Publishers Suspend Publication of Bill Hybels' Books After Misconduct Allegations

Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., speaking at Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C., April 17, 2013. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

Two prominent Christian publishing companies have suspended the publication of books written by former Illinois megachurch pastor Bill Hybels after he stepped down last week in light of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Tyndale House and InterVarsity Press have both announced that, for now, they no longer plan to publish books written by the founder of the multicampus Willow Creek Community Church.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois-based Tyndale House suspended its plan to publish Everyone Wins When a Leader Gets Better, Hybels' upcoming book that was scheduled for release on Aug. 7.

"We will make a final decision regarding potential publication after we absorb the facts and implications related to these allegations," Tyndale House spokesperson Todd Starowitz said in a statement. "We take allegations of misconduct seriously, and we are deeply concerned for all involved, both those who have brought forth these allegations as well as the Hybels family."

InterVarsity Press, which is also based in Illinois, told the newspaper that it will no longer reprint copies of Hybels' popular 1987 book, Who You Are When No One's Looking, or its related study guide. The book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and claims to have "pointed the way to godly character."

"InterVarsity Press (IVP) and Bill Hybels have mutually agreed that IVP will not be reprinting Hybels's 30-year-old-book 'Who You Are When No One's Looking' and the companion study guide," InterVarsity Press Publisher Jeff Crosby wrote in a statement to the Daily Herald.

Meanwhile, a third Christian publisher, Zondervan, has not yet made a decision to discontinue publishing Hybels' titles published under its label.

"We take these allegations seriously and we continue to sort through the information as it is presented," the company said in a statement.

The publishers' decisions come after the 66-year-old Hybels announced that he was resigning from his role at Willow Creek last week following allegations of sexual misconduct and an extramarital affair. 

Though the allegations were first brought to the attention of Willow Creek leadership years ago, the controversy went public last month when the Chicago Tribune published an extensive investigation. Several women, mainly former staffers, accused Hybels of suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss, and invitations to hotel rooms. 

Hybels' resignation brought about his retirement six months earlier than he had initially planned.

Hybels initially denied the allegations, which also included a consensual affair with a married woman, who retracted her claim. He again denied them in his resignation statement, saying he was accused of "many things I simply did not do."

"As Lynne [wife] and I have watched this, it has been extremely painful for us to see this controversy continue to be a distraction that is hindering our Elders and church staff, as well as the WCA (Willow Creek Association) staff, from carrying out the work of these fantastic ministries," Hybels explained in his resignation statement.

Last week, former Willow Creek Pastor Nancy Ortberg, who served there for nine years, claimed that the woman who accused Hybels of having a sexual affair with her was suicidal and that Hybels had continued counseling her even after she made the allegation.

Ortberg said she first heard of the allegation in 2014.

"This story involved a fourteen-year sexual affair," she said. "After carrying this story on her own for over six months, [former Willow Creek staffer] Leanne [Mellado] made the Elders aware of these allegations, and I was sure a thorough and independent investigation would be done to find out the truth on behalf of the woman, the church, the Willow Creek Association, and Bill."

Ortberg expressed alarm with the church's handling of the investigation into Hybels' actions. She said that church investigators found over 1,150 emails between Hybels and the woman over the course of two years but didn't review them for content.

Investigators within the church had a "face-to-face conversation with Bill Hybels on April 6th," Ortberg said. "They said they could 'look him in the eye and discern if he was telling the truth.'"

Ortberg also claimed that during a later meeting Hybels had "admitted that the woman alleging an affair had spent many nights at the Hybels home when [his wife] Lynne was out of town."

Pam Orr, chair of the Willow Creek Elder board, has defended the integrity of the church's investigations, which included an external one, and maintained that no evidence of misconduct was found. The church elders have expressed their support for Hybels.

Meanwhile, other former Willow Creek leaders, such as the church's first female teaching pastor, Nancy Beach, continue to speak out.

"There can be no healing until the truth is all brought into the light," Beach wrote in a blog post. "I know you don't want to hear this.....but there's more to come. And we must not ignore the voices of these women or they will be abused all over again. Bill Hybels is not the victim here!"

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmithFollow Samuel Smith on Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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