Sacred Grooming, Part Two: A Secretary’s Account of Life With Bill Gothard

22 January 2014, 06:00

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[Editor’s Note: The young woman referred to only as “she” and “her” in the following account is the author herself, “Meg,” but she has written it in the third person. The author was twenty years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg’s story.]

Lost in Translationsnowy road stock photo

Bill Gothard had phoned her at 5 a.m. that morning and asked her to come to the office early. After willing herself awake, she knew she had 20 minutes to get showered and dressed. That’s how long it took him to drive from his house to the office, picking her up on the way.

Quietly she moved around the sleeping house, showering, dressing, putting on makeup and shoes, then she negotiated the new decor of strawberries in the kitchen as she grabbed a muffin and quick glass of juice. She could see the lights from Bill’s car turning onto her street as she snatched up her purse from the table. It was still black outside when she shut the front door behind her, pulling on the gloves he had given her and quickly throwing her woolen scarf around her neck, tossing her long brown hair over it.

Now as she looked out, the midday sun was pouring through the large panorama window in his office. She sat in front of him at his desk taking notes and working on one of his documents. The early hours had been vital to getting through the tasks. The phones had not rung and no one had come in to disturb their good 2 ½ hours of solid, productive work. They had spoken little to each other, just smoothly negotiated each letter and item on the list of things to do that day.

At 8:30 a.m. the first staff members had drifted into the office and the phones had begun to ring. Bill handed her a pile of paper and she got up and went over to her own little office. After their trip to Indianapolis yesterday, her work was laid out before her for the whole day: letter after letter and document after document. She read; she typed; she printed.

She managed to get his signature on all those letters during a short break in the steady stream of phone calls and people coming into his office. It was as though the staff could not cope with him being gone for one day. Drama after drama had to be sorted through and dealt with. He did so with incredible patience and graciousness, she thought to herself, and showed no sign of frustration at the sometimes petty complaints. A girl didn’t like her housemate and wanted to be moved to another house. A young man had taken a joy ride in one of the staff cars. A new camera had to be ordered. A phone call had come in from another prominent Christian leader. The menu for an upcoming staff banquet needed approval. It all had to be dealt with, talked over, and signed off on, and he did all this unrushed, never impatient, always giving the visitors his time and attention.

A few times he looked up and over at her, and they exchanged a silent moment. A glance, a smile, eye contact that said more than words would. A kinship. They were working together towards one goal, a united force against the fray.

She yawned now as she looked down at the next letter waiting to be typed. Suddenly he called out to her from where he stood by the door. He said he needed some toilet tissue for the bathroom, and asked her to run downstairs to get some.

She jumped up and said she’d go get it straight away. She was halfway down the stairs when she realized that she had no idea what “toilet tissue” was. Toilet paper? Paper towels? Or maybe it was something else altogether! What did he mean? She ran into the nearly deserted kitchen and past the large industrial washers and ovens used to feed the great organization machine, into the store room at the back. The room was shelved with row upon row full of food stocks and other supplies. What and where in the world was “toilet tissue”? She walked as quickly as she could down each aisle, hunting for what she hoped would jump out to her as the obvious choice. She heard a noise at the entrance and turned to see Abbey, the head cook coming in. Relieved, she told Abbey that she needed “toilet tissue” for him, but didn’t even know what that was, and that he was waiting for it whatever it was.

Abbey was a friendly girl who also was wasn’t from around there, and also didn’t know what “toilet tissue” was. Maybe some Midwest version of toilet paper? Abbey walked to the back of the store room and opened a large cupboard at the end. “Here,” Abbey said, thrusting her head into the cupboard and pulling things out. “Take these. One is toilet paper. The other is paper towels. That way, you’ll know what it is for next time when he takes the one he wants.”

“Smart girl,” she smiled at her. “Thanks Abbey. I owe you one.”

She raced back up the stairs. He was standing in her office. He wasn’t happy, she could tell, for there was no warm smile to greet her. “I’m sorry,” she said brightly as she held out both items. “I had a hard time finding them.” He didn’t say anything as he reached out and took the toilet paper.

“Okay,” he said. Turning around, he left the room and headed back into his office.

One Spirit

She felt a gentle nudging on her shoulder. Her eyes flickered open, and as consciousness returned she realized that the room was still alight with the soft lamp on her desk. The office next to her was still lit up, but the rooms outside were dark.

“Did I fall asleep again?” she whispered.

“Yes. You did,” said her boss. “I’m sorry I kept you so late.”

She said it was okay, that she was in the middle of some reading when she must have nodded off without realizing.

