Following weeks of growing outrage over revelations of apparent failures in the handling of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against former senior pastor Bill Hybels, the entire elder board of Willow Creek Church has announced its collective resignation. This includes lead pastor Heather Larson, who addressed the church in a Wednesday evening “family meeting” and announced the mass resignation, saying “this is important. Trust has been broken.”
“Our entire elder board has had to come to grips with the areas of our hearts, minds, and souls that blinded us to the pain and suffering of the women and their advocates,” elder Missy Rasmussen explained. “We ask forgiveness from God, our congregation, the women, and their advocates and those calling us to repent.”
Rasmussen apologized by name to Nancy Beach, Vonda Dyer and Nancy Ortberg and other women who’d accused Hybels of misconduct. She also called on Hybels to follow suit.
The announcement comes on the heels of a bombshell New York Times article in which a former Willow Creek employee became the tenth woman to accuse Hybels of sexual misconduct. The Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today and the Washington Post had all reported on a number of women with serious allegations against Hybels as well as the elder board’s investigations into those allegations—investigations which many current and former Willow Creek employees felt failed to take the alleged victims’ claims seriously. There have been multiple instances of church employers and board members insinuating that the women were lying.
Sunday, Hybels’ heir apparent and senior pastor Steve Carter announced his immediate resignation from Willow Creek via a blog post, saying that he could not in good conscience stand alongside the church.
“We are sorry that we allowed Bill to operate without the kind of accountability that he should have had,” Larson said. “We as a board know Willow needs a fresh start, and the entire board will step down to create room for a new board.”