The leadership of Willow Creek has released another statement related to allegations of sexual misconduct by the church’s founder and former pastor Bill Hybels. He resigned earlier this year. Hybels was accused of a pattern of inappropriate behavior over the course of years. He and the church initially adamantly denied them.
In the statement, the church’s elders said, in part:
We apologize and ask for forgiveness that the tone of our initial response was not one of humility and deep concern for all the women involved. It takes courage for a woman to step forward and share her story. We are grieved that we let Bill’s statement stand for as long as we did that the women were lying and colluding. We now believe Bill entered into areas of sin related to the allegations that have been brought forth.
Heather Larson, one of the church’s co-lead pastors wrote (in part):
I know these past months have been excruciating, and I want to personally acknowledge to you the mistakes that I have made. I need to speak these words for my own integrity and for our church. I need to publicly apologize to the women who raised concerns about Bill. To the women directly, I can’t imagine how painful the past months have been for you, and I am so sorry for my part in that. It was stated that the allegations are all lies, and I do not believe that. I should have jumped in and declared that personally right away when that statement was made. I believe the stories that Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women. That is wrong, and I hope and pray that someday this can be made right.
Fellow lead pastor Steve Carter wrote:
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. I have personally reached out to and connected with several of the victims and listened to their experiences. I have made private apologies to several of the women and their families for the way they have been treated. I thank God for the opportunity to seek grace and forgiveness from these individuals … 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.
You can read the entire statement here.