The controversy over Bill Hybels’ behavior during his reign at Willow Creek Church and his Global Leadership Summit is apparently worse than anyone could have imagined. New allegations of sexual misconduct against Hybels came to light this past Sunday, prompting his successor at Willow Creek to step down and more than 100 Global Leadership Summit site host churches to cancel. The New York Times reports:
“Mr. Hybels offered her a back rub in front of the fireplace and told her to lie face down. Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake.
That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.
“I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. “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.”
Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, resigned Sunday after the new allegations surfaced against founding pastor Bill Hybels.
Earlier on Sunday, one of Hybels’s former assistants accused the Willow Creek founder of repeatedly groping her. Pat Baranowski told The New York Times that Hybels allegedly touched her breasts repeatedly and rubbed against her, had oral sex with her on one occasion, and once asked her to watch porn with him as a research project.
Baranowski told her therapist about the incidents, according to the Times. She also told another pastor at the church, but asked him to keep silent until now. She is the tenth woman to accuse Hybels of misconduct.
Hybels told the Times that the allegations were not true.
“I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he told the Times in an email.
Those accusations were the last straw for Carter.
“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,” he wrote on his blog, announcing his resignation. “These most recent revelations have also compelled me to make public my decision to leave, as much as it grieves me to go.”
So far, 111 host sites for the GLS had canceled, in advance of today’s developments. Sixty-seven of those were sites that have hosted the summit in the past. The rest were new sites that would have been hosting for the first time.
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