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There You Go Again—An Open Letter to Bill Gothard (1997)
An on-again/off-again interaction-through-intermediaries between Bill Gothard and me seems to be on-again. The newest provocation was the publication last month of the first in a series of four articles critical of the Gothard ministry. The article by L.L. (Don) Veinot, Jr. and Ron Henzel is titled, “Bill Gothard’s Evangelical Talmud.”2 Near the close of the article, a quotation was made from a paper I wrote in 1984, “Issues of Concern–Bill Gothard and the Bible.” In the article I am very critical of Mr. Gothard’s use of the Bible. Veinot and Henzel observe the following about my remarks:
It would be tempting to think of this description as an exaggeration based on misunderstanding; but, if that was the case, then Gothard had every opportunity to correct the misunderstanding. When Dr. Allen attempted to arrange a meeting with Gothard through his seminary president, Dr. Earl D. Radmacher, in order to discuss these problems, Gothard told Radmacher that “he had no interest in meeting with me [Allen] to discuss these issues.”3
I am now in receipt of a copy of a letter written by Bill Gothard on the official letter-head of his ministry (Seminar in Basic Youth Conflicts / Institute in Basic Life Principles) to Mr. Don Veinot in protest of the article written by Veinot and Henzel.4 Amid many Scriptural admonitions, Mr. Gothard chastises the authors for “inaccuracy” in the comments noted above. These are Gothard’s words, introduced this way: “a further note on accuracy should be stated about your comments on Dr. Allen”:
The facts are that I did meet with Dr. Allen and wrote a detailed response to each of his concerns and then asked for a further meeting with him.5
Well, now, this is really a doozy!
The facts–in fact–are that such a meeting never took place.
As my friend Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. might say, “No! Nein! Non! Lo! La! Nada! Nyet!”
These are the facts.
First, my attendance at the 1973 Seminar in Basic Youth Conflicts in Portland, Oregon, led me to considerable distress concerning Gothard’s use of the Bible. I was aware than many people did benefit from the Seminar (many even made professions of faith!), but I was also troubled that so much of Gothard’s teaching was built on a misuse of the Bible, that I sought out through Western Seminary President Dr. Earl D. Radmacher a meeting with Mr. Gothard so that I might present some of my observations to Gothard personally.
In 1973 there was a meeting of Mr. Gothard––with Dr. Radmacher, but not with me. The word came to me that Gothard said his instruction is from God and that he will not be instructed by one of Radmacher’s seminary faculty members. So I sent a written copy of my comments to Gothard through Radmacher.
That was in 1973. There was never one response. No meeting. No phone call. No letter. Never one word.
In 1984 the issues of concern that many of us in Oregon had concerning the Seminar led to a new paper, the one cited in the article by Veinot and Henzel. This paper, and the concerns of others, led many churches in the Pacific Northwest, including my own, to withdraw all active support for the Gothard ministries.6
I sent a copy of this paper to Mr. Gothard as a matter of course.7 I did not expect, and I did not receive any acknowledgement of this letter.
This was in 1984. There was never one response. No meeting. No phone call. No letter. Never one word.
Then in 1990 (fully seventeen years after his receipt of my first paper from 1973, and six years after his receipt of my second papers from 1984), Gothard sent a letter, not to me, but to Dr. Earl D. Radmacher of Western Seminary. In this Gothard responded at length to the second paper. In this response there was no evidence whatever of the admission of error or an understanding of the nature of my concerns. Instead, there was a determined defensiveness, arguing that he was correct on every point and that I had no valid criticism whatever. Indeed, incessantly throughout his letter to Dr. Radmacher Mr. Gothard accuses me of “totally false statements.”
Again, this 1990 letter was not written to me, but to Dr. Radmacher. As for me: There was no meeting. No phone call. No letter. Never one word. And, never in this letter was there a mention of a past or future meeting with me about these issues.
Dr. Radmacher gave me a copy of this long letter (from 1990); let it be noted, however, that there was nothing in the letter that was addressed personally to me.8 I wrote Gothard a brief letter, choosing not to respond to him, line for line, as he may have expected. Instead I simply said, “The same deal is on as was before. I will meet with you in any place and in any agreeable time at my own expense for lunch to discuss these issues, but I will not come alone.”
