SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. -- A pastor at an Evangelical megachurch announced he is resigning six months ahead of schedule. The announcement comes after a Chicago Tribune investigation disclosed that the pastor had allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior with women in his church.
Rev. Bill Hybels told his congregation on Tuesday that he would be stepping down from his position at Willow Creek Community Church, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"The leaders of both our church and the Willow Creek Association need the freedom to get on with the task of carry out the important missions that God has given to them. Therefore, I have decided to accelerate my planned retirement date from October of this year to tonight," he said to his congregation Tuesday evening.
According to the investigation, the alleged behavior included suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss, and invitations to hotel rooms.
Rev. Hybels called the allegations part of a calculated and continual attack on him and church elders.
In a statement on Willow Creek's website, Hybels said he’s been accused of many things he simply did not do. He said independent investigations cleared him of any wrongdoing and he’s sorry he’s been so angry in the weeks following accusations about his behavior.
"I do believe him. i was here at the first family meeting because there is just no way that bill hybels would have gotten on that stage and told us a lie, looked at us and told us a lie," Deidre Wiza, church member, said.
His sudden retirement leaves the congregation divided, but hopeful.
"The message that was given to every survivor of abuse or sexual assault or anything in this church was just told you don’t have a home here," Brandy Betts, church member, said.
Many of the people at the church did not want to be on camera, but many of them expressed their faith in God to guide the church to where it needs to be.
The pastor has been at the church for 42 years.