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The GOTHARD Files: 1983 Transcript
We believe that God confirmed to us, through this transcript, that the approach we were arriving at independently of this material was a correct one: Bill Gothard’s misconduct must be exposed in order for people to pay attention to his errant theology.
By the end of the transcript, the people involved seemed to formalize some revealing conclusions:
- Bill Gothard has long abused his authority, his people, and Scripture itself.
- His life is an expression of his beliefs and theology.
- He is a deceiver when his own misconduct is involved, and he is disqualified as a minister.
The transcript also confirms that sometimes trying to exercise accountability in a private manner allows evil to hide and thrive—hence Recovering Grace’s firm stance on proclaiming truth.
What follows is a series of excerpts from that transcript of a 1983 conference call among individuals discussing how to hold Bill Gothard accountable for his actions leading up to and during the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC) scandal and cover-up. To put the timing of the call in context, it took place three years after the scandal of 1980, and only one year or less before the inaugural year of the Advanced Training Institute of America (ATIA).
Some names are omitted for protection and privacy, and sections of the transcript about logistics and methods of communication are omitted in order to improve readability. We have highlighted specific sections within the document to help the reader see that over thirty years ago Gothard had already chosen to lead a lifestyle contrary to his own teachings and in opposition to the Word he says he proclaims. Those attempting to address the situation faced greater challenges than Recovering Grace does today, but we have much in common.
The following conference telephone call took place between approximately 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. (Portland, Oregon, time) on Tuesday, November 1, 1983. Those involved in the discussion were: [former IBYC staffer “Rebecca”], Mr. Larne Gabriel, Mrs. Ruth Gabriel, Reverend Richard Hagenbaugh, Dr. Earl Radmacher, and Dr. Gary Smalley.
Dr. Earl Radmacher: …I am Earl Radmacher, and I’ve been at Western Seminary here for 22 years now. I serve as President and professor of systematic theology. And probably as much as 18 years ago, I began to raise questions about the teaching that was being given at that time—the same kinds of questions that Phil Hook raised at Wheaton College at the time that Bill [Gothard] started the ministry. He said at that time that the whole “chain of command” philosophy was unbiblical, and it ought not [to] be encouraged. However, they went ahead with it. Sam Schultz, who went on the Board then (the initial Board) said the same thing in 1980 after the explosion took place and in his report to the Board said it was an unbiblical approach to Scripture.
Well, my belief—my strong belief—is that a person acts the way they act because they think the way they think deeply. One of the reasons that the things happened as they happened was because of the basic philosophy of the teaching that was ingrained into it from many years back. So I, after 1980, began to check out some things with Bill; and I tried to give it the best interpretation possible. [Two individuals] and Bill and I met together at Holiday Inn, and I raised a number of questions that I had. I seemed to be satisfied when I heard his explanations. I’ve since learned that his explanations always seem to answer the questions that you had. So I pretty much left it alone.
Then sometime later, one of our faculty members who was responsible for coordinating the Portland IBYC, namely [Portland volunteer] called me. He said, “I think you ought to listen to the other side.” And I said, “Well… I don’t quite understand that because I have been listening to the side that you were coming from in support of Bill and you were the one that previously was arguing against that and now you’re telling me I ought to listen to the other side.” I said, “Who do you want me to listen to?” He said, “Well, why don’t you listen to [a specific IBYC secretary]?” And I said, “I’d be delighted to.” [The secretary] came in here and we talked for—or rather, she talked for about two hours and I listened. And I felt that this just couldn’t be left alone—that somebody needed to look into it. She said, “Well, nobody bothers to ask the staff what happened and check it out. They all go to Bill and ask him what happened, and they’re then satisfied.”
So since that time, I then began to work with Gerald Wiebe and Tony… And then Gary [Smalley] is aware of some of those conversations. More recently, I’ve become intensively involved with checking out with various staff members. I called Chuck Lynch and John Goodell and Bill Wood and Sam Schultz and on down the line. The more I check into it, the more questions I have concerning three things that a group of pastors brought up in a resolution of nonsupport of Bill—namely, the abuse of the Scripture (the misinterpretation of the Scripture), abuse of spiritual authority, and moral impropriety. [Emphasis added] When we finally said those things in a pastors’ seminar here, they unanimously drew up a resolution including those things as their concerns. Bill very quickly responded to that statement and wanted to get together again and talk these things over. I said to Bill, “I really don’t want to talk to you anymore without somebody else listening in because I just cannot have confidence in the kind of things you say.” So from that time on, we have been seeking to put together our case; but we really need to have something more than rumors for what we do.
