Statement from Recovering Grace regarding the lawsuit against Bill Gothard and IBLP

28 March 2018, 01:30




Dear Recovering Grace Reader,

On February 26, 2018, the former plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles released the following joint statement:

Due to the unique complexities of this case, including the statutes of limitation, we have made the difficult decision to voluntarily dismiss our lawsuit against Bill Gothard and The Institute in Basic Life Principles. We want to make it abundantly clear that by dismissing our lawsuit at this time, we are not recanting our experiences or dismissing the incalculable damage that we believe Gothard has done by his actions and certain teachings. Nor are we disregarding that his organization chose to protect themselves instead of those under their care.

Shortly after the release of this statement, Bill Gothard went on a verbal offensive against the former plaintiffs and against Recovering Grace, releasing statements through both his Facebook page and a website run by a self-described paid member of his legal team. One of these statements exposes private medical and deeply personal family information about a former plaintiff who released a personal statement after the case was dropped—information gleaned by Gothard’s legal team as part of the discovery phase of the lawsuit and by Gothard personally during counseling sessions with the plaintiff several years earlier.

In the wake of the lawsuit dismissal, we have received reports that Bill Gothard and his team have attempted multiple contacts with former plaintiffs, their family members, and their friends in order to pursue “reconciliation” on his terms. There are also reports that he has threatened further legal action against the plaintiffs if they refuse to meet with him and if they continue to speak out. Additionally, the aforementioned self-described member of Gothard’s legal team has contacted Recovering Grace, hinting at legal action if we post or share anything else on our Facebook page and, presumably, on our website.

When Recovering Grace began in 2011, we did so with a desire to expose the destructive effects of the teachings of Bill Gothard and the organizations he founded, that generations of former followers might find understanding, hope, and healing. At our launch, we focused on posting theological articles and personal narratives from various writers who represented a unique “insider’s view” on these teachings and their effects. Openly publishing the substance of countless conversations among those affected has given all of us the opportunity to contemplate how those teachings—and their attempted implementation—have continued to affect our thinking, our relationships, and our lives.

In 2012, Recovering Grace began receiving reports of alleged misconduct by Bill Gothard himself, including allegations of unwelcome physical contact, misconduct in private counseling, and failure to report abuse of minors. In order to warn others, we eventually posted narratives by several individuals who alleged experiencing these behaviors firsthand and were willing to speak publicly of what happened to them. We were aided in this endeavor by a previous generation of Gothard employees, volunteers, and followers, whose documentation demonstrated the ongoing nature of these patterns through the turbulent early years of these ministries. In June 2013, we published a public letter to Bill Gothard calling him to repentance, and in February 2014, we posted a call for Gothard’s resignation from Christian ministry.

On Thursday, February 27, 2014, World magazine broke the news that the IBLP board of directors had placed Bill Gothard on administrative leave while they undertook a review of the allegations against him. Though their internal investigation failed to reach out to most of the individuals who had published accounts on Recovering Grace, the IBLP board issued a statement in June 2014 stating, “Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach.” They concluded, “At this time the Board unanimously agrees that Mr. Gothard is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry.” It is worth noting that IBLP resisted repeated requests from both legal teams that worked for the plaintiffs to disclose the results of their internal investigation.

In late 2014 through 2016 our publishing slowly tapered off. There were, and continue to be, many personal stories to tell and many teachings to dissect, but there are now many other venues for these stories and discussions. And so, in light of Gothard’s removal from the IBLP organization, IBLP’s stated promise to reevaluate his teachings, and the robust discussion of these issues facilitated in many settings, our team of volunteers went on a hiatus from publishing new content. Several of our team members also took time to focus on the business of life: cross-country moves, major career changes, callings to other areas of ministry, and even the births of children. While our team has  continued to answer e-mails and maintain a Facebook presence, and although the website has remained open for discussions among readers in the article comment sections, we have not been otherwise engaged publicly.

In 2015, several former ATI students filed a lawsuit that soon encompassed IBLP, Bill Gothard, and specific former IBLP staffers. Some of the plaintiffs had published parts of their stories through Recovering Grace, some were known to us but had chosen not to publish, and others were previously unknown to us. Recovering Grace had no financial interest or investment, and no formal involvement in the lawsuit, although some of us have been privileged to privately talk with, cry with, and cheer for the plaintiffs, and to provide moral support as fellow survivors. The plaintiffs and their lawyers were in control of every aspect of their case, and we hold a deep admiration and respect for their efforts to advocate for themselves and for other survivors.

In late February 2018, we were told that, despite the merits of the case, the plaintiff’s attorneys had suggested that they discontinue their suit due to a couple of factors:

  • Even with a win in court, the emotional toll the next several months or years would take on their personal lives would be a lot from which to recover.
  • The attorneys worked for the plaintiffs on contingency, and it was becoming apparent that, with mounting statute of limitations issues, a threatened countersuit from Gothard, and very little expected in monetary damages to cover legal expenses, it would be difficult to continue.

After a few weeks of heart-wrenching consideration, the plaintiffs agreed to drop the case with the option to re-file within the next year if they so choose. We at Recovering Grace applaud the plaintiffs for their courage in fighting this battle in a human court of law, and we acknowledge that justice is now in the hands of a higher court.

After all that has transpired, we stand by our mission to aid others in the process of healing from the destructive effects of Gothard’s teachings, and we stand alongside all survivors of spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. We are heartened to see so many former Gothard students, volunteers, staffers, and followers find their voices through blogs, interviews, and discussion forums, and we appreciate those who have continued to reach out to us with their stories. We hope our website continues to serve as a resource to those seeking to understand and recover from the damaging effects of Bill Gothard’s teachings and systems, and we are grateful for the many readers who have joined us in shedding light on the issues and pointing hurting people to the reality of God’s grace and truth.

The Recovering Grace Team

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.


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