Lead pastor Heather Larson also previously issued an apology of her own. Willow Creek’s elders also admitted that Hybels was guilty of wrongdoing. “We are grieved that we let Bill’s statement stand for as long as we did that the women were lying and colluding,” the elders said. “We now believe Bill entered into areas of sin related to the allegations that have been brought forth.” Willow Creek leaders told their congregation they would consult with outside experts on how to deal with the accusations against Hybels.
Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, resigned Sunday after new allegations surfaced against founding pastor Bill Hybels.
Earlier on Sunday, one of Hybels’s former assistants accused the Willow Creek founder of repeatedly groping her. Pat Baranowski told The New York Times that Hybels allegedly touched her breasts repeatedly and rubbed against her, had oral sex with her on one occasion, and once asked her to watch porn with him as a research project.
Baranowski told her therapist about the incidents, according to the Times. She also told another pastor at the church, but asked him to keep silent until now. She is the tenth woman to accuse Hybels of misconduct.
Hybels told the Times that the allegations were not true.
“I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he told the Times in an email.
Those accusations were the last straw for Carter.
“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,” he wrote on his blog, announcing his resignation. “These most recent revelations have also compelled me to make public my decision to leave, as much as it grieves me to go.”
The new allegations and Carter’s resignation come days before the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS), which opens this week at Willow Creek and simulcasts worldwide.
Hybels’s shadow lingers over the event, since he hosted the GLS for more than two decades. The controversy over his past conduct has led to more than 100 churches and other organizations canceling their plans to host a GLS viewing site.
Tom DeVries, president and CEO of the Willow Creek Association (WCA) which runs the GLS, is expected to make a statement about Hybels at the start of the summit.
Author and activist Danielle Strickland is also scheduled to speak about “creating a healthy work environment for men and women.”
So far, 111 host sites for the GLS had canceled, in advance of today’s developments. Sixty-seven of those were sites that have hosted the summit in the past. The rest were new sites that would have been hosting for the first time.
The summit will also be simulcast into more than 60 prisons, according to the GLS. Churches and other groups can also sign up for “private views”—a simulcast of the event for a small group.
All told, there will be 690 host sites for the summit, according to the GLS. Churches or other groups can also sign up for a livestream of the event, meant for a senior pastor or a few staffers. About 50 groups have signed up for the livestream so far.
Some churches have changed from being a “premiere hosting site”—open to the public—to private viewings.
That was the case for the Traverse City, Michigan, campus of Kensington Church. The simulcast there won’t be open to the public, but will be available to staff and key volunteers, the church told CT in an email.
Other churches have canceled outright, including Vineyard Cincinnati Church, an Ohio megachurch.
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