Most of the people I talk to on the staff would say: We appreciate the fact that some Christian leader in America is willing to not simply listen to Bill, but to listen to the other staff as well. And then they would also suggest to me that: Frankly, we think you ought to leave it alone because you’re going to get hurt in the process. Well, that latter doesn’t bother me that much. I think what is really important is truth. As I told Bill when he said, “How would you like me to tell 20,000 pastors that you’ve told me to close down IBYC,”—or the Advanced pastors’ Seminar, I believe it was, I said, “Well, I can’t tell you that, Bill. Only God can tell you that. But what I can tell you is that, in my estimation, you do not fill the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3. You’re not a blameless man, and you ought to step out of the ministry.” So that’s, you know, summarizing many hundreds of hours of conversations and research into it. I really personally have nothing to gain from it at all except a certain sense of moral responsibility to my brethren in Christ and accountability to God for that. So that’s kind of where I’m coming from…
Rev. Richard Hagenbaugh: My name is Rich Hagenbaugh, and I pastor a Conservative Baptist church here in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Radmacher and I have been friends for some time—probably 15 years. We did not realize at the time that our CB Pastors’ Fellowship drafted this resolution, but the two of us had been doing research separately in the Institute and some of the problems in the Institute. After those meetings, we began to compare notes and realized that we had already dug out some of the same information. Many of the contacts since that time—which was April of last year, April of ’82—many of the contacts that we have made, we have made together; or we have made separately and always briefed one another… So since April of ’82, we have pooled our energies and have attempted to work on the thing together primarily because we concluded at a point in time that if we were going to accomplish anything with regard to the Institute, it was going to have to be accomplished from the grassroot, pastoral level. The big names in America weren’t going to be able to pull it off. If we had enough pastors who would say, “We don’t want to support the Institute any longer,” then we would have some pressure put upon Bill that could cause him to make some changes…
Dr. Radmacher: Maybe there are some questions, Ruth or [“Rebecca”], that you would like to ask of me or Rich.
Ruth Gabriel: My most basic question would be: What is your purpose and plan? I don’t know how to say that more clearly. Is your desire to correct the wrongs so the Institute can go on more successfully? Is it to set the Institute down permanently? Is it to force Bill into a temporary retirement? I’m not real clear on what your goal is.
Dr. Radmacher: … I don’t think that any one individual could take upon himself the task of cleaning up the material. I remember speaking to—is it Melvin Upchurch in Chicago? …He really becomes so terribly depressed when he even tries to deal with the material now from this side, seeing how much of it really was apparently unfaithful to the Word of God, that he doesn’t even want to deal with it. So I don’t think that I my task or desire is to be the one that straightens out all of the material.
I think that what needs to happen, first of all, is to be faithful to 1 Timothy, chapter 3, which clearly gives the qualifications for a man who is going to lead in ministry. This is what I have told Bill—that you are not one who fills the qualifications of what the Bible lays down for a man of God in ministry. Now, where it goes from there, I cannot say. It may be that God will be pleased to bring Bill to repentance, if that is necessary, and hopefully to restoration and reconciliation. That would be delightful, if that is God’s will. But, frankly, we are still searching; and we cannot say what will happen until we know more about what the situation really is.
…I don’t think anybody has a spirit of revenge or vindictiveness or that kind of thing. I think we all feel that if he could be—if the things that he has done that are wrong could be righted and he could make restitution wherein that is necessary, respond to discipline wherein that is necessary, then that would be a good track on which to run. I think that’s one thing that we simply have to know more about before anyone could say what could be done there.
Then, my greater concern is the hermeneutical problem with the Institute material, which I think is terribly unbiblical in its basic philosophy. Scripture does not teach anything like “chain of command.” Some of us tried to tell Bill that from the beginning; and now finally when he sees what has happened, he is now seeking to make presentations which (my latest information) is called now, “Exceptions to Chain of Command.” That says to me that he is realizing either strong pressure to make some changes or biblical conviction to make some changes, for what reason I’m not altogether sure because I cannot get a straight statement from him.
For example, Bill told me—or told [another individual], who told me—that Charles Ryrie had gone over all of his materials and that he approved them hermeneutically. I called Charles Ryrie; and he has seen hardly any of his materials. About all that he has seen is the divorce materials and the Romans materials. Then he was called by Bill and asked to go to the presentation in Dallas several weeks ago where he presented the talk on “Exceptions to Chain of Command.” That was an hour and a half long. Charles Ryrie told me he went to that; and, at that point, he had not even reported back to Bill what his responses were to it and yet Bill had said that he had approved everything he had said. Well, that’s a blatant lie. There have been too many of those lies that have been told so that I cannot really trust the man in what he says anymore. Somebody’s got to get to the bottom of this thing and, hopefully, bring sufficient pressure that discipline will be administered in a quiet way.
It doesn’t have to explode before the whole Christian community. Because if it does explode publicly, everybody that names the Name of Christ is going to be hurt by it.
“Rebecca”: Gary, the last time we talked, you were not sure whether or not you felt impressed of the Lord to be involved in this. Have you made a decision?
Gary Smalley: Well, it’s just that Earl and I talked last time. Then, of course, talking to Bill since I’ve talked to Earl —I’ve talked to Bill three or four times since then. It does get real “elusive” to know exactly what to do, although I kind of am at the place where—even though it’s not the application to that—but in Luke 18 when the little widow lady goes before the judge who doesn’t like God or man, she keeps getting in line because eventually she wears him out. I believe that eventually God could do something in Bill’s life. I don’t know that this is the right time. It looks good, but I don’t know. He does seem to be open to things, but things had bogged down to some degree in trying to figure out what to do. So this is new again—fresh again. I’m just sort of listening to see where we are in all this because it seems when Earl and I talked last time, it was sort of his desire that Bill was going to talk to each of the girls and I was going to be on the phone. But that didn’t work out.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Why didn’t it work out, Gary?
Gary Smalley: Well, it primarily didn’t work out because there was a hesitation on the part of the girls to talk to him.
Ruth Gabriel: Well, Gary, I did talk to him.
Gary Smalley: Right.
Ruth Gabriel: And my question after talking to him would be—to you: Do you think that he can sincerely say he was in ignorance of all those things he said to me even though he admits to having said them?