He said maybe she should come in a bit later in the morning, that he didn’t want her getting too tired.

But wouldn’t she miss something, she asked? Wouldn’t he need her? They got so much done in those early hours.

He said he’d rather she was rested.

She sighed and said she wished she didn’t need to sleep.

He invited her to pray with him before she left and led her over to a chair in the corner of the room, where they knelt together. As they finished praying he turned to her and said, “I love how when we pray together, if I forget something, you always remember. That shows we have a united goal. We have a oneness of spirit. You know, you are the best secretary I’ve ever had.”

She said she sometimes found praying out loud difficult, and that she wished that she was more outgoing and fun like some of the other girls.

He looked at her. “I don’t want them as my secretary. That has to be filled by a special person. That is you.”

Soul Ties

They sat together on the old, faded chintz couch in his office. He was holding her hand. It was late and dark and cold, and the light from the lamp was dim inside the room. They had been talking about the boy. She had told Bill all about her history with the boy, and Bill had listened intently. His sympathetic nods had spurred her to talk on.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” he said at last, when she trailed off quietly.

She looked up at his concerned face and nodded. “Sure,” she answered. She knew there was nothing to hide.

“Were you ever … intimate … with this boy?”

She paused. How did he mean, she asked. She had known the boy very well, and he was her best friend. “I loved him.”

“I mean, were you ever intimate physically?”

She said she and the boy used to hold hands and cuddle, and that he kissed her often.

“I mean … did you fail morally with him?”

She jerked her head up. “Oh, no! There was nothing like that.” She said she and the boy would sometimes lie on the same bed together to watch a movie, giving each other foot rubs and maybe falling asleep separately, but there was nothing like that. They had been good Christian kids.

He nodded slowly. He just needed to check, he said, because the soul ties seemed to be very strong.

“I loved him. I loved that boy,” she whispered.

The Bracelet

He was counseling her about the boy again. She was listening to him. She liked talking about the boy with him. It made all those lovely memories come back. But he put a different view on it—he made her feel that it had been wrong.

Abruptly, he grasped her arm. “What is this?” he asked, pointing to the black strap around her wrist.

She touched it, looping her fingers through it. It was just a leather bracelet, she said.

“What does it mean? Why do you wear it?” he persisted.

She smiled. When they were about 15 years old, she said, she and the boy had made bracelets for each other. She had tied one onto his arm, and he had tied this one onto hers.

“You should cut this off,” Bill said.

“Really. You think so?”

Yes, he said, she had new friends now, a new life, and this boy was part of her old life. “You are cutting the ties to him.” She nodded and fumbled with the bracelet. He got up and reached for a pair of scissors in the drawer. “I want you to do it,” he said, handing the scissors to her.

She took the scissors from him and slipped the blade under the strap. She was surprised how easily the leather cut, how quickly the bracelet fell from her arm.

He picked it up from the floor where it had fallen and handed it to her. “Go and throw it in the trash can over there.”

She got up, crossed the room, and threw the cut band into the small bin by the door.

She looked down at it lying on top of the mess of paper crumpled up in the bin. The black leather stood out among the white, and she knew that later on, when she was alone, she would return to retrieve and hide it. The bracelet was part of her. Part of the boy. Part of a life she couldn’t yet forget.

“This is your new life,” Bill said. “This is where God has brought you. He wants your whole heart. It’s a new beginning.”

 

[Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Three, here to read Part Four, here to read Part Five, and here to read Part Six.]

See how the experiences Ruth, Annette, Charlotte, Rachel, Meg, Lizzie, and Grace had with Bill Gothard fit together chronologically here, and behaviorally here.

Meg’s family was in ATI for more than ten years. After leaving Bill Gothard's office, Meg continued to work for IBLP for several years before she met and married her wonderful, non-ATI, Mr. Right. She is now busy raising their family and enjoying a happy and ATI-standard-free life.

All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.

55 Comments

  1. Pingback : Sacred Grooming: A Secretary's Account of Life with Bill Gothard | Recovering Grace

  2. Chantelle January 22, 2014 Reply

    In my first conversation with Bill Gothard at headquarters when I was 14 years old, he asked me if I was a virgin. I said yes, because it seemed like that was the answer he wanted to hear, but at that time, as a sheltered ATI kid, I had no idea what a virgin was. After that I was asked to work in his office, but not as his personal assistant. Just as a secretary. There he asked me to not have the "wet look" in my permed hair. He wanted me to spend lots of time with hot rollers to have my hair in soft curls the way he liked it. I'm a simple person and couldn't be bothered. He's such a creep.

    • MatthewS January 22, 2014 Reply

      If some random guy in church or the neighborhood acted that way and asked those questions, parents would ostracize him. It is not OK behavior.

      • Donna Moore January 22, 2014 Reply

        No kidding!!! Creepy. :(

    • Andrea January 22, 2014 Reply

      I first met him at Oak Brook at age 15. He had the same conversation about my hair!!! Didn't want me to wear the wet look (I had a perm too at the time). Told me the whole soft flowing curls thing too! Something about spiral curls being sensual and giving guys bad thoughts and I guess flowing curls didn't?!!!

  3. Daniel January 22, 2014 Reply

    I think any man can turn into a monster when he gets that much adoration. It's like crack. A few poeple around him adore him, so he surrounds himself with those who "get it." Pretty soon he believes it and craves the adoration. He keeps needing to come up with something newer and bigger to feed the admiring masses. People in his insular society bask in the reflected warmth of being on the IN with The Man. He believes that everything that comes out of his mouth is something special, because the sycophants tell him so. Dissenting voices are labled as "the enemy." The Man feeds off praise until he becomes a juggernaut of personality.

    I truly think that Bill is the biggest believer in the IBLP system.

    • MatthewS January 22, 2014 Reply

      The first paragraph there is a great description of celebrities and politically powerful people in general. Jesus said, "not so" in his kingdom. Bill is living like the lord of a small empire that is diametrically opposed to the kingdom Jesus came to talk about.

      • Daniel January 22, 2014 Reply

        I just think that Christians need to stop building these monsters by going gaga over great leaders. People were never intended to be worshiped as a god.

        • BeverlyB January 22, 2014

          Agreed. But it would help if Gothard didn't encourage the adoration and "worship." He definitely didn't discourage it, but instead received it willingly. Anyone remember the long, long applause whenever he'd enter the stage at Knoxville? He did nothing to stop it, but just stood there beaming, receiving it all without deflection.

        • RyanR January 22, 2014

          That, Bev, and the endless insistence on things being done HIS way, without any deference. Like when they bought the Indianapolis Training Center and re-carpeted the lobby with beautiful blue carpet. I think they got a deal on it. Everyone thought it looked wonderful.

          But Bill didn't like it. He wanted RED. So up it went (probably in the trash). What a waste. Of resources. Of donated money. Of the effort of those who had to install it.

          No one thought anything about it other than, "Mr. Gothard doesn't like it." How many hungry persons could have been fed? How many families did without to donate money to the ministry which basically was wasted?

          This wasn't an isolated occurrence.

        • 'Megan' January 22, 2014

          RyanR, the carpet incidence reminds me of the story I read about when he visited the Russian center for Christmas. If I remember correctly, they spent 3 days? decorating, and someone came in, looked at it, and said, 'No, change it all, he isn't going to like it.'

          If I hadn't known that these stories were about Bill, I'd have thought they were about our current president, who is rather known for his less than humble attitude about himself.

        • Daniel January 23, 2014

          Ahhh, Gothardesque architectural style! Gothardesque architecture flourished during the late 20th century. Its characteristics are epitomized in the Gothardesque Lobby. Lobbies generally include mirrored columns, polished brass features, red carpeting, and dark wood wainscoting. The ritziness is often accented by aging stuffed animal heads, battleship sized front desks, and gigantic, customized window treatments. Often in the great Gothardeque halls, one will find vast labyrinths of silver pipes hanging with blue curtains to create separate work or meeting spaces. Flooring in these meeting spaces is often accentuated with carpet samples, used as trendy and sustainable seating.

          Outside of the common areas, one will find much more variety. Living quarters often stand in stark contrast to the posh Lobby. These monastic spaces are designed to accentuate and contrast with the beauty of The Lobby. While there is no set standard for living quarters, these are generally done in the style of American discount hotels of the 1980's.
          On the exterior of Gothardesque buildings, there is often a great variety of presentations, but several features are consistent. First, dirt mounds with a height of 4-7 feet dot the landscape. While they are a pain to mow, they really show that their designer had an "eye for detail." Second, there are often small log cabins built in contrast to urban surroundings. These small throwbacks to early American Pioneers blend nicely with the employees outfits who are walking laps around the parking lot.

