Realization, Fear, and Action without Acquiescence: Joy Wood’s Story

13 March 2014, 06:00



Editor’s Note: Joy Wood, an IBYC staff wife from 1974–1980, tells in today’s post of her and her husband’s time with the Institute, and of their resignation when asked to promote “lies of omission” after the 1980 scandal broke. This narrative, combined with Joy’s reflections composed shortly after her family left IBYC, records a journey out of the fear-based environment that surrounded Institute staff, and into freedom.

Joy and her daughters, c. 1980

Joy and her daughters during the family's IBYC days.

Early IBYC Days

Almost every Sunday at Mariner’s Church there was talk about a seminar called The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts [IBYC]. My husband and I were not interested at first, but finally relented and joined other couples at Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles in April, 1971. This seminar was interesting, presenting ideas and stories about God’s design, spiritual gifts, principles of finance, character in marriage and family, and standing alone. We found it entertaining and convincing, but being a realist, my husband also visually estimated the head count and mentally calculated the total revenue paid by attendees to hear this six-day seminar.

Fast forward to 1973. My husband was now the head usher for the Los Angeles IBYC committee. He received praise for his organizational skills and how they impacted the success of crowd flow at the Long Beach Arena, where seminar attendance was estimated to be 10,000. Being integrated into the Headquarters staff was not our plan, but it happened. Traveling with the television crew was the next promotion. I was pregnant when we ventured up to Portland and Seattle. Assisting the local seminar committee was my job, while my husband, Bill Wood, worked with the TV crew and operated a camera. I worked with the volunteers who were parents of IBYC staff members, staff who would later be my friends and babysitters. Our volunteer relationship with IBYC continued until 1974.

In 1974, my husband became the Area Committee Coordinator (ACC) in Porland, in addition to becoming the traveling lead for approximately fifteen seminars. He went to part-time staff status with part-time pay. The execution of successful seminars led to further assignments for Bill. There was the recording production of the singing at the Men’s Advanced Seminar at UCLA, the inclusion in staff activities, and an increased travel schedule. His balancing a real estate job, being a father to twins, and assisting a dying parent was challenging to both of us. We decided to move to another state. After purchasing a home and experiencing the death of a parent, we packed to move to Idaho.

“How things work at the Institute”

Two weeks before the Los Angles Basic Seminar we were invited to move to Oak Brook, Illinois. William Gothard, Sr., and Bill Gothard, Jr., extended that invitation. We had a subsequent discussion with Steve Gothard, and were informed that staffers didn’t have televisions. We told him that we would be bringing our television and that we would also have a newspaper subscription. He agreed, but asked us not to advertise that we had a television.

The Wood twins visit with Joni Eareckson Tada. Joy Wood is in the red sweater. Northwoods, 1980

The Wood twins and others visit with Joni Eareckson Tada at Northwoods Conference Center, 1980. (Joy is in the red sweater.) 

Rerouting our goods and renting our our newly purchased home allowed us to enter full-time Christian work. Our twin girls were three years old. Since a home was not ready for us to occupy at Headquarters following the invitation by Bill and his father, and our presence was a surprise to the staff, we were housed with another family for a week. In one of my first conversations with our host staff wife she informed me that she spent only $19 a week on groceries for a family of four. Her story of this achievement was praised by Bill Gothard. She was hospitable, but I wondered how I would fit in. She was hoping for friendship between us and for our children to have playtime together, and I just wanted my own space.

It took me only a short time to recognize that the network of staffers, wives, and relatives at Headquarters served as information portals for Bill, Steve, and Mr. Gothard, Sr. This data collection network was confirmed through many examples.

My job was to purchase the groceries necessary to feed the staff at lunchtime. For a very small stipend, I reviewed the monthly menus, organized the products to be purchased, purchased them, and stocked the pantry. My interaction with the cook was at Steve Gothard’s direction. My husband and I had postponed an anniversary trip to Hawaii to accommodate our move to Illinois, and I was packing for this trip when I heard a knock on the door. It was a staff secretary’s mother, who worked out of a garage apartment on the shared property of our house. We had a familiar relationship, so I welcomed her in, not knowing what she wanted. After pleasantries were exchanged, she informed me that I did not know how things really worked at the Institute. She told me that I should not have eliminated the products that she and her husband provided to the staff kitchen. In the process of doing my job, I had eliminated some of the “previously standard items.” The woman informed me that her husband was the purveyor of these items. When I discussed this with Steve later, he laughed, and I wondered if I had been played. Obviously, I was unaware of all the history between Steve and the other parties, but subsequently that connection was made very clear. Needless to say, the flight out of Chicago was a relief. I was ready for Aloha, because in five months our third child would be born—though this was our secret at that time. The selection of my own doctor had been my decision, not a point of consultation.

Another incident, if not so wrong, could have been humorous. Bill Gothard’s nephews played basketball on the shared driveway of our house. One nephew worked on his vehicle that was stored in one of the garages. One day their grandfather, Mr. Gothard, Sr., asked if we would monitor the upstairs apartment over the garage, since the girlfriend of the young “mechanic” occasionally visited. That was a strange one! The basketball players were considerate, and even surprised our twins with a big gift for their fourth birthday, but the other nephew could be snarky, flipping us the bird when we asked him not to race his Corvette up or down the driveway. He was very quiet, but felt we had invaded his privacy by living in the house. We did not want to be his morality monitors.

A third incident occurred when my husband was traveling. Since my father lived in southern Illinois, I decided to go down to visit him. After discussing it with my husband, I left for a short trip with our three girls. I must have set off a silent alarm. Where was I? Why had I not told the Headquarters authorities? My husband was questioned. Caring was one thing, but scrutiny was another.

My husband traveled to seminars across the country and in Canada. He had wonderful support. The Headquarters secretaries, the truck drivers, the traveling staff, and the local committee members were our friends. We interacted frequently and enjoyed having them visit our home. Our three daughters were adored by them. The “single staff” was a group of dedicated, determined people. Even Bill Gothard spent many weekend evenings at our home. He frequently brought pie and stayed to play Uno, never leaving until he had won. He seemed to enjoy the interaction.

Oak Brook HQ_edited-1

Heritage Manor at IBYC Headquarters, 1980

After a while, though, it was not all jolly. Rumblings of jealousy reared when the singles spent too much time at our house. We were advised that the single girls needed to spend more time at Heritage Manor with their resident dorm parents. We obliged, but the red flags began popping up. The words, “You really do not know how things work at the Institute,” were echoing in my mind.

One thing that did seem to work was the admonition to be loyal. Loyalty was a buzzword during this time, and the attempt to impose absolute loyalty was not new. Prior to our arrival, the imposition of absolute loyalty was managed by having the staff members sign a Loyalty Oath. This exercise instilled fear in many staffers, especially those who had counseled with Bill.

Then, in April of 1980, it began.

The Scandal

My husband got a glimpse of real problems that had surfaced with the scandal. While he was transporting Bill Gothard to the Long Beach Arena for the Los Angeles IBYC seminar, my husband was told that there might not be an evening seminar. Bill expressed concern over how difficult it would be, trying to dismiss 10,000 attendees from that venue. The seminar was able to continue uninterrupted that week, but the surfacing morality issues abruptly punctured the façade of this model ministry.

Who? How many? How could this be true? All these questions and more flooded my brain. As the days followed, new female names were added to the list of “transgressors.” It was agonizing to recognize the manipulation and “defrauding” that had occurred to them and to us. It was further affirmation that I really did not know “how things worked at the Institute.” Rumors, conferences, meetings, and unbelievable allegations surfaced. Former staff men began filtering through the Headquarters. The Smalleys, Ed Martin, and Don Crossland were huddling. Don was a guest in our home. I remember Norma Smalley visiting me in between her conferences with the secretaries, and she commented on my weight loss. I am 5’9″ and weighed 118 pounds. Not only did all this upheaval take an emotional toll, it took a physical toll on me as well. Could these rumors be valid?

More meetings continued, with private interviews and required staff attendance, sometimes on very short notice. One such meeting occurred in early summer. We had taken our daughters to Great America theme park for a special treat. During the day, my husband Bill checked in with his secretary, Bev. He was told that a command performance meeting had been called for the leadership. We hurried home, arranged for a babysitter, and then rushed over to the Staff Center. People were milling around, filtering into the Bible study room.

I was on the balcony waiting for my husband. From my peripheral vision I recognized one of Bill Gothard’s sisters aggressively approaching me. She started shouting that I had no business being there since I was dressed in pants. (It’s not like I was in jeans, but we had just cut short a family day at an amusement park to hurry back for this meeting.) Who did I think I was, she demanded? It was a very loud, public, verbal assault that continued for several minutes. To rebut her I quoted 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” She retreated only after other staffers rescued me. She and I had never had much interaction up to that point, nor after that. It was uncanny that her reference point was me in pants rather than the impending gravity of the situation at hand, because it was so clear that her brothers had violated all trust of staff and alumni. The ministry needed a temple cleansing! Either it stopped all together, or it delayed for a while until this tyranny of sin was dealt with and there was true restoration.

Accusations flew at all the staff present. Charles Stanley’s finger was wagging at us as he reiterated how disloyal we were to Bill Gothard, and how we were going to cost Ronald Reagan and the Republicans the election. The Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention supported the flame throwers, as did John McLario, Bill’s new attorney. The accusations of  Bill Gothard’s sister toward me were just a warm-up act in comparison to the verbal assault we all experienced that night. Accusatory words like “rebellion” and “mutiny” were slung at us, and we were challenged to decide whether to stay or resign. It was clear that their preferred path was to sweep the facts under the rug; in fact, that had already happened. The long meeting ended and we left wounded, but not broken. This early incursion was only a battle in a prelude to war. More battles followed.

Other events unfolded, including a phone call with Bill Gothard. When he suggested that my husband lie by omission on an administrative matter, the clarity of the direction we had to take was crystal clear. That call was witnessed by Gary Smalley, Tony Guhr, and me. We knew we had to resign. And so we did, giving a ninety-day notice as had been requested by Mr. McLario. We could no longer represent this sham of righteousness. Being in a vulnerable position, we initiated exploratory exit plans.

Leaving Headquarters

Since our Idaho home was rented to a lawyer who did not want to move, facilitating this move would be challenging. We checked out a job in Hilton Head, Georgia, that did not work out, so we started looking out west. My husband’s secretary, Bev, was like a family member, and was so helpful in assisting us.

At that time, those with whom we associated on staff were at risk of being accused of “consorting with the enemy.” Strange things happened, and I wondered if our phone was tapped. To avoid detection, one staff member walked over to our house rather than drive. Bill’s niece knocked on the door to find out when we were vacating the house. Suddenly we were persona non grata. Ninety days aside, they wanted us out!

