DuPage church withdraws from Willow Creek Association summit
A DuPage County church has withdrawn as a host site for Willow Creek Association's Global Leadership Summit following misconduct allegations against Bill Hybels, former senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.
In a statement posted on the website for Christ Church Oak Brook and Downers Grove, Senior Pastor Daniel D. Meyer said the church is "taking a purposeful pause" from the annual two-day leadership-building workshop because of its "high identification" with Hybels.
"Both the Christian and the American traditions have seen the value of stopping normal activities to observe a moment of silence … or to lower a flag to half-staff … or to issue a collective cry of lament -- in the face of significant crisis, turmoil, or loss," Meyer wrote.
"We believe that the stories of the women that are now being told are deserving of this pause to listen, reflect and change," Meyer added. "We feel that unless we stop to listen, some stories that need to be heard will not be told and we as a community will lose the opportunity those voices can give us to become more compassionate, just and holy."
Tom De Vries, president and CEO of the Willow Creek Association that runs the summit, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Established in 1992, the association long has operated as a separate organization from Willow Creek Community Church, but Hybels always served as a prominent faculty member of its summit.
On April 11, Hybels announced his immediate retirement -- six months before he originally planned -- following news accounts detailing misconduct allegations involving women in his congregation.
While he continued to deny the allegations, Hybels said he wished his immediate reaction had been "one of listening and one of humble reflection."
In addition to stepping down from his role at the South Barrington megachurch, Hybels said he wouldn't teach at the August summit, which features secular and faith-based speakers.
The elders at Willow Creek have pledged to examine the allegations against Hybels, including "some that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board."
Meyer, meanwhile, said followers of Jesus "need to care greatly for the voices of women, as well as men."
"If we love the Bible and God and the creation he has made, then we will be the fiercest champions of both women and men that can be found upon the earth," Meyer wrote. "It is worth canceling a conference to declare that value."