.
“Because reconciliation is from God, we prayerfully entered into His work with humility and grace, undertaking a systematic approach to actively listen, learn and apologize.”
The service and the statement are the church’s latest attempt to move on from the controversy that led to Hybels’ early retirement last year.
More than 10 women have publicly accused Hybels of sexual misconduct and abuse of power over the last year, beginning with a March 2018 report in the Chicago Tribune.
The church initially defended its pastor before admitting he had sinned and apologizing. The entire elder board and Hybels’ successors eventually resigned, and an outside investigation found the allegations against Hybels were credible.
Hybels has denied all the allegations.
Willow Creek’s new elders have spent six months reaching out and listening to the people involved in those allegations and hope the church now can enter a season of healing and reconciliation, according to the update.
But not everybody who came forward with allegations of misconduct against Hybels was contacted by the elders. Julia Williams is among those who weren’t.
And Williams—who has described the former pastor’s flirtatious behavior toward her at the gym while she was attending Willow Creek in the 1980s—isn’t sure the church is ready to put Hybels in the past.
She doesn’t think there’s anything church leaders can say to make the controversy go away. At least not yet.
“I’m just really feeling like they have one last chance kind of to make this right,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s any kind of a do-over. I think it has to be extremely straight, and it’s kind of like a one-shot deal. To put this to rest, it’s going to have to be very, very direct.”
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SOURCE: Charisma News