A pastor and former spiritual adviser to President Clinton has stepped down from one of the largest evangelical churches in the country over allegations of misconduct with women. Bill Hybels, 66, planned to retire from the Chicago-area megachurch he founded 43 years ago in October. But at Willow Creek's Tuesday service in South Barrington, Hybels said allegations of suggestive comments, unwanted kissing, invitations to hotel rooms, and an extramarital affair, raised last month by the Chicago Tribune, had become an "extremely painful" distraction, though the church's own investigation found no wrongdoing, per the Tribune. "In recent times, I have been accused of many things I simply did not do," but "some in the wider Christian community continue to be confused and conflicted," Hybels said, announcing his resignation was effective Tuesday.
Hybels did admit he "placed myself in situations that would be far wiser to avoid. I was naive" but "I realize now that … I communicated things that were perceived in ways I did not intend, at times making people feel uncomfortable," per the Washington Post and Chicago Sun-Times. He said, "I feel the need to look deep inside myself and determine what God wants to teach me through all of this," adding, "I have complete peace about this decision." Two successors will now take over: Executive pastor Heather Larson will become chief executive while Steve Carter will become lead teaching pastor, reports the Sun-Times. One of 25,000 worshipers across Willow Creek's Illinois campuses wasn't happy with Tuesday's news, blaming the #MeToo movement, per the Tribune. "It worked. It destroyed an old man's life. Nothing good came out of it," he said. (Read more megachurches stories.)