Again in 1990, there was no meeting. No phone call. No letter. Never one word.
So now (1997) I am in receipt of a letter that Gothard has written to Don Veinot and I read these unbelievable words:
The facts are that I did meet with Dr. Allen and wrote a detailed response to each of his concerns and then asked for a further meeting with him.9
To which I respond, “No, Bill. There you go again.”
These are not “the facts.” These are outright lies. This is not the result of a foggy memory, a cluttered schedule, a lapse of thought. These are simply outrageous lies. How may there be a “further meeting” between us when there has never been one meeting?
And here is the kicker. After reporting “the facts” that are not facts at all, Gothard’s letter to Mr. Veinot has these words:
Actually I have made it a priority to talk with as many critics as I can. I have learned to value their concerns and much of the message has been perfected and deepened by them.10
Well, sure. I can attest to the truthfulness of this comment.
Shall I say it again? No meeting. No call. No letter. No conversation. Nada. Nein. La. Lo.
So these following paragraphs are written to Bill Gothard directly.
You know that there was never a meeting between you and me. You know that there has never been a phone call between you and me. You know that you have never written me–not me! You have written Dr. Radmacher, and you have met with him many times–something you also deny in the same paragraph.11
So, Bill, here is the new deal. All bets are off. Twenty three years (1973-1997) are sufficient. I have had the offer for lunch “on the table” long enough. There will now be no meeting. There will be no lunches. There will be no phone calls. There will be no letters. Actually, Bill, there is only one letter I wish to receive from you. It is a brief, no-excuses, no-defenses, abject apology for your blatant, outrageous lies about me. I wish this to be mailed to me at my address at the end of this letter. Further, I wish this apology to be distributed at least as far as your lies about me have gone.
As for my letter (this one), so far it is going only to a few people–to those named herein, and to those of my colleagues who have the right to know the accusations you bring concerning me.
And, Bill, I expect the letter of apology should not take another bundle of years. It would seem a week or so would be sufficient.
And last, let’s not plan to remain pen pals.
Ronald B. Allen
Well, that is my appeal. Let’s see what happens. Of course, Bill Gothard may say that the meeting has already taken place and all is worked out after a long, amicable chat. Like before.
But then, in the words of Reagan, “There you go again.”
Dr. Ronald B. Allen
[HOME ADDRESS WITHHELD]
Editor’s Note: Gothard did make contact after this was initially published, but no headway was ever made as Gothard was unwilling to do the very things Dr. Allen called for in his response.
——————————-1. With apologies to Ronald Reagan. 2. Midwest Christian Outreach Journal (September/October 1997), pages 6-9. 3. Ibid., p. 9. 4. Letter of Bill Gothard (Oak Brook, IL) to Don Veinot (Lombard, IL), 25 October 1997. 5. Ibid., p. 3. 6. In our church (Gateway Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon) as in many others, the decision was made not to make a public announcement of the dropping of support. Since we knew that many in our church had come to faith through the Seminar, or had received significant spiritual direction through it, we believed we would only cause confusion by attacking the Seminar directly. Instead, we decided no longer to send buses, no longer to buy block tickets, and no longer to make any announcements whatever about the Seminars. 7. There was also another paper I wrote during this period titled, “Gothard Again.” This was also sent to Mr. Gothard. 8. In fact (not the phrase), Gothard’s closing words to Radmacher in that letter are a bit less than a call for a meeting to discuss my issues of concern. Here are his words: “Dr. Radmacher, based on all of this, how do you suggest that we go about correcting the error that has been spread to so many people through these articles?” Letter from Bill Gothard (Oak Brook, IL) to Earl Radmacher (Portland, OR), 23 February 1990, p. 8. 9. Gothard letter to Veinot (25 October 1997), p. 3. 10. Ibid. 11. Gothard’s letter to Veinot says, “Your mention of Dr. Radmacher is interesting. For at least ten years, I and other Christian leaders have tried to get him to meet with me. One church board in California even offered to pay his plane fare, but he has refused all appeals” (ibid.). This is really a whopper. The truth is that Dr. Radmacher has spent many meetings with Gothard. Well, I am sending a copy of this to Dr. Earl Radmacher for his calm (!) reflection.
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