This week, Willow Creek church held a “reconciliation service” led by its team of elders. They also posted a lengthy message online, asking for forgiveness from the women who came forward and accused the church’s founder and former pastor Bill Hybels of repeated sexually inappropriate behavior over the course of years. When the allegations were first made public last year in a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune (and later in The New York Times), initially the church defended Hybels, and some people associated with the church attempted to discredit the victims.
In their new statement they wrote,
To the women and their advocates: In the days and months following the March 2018 Chicago Tribune article, the church’s response led to verbal and written attacks. We have heard about the impact this has had on you, your families, and your professional standing within the Christian community. We learned that the narrative persists in identifying you as liars and colluders despite the apology released by the lead pastors in June 2018 and the former Elders in August 2018. In early 2019, the IAG report found your allegations to be credible, and we unequivocally support their findings. We believe your allegations about Bill. We ask anyone who participated in verbal and written attacks to prayerfully examine their actions, apologize for wrongdoing, and seek to mend the relationship.
They wrote that “unchecked sin and intimidating behavior resulted in harm that is still felt in this present day.” The church told RNS that Hybels was not invited to attend the service, but in their statement they wrote, “We have reached out to Bill Hybels; however, he has chosen not to engage in dialogue at this time.”
In the statement they added, “This is our last public statement intended to directly address the events of 2018. However, we will continue to work privately with individuals seeking renewed relationships and reconciliation.”
They also acknowledged that some of the church’s elders and staff members were treated unfairly in the wake of the accusations that eventually led to the leadership team stepping down. Prior to the allegations being made public last year, Hybels announced his early retirement.
You can read the full statement here.