The lead teaching pastor of Willow Creek church has announced his resignation over the church's handling of allegations of misconduct against founder Bill Hybels.
Steve Carter's departure follows new allegations detailed in a New York Times article published yesterday based on testimony from a former assistant of Hybels, who said he repeatedly groped her during the 1980s.
Hybels, who pioneered the 'seeker friendly' philosophy that drove Willow Creek's expansion to global influence, retired early in April following reports of inappropriate behaviour towards several women. The church has been under fire since then, accused of failing to investigate allegations properly and of not taking the women's accounts seriously. Hybels has denied all the allegations.
The report yesterday relates to Hybels' former executive assistant Pat Baranowski, who says he had oral sex with her once and asked her to watch porngraphy with him for research.
She told the newspaper she had not spoken up before because 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. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn't want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed,' she said.
Carter, who served as lead pastor with Heather Larson, posted on his blog yesterday resigning from the church with immediate effect. He said: '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.'
He said he had been 'gravely concerned' about the church's official response to allegations about Hybels.
'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,' he continued. 'That is not to say that I am right and they are wrong. But I must follow the path that I believe God has laid out for me to live with integrity, and that path now diverges from Willow Creek.'