The senior pastor of Chicago megachurch, Willow Creek, has resigned following fresh allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against the founding pastor, Bill Hybels.
Pastor Steven Carter penned a lengthy blog post explaining his reasons behind the shock resignation, which came on the same day that the sordid allegations surfaced. Pastor Hybels’ ex-secretary, Pat Baranowski, has alleged that Hybels groped her on numerous occasions.
When asked why she did not come forward sooner to expose Hybels’ behavior, Baranowski said she “did not want to hurt the church.”
“I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church,” she added. “I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.”
According to the New York Times, Hybels has denied all the allegations made by Ms. Baranowski. “I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he said in an email.
Following an article in the Chicago Tribue back in March, Hybels was invited to explain himself on stage at Willow, and the process of dealing with the accusations was explained in detail by various elders. The frank discussion was mediated by co-pastors Steven Carter and Heather Larson. It was in that meeting that Hybels completely denied all the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior that had been brought against him.
However, on May 9, 2018, the Willow Creek Board of Elders apologized for coming to the defense of their founding pastor so quickly and believing that women were colluding against Hybels.
“We are sorry. Initially, it was stated that the stories were all lies and the individuals were colluding against Bill…We do not believe the stories were all lies or that all the people were colluding against him….We believe at least some of Bill’s choices were inappropriate.”
Since then, Carter said in his resignation blog post, he said he has become increasingly concerned with the way the situation has been dealt by the church’s governance bodies.
“I am writing to announce my resignation from Willow Creek Community Church, effective immediately,” he wrote in the Aug. 5 post following the NYT allegations.
“The new facts and allegations that came to light this morning are horrifying, and my heart goes out to Ms. Baranowski and her family for the pain they have lived with. These most recent revelations have also compelled me to make public my decision to leave, as much as it grieves me to go.”
Carter continued, noting his personal disagreement with the way Willow Creek has handled the entire affair. “I have been gravely concerned about our church’s official response, and it’s ongoing approach to these painful issues,” he explained. “After many frank conversations with our elders, it became clear that there is a fundamental difference in judgment between what I believe is necessary for Willow Creek to move in a positive direction, and what they think is best.”
“I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor when my soul is so at odds with the institution,” Carter concluded.
Following yesterday’s serious allegations, several churches have pulled out of hosting the Willow Creek’s “Global Leadership Summit” training conference. Vineyard Cincinnati Church, an Ohio megachurch, is one of those who have pulled the plug on being a GLS host in light of the shocking revelations.
After much thought and prayer, we have decided that Vineyard Cincinnati Church will not be a host site of the [GLS] this year,” the church said in a message on its website announcing its decision. “We are reminded from Scripture that God calls us to defend the vulnerable—the orphan, the widow, the oppressed, and those who suffer under the misuse of power.”