        • BeverlyB January 23, 2014

          Hahaha! You're hilarious, Daniel! It sounds like you and I were at the same Training Center, though I probably didn't know you because I was a good girl and never made eye contact with the guys. That's what Gothard said was godly behavior---that and cutting any soul-ties made while making eye contact in the elevator. But of course if you're a man, and a good 40-years older than the girl, you can make long, loving eye contact, hold their hand and stroke their hair, while telling them how beautiful they are and how much they bless your life. According to his actions, that is the truest godly behavior. :-P

        • "Hannah" January 24, 2014

          Very funny, Daniel ;)

  4. Flynn January 22, 2014 Reply

    'Meg'...my heart hurts for you right now. I am so sorry you were forced to destroy/throw away something precious to you. You are brave for sharing your story with us...thank you!

  5. Donna Moore January 22, 2014 Reply

    This was just like him to destroy beautiful memories. This man played with people's lives in a horrendous way.

  6. Katherine Smith January 22, 2014 Reply

    I don't understand the dramatic accounting of this. Yeah, the guy is a creep. Yeah, good to tell others where you went wrong to fall for it, and lessons learned in order to help others. But there is fascinating recounting here which seems inappropriate. E.g. "Her long brown hair." This reads more like magazine fiction. I am not trying to slam the author. What confuses me is the fascination with these cultish losers to where people become a bit obsessed with discussing, exposing, etc. His pride is destructive to many. But his obsessed critics often seem proud even titilated by recounting lurid details. Self-righteous? They seem to say, "look at this man how wrong he was. Now tell me every detail and don't leave anything out!" (salivating)We should not allow him to continue to make us sin. That makes him still in charge and us orbiting around such evil. Perhaps confession, repentance, and healing to be sure. But not sensory recalling details etc. No. This time better spent in study of the Word and contemplating the Grace of God who did pull many out and reveal His truth to them.

    • RyanR January 22, 2014 Reply

      Put yourself in her shoes . . . waking up one day and realizing what you thought was kindness was a sham. You'd feel confused. Angry. Used. Embarrassed. She is very brave to share her story this way.

      Please let her tell her story the best way she can with whatever style works best for her rather than dismissing her writing style as frivolous and simply prescribing more Bible reading as some sort of cure.

      With all due respect, I think a lot of people responded that way during the 1980s IBLP sex scandal (you can look up mainstream newspaper articles about it in the research databases at your local library) and it solved nothing. It just bought Bill more time to regroup (ATIA) and find a fresh supply of young girls to mistreat.

    • 'Megan' January 22, 2014 Reply

      Katherine, I'm not sure how the author is supposed to tell an unpleasant story, and allow the viewer to understand just how cleverly he set his traps, without going into detail. If it were cut, dry, and completely lacking in the explanation of WHY his behavior was inappropriate, then people would insist that she was simply out to smear a godly man's name. She has to describe it for an audience that wasn't there and can't grasp what was going on. It's a lose/lose for the author, in such a case. (And on top of that, she gets blamed for a nasty man taking advantage of her innocence.)

      I do not see how this is 'sensual', nor do I see anyone here, 'salivating' over each detail in a way that suggests we are taking some sort of carnal pleasure in reading this. If anything, I sense a relief from many that this is finally coming public, and that many other ladies, that they aren't the only one who were taken advantage of.

      While I agree that we certainly ought to be spending time in the Word, consider that for every story like this that comes out, possibly a dozen more people are tremendously benefited by it, it gives them the courage to also speak out. Besides, if no-one comes forward with any evidence of wrong doing on Bill's part, how will we properly give a warning to others that he is dangerous?

    • Larne G. January 22, 2014 Reply

      Image is everything to Gothard, to him it is a sign of God’s blessing and more important a sign of obedience to him as part of his chain of command. As we are to be conformed to the image of God so Gothard’s staff had to conform to Bill’s image, his world view, his theology and his ideas. So if you wanted to be conformed to God’s image you could only do it through Gothard’s view of it. The image Meg is portraying is the detail that Gothard demanded. It was what was required to be in the presences of the “master” (really small “m”) Bill focused on the details of life, red carpet vs blue, old cars and cheap suits vs new. Women with long hair, long dress and size 3 or 4. For those close to Gothard this story is déjà vu. My heart goes out to Meg and all the women that had to endure this man’s oppression.

      Larne G.
      Gothard's former pilot 1979-80

    • Vera January 23, 2014 Reply

      Wait till you hear my story. There is absolutely nothing "titillating" in it. See, unlike cute young girls, my husband and I were never allowed a phone conversation or anything with Bill. This is the stark contrast between these young girls and the adults who were a part of the ministry and program. I think part of that is because if we had gotten close, we would have seen through the façade. That is the only explanation.

    • MatthewS January 23, 2014 Reply

      I'd agree with you if this were the whole story. There is more to this story, and it is one that was repeated in various forms many times over as the perpetrator moved from one to the next to the next. The time has come to stand with the victims and call out those who exploit in the name of God.