This was a real walk in faith. We had twins who were six and a daughter who had just turned two. I had a household to move, so I had an estate sale. We lived in a large house on Ogden Avenue (the house was later purchased by the State for the expansion of the freeway), and the sale piqued the locals’ curiosity. What an opportunity to sell things we would not need! It was hilarious at best, since garage sales were just not done. I invited all the staffers who also would be moving to bring over their wares. About half of the staff at that time had chosen the exit path. Cars lined up on Ogden Avenue just to come to the grounds of our house. It was a big success! I sold our Oldsmobile station wagon and our riding mower. My husband was pleased when he called from his trip to Washington, where he was working on a job connection. We laughed together and knew that somehow it was going to be fine. God is sovereign, and we were starting a new chapter. All of this was accomplished with the help of Bev and another staff member, Susan, and we remain so grateful for their assistance.

Bad news traveled fast. My husband and I were not the leak, but we were soon fielding calls asking about the scandal from reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Des Moines Register, the L.A. Times, and other publications. The IBYC seminar was feeling the impact of the departed staff, and from their stories getting out to churches and the public, despite best efforts to silence it. There was outrage towards us for speaking truthfully and for not continuing to cover up what we knew. What Bill Gothard did not know was that, unsolicited by us, two staffers called us regularly to check on the truthfulness of events whenever Bill shared in the daily staff Bible Study. He regularly reshaped the truth of what was still happening at the Northwoods retreat center in Michigan and at Headquarters. The cover-up continued by shuffling people and responsibilities.

I was trying to settle new first graders into school, enjoy our toddler, and prepare a new home for our family. My husband and I talked frequently about how to prevent others from being manipulated, sexually abused, and misled. (Those of you who want to blame the girls alone, you were not there. This was a complex situation.) We had tried to appeal to Bill Gothard, but that was met with deafening silence. Exhausted by following the steps of Matthew 18, the biblical appeal protocol, we finally had to treat him as a “heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17, KJV).

Our attempts to remedy the lies, the sex, and the destruction of lives was accelerated to a class action lawsuit. This was scary and intimidating. David was preparing to meet Goliath. The implications were grave. We could not walk away without trying to expose the cover-up. With virtually no funds, it began. My husband and I endured ridicule, lies, and threats, but we went where no one had gone before, and the cost to us personally was heavy.

We were “marked” according to Bill Gothard, and to that end we were in his sights. He was determined to destroy the opposition, and he kept his finger on the pulse of where we were in order to disrupt our lives. It was a very difficult time, but we never doubted that we had done the right thing. Immediately we were judged by many Christian friends and acquaintances as “the enemy.” How could anyone challenge Bill Gothard? It was so interesting to see people evaluate only us, rather than him.

[Editor’s Note: The following reflection was written by Joy after the Woods left Headquarters.]

Spring, 1983

Initially, I too was an enthusiastic individual who sought to be part of a cause which could change the country. That was the motive of accepting employment with The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. As a loyal staff wife, I believed in the message of the visionary. My commitment, along with that of my husband, was to serve this ministry and propagate the message of Christ. That was months ago now, and events have altered my life. But just today, in an orthodontist’s office, my mind reeled with recollections of times past in Oak Brook, Illinois. As I sat in the receptionist’s office waiting for my daughter, two ladies carried on an animated conversation about the most humble minister, one who speaks for hours about life principles. If I had not known this man and his message, it might have been interesting. But this was the visionary whom I had come to recognize as a deceiver.

In contemporary history, the events of IBYC are comparable to Watergate. John Erlichman relates how President Nixon acted entirely differently to each person in order to keep each one loyal to him. If doing business with the President led to unpleasant confrontation, there followed a freeze-out time, resulting in non-communication for several weeks. Then he reveled in revenge, but through subtle channels. The man definitely had “flat sides to his wheel.” The accusations sound overwhelming coming from a former staff wife, but. as I have come to know, those closest usually know their leaders best. That is why it is difficult for a leader to convey innocence when he gives approval and encourages a “spy network.”

I am no longer silent about my disillusionment with IBYC, because there is no more fear. My husband has resigned, and we have moved away from the confines of the Oak Brook headquarters, which once had seemed like the ultimate place to work. Fortunately, this is not Hitler’s Germany. I am recovering from having been trampled on, and from seeing my husband being used, then thrown out like rubbish when he would not acquiesce to Bill Gothard. The final blow is coming to realize that no one individual is beyond discarding when they bring up questions, or seek answers about certain business practices which are less than sterling. Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle fit. I see how many Bill and Joys have gone before us.

Because I seek to decrease others’ pain and I hope to prevent them from being added to the list of castaways, I have prepared a list of my complaints:

  • Absolute use of my husband for selfish, personal gain while undercutting his worth through the Administrative Vice President and Steve Gothard. They played as sheep, but were wolves.
  • Specific harassment from Bill Gothard’s family.
  • Continual disingenuousness and meddling in staff friendships in order to catalog information which could be convenient ammunition at a later date.

I suffer no illusions about how things remain at IBYC, but truth is unwavering. It is right, and not adjustable for shaping a legacy, Christian or political.

Scandal Aftermath

As time passed, the attendance of the seminars diminished. But then, a new revenue stream and a new “ministry” were unleashed in the form of the Advanced Training Instiute (ATI), Bill Gothard’s new homeschooling curriculum. That brings us to different verbiage, and different names, but the same recurring control and manipulation cloaked in spirituality. I do not have to go to YouTube to hear that same controlling voice again, and the same patterned responses—right down to the same facial expressions. This story has continued throughout the years.

Bill Gothard maintained control over many staffers and Christian leaders because of what he had learned about them through private admission or counseling. He held the catalog of sins. We did not counsel with Bill. We were and are very happy. We were respectful, but we managed to maintain our individuality.


