Skip to comments.Conservative leader Bill Gothard on leave following abuse allegations
Posted on 02/28/2014 6:59:58 AM PST by Gamecock
(RNS) Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home-schooling and conservative dress and who warned against rock music and debt, has been placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothards Institute in Basic Life Principles was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLCs 19 Kids and Counting. Gothards Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.
Hes also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sunny Perdue spoke at one of Gothards conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences and declared Wasilla among Gothards Cities of Character.
In a statement posted Thursday, board chairman Billy Boring told World magazine: After completion of the review, the board will respond at an appropriate time, and in a biblical manner. Until then, the statement said, Gothard will not be involved in the operations of the ministry. The board of directors will be prayerfully appointing interim leadership.
Gothard is 79 and single.
The allegations against Gothard dovetail financial woes. In recent years, IBLPs net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money. In 2009, it reported a net income loss of $1 million. It lost $4.1 million in 2011, and $3.5 million in 2012, according to its most recently available tax forms. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012.
Since it started as a class at Gothards alma mater, Wheaton College, in 1961, more than 2.5 million people have gone through his basic seminar training on authority, success and other issues. IBLP held 504 seminars in 2010, but that number dropped to fewer than 50 in 2012.
The financial decline came around the same time that the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace was formed in 2011. A string of allegations have been posted on the website, including one alleging Gothard molested a woman who was underage in the early 1990s. Four articles allege Gothard engaged in sexual harassment, and four articles allege his failure to report child abuse to Child Protective Services.
Calls placed to IBLP Thursday were not immediately returned.
Gretchen Swearingen, who goes by her middle name Charlotte, wrote on the website that Gothard requested she come work for him in 1992 at IBLPs headquarters in Oakbrook, Ill., when she was 16. During her time there, she said Gothard would play footsie with her and hold her hand. At one point, she said, he had coordinated a ride from the airport to be together. Thats when he first put his hand between my legs and felt me all the way up, she wrote.
Now 38, she said the statute of limitations has expired, leaving her unable to sue. She said she told her mother, who told her that she was lying, so Swearingen assumed there was nothing she could do.
No one was there when the molestation was happening, she said in an interview. I never had the guts to say anything. I thought if my mother didnt believe me, who would? Youre not to bring home false witness against someone at headquarters.
She said that she and her mother have reconciled since she wrote her story piece.
Swearingen said she reported her story to the Hinsdale (Ill.) Police Department a week ago. A police spokesman said no investigation has been opened at this time.
Its not about revenge, not about suing him or taking him to court, she said. Its about my healing and giving other people voices.
Gothard would create an emotional bond with several women during counseling, said Rachel Frost, who also worked at IBLPs headquarters when she was 16, but was not harassed.
There was a very common grooming pattern of creating emotional bonds and physical affirmations, the footsie, the leg rubs, the stroking of the hair, the constant comments on physical appearance, she said.
She also wrote about her experience on the Recovering Grace website.
Julie Terrell, another woman who worked at IBLPs headquarters, said Gothard sexually harassed her when she worked there in 1998. But before stories were posted at Recovering Grace, she never thought to say anything.
One woman behind the Recovering Grace website, who declined to be named because she did not want to hurt the reputation of her husband who is a pastor, said 34 women claimed sex harassment and four women alleged molestation. She said she refers anyone whose story is within the statute of limitations to the police.
IBLP is not the only institution in more conservative evangelical circles currently under scrutiny.
Last year, another prominent homeschooling leader, Doug Phillips, stepped down from his ministry that shut down after he acknowledged an extramarital relationship. The New Republic recently published a piece on Patrick Henry College, a school popular among homeschooling families, suggesting that the college had failed to report sexual abuse. In a statement, the college took issue with some of the allegations made in the piece.
Earlier this month, Bob Jones University, which started popular curricula for homeschooling families, fired and then rehired an independent firm to investigate sex abuse reports just one month before the group planned to release its 13-month review findings.
I have a deep suspicion for:
-Parachurch agencies that are built on current fads
-Parachurch agencies that do not exist to proclaim Jesus as their primary mission
Likewise, I'm suspicious of those that are not partnered with a local church or denomination.
Are there any organizations that are good? Where did the mandate to “organize” come from?
Couldn’t agree more.
30-35 years ago I knew a number of people who got caught up in Gothard’s special brand of legalism. People who aren’t Bereans aren’t likely to be discerning. I’d like to know what has happened to some of those families.
I recall those basic youth conflicts seminars from when I was in a christian high school.
What put me off them was that there was a directive to the seminar goers not to disclose what was said in the seminars.
Needless to say, I never went to any of them.
It was after school for Monday through Friday, and all day Saturday.
Gothardism is a brain-washing cult.
