Elders at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago announced Thursday that Steve Gillen, their interim senior pastor will step down on March 17. Gillen has been serving in the role since the church’s founder, Bill Hybels, resigned amid a sexual misconduct scandal in 2018.
“Before starting the external senior pastor search, we asked Steve to continue in his interim role on contract to provide much needed leadership to the Willow staff and congregation. Given that the search process has taken longer than anticipated, Steve agreed to serve on staff until March 17, 2020. Steve will no longer be interim senior pastor after March 17, but he may stay engaged past that date to support the transition to a new interim senior pastor,” the elder board said. “He determined that now is an appropriate time for him and his family to seek out what God has in store for them in their next chapter.”
The announcement was made in an update from the elder board in which they also revealed that they are no longer considering two leading candidates they had settled on in December to fill the vacancy created by Hybels’ scandal.
“In our December update, we shared that the final two senior pastor candidates were presented to the full Elder Board. While both candidates have strong qualities as pastors, we released both from candidacy,” the elders said.
“Our consensus was that neither candidate is the long-term leader of Willow Creek; therefore, the search process has continued. We have provided updates throughout the process, and one of the consequences is that in our last communication, we set an expectation that we are not able to meet,” they said.
The elder board’s decision came just two days after they publicly apologized for allowing Hybels’ mentor, Gilbert Bilezikian, a retired Wheaton College professor, who is also credited with helping Hybels start Willow Creek, to keep teaching at the church despite abuse allegations against him.
Longtime Willow Creek member Ann Lindberg recently disclosed in an extended post on Facebook how Bilezikian victimized her for years and suggested he would have had sex with her had she allowed it during a relationship that lasted from October 1984 to 1988.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair