Willow Creek Community Church founder Bill Hybels made inappropriate choices on the job that led some women to believe they had been wronged, according to a leader who spoke at Wednesday night's service.
Lane Moyer, the new chair of the elder board at the South Barrington megachurch, provided an update as a result of the hiring of a Christian conflict-resolution organization to serve as an independent and neutral third party to speak with women who have made allegations of inappropriate conduct against Hybels.
Moyer said accusations against Hybels date back at least 20 years.
"There's truth Bill made inappropriate choices in how he conducted certain meetings," Moyer said. "There's truth that the women who shared their stories felt very uncomfortable and felt that Bill had wronged them. There is truth that Bill was accountable to the board of elders and we should have done a better job of holding him accountable and placing limitations to protect against some of the behaviors. For all of this, we apologize."
Hybels has been silent since stepping down as senior pastor April 10. His departure came six months before his planned retirement and three weeks after published allegations of unwanted kissing and hugging, suggestive comments and other improper behavior that spanned decades.
Moyer declined to elaborate after speaking to the crowd.
During the service, Moyer said the elder board is working on a new policy that will provide "guardrails" for Willow Creek's lead pastor and lead teaching pastor so there is accountability for interactions with the opposite sex "that are godly, respectful and consistent with ethical principles." Heather Larson serves as lead pastor, and Steve Carter is lead teaching pastor.
"This policy will also establish clear expectations for maintaining a healthy spiritual and relational balance," he added. "The elders will receive regular reporting on how these values are being upheld."
Willow Creek plans to have an outside, third-party system for reporting concerns about the top two pastors, with notifications going directly to the elders.
In providing an update on Hybels, Moyer said the retired senior pastor wrote a letter to church officials stating his family deeply appreciates prayers that have been offered for them. Hybels also wants to learn everything that God wants to teach him during his season of reflection that will not be rushed, according to Moyer.
Moyer apologized for the elder board's initial response to the claims against Hybels.
"As we stated previously, we are deeply regretful and sorry that our initial tone was one of defensiveness," he said, "and that it cast the women in an unfair and negative light. We are also very sorry that, as stated, that these were all lies. Any sweeping statement in a situation like this is inaccurate."