Bill Gothard and the Continuing Sex Scandal

Bill's Cabin2When we first wrote our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life we chose to not spend much time on Bill’s behavior with staff secretaries. There were several reasons for this. First, we were and continue to be convinced that Bill and Steve’s behavior came from Bill’s bad hermeneutics . As I reviewed the transcript of a conference call this week between Dr. Earl Radmacher, Gary Smalley, Ruth and Larne Gabriel and others I realized that Dr. Radmacher expressed the same view in the 1983 conference call. Also, as I pointed out in Bill Gothard: Who knew what and when? A question of accountability that “We knew Ruth’s story but were asked to not make it public.” That request had been made by her husband, Larne Gabriel and we honored it until he decided to weigh in publicly. Even then we didn’t make any public statements that he did not see and approve of. The reasons are simple. Could we make our case without resorting to drawing on more lascivious stories to gain attention? We believed we could. Second, and perhaps more important, the women in question and these decades later their children, would be subjected to public scrutiny and probable attacks and further abuse by Bill Gothard.

More recently, women have been sharing their stories on the Recovering Grace website. Larne Gabriel shared his late wife Ruth’s thoughts from something which she had started writing and we began reviewing material which we have had on file for over a decade. One of the issues which has resulted in a fair amount of discussion recently is the story of Bill Gothard being discovered with a staff secretary on his lap “with her sheer night ware on” by Gary Smalley. Gary Smalley has consistently held to this story for 4 decades. In the recent emails which we cited and Recovering Grace cited and added to in Bill’s Cabin: Uncovering Sin, he does not state the location but does confirm that he was a witness to the situation. So, where did the cabin come into the picture? Well, that would be from Gary Smalley’s notes summarizing the July 5, 1980 meeting with Board of Directors (notes dated July 6, 1980). One of the notes reads:

Bill has admitted staying in his cabin alone until 11:00 p.m. on several occasions with at least one staff girl who was involved with #2 [Steve Gothard] sexually. This was a violation of his policy of no single girl allowed in any staff man’s apartment alone. “

Granted, there is nothing in this note which indicates that any of the women were there in their “sheer night ware” but it is easy to see how Bill’s admitted practice of keeping young women with him alone in his cabin late into the night and Gary Smalley’s discovery of a young woman on Gothard’s lap in her nightie melded together. Smalley’s notes also state:

“One seminar staff member witnessed Bill wipe a spilled coke off of a staff woman’s breasts and personal areas

This happened on a flight in the Institute’s private plane and surely the woman was fully clothed but this is still highly inappropriate and flies in the face of Bill’s claim of not touching a woman’s private parts. Now, if he said he never touched a woman’s naked private parts that may be true but the 1980 testimony about Bill in Gary Smalley’s notes refutes Gothard’s claims as they stand.

In the transcript of the 1983 conference call with Dr. Radmacher, Gary Smalley, Ruth Gabriel, Larne Gabriel and others, several of Bill’s practices with the female staff were mentioned. They share that Bill Gothard often came to the bedrooms of young single staff women late at night after they had dressed for bed. Several reported (with witnesses) seeing Bill Gothard entering their rooms, even when not invited. One reported to interviewers Bill would come in while she was in her nightgown and caress her and fondle her, having them sit on his lap while visiting with them.

Did Gary catch Bill in his log cabin in this situation? Was it in Bill’s personal quarters at Crazy Bear Lodge instead? Was it in the room of one of the girls? I am not sure the location is important. We have statements by and about a number of women to whom this happened recorded in Board meeting notes and a telephone transcript both of which Gary Smalley was a part. On at least one occasion the activity was witnessed by Gary Smalley.

Those who are trying to mitigate or absolve Bill of his behavior by looking for subtle nuances prevents what Bill most needs to do. He needs to publicly repent and begin the process of restoration. As odd as it may sound, I really care about Bill. Tony Guhr, Larne Gabriel, Bill Wood and so many others that Bill has hurt really care about him. It would be much easier for us to simply cross him off as evil, recalcitrant and beyond reclamation. But the message of the Christian faith is all about repentance and restoration. Would that those defenders who are working so desperately to make Bill’s behavior sound okay instead love him more than they love themselves and invest their energies in bringing him to repentance and restoration.


