Bill Gothard was the founder of the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts in 1961, renamed the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) in 1989. Although the organization reached its peak between 1970 and 2000, Bill’s influence is still strong in many fundamentalist circles. Additionally, some of his teachings have found acceptance in the broader evangelical community, specifically his teachings on authority, spiritual gifts, and male/female relationships. For detailed discussion of Bill Gothard and his ministry, we highly recommend the book A Matter of Basic Principles
, available from Amazon
. For a shorter overview of the problematic nature of Bill Gothard’s theology, see the article entitled A Call for Discernment.
The Advanced Training Institute is a homeschooling branch of IBLP that was founded in 1984. Families in ATI center their curriculum around “Wisdom Booklets” and other materials written and published by Gothard and IBLP. ATI families are typically extremely conservative and often have large numbers of children.
While it is true that in some cases Bill Gothard has influenced people for good, the truth is that the damage his organization has caused far outweighs any good. That being said, our focus is not to attack a person, but to expose an ideology for the trap that it is. The term “attacking” presupposes hurtful motives. The motives of RG have been consistent from the beginning: we seek Biblical accountability for behavior that has had negative impacts on individuals as well as the entire Body of Christ. Our goal is redemption, not retribution. We desire healing, not hurt.
The accounts we share are not intended as “slander,” or even as “evil reports.” These are “reports of evil” that have been covered up for far too long. While many of the serious accusations will have an element of “he-said/she-said,” we believe that the evidence and the testimony of “two or three witnesses” shows that, at a minimum, Bill Gothard is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” of behavior inappropriate for one who claims a “higher standard” as a minister of the gospel.
Please know that the Recovering Grace team anguishes over each of these articles and has fervent discussions on what to publish and what not to publish. We would ask that you pray for us to have wisdom concerning how to approach these very serious accusations.
“Bitterness” and “anger” are common terms used in the ATI and IBLP worlds to dismiss those who would bring any concern forward. Ephesians 4:6 teaches us to “be angry yet without sin.” Any anger we communicate is anger at the sin and how it has damaged individuals, families, and churches the world over. The RG team consistently and carefully examines our motives to ensure that they are are pure in bringing these stories to the church for accountability. You will have to decide for yourself if we have met this standard.t.
There are indeed elements of truth in the principles that Gothard teaches, but he has so interwoven these biblical principles with legalistic rules and regulations that it is nearly impossible to separate the good from the bad. We believe that it is better to avoid Gothard’s teachings altogether, and to find the “baby” somewhere else.
Recovering Grace does not believe our issues with Bill Gothard are the type that Christ is speaking to in Matthew 18. Our issues are primarily doctrinal, as they pertain to what we believe are faulty interpretations of Scripture–and the effects of such–rather than personal offenses by Bill Gothard against us. As any person who has spent time browsing our site will notice, we firmly believe that Gothard teaches a definition of grace and a view of sanctification that misses the heart of the gospel and of the New Testament. This leads to many negative consequences of which we seek to warn others. For our complete stance on Matthew 18, please read this article.
It is indeed true that the Grace of God is freely given, that we should forgive Bill Gothard for his sins (Matthew 6:12), and that “love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).” However, Scripture also commands us to “expose sin (Ephesians 5:11).”
The Bible is full of commandments to publicly rebuke sin:
- “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3
- “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” 1 Timothy 5:20
- “…correct, rebuke and encourage…” 2 Timothy 4:2
Bill Gothard has exhibited a 40-year pattern of refusing accountability for his sinful behavior, and, as we have previously stated, public accountability is the final step in the Matthew 18 process.
As we have documented on our site, there have been many attempts to do just this in the past. Bill Gothard has not only resisted these attempts, but, like the Old Testament kings, has “stoned and run off the prophets God has sent him.” In light of the increased public stories of moral failures among contemporary church leaders, we believe that greater damage is done to the Kingdom of God as the church fails to hold its members accountable, and we pray that our site will be a testimony to the world that Christians will not continue to turn a blind eye to sin in its ranks.
The Recovering Grace Leadership team consists of nearly two dozen pastors, lawyers, teachers, professors, accountants, office managers, business leaders, and stay-at-home parents. Most share a common background of being raised as children in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. Likewise, most have attended Bill Gothard’s seminars and have served within the IBLP organization in some way. In addition to this leadership team, there are many others who volunteer in tasks such as writing and editing stories, answering emails, and providing advice, and counsel recommendations in support of the overall effort.
It’s important to note that not everyone associated with RG is anonymous. The ATI world is small, and although a person may be anonymous to someone outside of ATI/IBLP, they are not necessarily anonymous within it. For example, many of the girls who have shared their stories are not anonymous in the ATI world, and several have courageously posted their picture with their story. While the RG Leadership Team understands that our anonymity may cause some to doubt the validity of our stories, we feel that this factor is outweighed by the distraction that would develop from our identities becoming the story. The story is about how errant theology led to sinful behavior, which led to systemic leadership failure at IBLP, leading to the disqualification of Bill Gothard as a minister of the gospel. We would like to leave it up to the reader to decide if we have made this case or not, based on the evidence and without the distraction of the personalities involved behind the scenes. It has been well documented that Bill Gothard likes to shift blame for sin away from himself and onto his people. Gothard has intimidated and punished those who would hold him accountable while presenting a public image of humility and brokenness. It has become clear over the years that there is personal risk involved in holding Bill Gothard accountable for sinful behavior, and there are countless stories spanning decades of people who have been cruelly and harshly dealt with for even minor perceptions of “disloyalty” to him. One common tactic Gothard uses is to find some detail about a person and use that to silence and distract attention away from himself. Many examples of this have been observed firsthand by members of the RG leadership team, and, because of this, we have taken the approach we have.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been utilizing the Advanced Training Institute homeschooling curriculum with their family for over 15 years. Many of the ideas and beliefs shared on their program originated with the teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles.