WARNING: Graphic Images
The Roman Catholic Church is not alone in facing accusations of clergy abuse.
Pastor Heather Larson and elders of the Willow Creek Community Church, a Chicago-based megachurch, recently resigned amid a sexual abuse scandal involving church founder, Rev. Bill Hybels, and multiple women [2A]. Hybels, too, resigned but denies the accusations made against him.
Willow Creek meanwhile paid $3.25 million to settle lawsuits against a volunteer who sexually abused two disabled children . The volunteer, Robert Sobczak, Jr. pled guilty, and is currently serving a seven-year prison term.
Lack of Accountability
“In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.
In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.
Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.
But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches [3B].”
Additional evangelical leaders involved in sex scandals include Rev. Andy Savage of High Point Church in Memphis and Rev. Harry Thomas, founder of Come Alive International and the Creation Music Festival . Thomas, who admits sexually assaulting four minors and “inappropriately interacting” with a fifth between 1999 and 2015, has been sentenced to 18 years.
Not all predator priests and ministers, however, accept responsibility for their actions. Some characterize the accusations against them – no matter how well documented – as groundless satanic attacks. Others cloak themselves in “forgiveness” without any real attempt at repentance or restitution.
Victims are simply abandoned.
 US News, “Willow Creek church pastor, board resign amid sexual misconduct investigation of founder”, 8/9/18, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/08/09/willow-creek-pastor-board-resign-bill-hybels-sex-scandal/944310002/.
[2A and 2B] New York Times, “He’s a Superstar Pastor; She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly” by Laurie Goodstein, 8/5/18, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/us/bill-hybels-willow-creek-pat-baranowski.html.
 US News, “Chicago-Area Megachurch Paid $3.25M over Child Sexual Abuse”, 8/14/18, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/illinois/articles/2018-08-14/chicago-area-megachurch-paid-325m-over-child-sexual-abuse.
 New York Times, “I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.” by 3/9/18, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/opinion/jules-woodson-andy-savage-assault.html .
 Cherry-Hill Courier Post, “Medford pastor pleads guilty to sex assaults” by Jim Walsh, 2/16/18, https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/crime/2018/02/16/medford-pastor-harry-thomas-sexual-assault/345834002/.
The Catholic Church sex scandal was addressed in Part 1 of this series
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