Bill Gothard Resigns After Being Forced to Take Administrative Leave from the Institute of Basic Life Principles in Wake of Multiple Claims of Sexual Harassment and Abuse
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23
World Magazine broke a story last week that the board of directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) had forced its founder, Bill Gothard, to take administrative leave from his positions at the ministry and the associated home schooling program run by the ministry, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), due to allegations of sexual harassment by as many as 34 women, including four cases of alleged sexual abuse. Yesterday, Gothard submitted his resignation from all of his positions with the ministry. The allegations were made via testimonies of often teenage women who worked at IBLP many years ago via a website called RecoveringGrace.org. The website is dedicated to helping individuals and families who have been harmed by IBLP’s often legalistic teachings. Anyone who was or is closely associated with IBLP or ATI should make it a point to visit the RecoveringGrace.org website. We have been impressed with the manner in which this site has operated given the harm done to many and the raw emotions associated with that.
IBLP’s board, in a statement, promised a full investigation and appropriate reaction to the findings of their investigation. Now that Gothard has resigned, it is not clear how the board will proceed. Over 2.5 million people are said to have attended one of Gothard’s seminars over the last four decades. Gothard is now 79 years old and has never married. His ministry has faced difficulties in the past as well. In the early 1980’s, staff and board members left the organization in the face of Gothard’s purported manipulative behavior, financial integrity concerns and the revelation that Gothard’s brother who worked at the ministry had inappropriate relationships with seven women on the ministry’s staff. Gothard’s brother was also accused of involvement with pornography at that time. These issues were recently detailed in documents obtained by ReceoveringGrace.org and can be found at this link. The RecoveringGrace.org website also contains a number of testimonies from the women who were allegedly sexually harassed or abused by Gothard as well as other details of problems at the ministry over the years.
While we do not know the board members of IBLP, we suspect they are almost certainly compromised by their failure to uncover and address these problems sooner. As a result, there is a distinct possibility their investigation will not be carried out as it should be and/or that the appropriate responses will not be forthcoming. At a minimum, the board should bring in outsiders familiar with such problems at Christian ministries to lead the investigation.
Gothard’s ministry has been in decline in recent years. After having done over 500 seminars in 2010, the ministry apparently offered less than 50 in 2012 according to the Religion News Service. It revenues have been falling sharply in recent years and the ministry has lost money in each of the last five years. Attendance at its ATI annual conference has also fallen drastically in recent years according to witnesses. The ministry still has $85 million in assets, but the vast majority of its assets appear to be real estate. Given this latest crisis, and based on its most recently available financial statements, IBLP could soon be facing a cash crisis and may need to sell some of its real estate to survive. We will keep a close eye on developments in this case as they unfold. Now that Gothard has resigned, it remains unclear what further actions the ministry’s board might take.