Recovering Grace is a website which hosts discussions of the teachings of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles. They do this in an effort to help those who have been hurt by Gothard’s legalistic and authoritarian teachings. On February 19, 2016, Recovering Grace was forwarded a letter which had been sent to an attorney representing a number of individuals who have filed suit against Bill Gothard and the Institute. This letter was from Gothard’s attorneys, threatening a lawsuit against those who posted on Recovering Grace website. Recovering Grace, in turn, posted the letter on their Facebook site.
Another Website, Homeschoolers Anonymous, linked to the letter on the Recovering Grace website and commented on it. Several people then contacted me to see what I thought, since we have written a book and numerous articles about Gothard and IBLP. Bill has continuously taught that it is unbiblical to sue other Christians. So, the callers asked, wouldn’t Gothard’s bringing a lawsuit against other Christians be a violation of his own teaching – or are his actions justifiable since he is merely responding in kind? These are valid questions. Here is my short answer – Bill Gothard holds 2 distinct sets of standards, one that applies to him and one that applies to everyone else. These standards are vastly different.
I am not going to get into the rightness or wrongness of civil litigation. I would personally prefer to see the issue addressed and resolved by spirit led, biblically literate church leadership. Unfortunately, Bill Gothard and the Institute leadership have consistently made that impossible. There is a historical trail of carnage, dating from the 1970s, which demonstrates the stonewalling Bill has practiced to avoid biblical correction.
In the 1980s, there was a sex scandal involving the leadership of IBLP. As we demonstrated in our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, the scandal, which became a matter of public record in the early 1980s, had been brewing for several years before the story broke. Institute staff had been attempting to have Bill deal with the issues but he refused, and concealed the issue from the Board at that time. He not only instructed his staff not to bring the issue to his attention, but began creating teachings and policies which would not permit them to discuss the issues among themselves. In the early 1980s IBLP’s (then the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts) when the sex scandal became national news, the Board met with Bill and others for 12-13 hours to review evidence and interview witnesses. The result was that Bill had to resign. It was shown, and Bill admitted, that he knew what his brother Steve was doing with seven of the female staff, that Steve and other leadership were renting pornographic movies and that Bill himself acted inappropriately with those of the opposite gender. His resignation lasted less than a month.
After numerous rebuffed attempts to biblically handle this issue through LaGrange Bible Church, where Bill Gothard was a member, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Institute. The representative of the class was in deposition for well over 40 hours, and Gothard’s attorneys could not find anything to disqualify him. The one requirement was that the representative could not have had the ability to hire or fire, and he did not. However, it seems Bill managed to persuade one of the remaining staff to tell the court that the representative did have the power to hire and fire. The result was dismissal of the suit and Gothard dodged a bullet. He then went on to slander and defame some of those who had dared to expose his behavior.
Through the 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Earl Radmacher and others attempted to bring Bill to repentance and correction, but to no avail, and it seems his behavior didn’t change either.
MCOI began looking at the Institute’s teachings in the 1990s and through a series of unforeseen events, at least unforeseen by us, we came in contact with Dr. Earl Radmacher, Dr. Ronald B. Allen and several of the former staff. These were the very people who had been trying to bring Bill into accountability in the 1970s and early 1980s with no success.
We contacted Bill, and met with him time and again to present our concerns and go through and correct his legalistic teachings, but there was no repentance. We requested that he meet at the late Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. We had a court stenographer and videographer to record the meetings and many of the staff from the 1980s were willing, in fact eager, for such a meeting to take place. Dr. Kennedy was open; Bill Gothard went silent.
We decided we had exhausted the private attempts and began to work on the book, A Matter of Basic Principle: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. We had approximately 35 pastors, seminary and Bible college presidents and professors review each chapter as we went along, to ensure we were being biblically accurate and honest with Gothard’s material and history. We believed we needed to be accountable to the Body of Christ at large. In the early turn of the 3rd millennia IBLP’s Indianapolis facility made national news when it was accused of child abuse. I was asked to be interviewed by 2 of the television stations there and consented. I commented on our experience with Bill and IBLP but could not and did not comment on the issue at hand. The reason is simple. I had no first- hand knowledge about what had happened. A few days later I received a fax from a legal firm in Indianapolis representing Bill and demanding that I issue an immediate public retraction and apology for what they claimed were my false statements or they would be suing. I asked what it was they were demanding I retract? Exactly what statements had I made that were false and slanderous? They couldn’t say and admitted that they hadn’t seen the interviews and although Bill was asserting that I had made such statements couldn’t shed any light either. After speaking with a judge I had met and asking if we could post IBLP’s letter and our response on the Internet, he said that would be fully within our rights. We did. The Institute began receiving calls from their followers wanting to know why, after all of Bill’s teaching that a Christian should never sue a Christian why is he threatening to sue. It became more of a problem as we continued demonstrating that he had refused to follow biblical guidelines in resolving these issues and his attorneys sent a note requesting that we just call next time. I guess they didn’t want anyone to know of Bill’s threats to sue.
Did he commit the acts of which he is currently accused by these women? I don’t really know. I haven’t had the opportunity to interview the accusers. The accusations are similar to the ones in the 1980s and they would be consistent with the man we have been attempting to bring to correction, repentance and restoration for over 2 decades. This threat of a lawsuit against the accusers is also consistent. Actually following biblical teaching to bring this to resolution is a foreign concept to Bill. I came across a passage during my devotions this week in Deuteronomy 19:15-19:
A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Bill has, not a single but multiple witnesses accusing him. It seems to me he and the institute would be well served to enter binding arbitration with a sound, publically accountable body of church leadership, perhaps composed of several denominational leaders and whichever side is proven false must repent and recompense those they have wronged to the same degree they are demanding. In the case of Bill and IBLP that would be one million dollars to each of those who have filed the case.
© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.