Megachurch pastor “accelerates” October retirement weeks after former colleagues went public with misconduct allegations.
Bill Hybels has stepped down as senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area megachurch he founded over 40 years ago, citing the controversy over recent allegations against him.
Many in the wider Christian community have been confused by those allegations, he said, and the controversy has distracted his church’s leaders from their mission and has hurt the church’s ministries. “They can’t flourish to their fullest potential when the valuable time of our leaders is divided.”
Hybels, who previously planned to retire in October, revealed the news Tuesday evening at a “family meeting” where about 1,000 Willow Creek members gathered at the multisite church’s flagship South Barrington, Illinois, campus.
The crowd listened in silence as their longtime pastor began to read a 12-minute-long prepared statement, then groaned in disappointment when he confirmed what so many of them had feared. Several voices shouted, “No!” across the 7,000-seat auditorium.
Hybels will also leave the board of the Willow Creek Association (WCA), a network of thousands of churches around the world, and will no longer host Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in August. “This too was my decision and mine alone,” he said.
Hybels has strongly denied the pattern of misconduct that former Willow Creek staff members recounted in an investigation published three weeks ago by the Chicago Tribune and covered by Christianity Today. At the family meeting, he repeated his denial.
“I’ve been accused of many things I simply did not do,” he said. “But let me acknowledge things I have done. I confess to anger at the accusations. … I sincerely …