Bill Gothard and the Continuing Sex Scandal — 14 Comments

  1. What I find so encouraging in your article is the knowledge that much is taking place behind the scenes where many of the principals are involved, and involved with godly motives. Yes, nobody needs to keep denying this, or mitigating it. It will only interfere with not only Bill’s restoration, but also the growth and maturation of the people who keep denying Bill’s behavior wa really that bad.

    It is understandable, given so many instances of sin, so many witnesses, and so much time elapsing, that someone could report what amounts to a composite sketch. It may be composite, but the elements are all there. And it is important to remember it is serial, abusive behavior that is being dealt with here, not a once or twice slip-up.

    Bill has sought to destroy by character assassination some of these people. Now we have a better picture as to why. I would rejoice to see true repentance, and will be praying for all involved.

  2. Thank you for this concise article. Your access to such materials helps us all understand various allegations and supposed defenses.
    I do quarrel with the notion advanced by theologians that hermeneutics is behind this. What is behind such sexual harassment is sin, particularly our sexual nature, twisted by the fall with the rest of our morality, allowing us to pursue false comforts while deluding ourselves about our own intentions and the character of our actions. This man’s hermeneutics is but a cover for his willful, deluded, self-indulgent life.
    Nonetheless, your investigations and honest theological and moral critique are extremely valuable to the church. I hope you keep up your labors as long as even one Christian is following this man’s false teaching and thereby injuring their own souls and family members.

  3. “This man’s hermeneutics is but a cover for his willful, deluded, self-indulgent life.”

    Larne Gabriel stated on RG when he and his late wife tried to contact Bill after the sex scandal days, Bill replied back to them with his newest teaching on only giving a good report. I tend to agree with Don, on account of that maneuver, designed to silence people. And it is eerie to remember Bill’s own words, that a man’s morality will dictate his theology. Not always true, but in Bill’s case it applies.

  4. For the record, I spoke with Bill about the Coke in plane incident, and he is adamant that whatever his initial reaction to the mess of Coke sprayed on the ceiling and all over the secretary, he quickly backed off on trying to help wipe it off her. He recognized that it was not appropriate and had no ulterior motive. I am amazed that this continues to figure so prominently.

    Once again we have an unverifiable account of caressing and folding, again adamantly denied by Bill. I have no problem going to Bill and asking him pointed questions against the backdrop of facts and statements that others can explain. I will be talking to him about this specific claim, the first time I have heard it. This situation continues to be really unfair. I have dealt with the “Cabin Story” for some 6 years or more. When I was able to get back to the source my jaw dropped to the floor as it was explained to have been something completely different.

    And, yes, facts do matter. Nothing of God will happen against a backdrop of untruths. I am not afraid of the truth – let’s get it out there. A Bill that would lie to all of us that he has never done that is vastly different than a man who has done some “inappropriate” things, like having secretaries on his lap, has acknowledged it, and, if fact, resigned in 1980 because of.

    Having said that . . . I do appreciate the work you are doing to deal with cults and garbage out there. While I continue to disagree with many of your conclusions on Bill and his theology, I sincerely honor your diligence and zeal.

  5. Alfred, facts do matter, but why are Bill’s denials relevant information? His denial can be presumed against any accusation. As an outsider, I just assume he denies everything he has not admitted, although some denials have been revoked by further proof so they have not proven to be reliable.
    What proper gentleman starts to wipe off a woman’s chest and only then “back off”? Insensitivity is not an ulterior motive, it may just reflect a brutish lack of respect. This guy seems fixated on his own motives. And they ALWAYS exonerate him.
    When you “get back to the source” why don’t you provide all the details that satisfy you? What did the eyewitness observe and what did the woman perceive? That is the source. Bill’s denials are not the source. I’ve never heard an investigator refer to the accused as “the source”.
    Also, you keep using that word, “unverifiable” (or other synonyms thereof). “I do not think it means what you think it means.” (A much-loved quote from Princess Bride, a movie that you have probably never seen.) You appear to think it means that “Bill won’t verify it.”

  6. Alfred, you also need to resign. It is the right thing for you to do. Gothardism is a dangerous cult, not a “style” of Chistianity. Your former “leader” BG is a serial sex addict and predator. What part of this don’t you understand??

  7. Many years ago when the Gothard discussion list was having Monday night chats, a woman who was involved with some of the younger women in IBLP joined the chat, and she said these young women were complaining back then about the footsie games. This is about 10 years ago. I was shocked. So when the stories started coming out, with faces of those telling their stories, and faces of witnesses of impropriety, because most of the stories included what was shared in the chat room, I believed them. And Bill has admitted to this behavior, so that seals it.

