The founder of one of the largest U.S. megachurches announced his resignation Tuesday amid allegations of sexual misconduct but continued to proclaim his innocence.
Rev. Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., told church members that he was retiring for the good of the church community because the controversy arising from the allegations was “hindering our elders and church staff,” according to The Associated Press. Hybels maintained that the allegations of inappropriate behavior with women in the congregation, which includes accusations of unwanted kissing, extended hugs, and lewd comments, are patently false.
“But it has been increasingly clear to us that they can’t flourish when the valuable time and energy of their leaders are divided. The leaders of both our church and the WCA need the freedom to get on with the task of carrying out the missions God has given them,” Wybels said in a statement. “Therefore, I have decided to accelerate my planned retirement date from October of this year to tonight.”
Church leadership conducted inquiries into the allegations against Hybels when they first received complaints over four years ago. An internal church investigation cleared Hybels, but two of the church’s former teaching pastors, John and Nancy Ortberg, and the wife of a president of the church-related nonprofit Willow Creek Association called for another investigation. They cited concerns over the process of the first investigation and the fact that at least three of the church’s association board leaders quit over what they alleged to be the inadequacy of the inquiries. The wife later recanted her allegation of an extended affair with Hybels.
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