Gary Smalley: No, if you’re asking me personally and I give my own personal opinion, I do not believe that he can forget those things because I do know his memory.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Is that what he’s saying now, Ruthie?
Ruth Gabriel: Oh, no, he didn’t say he forgets. In fact, he had an amazingly clear memory.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Oh, okay.
Ruth Gabriel: What I was concerned about was he puts a totally different interpretation on all of his actions for nine years than I do; and I was asking Gary if Gary believes that Bill could have done the things that he did and now claims that his motives were entirely innocent. Do you believe that, Gary? Because you said you feel he has at this point an openness, you said, to change. I am asking you based on what he said to me and what I’ve already shared with you, do you believe that he is reflecting a spirit of truthfulness?
Gary Smalley: I don’t know that I can say that he does so on everything. I can say that he knows if he was on the phone tonight, I would be challenging him… he said that he never had any immoral motives, that he had pure motives, and that his desire was to take care of Ruthie as her father away from home. Yet I have documents in my own material which I reminded him of, so I can say these things that he admitted to me that he had some very fond affection for Ruthie. He liked her. So I said to him that I didn’t like him telling me on the phone that his only action with her was because it was a fatherly kind of thing. I said, “Bill—” Well, of course, we talked about—I don’t know how much you’re going to say tonight or whatever about his involvement with you. I said I didn’t appreciate it because I said that it doesn’t add up to me. But then he can say, well, whether it adds up to me or not, this is what he says. To prove him wrong, as you know, would be really difficult.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Oh. Because, see, we have been accused of attempting to close down the seminar and that is not—that is certainly not Dr. Radmacher’s purpose and it’s not my purpose. We never intended that… My main concern was to bring Bill Gothard to some kind of accountability. The medical profession has a way to bring their people into accountability. The law profession has a way to bring attorneys into accountability. And what I saw was … problems going on in the Institute, and there was no accountability for Bill Gothard. Dr. Schultz made it very clear that he was not even accountable to his own Board of Trustees. We felt at a point in time that somebody had to stand up and speak and say, “Here’s a minister who needs to be held accountable, and he’s not accountable.”
That problem of accountability together with the hermeneutic—or lack of accountability together with the hermeneutic—leads into a multitude of other areas. I have people in my church who are willing to throw the church right out the window in order to follow the Guru, and the Guru doesn’t qualify because of his actions. We felt that somehow or another somebody had to attempt to bring some accountability to that. I think that that word, “accountability,” is a good word to identify what my purpose is in this whole business—that I’m not acting any differently at this point than I would if it was a fellow Conservative Baptist pastor down the street from me. I would attempt to bring him to the same kind of accountability.
Dr. Radmacher: Rich, let me add into that the basis upon which I came to the pastors’ seminar and brought these things to their attention. I had been reading Hebrews 13:17: “Obey those that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. For they have the watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you.” I wanted to share with the pastors: Do you understand what it means that God has given you the responsibility for the watch of the souls of those people that are under your charge? Paul took that so seriously that when he spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said that “for three years, night and day, I warned you about the wolves on the outside who would seek to devour the flock and those from the inside who would seek to draw away disciples after themselves.”
It’s a very scary thing to realize what a closed situation Bill has developed. It was—I think I would be within bounds in saying this concerning my conversation with [a different single staff woman]. After we had described what had happened and she had agreed with it, I said, “How could you at 34 years of age—a Christian since you were six, grown up in a Bible church—allow to happen to you what happened there?” She said, “Well, it isn’t until I’ve gotten out of the system and I look back into it again that I see the double standards, number one, that we lived under and, number two, the things that we were taught in the Institute that are really not true to the Word of God.” She said, “Now that I’m outside of it, I can see it more clearly. But being in there, I did not see it so clearly.”
That to me is the scary thing about the cultic mentality that exists within the Institute, and I think that one can understand that when you see the “chain of command” is something from the top down rather than the bottom up. I said that to Bill that “You didn’t get that out of the Bible. You might have gotten it out of the military. But you sure didn’t get it out of the Bible.” Because in the Bible, it’s just exactly the opposite. A husband doesn’t submit his wife. A wife voluntarily submits herself. And that’s a whole different mindset than what has developed in the Institute… We’re not talking about some innocent thing. We’re talking about a very, very serious misuse of the Word of God and misuse of people and abuse of spiritual authority. Somehow, that kind of thing has to be stopped.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: And if you think that we’re wrong, that’s why we have you here. We need counsel at this point from you. If you can help us in our thinking—especially if we’ve got wrong impressions or we’ve got wrong information—then we need to know that. Now, it just so happens that I’ve been through the Basic Seminar five times. I’ve been through the Advanced Seminar three times, and I’ve been through numerous of the pastors’ seminars. So, so far as the doctrine is concerned, I can speak to that myself; but as far as the people are concerned, if you think we’re barking up the wrong tree, then we need to know that.
Larne Gabriel: …I think that from our impression of Bill, he still sees himself or is trying to present himself as the innocent person. He blamed what happened in the last three years on his Board, father—of course, the major events of prior to three years ago on [his brother] Steve. He blames a lot of what happened on Gary and Tony and the people that were trying to take his ministry away from him; but he still does not consider himself accountable for what went on. Then in the case of some of the things he did with Ruth, we became specific in some of his [word indistinguishable] against us. He would not acknowledge them or try to, as Ruth said earlier, come up with other excuses that Ruth misunderstood how he was treating her. He has no memory lapse. He brought up things that happened eight, nine, ten years ago. He said, “Well, I remember driving down this road and going by this house.”
Ruth Gabriel: Oh, by the way, let me introduce one point and that is—when Larne said that Bill blamed these different groups, he is very elusive. He doesn’t name names. I say that, Gary, so you know he doesn’t name you specifically. He just blames the people that were trying to bring him to accountability three years ago. He feels that they’re at fault. He says the Board forced him to send a letter to 20,000 pastors—not the Board, but the people were controlling him and were trying to take his ministry away from him. Bill says at this point that (without referring to you, Dr. Radmacher, by name) you are trying to exploit Larne and I. We told him that we haven’t been exploited since we left the Institute. He needn’t worry about us ever being exploited. We talk to who we talk to when we want to talk to them. But he still wants us to understand that he feels like we only have heard one side of the picture and that we don’t know all of your motives and things because you are trying to exploit us by talking to us. That he did say. “Exploit” was his word… Well, I haven’t had any problem there. I haven’t had any problem with what Bill has said to me. I put no weight in that at all—any more than I put weight in the fact that what happened at the Institute wasn’t his fault. I can see far more clearly than he gives me credit for perhaps. But … we don’t clearly see what can be done to stop Bill. We are asking, “Do you have an effective strategy to solve this problem or are we all just groping in the dark together?”
Dr. Radmacher: One thing we know for sure. Have you seen the 16 changes that have taken place?
Ruth Gabriel: I just got them in the mail—Larne and I did last week.
Dr. Radmacher: Okay. Those would never have taken place had not the pressure been put on Bill.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: And Bill would have never called you, Ruthie.
Ruth Gabriel: Never.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: —had this pressure not been put on.
Ruth Gabriel: He told me he didn’t want—He said, “I’m sure you don’t want to talk to me, and I didn’t want to talk to you.”
Ruth Gabriel: But I have a question. What type of a statement are you looking for from us? [“Rebecca”]? This is something that [“Rebecca”] and I talked about a great deal and that is–we wonder if what you need is statements from the girls. You got statements– well, you probably could get statements from Gary, statements from Bill Wood, statements from the various spiritual leaders that worked with him. We were just secretaries.
“Rebecca”: Do you know why people—the motive behind that? The people being afraid to use their names? Do you understand the thinking behind that?
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yes… I understand what you’re saying; and I understand, to some extent, where you’ve been and what you’ve been through. I guess what I’ve been trying to do in the last year is attempt to communicate to the people involved that Dr. Radmacher and I are a little bit different. I don’t know whether I’ve succeeded in that. But I do understand some of the reasoning as to why you don’t want your name used.
Dr. Radmacher: You see, here, let me throw another thing in here. I have every reason to have nothing to do with this. It’s probably taking about 25 percent of my time right now, and for the last—since April—I’ve been under doctor’s care and if you can hear my voice right now, you’ll be able to discern that I’ve got nodules on my vocal cords that are giving me trouble. So I really have no personal interest at all in it. But it just seems to me that from the time that [Portland volunteer] called me and said, “Why doesn’t somebody listen to the other side?”… from that time, I went contrary to what I would like to feel and that is, my feeling would be: Hey, leave it alone! But it seems to me that we’ve got too many people in the world today and in America today who are leaving alone things that are wrong.
It’s time that somebody rises up and does that which is right if we expect God to bring any blessing on this land and on our Church. I think we’re facing some really desperate situations. And I think the situation that Bill has developed whereby, if anybody says anything against him, then he whips out a favorite verse like, “Don’t listen to a talebearer”; so he has developed a closed system where nobody can ever get to him through the system that he has developed.
Gary Smalley: For fear of lawsuits.
Dr. Radmacher: For fear of lawsuits, yeah. That’s what Bill said to me. The first thing he said when he got the report, he said, “Well, (to my secretary he said) you know if IBYC gets hurt in this, Western Seminary is going to get hurt right along with it.”
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Well, and besides that, he has already activated his attorneys; and they have communicated on two occasions to Bill Wood’s attorney. I have that correspondence in my file. They have, between the lines, pure and simply, they have, between the lines, threatened Bill Wood and Dr. Radmacher and me concerning this “conspiracy” against the Institute in the Northwest. So that is a real possibility, and we realize that.
Dr. Radmacher: And Ruthie, I’m not really concerned about what Bill’s interpretation is or anybody else’s interpretation.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Facts are facts.
Dr. Radmacher: Because that’s the same thing I hear when people read the Bible; and they say, “Well, that’s your interpretation.” The fact of the matter is: What are the facts?