Our first graders just turned forty, and our toddler is thirty-five. We have an auditor, an attorney and college professor, and an IT Analyst! Subjectively and objectively, they are the very best daughters. They attended public school and were taught to be salt and light in their environment. They are happy, productive, and successful—complete in Christ. They know that their parents were involved in a ministry that had problems. They remember a stream of wonderful house guests during their youth. It is for them that I even do this exercise of writing my experience in Christian service.

Through my experience I have learned that God’s love is not restricted by performance. He does not issue threats to try to destroy reputations. We hold no bitterness; God is sovereign. He is unchanging and always faithful.

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.


  1. Lauren March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thank you!
    "I suffer no illusions about how things remain at IBYC, but truth is unwavering. It is right, and not adjustable for shaping a legacy, Christian or political."

  2. A concerned friend March 13, 2014 Reply

    Slightly off topic, but here’s a thought that hit me the other day:

    Bill Gothard promised parents that by following “principles” and educating their children solely with “wisdom booklets,” they could guarantee that their children would turn out well.

    He drew heavily, of course, on the original “wisdom booklet” – the book of Proverbs.

    Interestingly, Proverbs was written as a father’s education to his son. The father was King Solomon. The son was Rehoboam.

    I Kings 12 describes how Rehoboam rejected wisdom in favor of imitating (and increasing) his father’s heavy-handed tyranny. As a result, he lost 10 of the 12 tribes and divided the kingdom.

    “Principles” were much less powerful in Rehoboam’s life than what he saw lived before him, while neither was an absolute influence on his own free will to choose. And if God-breathed principles couldn’t guarantee a good outcome for him, why does Bill Gothard think he can promise better?

    • janina March 27, 2014 Reply

      "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..."2 Tim.3:16-17

      We are saved by grace for good works. We are save by the blood of the lamb, but the law is our teacher, our guide for leaving. Without the law none of us would know what is sin, therefore without knowledge of Torah we would live in sin.

  3. David Pigg March 13, 2014 Reply

    "We were "marked" according to Bill Gothard and to that end we were in his sights.I don't have to go to you tube to hear the same "controlling voice and the same patterned response right down to the same facial expressions".It hurts Real bad to read of Charles Stanley's finger "wagging at us".AS Larne Gabriel reiterated the IBLP MACHINE took care of the major stuff.Don Crossland who I heard in 1978 was with Bill Gothard at that time,1974,had left,but I was not brave enough to ask him why.When you peel away this so called "good" fruit,"A lot of nice stuff came from Bill Gothard",you come to this rotten core,exploiting false,fallen, and pagan authority.TIME magazine had a favorable article on Gothard in the first part of 1974.I was at Asbury college back then,as a social work major,running track,not realizing some of the implications of being "submitted to authority",which would come later..You just don't get in the way of the megalomaniac and his empire.Thank you so much Joy for sharing this story.Your courage was awesome then and it is now.The empire is coming down while the Kingdom is coming back.Judgment must first come to the house of God,before it hits the world.From a kind and loving Father preparing the church for the Second Advent.

    • Marcie March 13, 2014 Reply

      "Judgment much first come to the house of God" is exactly what I have been thinking when I see all of these scandals. Wondering if I am being judged too...

    • Joy Wood March 14, 2014 Reply

      The "mark' was in reference to a letter we received after leaving. The purpose was to let us know that if we opposed that ministry we would be separate and experience consequences. Thank you for the comment on courage. Our Heavenly Father is faithful. He does not suspend gravity, because our lives are defined by the choices that we make, but He gracefully catches us and loves us as promised in His Word, not the red notebook.

      • Barbara Clingwald June 11, 2019 Reply

        Joy, I am glad you took the time to give this thoughtful account of your experience with IBYC. It was good to catch up with you two at the service for Sandi, very happy that your relationship with our Savior has grown and you are a trophy of his grace!

    • Suzi March 14, 2014 Reply

      I was also at Asbury college in 63 - 67...hadn't heard of bg then, but sadly enough, I encountered him and his teaching before long. And I am thankful to have been set free from the ensnarement ...I too thank you Joy for your honesty and courage in sharing. Each day and each story bring new hope that yet more deceived people will be set free.

  4. esbee March 13, 2014 Reply

    I learned a lot from reading your story about how to live a "Christian" life. TV is verboten and women may not wear pants but it is ok to judge, be immoral, flip the bird, lie, and watch every little move others make to ingratiate oneself to the leadership. No wonder atheists hate us. Too bad they do not understand the story Jesus told of the wheat and tares. He stated to let them grow together because in pulling out the weeds, the wheat would also be pulled out. That Jesus was going to separate them later on. But atheists see only the tares and judge the rest by that.

    Again, that sister pops us, wagging her finger, accusing and pronouncing judgement. Was it her son flipping the bird and racing his car? I wonder how his life turned out.

    Too bad that Joy was seen as a tare by the real tares who thought they were wheat.

    Matthew 13:24-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

    The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

    24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

    • joy wood March 17, 2014 Reply

      That son was her nephew.

    • L March 19, 2014 Reply

      Actually, as an atheist who was raised Christian and was in ATIA for several years, the fact that there are immoral Christians played only a minor role in my de-conversion. I find most Christians very ignorant when it comes to atheists and their reasons for lack of belief.

  5. David March 13, 2014 Reply

    Yep, sounds like a cult to me. Cults are not only about heretical doctrines -- which Bill does teach -- but cults are about the spirit of control.

    • Brumby March 13, 2014 Reply


  6. Larne Gabriel March 13, 2014 Reply


    Great stories and oh the memories:) The organization was latent with nepotism, shady deals, little empires and the little “black book” where everyone’s sins were kept. Then there were the rules, one set for the Gothards and one set for everyone else. Yesterday Joy’s husband told me I was getting more cynical in my posts, I think he is right. With every new story the underlying evil of Gothard's hypocritical actions keep showing their ugly head in new places.

    Joy thanks for sharing your heart and for opening your home to Ruth and I in the aftermath of the 1980. Your family has been true friends to all the ex-staff as we only seeking God’s grace and Gothard's repentance.

    Larne Gabriel

    • Joy Wood March 14, 2014 Reply

      Thank you Larne.

  7. P.L. March 13, 2014 Reply

    "It was so interesting to see people evaluate only us, rather than him."

    This! In my own situation of spiritual abuse, fellow church members picked apart my response to the abuse, while saying nothing about the abuse itself. Endless comments on whether or not I was appropriately forgiving while the abuser's claims of repentance went completely unexamined.

    • Joy Wood March 14, 2014 Reply

      Forgive them and move on from them. Your value was established by God.

      • P.L. March 14, 2014 Reply

        Thank you Joy!

    • Sally March 14, 2014 Reply

      Interesting it is the response of so many to judge the victim and not the perpetrator. Wonder if this is part of human nature, it just seems so common. I see things differently now and hope I continue to ask hard questions to discern truth.

      • P.L. March 14, 2014 Reply

        It still feels so very personal...but it is useful to me to understand that the blame-the-victim response is common to any organization refusing to deal with the sin of a leader. So it wasn't just that I was somehow easy to blame.

        I hope one of the long-term effects of the IBLP debacle and of the RG website will be a generation of people who in their own individual churches will refuse to permit abuse. I wish there had been someone in my church like that.

  8. David March 13, 2014 Reply

    Some readers may not have seen this. It was written over 3 years ago -- and focuses mostly on the lies and hypocrisy of Gothard. I especially like the part where Gothard denies that he teaches that wives need to submit to their husbands.

  9. Paul VA March 13, 2014 Reply

    I saw my counselor today. He is a very godly older man who is gospel saturated and has seen it all. He's familiar with Gothard and disgusted by IBLP.

    I think many of you, like me, suffered the double whammy of twisted Gothard teaching and an angry authoritarian home where you were not allowed a voice and were physically punished for the "rebellion" of questioning the system.

    My counselor said he sees 5 core needs that we have as social beings. They are:
    1) To be respected and to have people we can return respect to
    2) to be trusted and to have people we can return trust to
    3) to have significance and to have people we can return a sense of significance to
    4) to have power and to be able to safely yield power to others
    5) to have acceptance and to be able to give acceptance to others

    These are 5 things that I largely did not have in my ATIA home. They are basic to the human psyche. Our social worlds were shrunk down by fear based homeschooling that marked even our church youth groups off as danger zones and then left the dysfunctional family as our only space for human interaction. Many of us have sense found these basic relational goods in other Christian contexts and friendships. Some of us have felt they needed to go outside of the faith as the only safe place to get these things after the abuse of IBLP. My counselor pointed out that I probably carry a chronic low-grade depression with me and may for life because of the way I was deprived these things and had to go to war to fight for them.

    I read a book about sin and evil in seminary. It followed the progression of evil from its root in fear to its ultimate fulfillment which is sacrilege and blasphemy. How is sacrilege and blasphemy the ultimate evil? It destroys people's lives and soul and it uses icons and symbols of redemption to inflict the damage. The Nazis were evil for destroying the Jews but they were more evil for using the cross and the Bible as they did their work...the Jews ended up crushed and dehumanized and all the more alienated from the gospel because the symbols of redemption were used by their abuser. That is what Gothard did too. He used words like "grace" and "Jesus" but he used them in a way that destroyed. That left thousands in great pain and brokenness deprived of basic psychological needs but also in a place where they flinched and withdrew if the Bible and its language of grace and the cross is used. Drowning people who had been abused by the life preserver its no wonder many turned to the safer world of agnosticism, atheism or vague pluralistic feel-good spiritualism. I believe that God can redeem the symbols of redemption in the gospel for us...for some it will come easier than others.

    • David Pigg March 13, 2014 Reply


    • Brumby March 13, 2014 Reply

      @Paul VA: Thanks for taking time to share these thoughts.

  10. Shane March 13, 2014 Reply

    "It took me only a short time to recognize that the network of staffers, wives, and relatives at Headquarters served as information portals for Bill, Steve, and Mr. Gothard, Sr. This data collection network was confirmed through many examples."


    Thank you Joy for sharing your story and for suffering for the sake of the Kingdom. I appreciate your graciousness toward your enemies, but I gotta say I'm angry again at the corruption of the gospel and the abuse of people by Gothard. Thankful that God's grace does make sad things come untrue.

    Again, I'm praying for repentance, healing, and the collapse of all things IBLP.

  11. Betty March 13, 2014 Reply


    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really needed to hear you. Very helpful. Your words give courage. Very insightful.

    Thank you again, RG.

  12. average joe March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for your story Joy. Did by chance mean Hilton Head, SC (not GA)?

    • Joy Wood March 13, 2014 Reply

      Absolutely! I caught it too late.

  13. Andrew Harper March 13, 2014 Reply


    Thank you for sharing your story. I admire how strong you and your husband were - even in regular life at HQ. Having been in ATI, I saw many families who were not able to carve out their own space as you describe here.

