Bill Hybels controversy: Willow Creek women 'must not be silenced', says John Ortberg

John Ortberg, the former Willow Creek pastor who accused church leaders of failures over allegations senior pastor Bill Hybels had behaved inappropriately with women, has said the women concerned 'must not be silenced'.

Ortberg was Hybels' colleague at Willow Creek for nine years. When rumours about Hybels' conduct surfaced, he, his wife Nancy and another couple, Leanne and Jim Mellado, urged a thorough investigation and later said they did not believe the church had taken the allegations seriously enough. The story was detailed in a long investigative article in the Chicago Tribune.

Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels is under pressure over accusations of sexual impropriety.Willow Creek

Now Ortberg has written a reflection on the Tribune article for his blog. In it he says: 'Even in ordinary settings, it is often risky for women to report misconduct. The high visibility of Willow Creek Community Church makes it even more daunting than an ordinary setting.'

Ortberg says he was approached four years ago with information and informed the elders of Willow Creek. He says the process they instituted was 'poorly designed and likely to expose any woman who came forward to grave risks'. The weaknesses in the investigation meant that 'they failed to discover and thoroughly investigate important information. I and others were left with the painful decision to not participate in a process I believed lacked genuine independence and credibility.'

He denies fabricating or manufacturing stories, describing such suggestions as 'untrue and a diversion' and saying the 'stories of the women themselves are the main concern'.

He says: 'Anyone who may have been victimized by people in power needs to know that the church of Jesus is their refuge and champion. In this case, the tremendous courage of several women has been met with an inadequate process that has left them without a refuge and with no way to be assured of a fair hearing.'

Ortberg criticises the church for presenting only the senior pastor's and elders' positions, saying: 'In a family, all voices should be heard, and every story should be told. This should happen in a setting where there is a balance of power and independent judgment can be made about their accounts.

'The women cannot and must not be silenced.'