About the author
More posts by Moderator
Dear Recovering Grace Reader,
This week marks the second anniversary of the launching of Recovering Grace. It hardly seems possible that a little over two years ago, our website was only a germ of an idea being shared among a large number of former students of Bill Gothard and his Advanced Training Institute and Institute in Basic Life Principles. What was then just a concept has grown into a major force for healing and growth for thousands who have left the teachings of Gothardism for the lighter yoke that Jesus promises those weary ones who come unto Him.
Since our launch two years ago, we have had over a quarter of a million visits to our site, with more than 1.6 million pages viewed! Many of you have emailed or commented on our site saying how much Recovering Grace has meant to you, thanking us for our work. Recovering Grace is indeed a labor of love by a large number of volunteers and we are grateful for your support.
The Birth of IBLP
We wanted to take this opportunity to briefly mention two other anniversaries. Forty-eight years ago this year, Bill Gothard developed what would become the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). He was set on this path at Wheaton College, where he was first invited to teach his materials to graduate and undergraduate students who were studying there at the time. The seminars quickly grew in attendance, as did Gothard’s influence in the American church.
Even in these early days, there were many who had concerns about Gothard’s teachings. In 1976, a Lutheran minister named Wilfred Bockelman wrote a controversial book critiquing the Basic Seminar, particularly the “chain-of-command” teaching. A few years later theologian Ronald Allen penned a paper entitled “Issues of Concern—Bill Gothard and the Bible.” Many of the concerns these men leveled against Gothard back then are the same issues that have consistently yielded bad fruit over the past five decades. The Church owes a huge debt of gratitude to these men who stood up to Gothard’s unbiblical teachings at a time when those who did so risked personal and professional loss, due to Gothard’s extraordinary popularity.
Unfortunately, the massive crowds attending the seminars in the 1970s and 1980s seemed to equate the teachings of Bill Gothard with the teachings of Jesus. Most weren’t open to an honest critique of the Basic Seminar. Gothard presented a Christian life that was packaged into seven basic principles they could follow to “guarantee” success. They failed to realize that the teachings of Gothard only masked symptoms and put a bandaid over root issues. Many people were quick to give Gothard credit for saving marriages, but in reality, many of these marriages and families later imploded under the stress of these legalistic principles. Gothard’s teachings don’t ultimately change lives; only the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit makes a lasting difference. Had Gothard simply preached the name of Jesus and shared the truth of real gospel, this year could have been a 48th anniversary worth celebrating. If only more people in the Church had taken a stand in pointing out the lack of conformity to the gospel in Gothard’s teachings.
Thirty-three years ago this month on July 6, 1980, Bill Gothard was forced to resign from his position at the Institute due to a number of well-documented abuses of his authority—ranging from misappropriating finances and bribery (Christianity Today, Feb. 6, 1981), to “patting and fondling women employees” (LA Times, April 5, 1982), to ongoing attempts to cover up his sinful behavior and the sexual deviancy of his brother. (For more background on the multi-year evolution of this scandal, you can read A Matter of Basic Principles (AMOBP) by Veinot and Henzel.)
In a move that underscored his lack of repentance, just days after Gothard’s forced resignation he managed to have nationally known Christian leaders—Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Jack Taylor, Rev. Miles Seaborne, Rev. Gordon Dorian, and Mr. Jim Sammons, as named on page 60 of AMOBP—fly in to berate the Institute staff and leadership for their “rebellion” against Gothard (a “rebellion” of calling him to account for his well-documented sinful actions and shady dealings). Over the next week, 31 staff members were fired, dismissed, or resigned, and a total of 50 out of 76 were gone by December. Gothard was able to “simply resume his position, as though he were returning from a brief vacation.”
Again, these powerful leaders in the Christian church ignored the very issues—legalism, greed, bribery, sexual deviancy, and dishonesty—that would continue to damage thousands of lives over the next thirty-three years. Had those men simply adhered to the teachings of Jesus and considered the plight of the powerless staff workers and Board who they were coercing into silence, they may have precluded years of false teachings that have ripped apart numerous churches and families. Because these Christian leaders defended Gothard and refused to see and believe the truth about him, merely four years later Gothard was able to start an experimental home-schooling program: the Advanced Training Institute of America, which allowed him unfettered access to sexually harass even more young women. If only these Christian leaders had been brave enough to question a man they respected, and not assume him incapable of sin—it would have spared a lot of heartache.
One of the purposes of Recovering Grace is to be a clear, unified voice of truth. As former ATI students, many of whom worked closely and personally with Bill Gothard, we are continuing the work of Bockelman, Allen, and the 1980s staff of the Institute. Many good people stood against Bill Gothard in the past, risking everything to speak out against him. In the coming months we will revisit some of their stories in more detail. We will also continue to share new stories that expose Gothard’s most recent behavior, and we will show how the stories of past decades and of today work together to paint a true portrait of the man whom so many have blindly followed and trusted through the years.
We would ask you to join with us in taking this stand for truth in the days ahead by sharing our website with others who have been influenced by Gothard, and by praying daily for the Recovering Grace team. Much of what we do is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, especially the “behind the scenes” work of answering emails, providing counseling resources, and helping individuals work through personal backgrounds filled with all types of spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse. This type of ministry is never seen publicly, but we believe it is an extremely important part of what God has called us to do. There is much work to be done, but it is only through God’s sustaining grace that we will be able accomplish it. Recovering Grace is truly God’s work brought about in His own timing, and we are simply being obedient to His call on our lives, speaking truth and shining light into the darkness. We covet your prayers on our behalf.
Thank you for journeying with us,
The RG Leadership Team
Share this post:Tweet this Share on Facebook Stumble it Share on Reddit Digg it Add to Delicious! Add to Technorati Add to Google Add to Myspace Subscribe to RSS
More posts by Moderator
Want to donate to the Recovering Grace ministry? Do all of your Amazon shopping using the link below, and a small percentage comes back to us. Or you can donate directly via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Recovering Grace is not a 501(c)3, and thus gifts are not tax-deductible.