Why It’s a Big Deal That Evangelical Pastor Bill Hybels Just Stepped Down Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Source: Slate

Bill Hybels and President Bill Clinton, heads bowed in pray.
Bill Hybels prays with President Bill Clinton on the North Portico of the White House on June 6, 1995.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Luke Frazza/Getty Images.

One of the prominent leaders in American evangelicalism resigned abruptly Tuesday night in the wake of a series of accusations of sexual misconduct. Citing “confusion” about the accusations, which span decades, Bill Hybels announced from the stage at his suburban Chicago church that he was retiring effective immediately. “It has been extremely painful for us to see this controversy continue to be a distraction,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Lynne. Church members in the audience gasped, and some shouted, “No!”

The accusations against Hybels come from multiple women, including several former employees who spoke on the record with the Chicago Tribune as a part of a major investigationpublished in March. They accuse the pastor of behavior including flirtatious comments, lingering hugs, and an unwanted kiss. The claims were noteworthy in part because of who made them: multiple employees who went on the record were highly respected within Willow Creek and in some cases had high profiles outside the church. Nancy Beach, the church’s first female teaching pastor, told the Tribune that Hybels repeatedly initiated inappropriate conversations with her over the years and invited her to one-on-one meetings in his home and hotel rooms with no clear professional agenda. Vonda Dyer, another employee, also said Hybels invited her to a hotel room more than once; on a work trip to Sweden, she said, he told her she was “sexy” and kissed her. (One woman, not named in news reports, said she had a long-term affair with Hybels but later recanted her claim in full.)

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