Elders at Willow Creek Community Church have said they will conduct fresh investigations into the conduct of its founder and former pastor Bill Hybels after more allegations of inappropriate conduct with women surfaced last week.
Hybels, who made the church one of the most influential on the US evangelical scene with its emphasis on being 'seeker-friendly', resigned from his position on April 10 following criticisms of his behaviour. The church had previously cleared him of wrongdoing but persistent criticism of its investigations and more women coming forward led to Hybels' departure.
A letter delivered to the church congregation on Friday said the elders acknowledged the issue could have been handled better.
'We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board,' the elders wrote. 'We will respectfully reach out to each woman who has made an accusation, even if she has not brought her concerns directly to the Board. We commit that each woman willing to speak with us will be heard, and that we will respect her story. We commit that making steps toward understanding and toward restoring relationship will be our primary goals.'
An article in Christianity Today yesterday featured Maureen Girkins, who said Hybels pressured her to spend time alone with him and made inappropriate comments about her clothing and appearance. It also reported uncomfortable encounters of two women with Hybels in the 1980s. None of the women alleged sexual contact.
The allegations against Hybels – which he has denied – were first detailed in a inquiry by the Chicago Tribune.