I’ve seen hundreds of lives ruined by their participation in the teachings of their “Institute,” and I have endured the oppression from these people in a church we were members of. It has corrupted many Christian denominations and homeschooling groups.
Read some of their stories:
Beware of getting on just any site, however, for the Gothard geeks have put bugs on many.
Gothard was good for business wherever his taught his seminars; at least it was good for psychologists and psychiatrists.
There are some good organizations out there, for sure, and some good teaching from them, but more and more it seems that these leaders have become full of themselves. Just like many of the mega-church pastors who have started making their own doctrines more important than Scripture, they eventually fall pray to their own devices. You can only fool people so long before it becomes obvious that something is wrong. The worst part is that most these leaders make excuses for themselves and make others submit to secrecy...so that the media doesn’t distort “things”.
Personally, I think it is time to get really connected to a local church that you like, would like to minister in and with, and forget most of the TV evangelists, etc. When “tshtf” these big guys are going away and the local church will be the one still in business in some way. Local churches can do a lot for the needy and for God’s Kingdom. It also helps to stabilize the community one lives in. We may need to all take our local churches out of the tax exempt status to survive, so it behooves us to make sure buildings are paid off, bills are current, etc. That way we can afford to stay in the business of saving souls and caring for the needy.
We make a mistake when we put any human on a pedestal. They will surely disappoint us.
I think we also make a mistake when we point out the "mote in our brother's eye."
Alex Murphy wrote: Likewise, I'm suspicious of those that are not partnered with a local church or denomination.
I am leery of any Christian leader who is reluctant to be put under strong accountability. Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and other fallen Christian leaders have a tendency to put yes-men on their boards. The results are predictable.
I can understand why parachurch ministries may want to avoid denominational distinctives. They often have messages directed to the Church as a whole and not just one aspect of Christ's Body.
Agree 100%. One of my relatives is a preacher. He’s had a problem with the huge building programs (youth centers, giant church buildings) that involve the church taking out debt. His argument is that having the debt and having to pay a note on that prevents the preacher from really preaching the gospel. If the preacher offends people bu speaking out against divorce, homosexuality or the like, they’ll take their tithes elsewhere. ‘My little Johnny was BORN that way, he is NOT going to hell!’. etc.
At the time our family thought he was just being a spoilsport. Turns out he may have been right about that.
Is it possible that the accusations are untrue? I have met this man and heard his teachings. I have also heard many, many false accusations against him.
Thank God, my salvation does not depend on Bill Gothard’s righteousness. He is just a fallible human being. But based on my encounters with him, I would not listen to accusations that are not supported by strong evidence.
I will say however, as a minister, he should never, ever put himself in a situation of being alone, counseling (or otherwise) with teenage girls. For someone who puts a strong emphasis on wisdom, he would be very unwise to allow this, even if the policy was merely to protect him from false allegations.
I can’t speak to this man’s character or the veracity of the charges, but I believe some of his teachings were extreme legalism that turned a loving relationship with God into a legalistic set of rules.
This is similar to many cults - mormonism comes to mind.
If you want to know what his teachings are, get on the site and read:
Thanks for your voice in this wilderness. God used Bill Gothard in my life: I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior on Friday evening of a week-long Basic Youth seminar (I was 28 at the time) in 1977. Whether or not Bill Gothard has always obeyed his Lord (and who has?), he has certainly accomplished much for Him.
I am already very familiar with his teachings and have read quite a bit from the website you posted as well.
Bill Gothard is just a man. I have carefully compared what he teaches with scriptures and believe most of what he says is well-founded on the Bible. When it comes to the basic tenets of the Christian faith and basic Bible doctrines, it lines up with mainstream Christian doctrine. His ministry is far from being a cult in terms of doctrine.
The grievances against him or his ministry may have validity. I have seen some of what is described first-hand in terms of people who participate in the home school program and other parts of that ministry. They tend to be way out of mainstream in their lifestyle, sort of like the Amish and similar groups. But I do not see that as necessarily a bad thing. These same people are very loving and self-sacrificial.
The problems I have seen tend to be from those who do not have a desire to be part of the ministry but are forced to because of their families being in it; and also many of the participants are focused on the outward conformity to rules without really comprehending the much more important issues of being transformed inwardly by their relationship with Christ.
I personally will continue to hold Bill Gothard in high regard as someone who spent his entire life seeking to serve God and help others in a very self-sacrificial way. I am convinced he is a true brother in Christ and will pray for him as well as those making these accusations. If Bill Gothard sinned in the ways being claimed, God will discipline him. But his trials are not necessarily a testament to his guilt.
May God’s mercy be upon those who are humble, merciful and truthful. May His judgment be upon those who are proud, liars and unforgiving.
