Shauna Niequist
Shauna Niequist, the daughter of Bill Hybels and a New York Times best-selling author

Hybels’ Daughter, Shauna Niequist, Apologizes for Silence about Father’s “Actions”

By Julie Roys

Shauna Niequist, the daughter of Willow Creek founder, Bill Hybels, and a New York Times best-selling author, apologized today on Instagram for her years-long silence regarding her father’s “actions.” In her post, Niequist does not name what her father did, but acknowledges there are “people he hurt.”

“For too long, I’ve been trying to find the words to write about my dad & our church . . .” Niequist wrote. “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.”

Hybels resigned as senior pastor of Willow Creek in April 2018 amid allegations that he sexually abused and harassed numerous women at the well-known megachurch in the Chicago suburbs. Though Hybels has consistently denied the allegations, Willow Creek’s elders released a statement in July 2019 stating that they believed the women’s claims of “sexually inappropriate” conduct by Hybels are credible.

Initially, however, Willow’s elders publicly accused the women of lying, something victims have claimed was extremely traumatizing to them. The victims have consistently urged the church to do more to bring healing and reconciliation. 

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Late last month, some Twitter users questioned why Aaron Niequist, Shauna’s husband, was leading worship online for the Episcopal Church’s Forma conference, given his connection to Hybels.

“Please help me understand the public responsibility I have for my father-in-law’s sin,” Aaron Niequist responded.

Christian writer D.L. Mayfield tweeted back to him, “If you have benefited from publicly being tied to someone who is powerful (like your father-in-law) and they abuse that power in terrible ways, you have a duty to publicly address it.”

Mayfield later named the Niequists in a separate Twitter thread on why people connected to abusers needed to address that abuse and denounce the abuse. Mayfield ended up deleting the thread, which had garnered significant attention, both positive and negative.

Niequist said she initially didn’t speak about her dad and the church because people had encouraged her to “grieve & listen & recover.” She now admits she “extended that silence too long.”

“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,” Niequist wrote. “But that’s the truth. I was wounded, & I waited too long.”

Niequist admitted in her post that public pushback was part of the reason she has been silent. “While I fought to regain my footing, a group of people took their anger toward my dad out on me in very public ways,” which drove her further into retreat. “I’m not proud of that.”

“In this area of my life, I’ve been living according to my fear, not my values. I carry so much regret, & I apologize,” she wrote.

Aaron and Shauna used to live in the Chicago area and Aaron served as a worship leader at Willow Creek. However, soon after the scandal broke concerning her father, Shauna and her husband moved to New York City. There, the couple enrolled at The General Theological Seminary, an Episcopalian school in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Below is Niequist’s full statement:

The Roys Report has reached out to Hybels’ victims for comment and will update this story if any of them respond. 

Emily McFarlan Miller of Religion News Service contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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28 thoughts on “Hybels’ Daughter, Shauna Niequist, Apologizes for Silence about Father’s “Actions””

  1. The Word is very strict about honouring our parents.

    Therefore, Ms Niequist was within her rights to keep silent: and should have been permitted to keep her own counsel indefinitely, without overt pressure from outsiders.

    She was not the perpetrator: and she owes her father respect and gratitude for the upbringing he gave her – if she feels that her childhood was well-handled by him.

    Again, she was not the perpetrator.

    People need to remember that.

  2. Call me cynical but I tend to assume she’s only doing this now because she’s got a new book coming out in July, and has realized this scandal will be hurtful for sales if not addressed.

    1. @Gus Matthew 7:2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

      1. I don’t think that @Gus is being unduly judgmental, inasmuch as his assumption is clearly based upon the fact that many people have behaved in exactly this manner – i.e. issuing an apology, or suchlike, on Twitter – when they have a forthcoming project to promote, and wish to garner attention and goodwill.

        The Lord will search out Ms Niequist’s heart – just as He searches the hearts of all of His disciples.

