The daughter of former megachurch pastor Bill Hybels has apologised for remaining silent after her father was accused of sexual misconduct.
Shauna Niequest said she took time out "to grieve & listen & recover" after a series of accusations against her father led him to resign his post at Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago megachurch he founded in 1975. Despite addressing the situation at various points on her social media feeds, Niequest said she regrets not being more open.
"For too long, I’ve been trying to find the words to write about my dad & our church," she wrote on Instagram. "While along the way I’ve written here about how painful different aspects of it have been, I haven’t spoken plainly about the situation, & I’m sorry."
Niequest noted that a period of reflection was "necessary" in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, but that she should have spoken out sooner.
"I extended that silence too long," she said.
The accusations against Hybels - one of the most influential pastors in the country - first broke back in March 2018 with a report in the Chicago Tribune. It was alleged that he had engaged in an extramarital affair, though this was later retracted by the woman in question. In August, the New York Times published a number of allegations from a former employee of Hybels, who said that he repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted her during the 1980s.
A six-month investigation found the misconduct allegations against Hybels to be credible. Hybels has denied all the accusations made against him and refused to engage in any restorative processes at his church. He has remained silent over the allegations.
In her post, Niequest said that she does not agree with her father's approach. "I now understand that my silence communicated to many that I defend my father’s actions and his ongoing silence. I don’t," she said. "I grieve both of those things. I now understand that my silence allowed many people to assume that I don’t care about the people he hurt. That’s not true, & that’s something I regret so deeply. I’m so sorry."
She added: "I remain in relationship with my dad. I love him, & I always will. I can’t apologize for his choices, but I do apologize for mine. I can’t make amends for his actions, but today I’m taking the first step in making amends to the people I’ve wounded by my silence.
"That season shook me to the core, & I shut down. While I fought to regain my footing, a group of people took their anger toward my dad out on me in very public ways, & the pain of that pushed me further into retreat. I’m not proud of that."
Niequest added that she had been living according to fear, rather than her values. "I carry so much regret, & I apologize," she added. "I know it might not make sense that someone who writes for a living, literally, could find herself so unable to say what needed to be said. But that’s the truth. I was wounded, & I waited too long."
"I apologize for my silence & for all that it communicated. I’m so sorry. I continue to grieve alongside every person who’s grieving."
Many replied to Niequest with words of affirmation and support. "I love you. You didn’t ask for this or cause it. You were deeply hurt too, and that gets to count," wrote author Jen Hatmaker. "You get to reel and grieve and process trauma too. You have my unending love and support."
Professor and author, Brene Brown, added: "A good friend once told me that sometimes the most courageous path in the midst of suffering is to surrender to our grief and to honor the call of quiet contemplation. That friend was you."