“Rebecca”: In the last three years when people have wanted information, it’s become a battle of vocabulary. Everyone uses the same words, but they have different definitions. Let’s say someone did write a letter for them— someone that all the girls had confided in—and in the letter they said, “Bill was inappropriate with the girls, but not as inappropriate as Steve.” Well, and I used this illustration with Gary. If a letter like that is written, it says to the world, “Yes, there was a pigpen. Yes, Bill Gothard was in the pigpen; but he was wearing boots.”… The question: Why was Bill in the pigpen?… Okay. In the issue of Bill’s impropriety, it goes back to years of control and manipulation and brainwashing. It’s a distortion of Scripture. But if that information is given out that Bill did so and so with Girl 1, so and so with Girl 2, the impropriety isn’t the issue because it’s a small indiscretion; but it’s serious in what it represents in the way he thinks. I think that because we can see things blown out of proportion or out of focus that we’re real cautious when people want to talk to “THE GIRLS.” … Because there hasn’t been anyone who’s been able to convey to the world what really happened and why it happened.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: [“Rebecca”] You’re saying exactly what we have concluded. You’re articulating it a little bit differently; but, see, we have concluded on this end that the primary, the major, and the basic problem is a hermeneutic problem. Okay? But we have realized at the same time that we cannot get people’s attention with hermeneutics. People don’t care about hermeneutics, for the most part, even though in some way or another their theology comes out of their hermeneutic no matter how bad or good it may be.
Dr. Radmacher: And their life comes out of their theology.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Their life comes out of their theology. The only way we think we can get the attention—see, we went to a pastors’ conference. We talked about hermeneutics. No response. One small word of immorality, and the whole place came unglued. We can’t—we’re not going to be able to get their attention with hermeneutics or with philosophy or what went on over that long period of time that you’re talking about. Somewhere along the way, we’re going to have to say to them, “Look, there is a pigpen, and Gothard was in it.” And once we have communicated that, then they will say, “Well, what else is wrong?”
Gary Smalley: Or why did he get there?
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Or how did he get there? And then we can say, “Here’s how he got there.” And then we’ll be able to come down to the basic problem. We understand that all of the immoral issue involved is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the hermeneutic. But we’re not going to be able to get people’s attention with hermeneutics. And so when you say that the product was the result of long years of brainwashing and manipulation and philosophy and all of that, we understand that; but most of the Christian community who is so committed to Bill Gothard is not going to look at that as being significant.
Dr. Radmacher: Well, that’s what [staff woman mentioned earlier] was trying to say to me as well, Rich, when she explained how she got where she got.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yes, right.
Dr. Radmacher: But when you think of the perversity—
Rev. Hagenbaugh: She basically ended up (if I recall)—she basically ended up almost justifying what she did based on “chain of command.”
Dr. Radmacher: That’s right.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: And that became the theology. And as long as she assumed that she was being submitted to authority over her, she could justify doing anything she did. When she stepped back and took a look at the thing, she realized the fallacy of that.
Dr. Radmacher: We’ve got to get away from this terminology that is so vague—the one that Bill likes to use so much is “defrauded,” which nobody understands what it means.
Ruth Gabriel: Because it means so many different things.
Dr. Radmacher: Yeah. Or when we talk about “inappropriate behavior.” …However, when [former staff woman] says that Bill came in to her room at 11 o’clock at night, knocked on the door, was not invited in, did come in; and she was in her nightgown and he caressed her and fondled her, then those words begin to turn lights on to people.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: They take meaning on.
Dr. Radmacher: You know, he can say in the seminar out there that he’s never kissed a girl. But what [else] has he done…privately? Now. What I’m trying to be is very specific. You can—Bill is great at playing word games.
Ruth Gabriel: What I question—I can back up some of those things. I can say, “He came to my door and knocked on my door at 10, 10:30 at night.” I can prove it by witnesses. I can prove it by the girl who lived across the hall that would hear him knocking. I can prove it by the fact that I used to complain to her that I’d have to lock my door because I didn’t want him coming in my apartment at night when I was on my way to bed, but the question is … about [former staff woman] giving you a statement?
Dr. Radmacher: I think that [former staff woman] was a little fearful as to “What am I going to get into here?” Everybody is scared stiff.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: … She may be willing to do more if some of the other people involved were involved—were willing to do more.
Ruth Gabriel: … We are exposing ourselves.
“Rebecca”: … I think that people tend to assume that Bill’s impropriety was limited to the girls that Steve was involved with, but it wasn’t.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Oh, I don’t assume that.
Ruth Gabriel: We have to include the men too —the men that were involved emotionally for approval and control.
Dr. Radmacher: Well, we can—we’ve got, I think, ample contacts from that. For example, Dr. Schultz (who was 15 years there from ’65 to ’80)—when I read his statement back to him again—I said, “Do you still stand by this?” He said, “I certainly do.” I said, “Do you think I’m on the right track in pursuing this?” He said, “I really do, and I’m grateful for it.” So he’s got his statement in ten pages there of what he sees as a Board Member of Bill.
Gary Smalley: Have you talked to Ed Brown, another ex-Board Member that was on the Board for—I don’t know.
Dr. Radmacher: Sam Schultz suggested—He’s the vice president of the University of Indiana, right?
Gary Smalley: I would highly suggest that. We spent a couple days with him last summer and many hours on the phone with him; and he was anxious at the time to pursue this matter other than by lawsuit. I think he’d be a real good contact, and I think you might be able to get something out of him as you say you can out of Sam Schultz.
Dr. Radmacher: Well, as I say, those are not hard to come by. Chuck Lynch will make a statement. Sam Schultz will make a statement. John Goodell will make a statement. Bill Wood will make a statement. We’ve got men that will make statements.
“Rebecca”: Like [yet another staff woman]—some of the girls that were flown up north, but didn’t stay up there but went back home. But I think that, in this, if you approach some of the people because they’ve left, but they’ve not dealt with what they believe, they don’t know that they’ve been deceived.
