In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many women have broken their silence about sexual misconduct by church leaders. But the issue is especially sensitive for Christians, who hold religious figures to a higher standard than secular ones. The allegations against Hybels, who led Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago for more than 40 years, are some of the most serious to surface.
When the claims against him surfaced in 2018, the former board publicly supported him, calling them "flat out lies." But new elders believe the previous leadership misled them. "Bill's denials and failure to acknowledge sinful, intimidating, and overly controlling behavior resulted in leaders making statements that were uninformed and incomplete," they said.
In a letter to the church, they also called on him to seek counseling for the issues that caused his alleged behavior. They also recommended that he review any financial resources that he received beyond his salary and retirement payments from the church and Willow Creek Association and return any funds.
The church declined to comment on the letters, but said it would continue its internal investigation of Hybels. Pam Orr, a Willow Creek elder and one of the leaders who helped oversee the review, told the Tribune that Hybels should take responsibility for his actions. She hopes he will publicly acknowledge that his alleged behavior was wrong and look to God for forgiveness. She also urged him to do what he can to help other victims heal.