When 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.