    It’s not just “inappropriate.” It’s evidence of a sick, twisted man bent on destroying young people for merely talking to each other at the TCs, while excusing perverse behavior in himself.

    It is good that so many of these young women came forward on RG, otherwise, the behavior would still be going on, and there would be more victims.

  8. Alfred, not surprisingly you’ll not be picking up a lot of agreement here. 🙂 However, I appreciate your encouragement for the Veinots’ ministry and MCOI. It is exactly because of their commitment to biblical fidality and glorifying God by discerning the false teachings of cults and that which is falsely marketed as “Gospel” that they challenge Gothard’s lifestyle and doctrine. It’s in that same spirit that I repeat this comment I wrote to you on Recovering Grace. (I’ve clarified and supplemented the comment to ensure it’s even clearer.)

    Alfred, we’ve spoken before, briefly (if you can call this “speaking”).

    I don’t know you, but I’ve seen many of your remarks on Recovering Grace and recognize some patterns that betray an apparent lack of familiarity with many biblical concepts — you might even call these “basic principles.” Or maybe you apply them elsewhere, but can’t help making exceptions.

    1. Dualism — everything is black/white without room for God to work in color.

    I wonder now if perhaps you have a very dualistic, either “all good” or “all evil” view of life, and do not recognize the doctrine of “common grace.” Are you familiar with common grace? Do you recognize it as taught overtly by Jesus Christ at the Sermon on the Mount, when He said that God makes the sun shine on the righteous and unrighteous alike, and that even evil people know how to give good gifts to their children? Do you recognize common grace when the Apostle Paul quotes pagan poets favorably to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17, then later in his epistle(s)?

    This Biblical truth help us understand when God works to bless us through the actions of sinful people. It helps us avoid the dual errors of either rejecting the blessing (“God could never work that way!”) or praising the source of the blessing as if God Himself is condoning evil. And, most importantly, common-grace truth helps us get past the absurd false dichotomy that you seem unable to see past: that if you see that Bill Gothard has been a moralistic dictator and false teacher, then you have to throw him out entirely (as Gothard himself has taught about evil Things) or despise how God used Gothard to bless your life. But where does this either/or notion come from? Certainly not Scripture. Our Creator foresaw a world in which He would receive the maxiumum amount of glory yet through sin and suffering, and yet He created it anyway. God works through “evil” means and apart from evil motivations.

    Yes, clearly the Lord has blessed you through Gothard and even Gothard’s teachings. So why do you refuse to face the possibility that there was any evil there for which Gothard must repent and face consequences? Reject the “either all evil or all good” dichotomy that Gothard himself promotes about other things. God can use an earthquake, a cancer, the death of a child, and even a serial sex-and-power abuser, for His glory and for our good. What book-of-Job-ignoring nonnsense is it for us to act like He can only bless us through overtly “good” things that we can’t condemn?

    2. Related: Postmodernism/liberalism about “good” things found in sinful people or products.

    What you’re doing is exactly like professing Christians (many of them liberal) who insist that because they learned about, or were reminded of, truth from a plain heretic, or secular R-rated movies with sex scenes, or any other clear source of evil, then that somehow “sanctifices” all the evil elements of this person or creative work, and therefore those who condemn the sinful elements in these things are somehow sub-Christian and intolerant.

    Alfred, do you really want to be exactly in league with folks who would praise a clearly sinful source just because it happened to help them personally? Frankly that is both selfish and could show lack of empathy: “This person helped me, so I can’t understand how anyone else could be different.”

    3. Neglect of the Bible’s truth that Satan and humans who work like him can appear as an “angel of light.”

    But even worse, it’s not Biblical discernment. I’m sure the false teachers in Paul’s day did plenty of good for the Galatian church. They may have given money to the poor, helped widows, fed the hungry. What nonsense is it to imply they must be clad in a black coak and twirling their mustaches to be declared evil! Rather, Satan himself appears as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

    New content: I’ve since given this more thought and will quote from elsewhere.