Well, I agree with your last two sentences. My knowledge of Bill Gothard’s teaching is first hand, not from the website that has helped expose him. Bill Gothard has finally been exposed, although it has taken 20 years.
He will most certainly fall under God’s judgment for his aberrant teaching and legalism, as well as his own perversions and covering up his brother’s perversions within their so-called ministry—just as Jesus pronounced judgment upon the Pharisees of His day, so it will be with Bill Gothard.
“Bill Gothard has finally been exposed, although it has taken 20 years.”
I am not sure how this constitutes him being exposed. There is a fairly high standard for evaluating accusations against fellow believers. Rejoicing in his being “exposed”, failure, or being removed from leadership seems a lot more like what anti-Christian groups do... groups like abortion promoters, atheists, homosexual activists, and socialists.
Show me one teaching he has that is clearly against the teaching of the Bible. I can list many of the Mormon doctrines which do not stand up to scrutiny even without being very familiar with that group. If you compare a Bible teacher to a cult leader, you should be able to identify the specific teaching that is heretical. This generic accusation of legalism and Pharisee-ism is nothing. You could be called the same thing for being against homosexuality. Paul could be called legalistic for all the moral instruction he wrote in his epistles. Bill Gothard has opinions that I personally disagree with in some cases, but that does not make him a false teacher, because my opinion is also just an opinion. I don’t know two Christians who agree on everything. That does not mean everyone is a false teacher who has a mistaken view on a subject.
One Christian may think modesty requires a hemline below the knee while another thinks a few inches higher is fine. Another may think there is no universal measure. Every one of these is an opinion because the Bible does not explicitly define modesty in such terms. Believers can disagree about things like this as long as they are focused on Christ. A believer who thinks they should dress a certain way, ought to do so and not judge and condemn others who do not. A believer who does not accept such standards should follow Christ and try not to cause other believers to stumble in their liberty. Unless someone is claiming that their standard is necessary to be saved, then they are just holding an opinion and are not a heretic or enemy of Christ. Therefore we are supposed to have tolerance for those believers with whom we disagree.
“his own perversions”
You will be judged by the standard you are setting for him. I read a lot of accusations against Bill Gothard and do not see any that constitute what is Biblically a perversion. I would like to meet the man who could boldly look me in the eye and claim he has never committed the sin of adultery in his heart. A true believer in Christ should be grieved at learning of the sin of a Christian leader rather than gloating and rejoicing in it like the enemies of God do.
“as Jesus pronounced judgment upon the Pharisees of His day, so it will be with Bill Gothard”
To call a believer a Pharisee is itself a serious offense. The Pharisees plotted to murder Christ. They had zero compassion, mercy or effort in helping those who were trapped by sin. The Pharisees who refused to repent at Christ’s teaching are in hell. Bill Gothard spent many, many years putting his life in danger working with inner city gangs in Chicago before beginning this IBLP ministry. And in that ministry he has spent many years serving in a very sacrificial way from everything I have seen. The fruit of his ministry includes many thousands of people professing faith in Christ, many broken marriages being restored, many people overcoming bitterness, and many other positive evidences of a real God-ordained ministry. These things do not match the life or attitude of the Pharisees that plotted to kill Christ.
I am not minimizing the accusations against him, but the things you are saying lead me to believe that you despise the moral standards he advocates and are therefore glad that he failed to live up to them himself (apparently or supposedly), so you can gloat and proclaim how God is judging and will judge him. That is an extremely foolish position for you to publicly stake as a believer in Christ.
I am sad to hear someone who is a prominent leader among evangelical Christians has been removed from ministry due to accusations of immorality. Whether they are true or untrue, it is a sad day. I am also even more saddened to see fellow believers like yourself celebrate this as if it is something to rejoice in.
You need to spend more time in your Bible.
Pretty much everyone needs to spend more time in the Bible. Are you saying you do not need to spend more time in the Bible? That is a very sad defense for your public un-Christian behavior. How do you know how much time I have spent in the Bible? How much time do you spend?
Show me in the Bible where Paul, Peter, John or Christ Himself ever gloated over the sin and punishment of sin of others. I can show you where the Pharisees did so.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.”
This is opposed to the way the Bible teaches:
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
1 Corinthians 5:2
And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
You accused Bill Gothard of being a false teacher but failed to say, even when asked, what specific teachings of his makes him a false teacher.
You claimed Bill Gothard had a perversion but did not mention which perversion (according to God) he has committed. Can you name a specific perversion as in Leviticus 18, or is this just slander?
Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil...”
And can I correctly assume that you yourself are blameless when it comes to sexual immorality? You certainly would not lash out at this man if you had ever had a sexual encounter outside of marriage or divorced your wife or looked at pornography, right?
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor....
