Willow Creek: We Are Not Paying Bill Hybels' Legal Fees; Anonymous Donor Funding Investigation

Bill Hybels
Willow Creek Community Church founder, Bill Hybels. |

Willow Creek Community Church has added a FAQs page on its website that addresses the investigation of sexual abuse women allegedly suffered at the hands of its founder and former pastor Bill Hybels.

The Illinois megachurch released the FAQs on its website Sunday, which talks about the Elder selection process, financial and legal concerns, the investigation, and leadership changes.

To the question of whether the evangelical church is paying the legal fees for Hybels, who resigned prematurely in April following sex abuse allegations that he denies, the church answered:

"No, Bill is responsible for his own legal fees for any causes against him personally. If in the event a claim is brought against Bill in his capacity as an employee of the church, the church's insurance carrier would likely cover his legal fees."

Willow Creek has had a turbulent time over the allegations of sex abuse regarding Hybels. Its entire elder board resigned back in August after admitting that it had made a mistake when it initially chose to side with Hybels rather than believe the women.

The allegations go back decades, and accuse the former senior pastor of various types of sexual misconduct, including unwanted sex acts on a woman who served as his gatekeeper in the 1980s.

The development, which also saw the resignation of executive pastor Heather Larson, was proceeded by lead teaching pastor Steve Carter leaving the church due to what he said was a "fundamental difference in judgment" between himself and the elders when it comes to handling the accusations against Hybels.

Along with the resignations, the church also announced that it will be conducting an independent investigation to find out the truth and the extent of what happened.

"We want to pursue truth however we can, and we specifically want to make things right with the women and the others who have been hurt. Ultimately, we want to lay the foundation for a new and better Willow that honors God in all dimensions, whatever that looks like," the church explained in the FAQs.

As for whether Hybels will be part of the investigation, it added: "Our desire as a church is that Bill would participate in the investigation. Whether or not he chooses to do so or not is outside our control."

Willow Creek explained that an advisory group is being formed to oversee the investigation, and promised to release more details shortly.

On the question of who is paying for the investigation, the church said that it's a "donor who wishes to remain anonymous and is not connected to Bill, Willow Creek, or those who made allegations, in order to avoid bias."

"The donor will have no influence or involvement in the investigation, and the funds will be deposited by the donor into an account maintained by a third-party organization," it added.

Among the other questions, Willow Creek admitted that some congregants are frustrated at hearing news "from the bottom up instead of top down."

It vowed, however, to work toward rebuilding trust, which it said will take time.

"We are creating new ways to bridge gaps between levels of management and have formed cross-departmental, cross-regional teams to better collaborate and move forward. Our prayer is that as the staff continues to heal and work together, we will be able to better pastor our congregation," it wrote.

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