    That doesn’t mean what many Christians assume: that evildoers can appear as righteous servants to other people, imposters we can easily recognize. It means they can appear as good servants to us personally. If we secretly crave a perfect church or family, “righteous” servants will promise that formula. If we fear for our children’s safety and our own ability to shepherd them in popular culture, supposed righteous servants will say, “Don’t fear, only trust in us to save you. We can manufacture Christian wholesome entertainment for your children, and best of all you don’t even need to worry about it. Simply let us shepherd your children for you with harmless stories and songs that teach them your beliefs and values.”

    (Back to original (though edited) Recovering Grace comment: ) The devil’s servants appear as servants of righteousness and — get this — they actually do righteous things that help people. And yet their beliefs about Jesus Christ and actions toward the vulnerable betray that their motives are, at absolute best, hideously mixed. Do you recognize this about human nature, brother? Do you leave any place for “evil people can still do good things” as the doctrine of common grace would require?

    4. An un-biblical and “cheap grace” view of “forgiveness” for the unrepentant.

    Moreover, you seem to hold that your view of “forgiveness” is a very high and Biblical one, while folks at Recovering Grace are stuck on some other attitude. But I leave you with this: “forgiveness” of someone that refuses to recognize and challenge patterns sin seems like grace but is actually cheap grace — it is a grace-imposter. Let me put it more plainly: God does not and will not ever forgive people who never repent of their sin. You yourself mentioned that people will either go to Heaven (quick qualifier: and then they go to the New Earth) for eternity, or else Hell. Hell is not full of people whom God has forgiven. They instead bear His wrath for eternity. They are not forgiven. If they had repented, they would have been. So it is not a more-spiritual and higher practice to “forgive” someone who hasn’t repented. That’s not love. It’s not Biblical discernment or Biblical forgiveness. It’s a forgiveness-imposter.

    5. Accepting spiritual bribes — if you helped me personally, I’ll always stand behind you. (This could also be called the independent-fundamentalist-derived concept of “loyalty,” which professing Christians have used to justify their allegiance to leaders, believing this to be honoring to God despite the leaders’ heinous sins and cover-ups of others’ heinous sins.)

    Combined with the lack of applying common grace, yours a perspective that could say, “If you help me personally or help my family, I will never say anything bad against you. I will ignore the cause of righteous justice on behalf of those wronged. I may even gently challenge those who are saying bad things against you. In effect, I can be bribed.” And what does the Word say about those who show partiality and accept bribes?

    You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.

    Deut. 16:18

    These are strong words, I know. But by now I’m sure you’re used to even stronger words from Recovering Grace readers. The fact that you’re still here means that you suspect something is up and that you are, deep down, open to hearing about it and having your own beliefs challenged.

    Here is where you benefit from this, Alfred: folks who believe in common grace also apply it to you personally and your comments here. Folks here surely have their own sins, but they do not hold the IBLP either/or view of sinful Things. They see that some people, as well as Things, can be mixtures of right and wrong. They see that God can work through sinful people to accomplish great things. And they see that He can only do this through the matchless grace of Jesus Christ the Righteous, the One Who shows favor before someone ever cares to follow Him and whose righteousness alone can motivate our own.

    Now, what say you?

    • I can see this growing exponentially. But . . . here is what I say:

      [Dualism]: If you read what I write then you can be under no illusion that I consider Bill without fault, even things that continue to need a full resolution now. I have met with him several times . . . and I continue to urge him to clarify his response to the matters that I know he knows were wrong.

      But . . . I would imagine that you agree that when God powerfully and uniquely uses a person to bring overt spiritual blessing to a large number of folk, at some point you have to say that, though God can use the occasional donkey or ungodly high priest, this defies that category. True, Solomon did some really bad things late in life, things the Lord rebuked him for strongly and, in fact, removed 5/6ths of his kingdom for . . . but Solomon remained the wisest person that ever lived and anyone who ignores what he says does so at risk of defying God. He remains SOLOMON . . . not some corrupt defiled wretch.

      Jude tells me that there is no much respect in heaven for God’s order that Michael the archangel will not even revile the devil – formerly Lucifer, the “covering cherub” – but dares only say, “The Lord rebuke you”.

      For those that have not actually listened to what Bill has said over the years, sat under his teaching, they run the risk of ignorantly opposing something that God Himself was doing. There is a respect there that Michael would understand.