        1. @Althea T-H In all due respect, I don’t see that exemption in the passage that it is OK to be “judgmental based on the fact that many people have behaved in exactly this manner.” I believe there are many people who have not behaved in this manner. Obviously neither of us have statistics to back up the “many people” statements. So when Jesus declares in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” He is referring to situations exactly like this. There is way too much of this in the “Christian world”. There are certainly times that people need to be called out about their actions (RZ, MacDonald, et.al.) but we can’t judge a person’s heart. And we need to remember when we attempt to do that, then we should not be surprised when someone judges our heart in the same way. Frankly, I would prefer to give grace because I want to be judged by grace … until the works become evident.

    2. The timing is reasonable and correlates to the impending book release. Hopefully this wasn’t the ‘only’ reason. God alone knows her heart. Either way, to be clear, the book’s publisher/marketing would insist any PR issues be addressed with finesse. Publishers know the tight-rope between damage control and profit. In book sales, controversy is a common gamble. It can be strongly unwelcomed or salaciously profitable, depending on how it is managed.

  3. Just what is the responsibility of a daughter towards the misdeeds of her father? Does she have responsibility to the victims? To the church members? To the public? Your damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Where does familial responsibility start and end and does it matter if a son in law worked at the same church? Why is it necessary for the daughter to speak out as well as apologize, even though there was good reason to keep quiet? If anybody, it would be the son-in-law as he was part of leadership.

    1. Thanks, Vance. You expressed how I feel. I hope Shauna has been able to show love and support to her mother and dad in the aftermath of a great tragedy.

      1. A great tragedy? For who? BH has called all these women liars and never admitted any wrong doing. The tragedy is for the victims.
        Having said that, I’m sure it was heartbreaking for his daughter and it must be hard for her wrestling with her own soul over this. I feel for her and hope her apology is sincere…. not a Max Lucado apology.

    2. To Vance,
      Based on the assumptions that you’ve stated, one must assume that you are not familiar with what actually happened in this situation. Shauna does owe an apology to the victims and I know firsthand these women have been hurt by her silence. Some of the victims are women that she knew closely. It is a fact that Shauna participated in writing the responses that Bill read to the public, calling the women victims liars and colluders at the initial “Family Meeting.”

  4. She has no responsibility to apologize unless she held a position of oversight such as CEO, board member, etc. Althea expressed it very well above.

    1. @KG – at this point I agree with you. I haven’t seen anything for which she is responsible. And how deep does this have to go? If Shauna has children, do her children need to apologize for her as she apologizes? Where does this stop?

  5. It’s not her sin for which to apologize.
    It is reprehensible that his daughter feels the need to apologize in this way. What a horrible way to treat his daughter. Another woman harmed by his behavior and HIS silent, unrepentant heart.

    Within the context of the command to “Honor thy parents,” we are to honor what is honorable. I am sure there were many honorable things he did as her father. AND he was a predator. This is the complexity of our humanness, and it is difficult to hold both at the same time. I believe what many long for is a sense of remorse, sorrow, and a measure of reconciliation. This can only come through the perpetrator, Bill Hybels.

  6. I think she’s more apologizing because she and her husband stood on stage with Bill (along with the rest of their family) in a “show of support” at the second “family meeting”, where he was allowed to retire early.

    I don’t know, I think if religious leaders are expected to denounce Trump when he does something stupid or denounce racism, then why shouldn’t they be expected to denounce sexual abuse, even if they are related to the abuser? Not saying I agree with it, but it should at least be consistent.

    1. I guess I wasn’t the only one wondering, now what was it that she did or didn’t do, did or didn’t say, back when the scandal broke and later when Bill Hybels resigned. Many of us either didn’t know or didn’t remember that she initially supported her father before being silent.

      Would it have made the article too long to include some of that history, as reminders? Or made it too much like an editorial rather than straight news? I do really appreciate the work you do here, Mrs. Roys!

  7. What a surprise! Another example of corruption at work in the “Evangelical Industrial Complex. Nothing surprises me anymore when I learn of another scandal in the Evangelical world. BTW – I am an alum from the 80’s of a well known Bible college. We were always told to trust those “God” put in charge over us. Observed that one’s treatment often by the administration varied on you were related to and or your ties to celebrity Evangelicals.

    Still a Christian but left that world long ago.

    Tony

  8. What’s next…are we going to beat his son into submission to denounce his father? How about Lynn – surely she had to know what was going on and was complicit in the abuse? Shauna doesn’t have to atone or apologize for her father’s actions…just stop

    1. I appreciate Shawna’s reaching out! However, Shawna, you need to own exactly what you and others did to SMEAR the names of wonderful, loving and gifted leaders! It certainly was more than “going silent”! You were fully involved in creating the words spoken at the first family meeting, as was your mother and other church leaders! These women have been called, “Liars”. I know they have only asked for an apology, nothing more. Even though… MORE would be well deserved.

      I get so tired of hearing half hearted apologies! If one is truly sorry, they must be specific for the apology. One must own their full involvement in a situation. Isn’t it clear to the new leaders at Willow Creek that without full acknowledgement, they will continue to lose more people! WC is no longer thriving and when will they get this?!!

      Shawna, You know some of these women have reached out and you have ignored a discussion. Why?

      Is this really an apology?

      And, where are those elders…Pam Orr, Mr Moyer, etc? They KNEW they were covering for BH! Are they sorry?!
      Good heavens…where is Bill?!! Such cowardly behavior by all.

      Discouraged

  9. On one hand, I empathize with what Shauna has had to grieve & process regarding these awful things her father, whom she loves dearly, has committed. I cannot imagine how difficult, being in her shoes has been. However, Shauna has been involved in the ‘Me Too Movement’…Aaron makes regular commentary on social media regarding other very public figures that have abused women…all of which is good, however neither of them have commented on believing the women victims of BH. Their silence on this matter has been deafening. Knowing some of the victims very well myself, this is what has disheartened me the most with what has not been said by them both.

  10. I agree with the comments here – she shouldn’t have to apologize for her parents. That is just a stupid thing and just follows along with this whole woke world we’re living in. I’m disturbed that she would even post this – wish everyone would just go back to living their lives quietly and quit trying to become popular so they can sell books. You have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said 1,000 times. While she might have apologized, I bet she will happily inherit the millions that her dad made and leaves to her where she can then continue to preach down to the rest of us.

  11. D. L. Mayfield’s comments are beyond disgraceful. No one should be bullied into apologizing for their parents’ (or in-law’s) sins. If anyone should apologize, it should be Mayfield.

  12. So sad that a daughter is put into this kind of situation. It is another devastating effect of sin in this world. Honoring her father while also seeking to address a very thing that is part of her life is not easy. O, may the Lord help me that I might never put my own daughter in such a situation.

  13. Shauna is not apologising that her father abused women. She is apologising that she didn’t take a clear stand and say abuse is wrong. She defended her dad and then as more allegations came to light she went silent. This is what she is apologising for. That she was public in defending her dad and not public in denouncing abuse. No matter the perpetrator, abuse needs to be denounced. And then given that she initially defended the perpetrator, she is apologising for not speaking out against abuse. This is about her response, not her dad’s behaviour.

  14. I’ve become weary of the theater of apologies by major and minor celebrities. They are never-ending, always come very late, and almost always are tied to maintaining career status and celebrity. One can see the PR agent and lawyer standing by to edit the letter if they haven’t already drafted it.

    I’d take it all more seriously if she apologized and dedicated a certain portion of her book profits for victims of the abuse or made some other gesture of restitution, or perhaps went personally to apologize to victims face to face.

    The digital apology to everyone but no one in particular falls flat. I wish all the celebrities and public officials would simply stop making these vacuous apologies.

    Think Zacchaeus.

  15. CRYING FROM THE MOUNTAIN

    Yes, Think Zacchaeus. Isn’t it amazing all these “christians”(yes small c) that are bible readers (suppose to be) apparently don’t know or don’t care (or both) what examples are set forth in His Word. Oh yes and some are even going to colleges like ,oh I don’t know…….. The General Theological Seminary to achieve a degree or something ……. COOL EH ?

  16. Pamela Jeanne

    Why do our platforms attempt to “reason”? If Shauna was moved to extend an apology, so be it. Embrace that God knows her heart and motive. It’s on us to initiate acknowledgment of regret and wrong doing before God privately and in this case, publicly. It’s a step. I’m not applauding or absolving while giving grace and gathering awareness. May exposure and eradication of all perpetrators, especially those under the cloak of spiritual guidance, be swift.

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