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
You have publicly tried and convicted Bill Gothard of something based on hearsay evidence while you yourself openly disobey the commands of God. The Old and New Testaments both establish the truthfulness of accusations in the mouth of two or three witnesses. What you have done is openly disregard the commands of the Bible while hypocritically telling others to follow the Bible... which is coincidentally the type of thing the Pharisees and lawyers of Christ’s day were particularly good at.
1 Corinthians 6:6
But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
2 Corinthians 13:1
This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”
The anti-Christians at the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, DU, GLAAD, HRC, SLPC, CPUSA will certainly celebrate the woes of a pro-life, pro-Bible, pro-family, Christian ministry; but I have a difficult time believing that godly followers of Christ are celebrating.
You are a man of many words when it comes to accusing Bill Gothard, but you have very few words when it comes to grace, mercy, love and humility.
I would say that you are the man of many words...mostly blah-blah, full of presuppositions and false accusations.
The errors of Bill Gothard’s teaching are well presented on several internet sites, as well as appearing in many Christian publications over the years. Since you are in the dark about his teaching and his abuse of authority, I suggest that you look them up.
I thank the Lord that He has seen fit to bring more out and that they have put Mr. Gothard on leave, all in His perfect timing. And I pray for the healing of the families and young people that have been abused by him, by his brother Steve, and all their enablers in this cultic organization.
It is ironic that you accuse me of false accusations. All I did was point out what you have done on this forum and cited what the Bible (which you told me I need to spend more time reading) says about it.
It is a further irony that I know the Bible pretty well because, at 13, I went to hear Bill Gothard speak, met him, and was encouraged by him to make studying the Bible a top priority in my life. I distinctly remember him saying not to quote him or follow him, but to quote the Bible and follow Christ. I have lost track of this ministry over the years but am glad for the advice I got from him.
I cited scripture which condemns bringing private faults against a fellow believer to a public venue which is what you have done openly. It is not my opinion. You have provided the evidence of your offense. Not everyone on Free Republic is Christian or claims to be. This is not the place to air dirty laundry.
If you want to make the case that a public figure who claims to be a Christian is not one, then that is not the same as attacking another Christian. But you are clearly NOT distinguishing between believers and unbelievers. This is a serious offense which constitutes “not discerning the body of Christ” which brings with it severe discipline from God (to those who are true believers and commit this offense) according to 1 Corinthians 11.
You are publicly slandering a believer with a generic unsubstantiated attack. When asked to clarify your basis for your specific slanders you say to go browse the Internet.
I have browsed the Internet and do not see evidence to support your claims of Bill Gothard being a false teacher or a pervert. His life and ministry are out their for everyone to see, good and bad. You, on the other hand, can hide behind a screen name avoiding any scrutiny or accountability for your doctrine or behavior which I have clearly identified as being against scripture.
What do you want Bill Gothard to do?
Resign and make a public confession?
Come over for tea and apologize?
Christ Himself called on the real Pharisees to repent and warned them of their judgment. He warned His disciples not to copy their hypocrisy. But He also provided clear, specific offenses for which they were publicly guilty and clearly excluded them from the kingdom of God. You are elevating yourself to Christ’s position to call Bill Gothard a Pharisee which is tantamount to saying he is like those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit, were incapable of receiving salvation, and were the ones who plotted His murder. Yet you do this without any supporting evidence and flippantly dismiss anyone who challenges this outrageous behavior.
What purpose does your slander serve?
How do you intend to undo the damage of your slander if he does do all that you think he must do?
I am not a follower of Bill Gothard and have no connection to his ministry, but I know a lot of people who are. I know such a family in my home town which is very involved in politics and is very conservative. Most of those I have met are Tea Party conservatives. In fact, I just read a news article from one of the family members who is a reporter for a major conservative outlet.
I am puzzled how a person such as yourself can boast of his love for Christ and then lash out at a fellow believer.
1 John 4:20-21
If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Whether Bill Gothard has major flaws in his teachings or is guilty of the things he is accused of, I do not know for sure. Even if all I have read is true, none of it convinces me that he is an unbeliever.
So your rejoicing as if law enforcement just caught a serial killer or child kidnapper seems so far out in left field I am mystified. You seem to think this is perfectly acceptable behavior toward another Christian without any explanation, justification or supporting evidence.
Usually when someone claims to love Christ and be His follower, I take their word for it. But your behavior is inconsistent with your claim. I have to wonder if, according to you, Bill Gothard is excluded from salvation, then what exactly you think it means to be a Christian?
I know this: there are a lot of Tea Party supporters who have shed tears over what has happened to someone they look up to, and the enemies of conservatives are celebrating with you. So regardless of where you stand on Biblical doctrine, I think your jubilation would fit better over at the DU than here on Free Republic.
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