Statements from Heather Larson, Steve Carter, and the Willow Creek Elders

June 30, 2018

A Statement from Lead Pastor Heather Larson

Click here to watch Heather’s statement on Willow Creek TV.

I want to talk to you all about something that has been on my heart. Early this week, I reached out to the Elders and mentioned that I thought it was important for Steve and me to be able to personally speak to the situation we have been navigating as a church. This has been a tremendous weight on both of us, and for many compounding reasons, we both believe it is important for us personally to own what we need to and to do whatever we can to help us take next steps. The team and I have been having long conversations, and you may have read Steve’s post last night. I was supportive of Steve’s post, and the Elders are supportive of us making these comments. I wanted to stand before you and address you all as the church family and those who are watching.

I know these past months have been excruciating, and I want to personally acknowledge to you the mistakes that I have made. I need to speak these words for my own integrity and for our church. I need to publicly apologize to the women who raised concerns about Bill.

To the women directly, I can’t imagine how painful the past months have been for you, and I am so sorry for my part in that.

It was stated that the allegations are all lies, and I do not believe that. I should have jumped in and declared that personally right away when that statement was made. I believe the stories that Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women. That is wrong, and I hope and pray that someday this can be made right.

I ask for forgiveness that I did not personally declare that sooner.

The women showed courage in coming forward. In full transparency of what was going on in me, one of the hardest parts for me was that I did not agree with how the information came out in the media, and I allowed that to get in the way of focusing on the pain of these women. I am sorry. I should have listened more to why the women felt like they were forced to take that path.

It was wrong to host those first family meetings and to release those initial posted statements in the way we did. We should have started by listening. As I walked out on stage that first night, I realized that the humility and tone were not right, and I have deep regrets about even holding those meetings. I said things that hurt people, and I am deeply sorry.

It grieves me that people felt like they had to take sides and that this situation has created such division. I long for personal conversations, for ownership, for repentance, for healing.

Since Bill stepped away, we have all been reflecting on what we could have done differently and on how we can better navigate in the future. I am doing what I can to make things right, and I am working hard to begin this new season with a culture that is transparent, healthy, and thriving. I am praying with every ounce of my being that God will redeem this situation and bring healing for everyone involved. I ask you to please be praying as well.

 

A Statement from Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter

This week, I had a chance to share with the Elders what has been on my heart.

On Wednesday, Scot McKnight wrote a post expressing concern that a profound injustice has been done regarding the women who made allegations against Bill Hybels and the subsequent Elder process investigating those claims. I agree with this conclusion.

Specifically, I do not think it should have been said that the women were lying or that they were colluding against Bill and the church. I believe the women and applaud their courage.

I have personally reached out to and connected with several of the victims and listened to their experiences. I have made private apologies to several of the women and their families for the way they have been treated. I thank God for the opportunity to seek grace and forgiveness from these individuals.

I recognize that I am not blameless in this. I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to the injustice that was done to these women. I should not have been on stage for any of the family meetings, to pray or lead any part of those nights. I believe now that what our church needed initially was to practice transparency and repentance, to grieve, and to reflect on what Jesus was inviting us into and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I wish I had done more to prevent the hurtful statements that were made, and to advocate more forcefully for what I believe would have been a more humble and Biblical approach.

For this, I am deeply sorry and ask your forgiveness.

Sarah and I have such deep love for the congregation of Willow, and our concern to shepherd this community well has been the drumbeat of our heart. Serving this church is one of the greatest joys of our lives. Heather and our team have been working on next steps, and we will share specific ways on how we as a church will respond. We will continue to pray with conviction and deep hope that truth and redemption will prevail, and that God’s healing power will shepherd all of us through this difficult time.

Grace + Peace,

Steve Carter

 

A Statement from the Willow Creek Elders

With the blessing of the Elder Board, Heather and Steve have made statements that reveal their hearts on the issues facing our church. We support them and join with them in their desire to respond with a more repentant and honoring spirit.

We apologize and ask for forgiveness that the tone of our initial response was not one of humility and deep concern for all the women involved. It takes courage for a woman to step forward and share her story.

We are grieved that we let Bill’s statement stand for as long as we did that the women were lying and colluding. We now believe Bill entered into areas of sin related to the allegations that have been brought forth.

Please know we, as a board, are committed to doing everything we can to improve and grow from this experience. To that aim we are:

  • Expanding our investigative efforts to, as best we can, get to the truth around these allegations.
  • Eliciting outside expertise in the area of board governance with the hope to not repeat mistakes made in the past and provide the guidance we need to be effective going forward.

Join us in prayer for all involved and for His Spirit led guidance and wisdom.

Humbly,

The Elder Board