Willow Creek Community Church has paid out more than $3 million in settlements to the families of two disabled children who were sexually abused by a church volunteer, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
The megachurch in the northwest suburbs settled the two lawsuits, which stemmed from incidents in 2013 and 2014, after incidents at the hands of Robert Sobczak, according to the Tribune.
Sobczak, now 24, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to the attacks, court records show.
The Sun-Times could not immediately verify the settlement and Willow Creek did not respond to requests for comment Monday evening.
The church has found itself mired in controversy since the Tribune detailed allegations of sexual harassment against founding pastor Bill Hybels and the church’s own mishandled investigation.
Last week, the church announced that its entire board of elders would step down to allow the church to make a “fresh start.”
Hybels abruptly announced his early retirement in April following allegations of impropriety dating back to the 1990s that were detailed in a Tribune investigation. Several women described “suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms,” as well as “an allegation of a prolonged consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim about the affair was not true.”
Six more women came forward with similar allegations in a Christianity Today report published on April 21, and a former assistant to Hybels accused him of harassment in a New York Times report published earlier this month.
That prompted Pastor Steve Carter — who had replaced Hybels at the helm of the church — to step down himself.
“We believe that his sins were beyond what he previously admitted on stage, and certainly we believe that his actions with these women were sinful,” former elder Missy Rasmussen said last week. “We believe he did not receive feedback as well as he gave it, and he resisted the accountability structures we all need.”