Gary Smalley: Can I interject a thing here? …Rich, when you said that one of your purposes was to increase the accountability and so on, I think just knowing him what years I knew him (and Larne and Ruth may be able to say this too) I believe he’s at the place now where he is feeling the pressure of accountability so that he does, in fact, I think, want to do whatever—see, the pressure is on him so he’s going to do some things that he doesn’t want to do… The things that are coming to my mind during this conversation is that I believe that we already have evidence—a significant amount of evidence—to show that he’s not qualified as a pastor, as a minister from I Timothy 3. I think that’s one thing right there, and the comments of [“Rebecca”] and Ruth and [former staff woman] and [another former staff woman] and so on would put specifics down there of what actually happened. Now, we wouldn’t use the word “inappropriate.” We’d say, “Here are the facts.” But knowing him—he will want to respond to each of the girls… He’ll want to say, “[Tell] me immediately what can I do to clear my conscience with [“Rebecca”], Ruth, and anybody.” He’ll want to do that.
That’s one issue; but then the other issue that still doesn’t seem to be how to solve that—I not sure how to deal with it —is whether or not he is qualified. And what he said to me—he said, like Scripture says, “If a man continues in these things, then he is to be rebuked in front of all. He’s not qualified.” He said, “I have [stopped] these things—I did three years ago,” he said (four, whatever it was now). And he said, “I think that I am not doing those things anymore. I am not controlling people.” (Which I don’t have any evidence he is.) And so, there is that issue of whether he continues in this kind of thing.
I do feel that this very conversation right here does give a lot of hope, having you and Earl involved in this —of course, it’s at a different level than we’ve ever had before. We have contacted—actually picked the phone up and called Ryrie and Schultz and so on (which we never really had before), so that there is pressure on him. He will want to respond to the girls, but the issue still in my mind is what to do about the qualification thing. So there’s where I think it comes to the girls—would they be willing to put some things in writing? I don’t think we’d have to have a lot [of] things; but of the things that I’ve already heard, they are enough to indict him. And I’ve told him that. I said, “Bill, these are serious things you’ve done here.” And he said, “Well, I don’t know what’s so serious about these things. I was dating her.”
Ruth Gabriel: He says he was dating me on the one hand. On the other hand, he said he was only treating me like a father.
Gary Smalley: No, he told me, Ruthie, that he was dating you.
Ruth Gabriel: Yes, but see, Gary, when it comes right down to it, that’s why I can’t trust his word.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: When it comes right down to it, he’s a liar.
Gary Smalley: Well, yeah.
Ruth Gabriel: On the phone he says that he was only treating me like a father and that I had asked for a fourth level friendship.
Gary Smalley: Boy, I know he said those things to me too. But he still admitted to me—and I have that in my mind vividly—
“Rebecca”: You know, there’s something in me, Ruth, that says—you know—if we each take our little hidden thing with Bill (what he would call “hidden sin”) and we each wrote a letter—well, one, even if we don’t write the letter, he has a memory too. He has to know what he did with each one.
Gary Smalley: Right.
“Rebecca”: So he doesn’t need a Gary Smalley to tell him so he’ll admit it.
Gary Smalley: But I asked him, [“Rebecca”], if he would admit to me what he did. He said, “I don’t have anything to admit.”
Dr. Radmacher: You see, Ruthie, even what you started to say before very specifically about Bill coming to your door at night and wanting to come in at night when you were on your way to bed, et cetera, et cetera, those kinds of things are very specific. And then, [“Rebecca”], what you began to say about his first secretary—I gathered from that that you were saying there were some real questions there too… So, we’ve got to get specifics because the man is doing what he’s doing because he’s thinking what he’s thinking.
Ruth Gabriel: “Rebecca” was saying she wondered if there wouldn’t be value in making a group statement—saying everybody put their statements together. Either saying this happened to me or I saw this happen, and then everybody signing their name at the end so specific incidents could not be tied to specific people. But the statement would be signed.
Gary Smalley: Right. See, that motivates him.
“Rebecca”: See, we cannot protect ourselves from Bill because, in that, he must remember what he did if he sat down and thought about it long enough. But in inviting curious outsiders to come and ask questions that are none of their business or expose ourselves to an area battle that really isn’t something for us to get into, in that area we need some protection.
Ruth Gabriel: And there are lots of people that could sign on that type of thing. For example, [yet again, another staff woman]. She could back me up, for example, on Bill knocking on my door at night. She can say, “I heard Bill out in the hall, knocking on one of the secretaries’ doors at night. I know this is something he did.” Another person could say, “I saw him holding his secretary’s hand.” And I know, for example, I went to [staff man] and I spent hours and hours and hours telling [staff man] of the struggle I was going through because Bill expected me to be a girlfriend. I felt like he monitored my activities. When I was interested in any other fellow—my almost exact words, … I said, “… I feel like I have to ask my boyfriend for permission to date.” I said, “This is ridiculous, and I’m just being torn apart by it…”
“Rebecca”: Part of that—it might show the consistency of Bill’s way of living the single life.… You know, like he said, “This is the way I’m single. I don’t date. I live at home. I make $400 a month…” The way he lived the single life, it made it sound like, “If you bite the bullet long enough, the desire and need goes away.” Because he bit the bullet, and it’s gone away. Well, that’s what he was saying. But in the meantime, he was knocking on someone’s bedroom door and having another secretary sit on his lap and having another one come in the office and [word undistinguishable] the way he wrote material. And so there are examples of that. But if you just use one girl and what happened there, that’s small. But if you put the years of the way he just lived out that—
Dr. Radmacher: This is a lifestyle.
