Rev. Bill Hybels stepped down Tuesday night six months before his planned retirement from Willow Creek Community Church amid accusations of misconduct, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The newspaper reports that claims surfaced against Hybels that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with women in his congregation over decades. He was cleared in church inquiries, the Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune report, Hybels held back tears as he apologized to churchgoers even though he said he’d been cleared of all accusations.
"I apologize to you, my church, for a response that was defensive instead of one that invited conversation and learning,” he said, according to the Tribune.
He reportedly said he had put himself in positions that he should have avoided but dismissed the allegations as “flat-out lies.”
He had planned to step down in October of 2018 since May of 2012, the newspaper reported.
Executive pastor Heather Larson will take over as chief executive of the megachurch starting Tuesday.
Willow Creek Community Church is located in South Barrington.