    • "Hannah" January 24, 2014 Reply

      The reference to "long brown hair," refers to one of Gothard's fetishes. To put it plainly for someone on the outside that doesn't "get" that, or who doesn't know of his pattern of picking and choosing teenaged and young adult girls with a certain "look", to work closely with him. The author's reference is an indication that she now recognizes this, even if she didn't, at the time.

    • Krista January 27, 2014 Reply

      It is the details that are important, Katherine. When a person is abused, they often block out what happened. It is the details that allow them to go back, to remember, to validate and say, "THIS WAS WRONG". I'm so proud of this woman for sharing her story, with all the details that she remembers. It will free and heal her and anyone else who has ever been abused in this manner.

    • kevin January 27, 2014 Reply

      Katherine,
      I find her detailed writing style very effective and powerful. It takes great courage for victims to come forward and share. The last thing that we should be doing is criticizing the style in which they choose to share.

  7. Derrick Longan January 22, 2014 Reply

    I was reading about the carpet it was taken up and we relaided it all over HQ many of the house have it. As for the carpet yes there is only one color that works for him it is called Furman Red. I read these stories and I look back and think how many time I saw Bill Late at night alone with young ladies in his office. And many time getting asked if I could run them to the store or run to the store and get them ice cream or some thing else he or she needed. I had a interesting job that gave me insight to how things worked around that office and I did my building checks for maintenance later in the night or early evenings. I never got in trouble for looking at girls or going to movie I just got a verbal hand slap. I knew many a guy that got sent home for less thing. Looking back I saw so much that should have been exposed but they were just swept under the red carpet. But at the same time it is still around and still going in a much weaker state. I find myself asking question like if it was not for IBLP I would have not met many of the life long friends. So is it all bad should we though all of it out because of the actions of one man. I am not defending Bill In any way I know first hand the man has problems I can not stand to listen to him in any preaching type things. It has been three year since I saw him last and I was passing though Chicago with my wife to be and I wanted to stop and see many of my old friends that still work there or are in the area. And To see one of them we had to stop by his office his life long Secretary is his sister Laura and here late husband Jim they were very good friend and Jim was my first boss when I came to HQ Jim was a bright spot in a gloomy and Dark place of maintenance of HQ.

    • RyanR January 23, 2014 Reply

      That's good to know about the carpet!

      In terms of the double standard (you looked at girls and didn't get in trouble while others got sent home for less), I saw that often. In my experience, it was correlated to how badly they needed your skill. If you were indispensable, then yes, you just got a warning. But if any person could do your job (like sorting mail), there was zero mercy.

      As for the, "Was it ALL bad?" I am asked that frequently. I have been told that I should be glad because I met my wife through IBLP. That's true, but had I met her at narcotics anonymous, no one would say, "Crack wasn't all that bad." For me I simply recognize that God in His mercy. can and does bring good out of bad circumstances (Joseph, anyone?) but that doesn't mean He has ratified the bad behavior that caused or contributed to those circumstances. (e.g., Pharaoh's wife doesn't appear in the Hebrews hall of fame.)

      (I absolutely agree about Jim, though - wonderful man).

    • WendyA January 23, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Derrick! I dunno if you remember me, but we were at HQ together.

      You make a really good point: it's not ALL bad. At least, some of the outcomes aren't bad. I made many, many friends at HQ that I might not have made otherwise. People whom I care very much for and who have spoken deeply into my life. But I also lost friends due to my involvement with IBLP and the self-righteousness it engendered in many of us.

      What's bad is the theology that we learned and the judgmentalism and tale-bearing that were encouraged. A dear friend of mine who was a much more capable theologian and apologist than I am once told me that what is good in Gothard's teachings is not original, and what is original is not good. The further I walk into God's grace, the further away I get from IBLP teachings, the more I see that my friend was right.

      So, no, I don't think we throw it all out. We just have to test every aspect of it and keep only that which proves completely compatible with the full canon of Scripture — not just with random verses pulled out of context. And we have to test it against Christ's admonition to love our neighbour as ourselves. The "Golden Rule" got very little attention in the IBLP culture.

