Elder Update: February 28, 2019

Willow Family,

As your new Elder Board, we have an important update for our church about the events brought to light during this past year. Our desire is to move forward into this new season with transparency, acknowledging that truth coming to light can oftentimes be difficult and painful.

In April 2018, Bill Hybels stepped down as senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church at a public gathering of the Willow community. Much has happened since then: additional public accusations have been made about Bill; Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter and Lead Pastor Heather Larson resigned; Steve Gillen was named acting senior pastor; the entire Elder Board resigned; and an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) was commissioned by the resigning Elder Board and the Willow Creek Association Board (WCA). The WCA is now named the Global Leadership Network. 

We are an entirely new Elder Board of nine members, formally installed in January 2019. We are committed to  working together to learn from the past as we look toward our future together as a church, incorporating the recommendations of the IAG’s report.   

The IAG has now completed its work, and we thank them for their time and commitment. As we provide the findings, we’d like to remind you of their scope. Specifically, Willow Creek Community Church and the WCA asked the IAG to do the following:

  1. Consider allegations related to Bill Hybels.
  2. Review the organizational culture of the church and association.
  3. Make recommendations to the church and association for future actions based on their findings.

We’d like to also tell you what the IAG’s work was not. This was not a court of law or a legal proceeding. While the IAG members conducted scores of interviews, they did not have subpoena powers and could not place people under oath. They could not compel anyone to speak with them who refused to participate. In addition, this was not a self-assessment or internal examination. None of the four members of the IAG worked for or had formal ties to Willow Creek Community Church or the WCA. The IAG did not seek direction or opinions from Willow Creek Community Church or the WCA in this process. The expenses for the work of the IAG were funded by an external anonymous donor, and IAG members were not compensated for their time. Their work was truly independent.

We received the IAG report on February 28, 2019, and are making the full, unedited report available to the entire Willow Creek community and the public at large. The IAG has completed its work and is not taking questions. We cannot speak on their behalf regarding their findings.

Following are commitments and requests from us:

  1. As a new Elder Board, we ask for your prayers and patience as we process this report and prepare appropriate responses and actions.
  2. We commit to honor and respect the work of the IAG and the entirety of their report. 
  3. We verify that the report posted on willowcreek.org is the exact report received from the IAG. A third party will provide a verification by the end of February 28 that will also be posted on the website. (Click here to view a third-party verification of the report.)
  4. We commit to provide ongoing communication regarding our deliberations on this report’s findings and recommendations. If you would like to receive our process updates, please click here
  5. We are prayerfully looking at our church culture, policies, and governance model in light of the IAG’s report in order to better honor Jesus Christ and His testimony in and through our church. 
  6. If you wish to communicate with our Elder Board, please email [email protected] will do our best to respond, and we ask for your patience.  

While we cannot change the events of the past, we grieve what has happened, ask for forgiveness, and commit ourselves to pursuing healing and reconciliation.

Thank you for your prayers and faithful engagement in the life and ministry of our church during this season. We remain confident in God’s goodness and in His plans for us, His church.

In His service,

The Willow Creek Elder Board

View the IAG report here.

Click here to view a third-party verification of the report.

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