Teaching pastor at Willow Creek apologizes for response to allegations against Hybels

The lead teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church apologized Friday on his blog for his response to, as well as the church's handling of, allegations against former Pastor Bill Hybels.

The Rev. Steve Carter also said, "I believe the women and applaud their courage."

He also said he agreed with New Testament scholar Scot McKnight that a profound injustice has been done regarding the women who accused Hybels.

On Wednesday, McKnight wrote in a post on his blog, "Jesus Creed," "I believe the women on the basis of what I have learned."

Carter responded on his blog by saying, "Specifically, I do not think it should have been said that the women were lying or that they were colluding against Bill and the church. I believe the women and applaud their courage."

Carter also asked for forgiveness.

"I recognize that I am not blameless in this," he wrote. "I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to the injustice that was done to these women."

Carter wrote that he has apologized in private to several of the women and their families for the way they have been treated.

He wrote, "I believe now that what our church needed initially was to practice transparency and repentance, to grieve, and to reflect on what Jesus was inviting us into and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I wish I had done more to prevent the hurtful statements that were made, and to advocate more forcefully for what I believe would have been a more humble and Biblical approach."

He said he and Lead Pastor Heather Larson and their team have been working on next steps and will share specific ways the church will respond.

Hybels stepped down from his leadership position at the South Barrington-based megachurch April 11, six months ahead of his planned retirement. His announcement came just three weeks after the Chicago Tribune published allegations of unwanted kissing and hugging, suggestive comments and other improper behavior spanning decades.

Recently, the church's elder board, which is in charge of the investigation and originally said that the allegations were lies and the accusers were colluding against Hybels, apologized for that initial response, saying, "We do not believe the stories were all lies or that all the people were colluding against him."

Daily Herald correspondent Natalie Watts contributed to this report

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  Bill Hybels announces on April 11 that is stepping from his leadership position at the South Barrington-based Willow Creek Community Church. Mark Black/
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