Willow Creek, Hybels again answer questions about denied allegations

Willow Creek Community Church held a second open meeting for members Monday night to address questions and concerns about allegations of misconduct with women against founder and Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, which he categorically denies and of which church elders say they have found no evidence.

Monday's meeting in South Barrington was similar in format to one held Friday night, allowing both Hybels and the board of elders to state their perspectives of the allegations first reported publicly in a Chicago Tribune article.

Willow Creek leaders say these allegations have been investigated over the past four years both internally and by an attorney with no prior connection to the church.

“For us, it's just about helping people understand the story,” said Teaching Pastor Steve Carter, who co-facilitated both meetings. “We wanted to give people the chance to hear it from us. We're a local church and we're trying to find out what our people need.”

Carter added that the next steps aren't clear-cut yet, other than to ensure that all members' questions are answered.

“We're just trying to respond to the questions and needs of our people,” he said. “When there's clarity, there's the best chance for unity.”

Monday's audience of 1,500 was about half that of Friday's, but both demonstrated strong support for Hybels after hearing detailed explanations of his side of all the allegations. The audience applauding his remarks several times.

Among the allegations addressed at both meetings is that of a woman who says she was invited to Hybels' hotel suite for a glass of wine. An email exchange between the two refutes that, according to Willow Creek Elder Board Chair Pam Orr, who said the woman suggested a late-night meeting wine several times and was repeatedly rebuffed by Hybels.

While Friday's meeting ended with a standing ovation, however, Monday's smaller crowd left more demurely.

Theresa Miksz of Barrington, a member of Willow Creek for nearly a decade, said she was grateful for the chance to hear from Hybels and the church Monday even though her opinion of both hadn't been affected by last week's allegations.

“I just wanted to hear the other side,” Miksz said, “I'm glad that we were able to hear it.”

The Tribune article released online last Thursday details allegations that include inappropriate conversations, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms, along with the allegation of a consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim was untrue.

The Tribune report references allegations of five women, two identified by name, including a one-time teaching pastor at the church who said Hybels gave her a long embrace and asked her personal questions during a trip to Spain in 1999. Another former employee accused Hybels of putting his hands on her waist, caressing her stomach and kissing her in his hotel room during a trip to Sweden in 1998, according to the Tribune.

Three former board members of the Willow Creek Association, the nonprofit Christian leadership organization Hybels founded, resigned in 2015 after they deemed the church elders' investigation to be inadequate, the Tribune reported.

The former church members and the two women named in the article couldn't be reached by the Daily Herald. The attorney who investigated the allegations didn't return phone calls.

Statements from Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Elder Board chairwoman

Willow Creek's Hybels: 'I respect women. I have never been unfaithful'

  Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels on Monday again denied allegations of misconduct. Mark Black/
  The Rev. Bill Hybels; Pam Orr, Chair of Willow Creek Elder Board; Rob Campbell, Lead Pastor Willow Chicago; Heather Larson, Executive Pastor; and Steve Carter, Teaching Pastor; speak during a Willow Creek Community Church family conversation on Monday to discuss the investigation of misconduct accusations against the Rev. Hybel. Mark Black/
  The Rev. Bill Hybels speaks during a Willow Creek Community Church family conversation on Monday in South Barrington to discuss misconduct allegations against him. Hybels has said the accusations are part of a smear campaign. Mark Black/
  The Rev. Bill Hybels, elder board chairwoman Pam Orr, Willow Chicago Lead Pastor Rob Campbell, Executive Pastor Heather Larson and Teaching Pastor Steve Carter conduct a "family conversation" on Monday at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. They discussed the investigation of misconduct accusations against Hybels. Mark Black/
  Willow Creek Community Church members pray to close out the family conversation on Monday to discuss the investigation of misconduct allegations against the Rev. Bill Hybels. Mark Black/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.