David Dummitt has been named as the new senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, replacing its founder Bill Hybels, who resigned in 2018 over sexual misconduct allegations.
Hybels led the church for over four decades and had been months away from retiring when an investigative report in the Chicago Tribune detailed allegations from several women who accused the pastor of inappropriate behaviour like extended hugs, suggestive comments, invitations to hotel rooms and an unwanted kiss.
He denied the accusations but was investigated last year by an Independent Advisory Group, which called the accusations against Hybels "credible" and recommended that he undergo counselling.
This was followed by a public statement from Willow Creek elders in which they told Hybels to "repent".
"God has blessed Willow Creek Community Church to have a profound impact for His kingdom," the board of elders said in a statement last July.
"Bill Hybels served and contributed to Willow for more than 40 years. Simultaneously, unchecked sin and intimidating behavior resulted in harm that is still felt in this present day.
"Christ died to free us from the power of sin. It is in that spirit that we appeal to Bill to reflect on his years in ministry, repent where necessary, and seek to live out the ministry of reconciliation."
The controversy left the church with lower attendance, giving, and multiple staff and elder resignations.
In May last year, the embattled church established a search committee for a new senior pastor with the aim of filling the position by the end of 2019.
It has now been announced that Dummitt, founder and leader of the 2|42 Community Church in Michigan for the last 12 years, is to take over as senior pastor at Willow Creek.
William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen, the Christian executive search firm appointed by Willow Creek to find its new senior pastor, said Dummitt was the right person to lead the church forward from the "seismic trauma" caused by the Hybels scandal.
He called the search for Willow Creek's new senior pastor one of the "most humbling tasks" he had ever undertaken.
"I've known Dave for many years. His humble spirit and his focus on the local church — rather than a national platform — is one of many reasons we believe he is precisely the right person to lead Willow in this moment," he said.
"Every step of the way, during the search, we saw that God was bringing Willow and Dave together to start this exciting new chapter. He is the right leader for this great, influential congregation."
He continued: "We have completed hundreds of senior pastor searches for churches of all sizes. We have consistently done searches for churches in trauma.
"But Willow was a perfect storm of a massive congregation experiencing seismic trauma that only God could have led them through.
"I applaud the elders for their faithfulness, for their courage, and for their heart to follow Jesus into the next chapter of Willow."
Dummitt started his Michigan church with a group of friends in 2005. It has since grown to a multi-site megachurch with an average weekly attendance of 10,000.
He revealed how he had been personally impacted by the ministry of Willow Creek.
"As a freshman at Wheaton College, I'd heard about this church that was doing creative things to reach lost people. We attended, and I can almost point to the seats we sat in that day," he said.
"The service opened with a Beatles song. I was a church kid who played in the handbell choir at my church. That service opened my eyes to new ways of doing church.
"I don't know of a pastor or leader in America that has not in some way been shaped by the ministry of Willow Creek."