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Recovering Grace’s Response to IBLP Board Action
Dear Recovering Grace Reader,
On Thursday, February 27, at 9:20 p.m. EST, World magazine broke the news that the board of directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) has placed Bill Gothard on administrative leave while they undertake a review of the allegations we have published on our site in recent weeks. We received the news of this administrative leave when the story was released by the media, and we have taken our time in responding to the board’s statement so that we could do so in an informed, responsible, and grace-filled manner.
Over the past weeks our team has been in contact with a number of key individuals involved in the situation. We also expressed in a letter to the chairman of the board our willingness to dialogue with them directly about the issues that have been raised on our website, including the allegations of moral failure, abuse of spiritual authority, and mishandling of Scripture.
We understand that there are three very distinct parties which we need to address in our response:
TO MR. BILL GOTHARD:
• We are praying for you. Please know that in our heart of hearts we desire to see you repent for the sins that have damaged so many and find reconciliation with God. This has been our sincere daily prayer even as we’ve engaged in what must seem like nothing more than an attempt to destroy your life’s work. We are asking God to grant you the ability to truly listen to those whom you have offended, to repent, and to be restored in your relationship with the Lord.
• We long for you to experience the merciful one-way love and grace of a forgiving God. Scripture is clear that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from unrighteousness. You have spent 79 years of your life under the crushing burden of “principles” and “steps”—that which the Apostle Paul refers to as the “yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). We long that you would experience—perhaps for the first time—the weight of the depths of your sin, which no good works, “lessons learned,” or surface apologies can appease, followed by the grace God offers to those who need it most. This is the same grace that Jesus expressed in the words “neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11) and in the story of a long-suffering father who extravagantly celebrated the return of the son who had disowned him (Luke 15).
• We would encourage a public response and/or apology. It is our belief that more than anything else, the young ladies who have brought these allegations of sexual harassment against you desire validation that you’ve heard them and acknowledgement of the harm you have caused. Even if you believe that you are simply misunderstood, or that the intent behind your actions and behavior was harmless, what you did to these women over more than 40 years of ministry hurt them very deeply in a way that has lasted for many years. Likewise, the IBYC staff from the 1970s and 1980s deserves a public response for the way you caused damage and pain in their lives as you sacrificed the outpouring of their lives and reputations in an attempt to save your ministry. Please do not continue to remain silent on these matters, but put your own detailed teachings on how to ask forgiveness into action. Then and only then can you truly be ready to listen and understand the depth of hurt that has been caused.
TO THE IBLP BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
• We are your brothers and sisters in Christ, not your adversary. We are the “children” and fruit of this ministry. We are the ones upon whose lives the ATI and IBLP ministries grew to international prominence in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Because of this, we are qualified to speak to the damage that Mr. Gothard’s personal actions and many unscriptural teachings have caused, and we don’t want that damage to continue. It would encourage many to discover that you share our concerns. It is our sincere hope that we would all be looking in the same direction as we address these challenges.
• There is more at stake here than the survival of a ministry. In recent years, the world has watched as several high-profile Christian leaders and organizations have dealt with cases of sexual misconduct and/or spiritual abuse. In some cases, things were dealt with in an appropriate manner, and in other cases they were not. Because of this, the American church has developed a growing reputation for protecting abusers and organizations in order to “protect God’s reputation” at the expense of the victims. Regardless of the conclusions you reach in your investigation, we plead with you to make it very clear that IBLP does not—and will not ever—tolerate sexual abuse or harassment in any form, and that you will take all necessary steps to ensure that these young ladies are protected and cared for in a Christ-like manner. Please show the world that you value mercy and justice, grace and truth.
• This type of investigation requires transparency. We strongly believe that in situations where there are allegations of abuse in a religious organization, they should be handled by a professional and unbiased third party. Published reports indicate that there is an “internal investigation” taking place by IBLP legal counsel. An internal investigation, as opposed to an independent one, makes it difficult—if not impossible—for victims to come forward and share freely, as well as for the public to accept the results of the investigation as unbiased. There is much concern that an internal investigation will simply be a tool to sweep allegations under the rug. For these reasons, we feel it is imperative for the IBLP Board to bring in an independent third-party to serve as the investigator and/or conciliator of these matters—one who has experience in investigating allegations of sexual abuse within Christian environments.
TO OUR READERS:
• Recovering Grace is calling for a Day of Prayer. As we walk through this situation as brothers and sisters in Christ, it is easy to lose focus on our identity in Him. Ultimately He is in control of this situation, and we can rest in the assurance that He cares more for the wounded and abused that we can ever imagine. On Thursday, March 6, Recovering Grace is calling its readership to a day of prayer, seeking God on behalf of Bill Gothard, IBLP, Recovering Grace, and all involved in these difficult events. We encourage you to follow us on Twitter @RecoverGrace #RGDayOfPrayer as we send alerts every thirty minutes with specific items for prayer. We will also be updating our Facebook page throughout the day with prayer requests.
• Reach out to your family members. One of the incredible things that we’ve heard time and time again is that former ATI families have used this unique time to communicate with each other about issues that have been swept under the family rug for too long. Perhaps you are a parent who knows that your child feels hurt by their experiences in ATI. Use this opportunity to reach out and truly listen to them. Perhaps you are a former student who needs to reach out to your parents and siblings. Perhaps during your family’s time in ATI, you wounded a pastor or church leader as you left their church in anger over their “lower standards.” This would be a perfect opportunity to send them a short letter of apology. There will never be a better time to open these dialogues and bring about healing.
• Communicate with the IBLP board. We believe the board truly wants to hear from individuals and families who have been hurt and from others who have a vested interest in these matters being resolved biblically and in a Christ-honoring manner. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, Attn: IBLP Board of Directors. We would encourage you to share with them how your family was impacted by IBLP, and we would also encourage you to ask them to utilize a non-biased third party to investigate these issues.
As we have stated so many times before, our mission is to help people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, IBLP, and ATI. This mission has never changed. We are in a unique season of our work, but our goal remains to help people find the hope and healing that is only possible through the grace of God. We will continue to shine light on the darkness, and we will keep you updated on important developments related to these crucial issues. But our primary passion continues—helping others recover a life filled with the scandalous freedom and grace of Jesus.