  14. Marcie March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thank you so much Joy, for sharing your story.

  15. Julia Fetters March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Joy. Thank you so much for inviting us in for a view from the inside. And for your comment of how those of us who were not there would not fully understand why the girls kept quiet - that this was complex. I believe you. In the shock of this all I need to say I firmly believe it to be a cult we were part of for 11 years. It has taken about 5 more years to get the "cult" out of us. I was so happy to read of your thriving family. It was a blessing to read how you told them 'the tv stays'. We do not have a tv but it shows me that you and your husband expected to stay autonomous (normal). Choosing your own Dr. for delivery showed me that same thing. God bless you. You are an inspiration. Keep being real.

  16. david March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thanks, Paul. I find your analysis helpful. We have been in the ATI for some years now. Because of BG's teaching, we had problem finding a church that has a "good" youth group. That literally made us into "church hoppers".

  17. Rebecca March 13, 2014 Reply

    So, were you supposed to only use an "approved" doctor? I would be interested to hear more about these sisters of his, also. That kind of reaction because you were wearing PANTS? My goodness, the allusions to them I've read so far have not painted a picture of meek and submissive wives! The guy's family sounds like it was a disaster. How ironic.

    Side note, I have been reading J J Packer's book, "Knowing God". Last night, I told my husband that this made me think of RG. Packer talks about suffering and troubles and how very wrong it is to think that examining your life over and over to see 'what you did wrong' to deserve suffering, is trying to live in grinning, giggling immature babyhood forever and is very very damaging, since God uses suffering and trials to chasten his Beloved Children. Even our mistakes and sins, he uses. It was so reassuring, the way he writes it, but the first thing it made me think of were the stories of BG and his teachings on how things will turn out great if you do it all right and, if things don't turn out great, you messed up somewhere. What a heavy burden to bear! Incidentally, Packer immediately then defines grace and a proper understanding of it in this context. And his definition is nothing like BG's!

    My husband shudders everytime I tell him the stories on here. He can't stand it. I did not grow up in BG's world, thank goodness, but I went to the Basic seminar and knew several families who did or wanted to (I remember some sisters I knew regretfully telling some acquaintances who were in ATI how they weren't allowed to use the materials because their older sisters were in college.As a teen, I thought that was so weird. Now I understand. It was indeed weird!) My family did lean toward legalism, and I still struggle with the mindset. Thankfully, we are all pretty independent thinkers and never took part. I remember my brother, who was about 12 at the time and never shy to voice his opinion (he is now a successful businessman!) saying "how can a guy who is not married, and has no kids (he would always comically say "he doesn't have kids, right?"...not so funny now), tell a bunch of people to have 10 kids and how to be married?"

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope more and more people come to understand the truth and are freed!

    • Joy Wood March 14, 2014 Reply

      There were several doctors who attended the needs of staff. I just considered my medical business my own, and so I looked for a local one who worked out great with me. Another good book is Authentic Christianity by Ray Steadman.

    • Sally March 14, 2014 Reply

      Its interesting, I never knew Bill had family or sisters or a brother, I tried to google them and not one picture shows up. They must have a way to keep them off the world wide web. That takes clout I would surmise.

  18. kevin March 13, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is really good to have the perspective of someone who was on staff in the 70s up to the scandal. I think it is great the way that you stood up to him; refusing to go along with the herd and get rid of your TV and making a stand when he asked you to tell a falsehood. Where would he be now if more people had shown the strength to stand up tp him?

  19. kevin March 13, 2014 Reply

    I wanted to give credit to HSLDA for removing their link to ATI from their website. I had emailed them asking them to remove it and had hoped that others were doing the same. I see now that it is down.
    I would encourage everyone to also check with your regional homeschool associations and, if they have a link to ATI or IBLP, encourage them to remove their link. It is irresponsible for any organization to be actively directing their members to these organizations.

    • Mark R March 14, 2014 Reply

      I looked at the website for the Texas Home School Coalition and it does not list ATI. Whether this is because they took it down in response to concerns, or that it never was there in the first place, I do not know. But in any event they won't be steering people to Gothard rotgut.

  20. kevin March 14, 2014 Reply

    It is really something the way the sister chewed you out publicly over wearing pants. Wow! I recall in Meg's story how she got in Meg's face and was so mean spirited and blamed her for her brother's sins. She sounds like a real gem of a woman.

    So, we have the man who has never been married, who places himself as the earthly authority on all things marriage.

    He has never had children, yet he places himself as the ultimate authority on all issues regarding raising children.

    The members of the family display horrible character and morals. And here is that same family, running an organization that is all about....... character and morals! Amazing!

    What is becoming more and more clear is that Gothard is a master salesman; the snake oil and charlatan variety, but a master salesman, nonetheless. I am certain that he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and have them coming away from the deal believing that they had just acquired something new and amazing that would transform their world in unbelievable ways.

    • Sad March 14, 2014 Reply

      First and foremost, for Joy - thank you for coming forward with your story. Regardless of how long ago these events happened, it serves as a reminder how flawed the foundations of IBLP are.

      Second, in regards to Kevin's comments about the "Sister"- there is definitely a peculiar dynamic at work there, as evidenced in Joy's story and elsewhere on this site. With the insular nature of the Gothard family, I doubt we will ever know the reason why.

      Sad stuff, all the way around. What a terrible way to live.

    • gina March 18, 2014 Reply

      "What is becoming more and more clear is that Gothard is a master salesman; the snake oil and charlatan variety, but a master salesman, nonetheless. I am certain that he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and have them coming away from the deal believing that they had just acquired something new and amazing that would transform their world in unbelievable ways."