      • 'Megan' January 23, 2014 Reply

        Random thought here, but there is an insinuation that if one hadn't gone to IBLP, one would never have made good friends/met their spouse/got saved, whatever. Simply not true. It's nothing but a testament to God being good and powerful enough to work through anything and anyone. Look at it as the good you got out of something, certainly, but don't let it cloud your judgment, especially considering some of the allegations. :)

  8. Sean January 22, 2014 Reply

    "Her long brown hair" is a "lurid" detail? Please. This particular detail is absolutely relevant to the story. Already we have two other women commenting about Bill's obsession with their hair when they were young teens. "Inappropriate" is when a supposed "man of God" establishes a pattern of getting intimate with numerous vulnerable young women 50+ years his junior. Not when those women finally see Bill's behavior for what it was and start sharing their stories.

  9. Katherine Smith January 23, 2014 Reply

    My point was much more directed to the group of people who orbit around the dysfunction of this group/man. I do think unnecessary drama adds to the mystique in an unhealthy way. At the same time I appreciate the poster above who explained the idiotic focus on detail as part of the dysfunction. But to continue to orbit around this group is what I do not understand. --maybe as a kind of support for actual victims. But many who orbit are onlookers. Orbit direction is circular and brings one back to the same place. Onlookers who were not involved are like those who slow down to look at the car wreck. They can cause more destruction to their own (spiritual) life and that of others. It's the self-righteous view of the onlooker drawn to the wreck I address here.

    • RyanR January 23, 2014 Reply

      You have a point. But I do think some of what you are dismissing at self-righteousness may be part of the detail.

      For example, it may appear to you that I went off on a tangent about blue carpet or about people being treated differently, but both of those are absolutely part of Gothard's dysfunction.

      The blue carpet episode speaks to the fact that Gothard was highly controlling about EVERYTHING. And when you are a young woman, who perhaps has been sheltered and been taught not to question your authorities or to speak badly about someone, then Gothard controlling everything from how you wear your hair, to whom you are allowed to talk to, to whether you can wear a bracelet, etc. (especially when he comes across as nice or concerned) really underscores a level of creepy that others need to be warned about.

      In terms of comments about some being given slaps on the wrist vs. others being sent home, that speaks to the fact that Gothard had a type. He did not take homely or overweight or older women into his confidence this way. They always were young, attractive, etc. In my mind, it's not a matter of Bill being misunderstood or maligned. He has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and those he used are coming forward to illuminate that.

      While I personally don't get why all of this was exhilarating to Bill (anymore than I understand why David married Abishag just to cuddle for warmth).

      I think most who comment here are attempting to give context/validation for this account. Not just to air any dirty laundry about Bill that they can think of.

      Trust me, I don't give Bill much thought in my day to day activities. But I absolutely think it important that he be exposed for the creep that he is. Some of those he used this way were personal friends of mine. And it was not ok.

      In the context of what is coming to light, teachings that you always obey your authorities, that you don't give a bad report and that you don't take up an offense no longer seem "Godly." Instead they seem incredibly sinister and designed to provide a cover for Bill's bad behavior.

      • esbee January 23, 2014 Reply

        I think it interesting how you bring up OT people such as David which brings to mind Saul. Both knew God/knew of God, both made serious mistakes/sins. They were both extolled and hated by their contemporaries. I wonder if in that day they had a "Recovering Law" network of those who had been wounded/hurt/used by any of those mentioned in the OT.

        • "Hannah" January 24, 2014

          There actually was a "Recovering Law" movement, although much later in history than you were thinking of. And it had nothing to do with addressing abusive leadership, part of what causes your comment to seem incongruous. This movement actually propogated abusive practices. It was called, "the Pharisees," and well, Christian history tells us how well that turned out...

    • JChris January 23, 2014 Reply

      Katherine, I think you have a point and I've often had simular thoughts myself. It seems far to easy to continuously review the errors of IBLP and its leader and look forward to hearing one more story to confirm (again) how wrong, hypocritical, dangerous, etc... it all is. I gave IBLP 5 years of my youth and while I can easily give a long list of possitive experiences I had there, I could also tell some details of the wrong done, particularly to some close friends. But I'm not sharing the details and I have little respect for those who feed off stories like this. It's one thing to confront IBLP with the sin it harbors, it's only right to seek help and try to help others, but at what point is this site just encouraging Christians to spend their days gaping at a faulty leader and agreeing he's bad? I'm not defending him, only wondering why this is the best way to expose and confront him. If this site was really concerned about stopping this abuse and helping his victims, they would be encouraging confrontation, offering legal help to do so, talking to the current IBLP staff and encouraging them to leave or confront--isn't church discipline what the Bible teaches? What do unbelievers see when they come to this website--Christians lining up to take turns exposing the detailed sins of other Christians so they can vent their frustration to each other. It's hard to see why this is God's answer to such a serious situation.