“Rebecca”: That’s the word—the lifestyle. That’s what I was groping for. Then that shows the seriousness of the philosophy. But that he knocked at one girl’s door one night, well, that was a weak moment in fifty years of good life.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Uh huh.
Gary Smalley: That’s a good point, [“Rebecca”].
Ruth Gabriel: Gary, for example, do you think that Norma [Smalley, Gary’s wife] could verbalize—I remember some of the [word indistinguishable] that he had. For example, the fact that Bill disapproved of her wearing her hair short instead of long.
Ruth Gabriel: …I talked to the girls weekly for a year nearly from the time I left until that Christmas when my card ran out; and it was tremendously healing. I know that one of the reasons I healed so quickly is because I could reach out — there were other people I could talk to, and there were people who understood…I confronted him [Bill Gothard] with the specifics—the very, very specifics, for many years the specifics—when he talked to me about marriage. And marriage was point-blank—we talked about marriage.
Gary Smalley: Right.
Ruth Gabriel: And he denies that he said what he said. He puts a different construction on it. He says, “I was talking hypothetically.” He teaches in the seminar that when you talk to a woman about marriage, you’ve got to be pretty serious.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yeah.
Ruth Gabriel: Now he tells me that he didn’t mean it the way I took it. And he says, “Yes, I remember saying those things. I did say them; but I had no idea that you took them that way.” I was—he didn’t say “hypothetical,” but that was his intention. “I was hypothetical. I wasn’t meaning it specifically YOU.” And yet he was talking specifically. And so the thing is, if he wouldn’t even admit what I could tell him almost verbatim because those are living memories that will never probably go away—I will always remember—then, if he’ll deny that thing, what good do[es] it do for him to make the contact? These girls are not going to want to sit down and bare their souls to help Bill out.
Gary Smalley: Yeah.
Ruth Gabriel: He hasn’t—after talking to him, I have less reason to trust in him than before.
Gary Smalley: Yeah. I know.
Ruth Gabriel: He would have been better off never to have said to me that he admitted saying all those things, but he didn’t mean them. He would have been better off never to have admitted saying them.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Uh huh.
Ruth Gabriel: Or, remembering, then to say, “Yes, I remember; but I didn’t mean it.” It makes him look like a—it made me furious. It made me mad days later when I realized he’d say, “Yes, I did those things; but I didn’t mean them.”
Dr. Radmacher: One thing that’s got to be really emphasized in that is clear statements and specificity… Specificity. It can’t be this thing like “defrauding” or “inappropriate.” I mean, it’s got to be like a court case—a factual thing. This is what happened and describe it.
Ruth Gabriel: No emotions. Just facts.
Dr. Radmacher: Yeah, just get right down to the facts. You know, “I sat on his lap in my room in my nightgown”—or whatever. And what he did or what he didn’t do. Those kind of things are not interpretive then.
Larne Gabriel: …I think Bill realized he cannot sue his ex-staff as a whole. He just—the publicity just wouldn’t get him anywhere.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Well, if he sues any Christian, the publicity’s not going to get him anywhere.
Larne Gabriel: No, but if he sues—if you go after him, he has a reason. I mean it’s one Christian leader against another Christian leader. But if he goes after a bunch of nobodies—you know—people that worked for him and gave years of their lives to him, he’s got a problem.
Ruth Gabriel: And that if this is a group front—I mean, a group effort by former staff—I don’t feel like we can go wrong anyway because it’s going to do good for the former staff in some way … And I told Bill, I said, “Bill, I asked you these questions when we talked on the phone because God has called everyone of us to try the spirits and Scripture says that I have the right to judge you by the fruit of your life. ”
…I don’t feel called of God to do anything to strengthen a ministry that I feel at this time is invalid. I do not feel called of God. So, if my whole purpose is to help Bill correct his ministry, I can’t say that I feel called of God to do that. I do not. I feel called of God to let the world know in a decisive way that they must start opening their eyes and looking at organizations. … We want this to be an opportunity to instruct the Christian world in how to detect cultish attitudes — how to protect themselves and their children from the insidious, but subtle things we did. How can they learn from this? We want it to be a learning experience for the world, not to strengthen the Institute. Not that we don’t want to see Bill repent and change, but just that we don’t want to see Bill just become more crafty by learning from this experience.
Dr. Radmacher: Ruthie, this takes us right back to the beginning where we started; and you have expressed beautifully the question you asked me to start with. As far as I can see, you have stated as clearly as one could state that which we have in mind in answer to the question you first asked: What do you want to do?
Rev. Hagenbaugh: We have even referred to the concept that in the line of the prophets or along with the motivation of the prophets, our concern has been to send out a cry to the world that they must investigate … they must look at what it is they listen to and what it is they involve themselves in.
Dr. Radmacher: Let me say a couple more words about some of the many calls and contacts I’ve had from pastors. A pastor just a couple days ago called from New Orleans and says, “You know, I’ve seen something wrong in this thing; and I can’t put my finger on it. But I know there’s something wrong about it, and I’ve been told that you would be able to help me out in this.” That same kind of a call comes from around the country…
Another guy who is a coordinator … [with ties to] LaGrange Bible Church when the Gothard family came in there. He’s known Bill all his life. And he said, “You know, I keep going through pastors’ seminar after pastors’ seminar; and I keep hearing things that I know are not true to the Word of God.” And he said, “Finally, with this resolution we’ve got the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” He wrote me again after that and wanted some more information. But frankly, I’ve got a stack of letters here that need to be answered; and I haven’t got the time to do it. But there are many people—this past couple of weeks ago, the pastor of the Highland Community Church in Renton, which has been a strong supporter (half the people in that church have gone to the Institute)—and two years ago, the whole staff had questions about the Institute and the things that were being taught and they raised questions about it. Then they asked me if I’d meet with the Board of Elders of the church here a couple of weeks ago—which I did. Now they have put out a letter to their church that they frankly can no longer recommend the Institute.
Now, there are pastors all over America that when I question them and say, “Well, didn’t you read the news release of 1980?” “Well, yes, I read that.” “Well, didn’t you take it seriously?” “Well, no, not really.” “Well, why didn’t you? You know, what are you doing as one who is supposed to be protecting the flock?”… And we’ve got pastors all over America that are derelict in their duty for protecting the people that God has given them the charge over.
“Rebecca”: …Larne’s idea of a letter is excellent because it says two things—you’re holding Bill accountable according to Scripture and the other is, people are asking you—pastors—and you, in turn, are turning around and giving documented information to them for them to make an intelligent decision. And I feel like—for the girls—that they need to know that there are people who are seriously asking —who actually have a following. And they are responsible for that flock, and they are making a decision one way or the other. And that, should we write such a letter (or document something), that we make a statement of why we’re doing it. That it is our testimony. It isn’t “let’s get out and crucify Bill.” But “this is what happened to us. This is why it happened. Why it happened. These are the facts. The hope in Christ after that.”
Dr. Radmacher: There’s one problem that comes to my mind in this latter suggestion, and that is—this group of pastors—95 pastors at Rippling River where I delivered my soul with regard to this—we hadn’t any more than gotten out of that meeting than Bill was on the phone.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yeah, my next question was: What do you all think is going to be the reaction of Bill when he learns of this procedure. And certainly, he will. When he finds out that the girls are beginning to [issue] statements … what do you think is going to be his reaction?
Ruth Gabriel: I think Gary can answer that best.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yeah.
Gary Smalley: I think he’ll be on the phone to everyone of them immediately.
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yeah, I’m not interested in putting any more stress on anybody than needs to be. And the thing I’m asking myself is: Once this thing gets out, how much stress is that going to put on some of these girls or people who are involved?
Larne Gabriel: Well, Bill might get his checkbook out when he starts calling again.
Gary Smalley: Well, you know, there is another real practical thing. [“Rebecca”], are you still on the phone?
“Rebecca”: Uh huh.
Gary Smalley: You know that I’m supposed to get back to him about you…in other words I really don’t want to talk to him right now—
Rev. Hagenbaugh: Yeah, he’ll nail you down on this.
Gary Smalley: Yeah, he’s good at—he’ll ask me a lot of things, and I don’t want to say them. And when I hesitate, that creates curiosity. And so—but he wanted me to call him back as soon as I could as to whether you would be willing to talk with him. But at this point, it’s not really—
Ruth Gabriel: Before I forget, [Gary], You’re going to be the weak link only because you have to talk to Bill. We don’t.
Gary Smalley: Yeah, and I’m not real excited about talking to him right now… But you know what’s going to happen? He’s going to pick that up in my voice.
Larne Gabriel: Well, Gary, you need to be strong with Bill.
Gary Smalley: Well, yeah, I know. But, you know what he’s like. In other words, here’s what happens. I can say things straight out to him, but he reads stuff in and what he does—he gets his own offensive—it’s offensive, too—but offensive work going and he’ll start calling people. Like he wasn’t supposed to call you.
Ruth Gabriel: Oh, I know. He did anyway.
Gary Smalley: The two of us agreed he would not call you, but he called you.
“Rebecca”: Gary, Just so that you feel some real healthy pressure, I am serious about you not interpreting anything I’ve said to Bill.
Gary Smalley: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
“Rebecca”: It’s very important to me that one day I get my hearing face to face with him.
Gary Smalley: …He would have called you today; but I said, “No, I don’t want you to.”
“Rebecca”: Gary, if he’d wanted to call me, he would have called…
Gary Smalley: Yeah. I mean, he was willing that day—He said, “Let’s pick up the phone and let’s do it right now.”
“Rebecca”: No. He’s wasn’t willing, or he would have hung up and called like he called Ruth. He lied to you, Gary.
Ruth Gabriel: Gary, I think he does. Gary, he leads you around because he’s not sincere with—he doesn’t come across a bit sincere to me. And I don’t know where you pick up the sincerity.
Gary Smalley: I don’t pick up necessarily true sincerity. I’m just telling you that he is—he’ll get going on his own if he picks up any wind of anything.
Ruth Gabriel: Okay. Well, every girl I talk to or write to—I will swear them to secrecy. And you can be sure that it won’t go any further, and they’ll understand when I write them why we don’t want it discussed at this point until we have a very decisive plan of action.
*** [Conclusion of Tape #5. Farewells.]
Editor’s note: Even in the face of intense and protracted struggle, we still have a responsibility to communicate truth and grace. Recovering Grace is proud to pick up the torch first carried by our sisters and brothers in Christ.
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