Popular writer and ministry leader Shauna Niequist has publicly apologized for her silence in light of the sexual misconduct allegations against her father, Bill Hybels, some three years ago.
Bill Hybels is the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, a multi-campus 20,000 member megachurch that pioneered the seeker-sensitive movement – the practice of gearing everything about a church service to be as comfortable and friendly to non-believing “seekers” as possible.
According to GQ, “The messages address relevant topics such as marriage, parenting, and finances from a biblical perspective without sounding ‘preachy.’ Religious language and traditional religious symbols are avoided. The Bible is referred to but not preached from in an expository manner. The music, drama, child care, youth programs, special events, technology, and facilities are all of excellent quality.”
Notably, in 2007 a major study was released that was commissioned by the church itself, finding the church was failing catastrophically at producing deep, mature followers of Christ.
In 2018, allegations of decades of sexual misconduct came forth against Hybels, including inviting women to his hotel room, making suggestive comments to female employees, extended hugs, kissing a woman against her will, and engaging in oral sex with an employee.
These allegations resulted in him resigning, as well as several of the lead pastors and the entire elder board. Several investigations have been completed which conclude that the allegations are credible, but Hybels has continued to insist he is innocent.
Three years later, Niequist explained on Instagram that “I apologize for my silence & for all that it communicated. I’m so sorry. I continue to grieve alongside every person who’s grieving…”
Shauana and her husband (who was a worship leader at Willow Creek) have been criticized and harried on social media for not commenting further after the incident.
She explains that the “season” after the allegations shook her to the core and caused her to “shut down.” She says she was initially encouraged to take time to listen and grieve, but that “silence was necessary for me initially, but I extended that silence too long.”
I now understand that my silence communicated to many that I defend my father’s actions and his ongoing silence. I don’t. 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.
In this area of my life, I’ve been living according to my fear, not my values. I carry so much regret, & I apologize. 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.
Rather than apologizing for her silence since the allegations, we wish she’d apologize for their role advancing and promoting the devastating, gangrenous doctrine of “seeker sensitivity” that the church gargled and spit out on evangelicalism for decades.
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