Willow Creek talking with Hybels' accusers through third party

Willow Creek Community Church has hired a Christian conflict-resolution organization to serve as an independent and neutral third party to speak with the multiple women who have made allegations of inappropriate conduct against former senior pastor Bill Hybels.

Lane Moyer, the new chair of the elder board at the South Barrington megachurch, told members this week of Oregon-based Crossroads Resolution Group's aim to help these women and Willow Creek reach mutual agreement on further investigation and mediation of the allegations.

Under the agreement, the identity of people speaking with CRG and the content of their conversations won't be disclosed to Willow Creek or anyone else without the individual's consent.

Hybels himself has been silent since he stepped 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 spanning decades.

Church leaders said Hybels is continuing the period of reflection he mentioned embarking upon when he stepped down.

But during those three weeks before his departure, Hybels strongly denied the allegations. His only apology when he left was for his initial reaction to the allegations being anger rather than "one of listening and one of humble reflection."

But on May 9, the elder board released a statement saying, "We do not believe the stories were all lies or that all the people were colluding against (Hybels)." They also offered an apology for their own earlier response, adding, "at least some of Bill's choices were inappropriate."

On Wednesday night, Moyer told Willow Creek members that the church would continue to "walk alongside" Hybels and his wife Lynne through the ongoing difficult period and asked the congregation to keep praying for the family.

"Next month, as our initial 45-day period comes to a close, we will provide you with another update," Moyer said. "To be clear, our work will not end at that time. We will continue working diligently to strengthen the policies and procedures of our church and to resolve this situation as best we can with those involved."

Among the changes under way are that staff emails will be retained longer and the church's policies on how men and women work together will be reviewed, Moyer said.

"Our focus is on continuing to ensure we have a church culture in which men and women can continue to lead together and work side by side in a way that is honoring to each other and to God," he added.

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