      • RyanR January 23, 2014 Reply

        We all agree that church discipline is desirable. But, pray tell, to what church is Bill Gothard accountable? I for one would like to know.

        And it's not as if people have not tried to confront Bill about any of this. Look through the article archive and you'll find several articles outlining those attempts. He either hypnotizes them to make them think it's their fault or blows them off.

        The totality of evidence collected on this site exists to warn IBLP staff (and/or ATI families and/or potential ATI families) to encourage them to leave or confront. Sadly most won't. And I wouldn't have either when I was in the system.

    • 'Megan' January 23, 2014 Reply

      While I see your overall point, Katherine, you have no way of knowing who is an onlooker, and who is more directly involved. For me, everything Bill does is highly important because I want those in my family to finally understand WHY he is rotten, and for them to be free of his influence and poisonous teachings. So I am building a case for them by being a part of this movement, not to mention the personal healing I have encountered here on my own way out. Please take that into consideration as well, I do know for a fact that many who comment here would agree with what I have just said, as it applies to their life too. Thank you for clarifying your position.

    • "Hannah" January 24, 2014 Reply

      Oh, good grief. Read the page, don't read the page, whatever one wants (although I notice you are still here). Don't like the page? Don't read it! This is ridiculous, trying to tell other commenters what they "should" and "shouldn't" read. It's a free country... Write what you want, read what you want! :p

  10. Nancy January 23, 2014 Reply

    I am an onlooker. But I have not come here to point the finger at those who have been caught in BG's programs. Nor am I sitting with a bowl of popcorn reading these blogs the same as one would a scandalous novel. I'm here to learn.

    Using the analogy of a car wreck some who look don't just drive by rubbernecking. Some stop their cars, hop out, and begin triage. The first step of triage is to stop the bleeding. While reading on this site I got the impression that it's purpose was about stopping the bleeding of those harmed.

    I have loved ones who had been in the BG programs. Over the years they have separated themselves almost completely. Now that they have left BG they are nervous about renewing ties with those of us they left behind. The first step to healing these relationships will have to begin with those of us who were never in that lifestyle.

    For me the details only address a clear double standard BG must have. Beware of the lust of the eyes, yet he decides what is pleasing to the eyes concerning one's hair. Each double standard lifts a red flag. The more red flags the more deception present. I am hoping to learn what mindsets were presented to BG followers to cause them to go past so many red flags. As my loved ones look back on their lives they see all those flags and I believe feel too ashamed to allow us to reunite. I have been praying for a way to move past their shame and help them see we never left them.

    As I said in another post, "All have sinned and all have been sinned against." I don't desire to blame. I desire healing that will help reclaim loved ones who have been lost to me.

    • Mercy January 29, 2014 Reply

      I'm here to learn too. I was involved for years in very legalistic, moralistic churches that claimed to be Bible-believing but in truth emphasized man-made preferences and standards as a way to be holy. One of the things I enjoy about this page is reading about how God reached through the haze of self-righteousness and showed Himself and the glorious good news of His Gospel to so many of the writers and commenters here.

      (And I'm also always reminded that Jesus' harshest criticism was not of the pagan Romans but toward the Pharisees who distorted the image of God in the name of holiness.)

  11. Travis January 23, 2014 Reply

    I pity Bill. I really do. The guy has drank his own kool aid. For some reason he bought into this lie that he had to be single to be godly. Now he lives this life where he spews moral perversion called legalism and tries to live it. Always failing, because the law was never meant to help us.

    Now he's near the end of his life, and he has really no one who's intimate with him. Everyone around him fears him, and those who are no longer in his system loathe him. And he's bound up to the system he's created.

    The guy is trapped, lonely and deluded... Thank God that one day Father will correct his heart and change him. I truly hope that it happens in this life, rather than after.

    Travis

    • greg January 23, 2014 Reply

      Hmmm, good thoughts Travis. I really think you hit it home on some of these insights....

  12. Dave January 23, 2014 Reply

    Katherine Smith, I am trying to understand your comments. You exhibit a surprising lack of empathy toward the kind of suffering revealed in this series of posts and by this site. My first assumption was that you were an “onlooker,” as you say and had not experienced the struggle personally. But when I read your last sentence in your first comment, I didn’t know what to think. The time would be “better spent in study of the Word”? Really? You said that?

    I correspond and counsel with victims of narcissism as my vocation. Many of the people who have been used by these ultimate controllers lost a part of themselves. These abusers steal the identity, the lifeforce of their victims. When the relationship is over, the victim wanders alone and apart. Few understand what has been lost. In this story, Meg lost more and more of herself in the relationship with Gothard, even to the point of cutting off the bracelet that had meant so much to her. Now, as she writes, she is finding the way back to who she was before.

    I constantly get comments from people about what they were before the abuse. Now they are confused, fearful, and weak. They long for what they had, but they don’t know how to find it. One legitimate form of therapy is to write the story in the victim’s own way and words. You would be amazed at how helpful it is toward remembering and reclaiming what was lost.

    I understand that your issue is not with the writer but with those who read the story. Again, you miss the point. This isn’t about the “onlookers.” This is about the large number of young people who see themselves in the story, who remember the same abuse. Maybe the details were different, but they were close enough to bring back the memories. And, in acknowledging the truth in Meg’s story, they are able to face the truth about what happened to them.

    Many of these young people were sent home to family that didn’t want to hear any negative against Gothard or the system. They couldn’t tell friends, probably because so few were left and those who remained were part of the system. So they bottled it up and lived with their pain, never being able to find the person they used to be. Fear, shame, regret, even anger—they couldn’t deal with what they felt because they had no one to tell.

    Along comes RG. Suddenly there are others who suffered in the same way. Suddenly there are people who understand and believe. In fact, there were many. Just read the comments in this series. See how many people went through the same kinds of things. They are amazed and greatly blessed to read a story like Meg’s because it helps them to find the way back to themselves.

    So, as Ryan said, let her tell her story her way. If you don’t like to read it, don’t. If you don’t believe it, that’s okay. The rest of us do believe because we have been through the system. We have seen the abuse, the twisting of identity that Gothardism causes. I have suffered it first-hand and I have worked with many people who have. There is nothing unbelievable in Meg’s story to me. Sadly, I have heard almost all of it before. And I am very happy for her and for others that there is a place to share.

    • DAVID PIGG January 23, 2014 Reply

      Bill Gothard did worse than morally compromise some of his means in order to attain a twisted and pagan centered paternalistic ideal...He constantly oppressed people outside of those fallen ideals to gratify some fallen deprved trait inside him,for decades.Victims are thrown under a labyrinth of self endowed,self justifying cruel heartless denials by a master manipulator.When words like salivating come up in the comment,though there could be some out there with an attitude of seeing these things like a carnival,it could only help discredit the cries of the oppressed,squelched far too long by the suppressor.

  13. Tangent January 24, 2014 Reply

    Dave, I agree. There could be people who come to this site ignorant that they themselves are being groomed in the same way Meg experienced, and have their eyes opened to see what is going on before their life is further messed up. Or maybe one "onlooker" will recognize that a friend is going through similar grooming, and be alerted to warn her because of an article like this. Please , Katherine, don't be condemning of those who read on this website. It serves the vital purpose of opening eyes to recognize how Satan can appear as an "Angel of Light".

  14. Pingback : Sacred Grooming, Part Three: A Secretary's Account of Life With Bill Gothard | Recovering Grace

  15. Kathy Jefferies January 25, 2014 Reply

    Nancy, God bless you for saying that! I was an ATI Mom and I alienated my brother and two sisters with my self-righteousness and judgemental attitude. I recently told them that I had discovered that I had been duped by Bill Gothard and the "ATI Way of Life"and asked them to forgive me for how I had treated them. I was amazed that they did not go into a long litany of the things I did and the attitudes I had toward them that had hurt them. They just said, "of course we forgive you, we love you!"

    • Nancy January 25, 2014 Reply

      Kathy Jeffers that is all I want. I will go one further. I don't want to pry in those areas they hold private. They owe me no explanation. I don't need to hear anything they do not wish to share. I just miss the laughter and tea parties with my loved one and her children. We use to have such wonderful times.

    • Nancy January 26, 2014 Reply

      I'm sorry, I just looked up and realized Kathy your last name is Jefferies not Jeffers. I need to be more careful.

  16. Pingback : Sacred Grooming, Part Four: A Secretary’s Account of Life With Bill Gothard | Recovering Grace

  17. Cindy January 27, 2014 Reply

    Meg, Thank you for digging all of this up. It had to be hard. I hope you found healing through it. I hope you found great freedom in posting this.

  18. Kathy Jefferies January 27, 2014 Reply

    Nancy, I'm going to pray for your loved one specifically. May God restore your friendship.

  19. Pingback : Sacred Grooming, Part Five: A Secretary's Account of Life With Bill Gothard | Recovering Grace

  20. Pingback : Sacred Grooming, Part Six: A Secretary's Account of Life With Bill Gothard | Recovering Grace

  21. Pingback : Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Five, Unmask the Predators | Homeschoolers Anonymous

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