      I remember reading one of Bill's favorite books when I was a teen. It was presented to us in the context of evangelism, but it's making a lot more sense now in view of his teaching, organization, and life: "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling" by Frank Bettger. Topics include:
      • The power of enthusiasm
      • How to conquer fear
      • The key word for turning a skeptical client into an enthusiastic buyer
      • The quickest way to win confidence
      • Seven golden rules for closing a sale

  21. greg r March 14, 2014 Reply

    What is becoming more and more clear is that Gothard is a master salesman

    Absolutely, and while totally inflexible in the areas that matter most (I'm sorry, I'm wrong...) he is masterfully flexible in whatever it takes to keep the machine...I mean 'ministry'...going. Knows how to reinvent himself and his kingdom as needed and where needed. Has intuition as to what is going to sell, and what used to, but won't anymore.

  22. Headless Horseman March 14, 2014 Reply

    "Bill Gothard maintained control over many staffers and Christian leaders because of what he had learned about them through private admission or counseling. He held the catalog of sins."

    And here we've been wondering why certain individuals and Christian leaders keep defending Gothard, regardless of the evidence. Can anyone say, "Blackmail"?

  23. Renea March 14, 2014 Reply

    So did anything happen to Bill because of all this? ( May be this question was answered. I'm tired and have been reading for hours. Lol). I went to one seminar in 1987. Went into the parking lot and cried my eyes out from fear, condemnation and confusion. Didn't study all the materials I received because I had the same reaction. A few years later I came across the character sketch book at a counseling office and read about how Tamar was responsible for her rape! That did it! I refused to believe in Gothards teaching. In fact I said, I refuse to live my life by 'The World According to Gothard'. (Anyone remember or heard of the movie with Robin Williams ' the World according to Garp" that was popular then?). Also, was shocked to read Charles Stanley was involved. Anyone know if there's been a change?

  24. Renea March 14, 2014 Reply

    Something else I noticed about all this. The apostle Paul spent three years in desert learning straight from the Lord and received so much revelations that The Lord gave him a thorn in the side to keep him humble. I'm wondering why he never received all the 'principles' that Gothard received if they were Gods best and only way to live. I hardly believe God forgot to tell Paul and had to makeup for His mistake by giving them to Bill instead.

  25. Tomi March 15, 2014 Reply

    Joy, I’ve been in tears all morning as I read through your honest and exposing article. Thank you, dear one, for having the courage. We were involved in a similar cult (“shepherding” and counseling that led to control)in the late 70’s and early 80’s that resembles what you experienced. During that time, we were introduced to the Gothard seminars and attended several. We have seen so many broken lives from this kind of deception. I hope that BG is put out to pasture and will remain there.
    We embrace your final comment: “Through my experience I have learned that God’s love is not restricted by performance. He does not issue threats to try to destroy reputations. We hold no bitterness; God is sovereign. He is unchanging and always faithful.”

    • joy wood March 16, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for your gracious comments. Even though BG tries to blame us and others for trying to destroy his ministry,he is wrong. Exposure of truth can save others, if it is done in hope of restoration. By relating my experiences, I want to encourage those who may be tettering about what do. Breathe and enjoy the love of Christ!

      • kevin March 16, 2014 Reply

        "Even though BG tries to blame us and others for trying to destroy his ministry,he is wrong."

        I'm curious if this is what he has done recently?

        • joy wood March 17, 2014

          The message that we were trying to destroy his ministry was recently given to us through a third party, a former secretary from our time there. She too was being used through manipulation.

  26. Ann March 29, 2014 Reply

    My husband and I have attended a few of these seminars, I have admit that these seminars, brought us back from the brink of a nasty divorce, we still practice the principles we learnt in our home and at work, this has brought a lot of harmony for us.
    I am deeply saddened and confused to read all this material and of the fall of Bill Gothard. I have yet to come to terms with the allegations of sexual harassment of this spiritual leader.

  27. DeeDee April 2, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for your honesty and transparency in an effort to bring grace and healing to others.
    My parents were there from 1972-1980 (Chuck and Linda) from when I was 4-12 yrs old and I remember your sweet family and that HUGE garage sale! I'm thankful that I was young enough to not really know what was going on at the time but wonder how much of that environment and influence affects me to this day? I've struggled my whole life with feeling valued and loved and not feeling heard or that I had a voice. I looked to people and circumstances to define me and am now realizing the cunning deceit of the enemy as he has tried to destroy my life and that of my marriage and family. In the last 2 years I have become a fighter to reclaim the ground that the enemy has stollen from me.
    I just wonder how many seeds of doubt and fear and unbelief were sown as a child without me even knowing it. Thank you for adding a few more pieces to my puzzle.
    God bless you and your family!!!

    • joy wood June 4, 2014 Reply

      DeDe i would like to talk to you sometime. We had cucumber sandwiches at your house. This is so very delayed.

  28. […] One prime example is Dr. Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, who, with his posse, crushed the spirit of the staff during the 1980s scandal, when they tried to help Bill Gothard by calling him to […]

  29. LMG June 10, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story and for opening my eyes to the truth. In the early 90's we got involved with ATIA as we were homeschooling our children. Looking back, I too was deceived. I have since repented for thinking that this man, Bill Gothard could do no wrong having written those Biblical principles to help us live for the Lord. Hungry for God and the desire to teach my children the things of God through Wisdom booklets was like opening a treasure box, having raised from a denominational church. I was a young Christian at the time so I was very impressionable and we did attend a couple seminars in Knoxville. We only used ATIA for a couple of years as the Lord had directed us to use another Christian curriculum. I thanked the Lord for that.

