Bill Gothard and the 1 Timothy Project

“Touch not God’s anointed” is a phrase which is often sent to us and usually means something like, “If you pick on my favorite teacher, God will get you.” Followers who may have doubts about their leaders or their teachings find themselves Trapped in the Shadow of God’s Anointed (being on page 12). But, since I am writing about Bill Gothard, for many of our readers I need to back track a bit to explain how we became involved in attempting to bring this “anointed” leader to correction and repentance.

I didn’t grow up as a Christian, my father was an atheist and I essentially held his views. I came to the faith in my early 20’s after Joy and I had our son. My journey to faith is another story for another day. A few years later my wife met some Jehovah’s Witnesses who she really came to care about and we dove deeply into understanding what they believe which also educated us in what we believe and why. We, like many others with a passion for reaching JWs at that time, opened a prerecorded helpline for JWs. Soon we began receiving calls about other groups and started learning about them in order to help folks who called. In the early 1990s we people who lived in Oak Brook expressing concerns over, what they claimed, was a cult holding young girls hostage in a compound in Oak, Brook, IL. Oak Brook is expensive real estate so I was intrigued. As I spoke with the callers I discovered they were talking about Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Having attended a seminar with my wife Joy as a fairly new Christian I suggested that he was perhaps legalistic but to my knowledge was not a cult. The calls persisted and increased in intensity as well as volume after MCOI became an officially incorporated ministry.

Due to the number of requests for information we became concerned and thought it necessary to look into their teachings to figure out if followers were misunderstanding Bill’s teaching or if indeed there were real problems. We did not really want to do that. Over the years we have found that Christians are more than willing to encourage missions to those outside the church and will wave the flag of faith when exposing false teachers and “evil doers” outside the household of faith but are less kind if one examines teachers inside the church, and Gothard was definitely inside the church. We prayed and talked and came to the conclusion that if we did not have the integrity to deal with false teaching inside the church we forfeited the right to address false teaching outside the church. This was a hard decision because we were well aware this would keep us on the periphery of much of the church. From 1995 until 2002 we spent a great deal of time reviewing IBLP’s material, contacting and even meeting with Bill and/or he and his staff on numerous occasions but found him unconfrontable. Over time has he proven himself incapable of keeping his commitments and is unwilling to give up his false teaching. He also seems to have a penchant for telling tall tales about those who call him to task. All of this resulted in our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. The book met with 3 basic responses. The first was usually, “Is he still around?” After the sex scandal of the early 1980s Gothard and IBLP (The IBYC standing for Institute in Basci Youth Conflicts) shifted more to the home schooling community and became less visible in the broader church.

The second response was, “It is about time someone has done something on this guy.” The third was, “How can you pick on God’s man? Be careful, God may destroy you. ” A sort of “touch not God’s anointed” response.

After the book we had more meetings with Gothard to no effect. We also knew we had information about his behavior and sexual proclivities which we did not use or comment overly much about in the book. We knew, for example, that he is far too, shall I say, familiar with the young females he selects as his personal assistants. The reason we did not go into that too much was that we had spoken with the families of some of the former IBLP women and/or their families and realized that Bill had done so much damage, we did not want to subject them to further abuse,  additional undeserved shame or possible embarrassment by making it more public. We decided that we could make our case that he is unqualified for leadership in a Christian ministry without having to describe his more prurient behavior toward those under his authority. His view of grace as something we merit, his teaching that circumcision is a moral requirement, demonstrating that if his view of authority is correct than according to his teaching Jesus is a sinner. Many readers may be confused by this so in brief, he teaches in the first night of the basic seminary that getting out from under the “umbrella of protection” (making decisions different than your authority made) is rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. He later talks about the story in Luke 2 where Jesus stayed behind in the temple and His earthly parents (His umbrella of protection) discovered He was not with the caravan returning home and returned frantically looking for Him. They found Him in the temple and there, had to make the tough decision to get back under His parents “umbrella of protection.” I have pointed out to Bill several times that if Jesus had to make the tough decision to get back under the “umbrella of protection” that means He got out from under it to begin with. If getting out from under the “umbrella of protection” is rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, Jesus is a sinner. So, either Jesus is a sinner or Bill’s teaching on this is unbiblical or to put it more bluntly, false!

Ah yes, authority. The choice weapon of abusive leaders. In Gothard’s case he teaches a “chain of command” or “umbrella of protection” which has leadership as bosses or more accurately owners over those lower down the chain or under them as an umbrella. The only real problem is, this is thoroughly unbiblical. Jesus clearly pointed out that the one who would be great would be servant of all. What that means is, the higher one ascends into leadership, the more accountable they are to a greater number of people. Leaders live in glass houses and everyone around them should have Windex! And that should be a good thing.  (I Cor. 11:1; I Peter 5:3)

Many are under the assumption that the sex scandal of the 1980s was about Bill’s brother Steve. In truth, Steve was but the public face, and the sacrificial sinner that Bill used to alleviate the pressure coming from so many churches who felt betrayed by the public scandal. Bill was not an innocent, unknowing injured party. Bill had been informed by staff of what Steve was doing a few years before it became public but Bill was clear to those who broached the subject with him that it was not their business and he would take care of it. He never did. There is perhaps a reason. Bill too, was being familiar with the young ladies. Ruth’s Story is a glimpse into those days. He had a regular practice of going room to room each night after the girls prepared for bed and were in the nighties, to give them a hug. He was caught on at least one occasion, by then staff, Gary Smalley, with an attractive female, in her sheer night ware sitting on Gothard’s lap, in his cabin at night. More and more of the females who worked for Bill under his authority are now becoming emboldened to speak out publicly and are doing so at Recovering Grace. Recovering Grace, MCOI and former staff have been in discussion on something we are calling the “1 Timothy Project.” The question is, are leaders to be held accountable? If their Board, whether a Board of Directors or Board of Advisors in a para church ministry or a Board of Elders, Deacons, Session in a church, shirks their responsibility or, as in the case of Gothard’s Board of Advisors, admit that they are little more than figure heads , should there be some biblical way to bring redress and perhaps remove the false teacher and/or abusive leader? In a sense, Bill Gothard is a test case on this. Matthew 18 doesn’t apply but rather 1 Timothy 5:20 is the guide in these cases. MCOI has followed a progression of meeting personally, corporately, with Bill and his staff and documented it in our Journal in order to be accountable to the body of Christ. We took the case to the Church with our book. Bill Gothard has continued to be unrepentant. We, Recovering Grace and several former staff are calling for Bill’s repentance and resignation, his board is stonewalling. We find we have to appeal to the Church at large in calling him to account. That sort of brings me back to the question which launched me on this path, if the Church does not have the integrity to bring its leaders into accountability, doesn’t it forfeit the right to try correct our culture and politicians?


Bill Gothard and the 1 Timothy Project — 18 Comments

  1. Sadly Mr. Gothard continues to allude Godly counsel and discipline and it appears continues to harm people/women. The body of Christ needs to pray for his heart to be truly changed and that he be brought to his knees in repentance.

    There is another ministry out and about stirring the pot of rejection of conversation, discord, exclusion, divisiveness, only one way mantra, etc. that needs prayer also.

    There is usually a time in one’s walk/ministry/life/etc that counsel/discipline/repentance/etc come to the forefront of life. Sadly again Mr. Gothard seems to have entered that arena again….if in deed he was ever truly out of it. Those covering and stonewalling for him are not helping the situation and place themselves in the same “NEEDS” column.

    Prayer,, GRACE Prayer, more GRACE, more PRAYER….I could go on…but won’t.

  2. Awesome post. Well said. Every once in awhile I’ll hear someone making the same anointed threats after calling out Benny Hinn. Do these guys apply the same principle to themselves when misrepresenting God’s anointed Christ?

  3. …. I mean if offering sincere criticism is an offense to the anointed, it seems the way Hinn and others misrepresent Christ, what he is about, would be too.

  4. Don, thanks for explaining why Bill’s evil behavior with the young women on staff was not brought out more in your book which came out in 2002. I was wondering about that, given all the women coming out and telling their stories now, over on Recovering Grace.

  5. In 2002 we had limited information. The one story we could absolutely confirm, Ruth’s story was 20 years old but the family really wanted to keep that off the radar. Because of the stories on RG her husband (she passed away a few years ago) decided he really needed to tell her story. I am glad. When someone who has been abused tells us something in confidence we try to honor their request. I do no see the need to damage them further. We had no idea how extensive or deep this has gone over the years. The sheer volume is sort of mind boggling.

  6. Regarding your last remark about evangelicals and the political scene . . . while this was not the point of your rhetorical question, there are many political people who have connected themselves to IBLP, through association on the same platform, through CF!, the TCs, and more. Many of these people are clueless about these current matters, but they are public servants, and probably many of them honorable, good people. If they are seeking re-election, should they not be somehow apprised of these matters? What I mean is, if Grayson used tactics against Webster (a friend of IBLP) a couple years back, in FL, by twisting Webster’s words around, I can begin to imagine what candidates will do to smear anybody who has endorsed IBLP or its programs in upcoming elections.

    If Bill Gothard wants a revival in our country, he ought to come clean. He ought to be aware of how his name will ruin the reputation of those who are associated with him. He knows the Scripture, “If My people, which are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and *turn from their wicked ways*, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

  7. Getting back to Bill’s teachings at the Basic Seminar. What did he tell us his first name meant?

    He said it meant “protector.”

    What did he teach about a clear conscience?

    What did he say about an aspiring young preacher man who, owing to former indiscretions with women, could picture one of them (when he was preaching) waving a hanky, hollering, “Yoo-hoo, remember me??? Preach it, brother!”

    Bill could not have (none of us could have) envisioned that the internet would serve as the modern version of that handkerchief. And he needs to repent. Now.

  8. Having been involved with Para Church movements in the past, ( and their abusive practices) I can tell you that they fall outside the authority of the Church I don’t know if you are aware of Howard A. Snyder’s book. The Problem of Wine skins: Church structure in a technological age: anyway he describes the Para Church movement fairly well.

    My point is that Para churches are not under the umbrella of church authority so even though they may have a board of directors, that does not give them the power to veto decisions made by that organization or force the leaders to stand aside. Para churches can sack the board at any time. I have seen it happen and the results are not good.

    I have not been directly involved with IBLP/ATI but I have been effected by its supporters, some whom display many of the same narcissistic personality traits as described in Don’s book by Bill Gothard. Also they some of them had no scruples about character assassinating others that stood against them. They also showed the same lack of compassion and mercy to others so while they were quick to apologize they did it purely for their own conscience sake and not out of a repentant heart.

    So one could say that the apples in Gothardism really don’t fall that far from the tree and unless God does a work of grace in their hearts that fruit is as rotten as Bill’s.

    The other thing is that I need to say is you can’t just remove Bill from the helm of his organization the whole ministry needs to be dismantled….. have you thought about how you all might do that?

  9. This is a difficult situation. Difficult in that it is hard to know the whole truth. I am certainly not saying that the post by Don Veinot is false. I’m saying that it’s hard to know the truth. I don’t know Mr. Veinot any more than I know Mr. Gothard.

    That being said… I am grieved by the harm being done to the Lord’s name. I am grieved to hear of people being manipulated in the name of Godliness and Christianity. These accusations along with the Doug Phillips/Vision Forum and the Voice of the Martyrs scandals tell me that the enemy is hard at work trying to ruin the true work of God in our time. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve heard talk about these kinds of scandals and using them as their excuse to reject Christianity and/or organized religion of any kind. With these recent scandals there will no doubt be many who will only be pushed further away from the truth of the Gospel.

    I am no fan of Bill Gothard or IBLP. In the mid to late 80’s I attended a Basic Seminar or two and for a short while used the ATI curriculum. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was not for us. After that I still had periphery association with IBLP due to friends who were involved in one way or another with the ministry. Some of my closest friends have been associated with IBLP for some time and they are good people. I’ve never seen the practice of spiritual manipulation in them in any way. I’ve known others associated with IBLP that were very much manipulative and domineering in their approach to spiritual leadership.

    I also will say that I’ve personally known 3 pastors who had serious moral problems. I found out one by hearsay but another pastor friend of mine ended up doing prison time for molestation. In each of these I was hurt, angry, bewildered and grieved. Still I do not want to convict anyone based on what I read on the internet. Point being that even up close the evil in someone is not always easily. We can all be fooled. It’s even easier to be fooled from a distance, like swallowing as the Gospel truth what we read on the internet.

    The manipulation of a “spiritual leader” over those he leads is a despicable evil. I worked as an officer in a prison for 20 years. I had less respect for an officer who was bad than I did of the inmates who I knew were bad. I feel the same about “spiritual leaders” who twist the truth of the Scriptures for their own satisfaction and use it to browbeat followers into submission. These are truly wolves dressed in sheep clothing.

    We should pray for men like this that God would bring them to true repentance. And we should certainly pray for the folks who are caught in the web of deceit these men spin. It will take love and the Truth to free these people from the bondage caused by someone whom they trusted to lead them.

    We should pray for those involved to be set free. We should pray that Christians will exercise spiritual discernment when faced with these kinds of stories/scandals. We should pray that the whole truth will come to light. We should pray for this ministry, Recovering Grace and others who are trying to minister to those hurt by abusive spiritual authority.

    Again, Mr. Veinot, I am not saying your post is untrue. I’m saying that it is hard to know the truth of what one reads on the information highway. God bless you!

    • This is hardly a forward promising Bill Gates fortune. If you have to read the content in another format, get the book, or hit Print. I’m not saying you’re committing a genetic fallacy; I like that you’re not on a witch hunt either, but if your reservations persist unreasonably, ya might reconsider them as well.

    • You mentioned that non Christians are using situations like this as an excuse to turn away from God. We are living in a time when everything is being shaken and the only thing people should be looking at is God. It’s been proven over and over the arm of flesh will fail you. Put your trust in no one but God no matter how powerful or Godly they may seem. So sorry for these girls and their families who have sufferedunbelievabe phycological and emotional harm

  10. Ben,
    What does Bill Gates fortune, formats, genetic fallacy, witch hunts, and reservations have to do with anything?

    All I’m saying is that I’ll not put someone’s head on the chopping based on Internet blog posts. I believe it is entirely possible that the allegations are true. I’m in touch with friends and even family who have had much closer contact with the ministry than I have. So far, it’s not looking good for Mr. Gothard and the young people working for him. I have read other posts in support of Mr. Gothard. Should I call them liars because of a blog post making accusations about someone? Or should I call the accusations false because of a post I read in support of Mr. Gothard?

    I’ll hold my judgement until I have enough information to make a reasoned decision. You can certainly convict at this time but I think my approach is reasonable based on what I’ve read so far.

    Of course, this is a somewhat moot point since not many people care about my opinion or yours.

  11. Wally.
    Venoit and Henzal’s book is quite balanced, it deals with circumstances that are common knowledge that have been addressed in reputable magazines and news articles. What has happened of late is many who have been physically and emotionally abused by Bill Gothard are speaking out. This by the way has been going on since the 1980’s and was addressed by the board at the time to no avail.

    Regardless of what is coming to light now, one must address Gothard’s teaching and method of interpretation going back to the beginning of his ministry. As these later allegations have come to light Gothard has added more of his twisted doctrines in reaction to shut down any communication between his supporters and detractors.

    Once more even though this an other websites are in some sense not the best source for information, they have painstakingly made it clear that they and others have made every attempt to call Bill Gothard to account. You might want to at least read the victims accounts go to the link below and draw you own conclusion

  12. Chris,

    I originally wrote that I am no Gothard fan. I have some serious issues with some of his teaching. And I think there very well could be truth to what is being said. You all seem to think that I am defending him. Absolutely not! But I’m old enough, and I’ve seen enough over the years to know that there are two sides to every story and that I should strive to be responsible and wise with my accusations and judgements.

    I don’t know you,Chris or Mr. Veinot at all. But if accusations starting appearing on blogs of other people I don’t know about you or Mr. Veinot being perverts, I would hope you would want me and other people to be slow to rush to judgement based on internet blog posts or second hand information.

    That’s all I’m saying. I am still gathering information from sources I know well.

    I just pray that the whole truth does come out and that if anyone needs to held accountable they will be.

  13. Wally I apologize if you thought I am accusing you of being a Gothard sympathizer

    If it was simply a matter of Bills doctrines this would be an easy matter to deal with but its not that simple. It also about betrayal of trust and a refusal by Gothard to be open and honest; something for which Bill has a documented history of.

    If Bill has done nothing wrong then he has nothing to hide. so why all the smoke and mirrors?. Why play dodge ball and write vague letters of apology that are non specific. Bill has a history of agreeing to meetings then changing the goal posts. Bill has a history of deflecting blame, delaying then suddenly receiving revelations from God regarding new teaching that effectively blocks or discredits his accusers while preventing his supporters from hearing evil reports about him.

    Bill and IBLP are not under the churches umbrella of authority so there is really zip zilch and nada that anyone can do about him except expose him and hope someone listens.

    BY the way a large portion of the New Testament deals with false doctrine and false teachers if Paul and john were so strong in the area how can we not do what they say? Jesus own ACTIONS and words to the Pharisees are a fairly definitive polemic against the yoke of legalism and hypocrisy. If we are not doing likewise how are we doing anything that will rescue others from bondage?

  14. Here, here!!! Chris.

    Those in the know need to do what they can to get the truth out. Those of us not in the know need to be wise and not rush to judgement.

    I am praying that if these allegations are indeed true then there will be a current case of abuse where the victim is willing to press criminal charges. Not that I want anyone to be abused. But we all know that if it has been going on then it is still likely going on. If so then I hope someone will be courageous enough to press charges. You are right in that the Church really has no authority in the matter, therefore the only real course there is for justice is in criminal or civil courts. Of course, true justice will always be served in the end but I would like to see justice this side of Heaven.

  15. Wally for many of those that have given testimony the statute of limitations has run out which is why Recovering Grace is publishing all their testimonies. Unless a more recent case emerges the legal route is out of the question. So if anyone out there knows anyone who has recently worked at ATI and is female, has long flowing curls and fits the the profile get th it contact here

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