      [Postmodern – Satan as Light]: That is almost offensive. I don’t recall your history . . . but . . . are you one who has actually done the seminars? And . . . “Clearly sinful sources”? If you believe every account out there, then I can understand a bit of that. You need to trust me – OK, I expect you won’t – that the worst accusations are false. Exhibit A at the moment is the current account under consideration (Bill in remote cabin with lingeree-clad secretary on lap in the dead of night) . . . but there is much more to say. WHY, in the decade that this account has been used as a club to smash Bill’s reputation into the ground has no-one spoken up to correct it? There were insiders who knew that it could not be true, based on the simple fact that the cabin didn’t exist during the time Gary was there. How come it comes down to “the least and the last” to expose it? That tells me that, whatever the realities are, there is no heart among many of his chief opponents to be . . . just. That is terrible . . . nothing of God will come of that.

      The Bill I know is not the one you are opposing.

      [“But I leave you with this: “forgiveness” of someone that refuses to recognize and challenge patterns sin seems like grace but is actually cheap grace”]: Then let’s bring some Scripture to bear here.

      “32Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matt 18:32-25)

      That is most definitely – in context – a complete unilateral release of debt, just because someone asks. Read it. And. . . . it is “from your hearts”, not a grudging thing. I don’t know how else to read it.

      [Spiritual Bribes]: Boy . . . what do we do with a debt that we owe someone spiritually? A bribe? Come on.

      1 Cor 4:15 “ For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

      1 Cor 9:11 “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”

      Brother . . . is that a bribe?! What a low view of things. Obviously if what Bill has done and has to offer is of no consequence to you, you can freely dismiss it as unimportant. But there are many, many testimonies of those whose lives and marriages have been saved, blessed, helped, preserved . . . that remain zealously prejudiced toward the man God used in that. Sorry – your testimony IS your own. You tell it, you lived it . . . nobody else can take that away.

      • Alfred,

        I am appalled at your lack of discernment and those in your cult. Your organization’s fixation on discerning the countless flaws in Christians’ lives is hypocrisy at the highest level, when you consider the fact that overt immorality was taking place right under your noses. What you NEED is counseling.

        And… if you personally looked the other way, when BG was stalking young women, I strongly suggest you ask God’s forgiveness and then retain a good attorney. You have ZERO credibility, and I suspect that BG is using you to deflect what cannot be deflected.

  9. “Zealously prejudiced” is an apt description. When one is so inclined to prejudge, that one cannot in any sense of the word be impartial.

    Nobody wants to take away, or bring to naught the fact that your personal life has benefitted from much of Bill’s teaching. What I see them doing is attempting to correct false teaching, trying to stop further abuse of young women, and trying to bring Bill to repentance and restoration.

    Regarding forgiveness, it appears to me what is going on now and in recent months is a Herculean attempt to bring Bill to repentance and restoration, with the tandem objective of getting him to stop abusing young ladies. The second objective has been accomplished. The first one remains to be seen. Because this process is still going on, and because we are not privacy to all the facts, It is an example of prejudice to cast those trying to help Bill (that is their claim) as the wicked, unforgiving servant.

  10. I would not comment on the continuing sex scandal of Mr. Bill Gothard since I did not personally witness his act, nor be able to prove other’s claims. But, if I have any opportunity to meet him, I would ask him personally about it and challenge him to confront the matter with involved parties with some trusted legal protection from both sides. I then will hear their statements and hopefully could find out what was going on. We shouldn’t be so simple by just hearing or reading somebody saying something about someone and take their words right away, it may hurt the really innocent one.

    • You don’t need to meet with him, personally. Bill Gothard posted a statement where he agreed that he played with the women’s hair, played footsie with them and that what he did was wrong. He said he did not do it with “sexual intent.” Anyone can comment on this, especially those who have invested time and money to follow the man and his teachings for a number of years. And what I have to say is Bill reminds me of another Bill, who said, it all depends on what your definition of “is” is. Of COURSE what he did with those scores of women was motivated by his sex drive! Does he think we were born yesterday?

  11. It seems to me that no one is looking at the root problem here. Bill Gothard is old now but he should have gotten married at least 40 years ago and we would not be having this conversation. The enemy always wants to bring down God’s anointed, especially when he has impacted so many lives around the world. Yes Brother Bill should repent completely and there should be no cover up. The Bible says if we confess our sins, He is faithful and Just to forgive us and cleanse each and everyone of us from all unrighteousness. We should pray for Bill to be totally reconciled with God. God loves him as He loves each and everyone of us and God surely wants Bill in heaven as He does each and everyone of us. Bill has contributed to so many lives, may we all pray for his full restoration. God bless

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