Two months after Bill Hybels’ sexual misconduct accusations by multiple women in a Chicago Tribune investigation, the response from church elders has shifted.
Hybels, forced to resign as lead pastor at Willow Creek Community Church on April 10, denied the accusations. Because investigations commissioned by the church could not substantiate the allegations, the church’s leadership loyally backed Hybels.
While church elders have been reluctant to criticize Hybels, they recently turned their support into an apology for dismissing the women and their concerns, saying things like, “at least some of Bill’s choices were inappropriate,” and “We do not believe that all the stories are lies.”
According to the Christian Post, accusers have dismissed these responses as unsatisfactory.
Nancy Beach, Willow Creek Community Church’s first female teaching pastor, said she received a call about the conciliation effort on Wednesday before they met with the congregation. Beach had previously reported Hybels to elders in August for inappropriate conversations and an uncomfortable hug during a business trip to Spain.
Beach said that if the elders want to care for the women, they need to step up and publicly retract statements alluding to any of the women or former church leaders as liars. She also questions their reluctance to criticize Hybels directly.
Beach took to her blog about the issue, saying, “The elders have said publicly that they are trying to reach out and ‘care for the women’ involved. But what would true caring look like? In my view, this is not the time to enter into any kind of reconciliation process. That is grossly premature. As I have said in prior statements, truth finding must precede reconciliation.”
She went on to say, “The narrative they are putting forward is that this is all about a ‘dispute’ between the Willow leaders and former members that needs to be resolved. Fundamentally, that is not what this is about. It’s about an abusive pastor and church leadership who have not adequately investigated his behavior, have not named it as sin, and have failed to confront and address it, calling for consequences for Bill Hybels.
Willow Creek has taken a step toward healing by hiring a Christian conciliation firm, Crossroads Resolution Group, to help the church communicate with the women and repair some of the damage done. The firm is meant to “serve as an independent, neutral third party to listen to the women involved and discuss with each of them their requests and desired process outcomes.”
Accusers are now saying the church is more concerned with closing the case than owning up to Hybels’ actions.