    The Scripture tells us that what is done in secret will be exposed in the open. And the Scripture also tells us to be sure your sin will find you out. The Lord has exposed Bill Gothard and his cohorts in sin. God will expose his and his relatives sinful ways one way or another. God is not mocked! I thank you for being a good soldier for the Lord by standing for rightousness and truth, and for speaking up. God honors that. Also, I want to mention that after reading your article, I felt a sense of relief and true understanding because I was realizing that my authoritarian behavior towards my children (who are now grown adults and blessed of the Lord, Praise God), the spirit was picked up from those times I spent learning the ATIA teachings! I, too, was in a "cult" and not knowing it!!! Anytime there is control and manipulation those are one of the marks of a cult. I Praise the Lord for directing us out of the ATIA curriculum.

    The Lord be with you and your family always.

  30. Darlene February 26, 2015 Reply

    Joy -
    Why do you think BG had me sent up North? I was rebellious according to BG so this could tame me? Or was this to put me in dangers way?

    I begged him privately & in front of staff to stop and allow normal healthy socialization. No one stood by me. I fortunately had family and friends local since I was from the Chicago burbs. Susan F. H. says hello. I welcome any communication from ya'll. Hugs! Beverly never replied. Tell her to contact her old friend. Linda S.too.

  31. Darlene February 26, 2015 Reply

    I was only 17 and still finishing high school when I went to work for BG.

  32. Joy Wood March 5, 2015 Reply

    Hi Darlene,
    It is good to hear your voice from the past. When you were given the brand of rebellious you were in good company. (One of the staff girl's parents were warned that having a horse could lead to her rebelliousness.) Just look at the result of total compliance. I believe that you were sent up to the Northwoods because you were such a consistent productive worker, but I do not know the real motive. By suggesting the move to healhly relationships of interaction among staff, you were bold, and maybe he wanted you out of the way. If the second option was Bill's default decision, you were not needy for approval. I remember that you were so funny! I know that there was a cost for all of us who stood for more transparency. Hello Susan F.
    Thank you so much for your comment.

    • Larne Gabriel March 6, 2015 Reply

      Ditto to Darlene and Susan F.


  33. Willy (female) September 21, 2015 Reply

    Willy (female) Sept. 21, 2015

    Joy, researching since the end of May, I am just reading your story today. Incredible and insightful! Thank you for sharing. (At nearly age 70, as a parent, I continue to struggle as a result of my family's 1979-82 involvement with IBYP.)

    I have come to realize the true character of Bill Gothard, his family and many on the 'Board'. What surprised me within your story is the confrontation with Dr. Charles Stanley!! I do hope by now that he has come to know the truth regarding Bill, his family and the 'Institute'. Dr. Stanley was always one of my favorite ministers.


    In His Grip,
    ^i^ ^i^ ^i^

  34. Don Rubottom September 21, 2015 Reply

    Dr. Stanley reputedly dumped his wife and returned to the pulpit after vowing not to do so. His own son appears to have rejected his "leadership". Do not follow any teacher based on their marketing persona. Follow only those who follow Christ, not those who preach one gospel but live another.

    • rob war September 21, 2015 Reply

      I'm not defending Dr. Stanley at all but his wife filed for divorce, he didn't "dump" her. They had already legally separated and she filed 2x previously. I think if he comes up for discussion, we need to be clear and accurate. I think in terms of his over the top defense of Bill in 1980, Dr. Stanley has seemed to reap the fruits of following and defending Bill with a broken marriage and a public break with his son Andy. His life in a strange testiment to the folly of following Bill's teaching on marriage and family. he absolutely should publically repent of his previous actions in 1980 but he had reaped those results in his own family life and for those that were directly affected by Dr. Stanley on staff at that time, there can be a sense of justice for them in looking at Dr. Stanley's family life.

    • Mark R September 21, 2015 Reply

      Here's how I understand that situation:

      Mrs. Stanley filed for divorce.

      Dr. Stanley and the church leadership came to an agreement: they would not fire him so long as there were attempts to salvage the marriage, but if the divorce was finalized he agreed to resign.

      The marriage ended in divorce. But instead of going through on his word, he demanded a church vote, knowing his popularity would keep him in the pulpit. It did of course.

      That's why I have no respect for Dr. Stanley and I turn him off if I hear him on the radio--he's not a man of his word.

      • rob war September 21, 2015 Reply

        I agree with you totally on your assessment of Dr. Stanley and that is what I've read about his marriage and divorce.

  35. Joy Wood December 29, 2015 Reply

    I do not know if you will read this, since I just read it and am responding. However, Bill G. as well as others like Dr. Stanley fashion their beliefs on their own experience.(I will not be a pastor if I am divorced.) A daughter of a staff family at headquarters was counseled not to allow her to have a horse because that would be evidence of her having resistance to authority.( her interaction would lead to rebelliousness) Another pet theory of Bill G.'s was that men who had facial hair exhibited an outward sign of immorality in their past. How ironic that brother Steve G. was clean shaven. Dr. Stanley and his wife were counseled by B.G.and you should remember that a marriage has two people. That is all I will say on that one, other than it is difficult to listen to the teaching of a man from we are still waiting for an apology. One other pastor who was in that blasting meeting has issued a written statment of apology. In a more recent meeting with B.G. I reminded him that we were still expecting him to man up to the truth and communicate that to Dr. Stanley, requesting an apology. My humor remains intact, because B. G. replied that he did not have his address.

    • Larne Gabriel December 30, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Joy, for the second time in two days Billy has told Alfred he did not lie to us or about us. Us meaning Bill Wood, Tony and myself. He also relayed that he was not clearly told about his brother's immorality in 1976 by Gary, Ken and Ed. Remember in Denver, when in front of Gary, he admitted he was told and knew Gary meant sex. Unbelievable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *