The Continuing Saga—Recent Developments with IBLP and Bill Gothard

18 November 2015, 11:13

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It has been more than 18 months since Bill Gothard resigned as president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Since then, there has been relatively little public communication or activity from either Bill Gothard or IBLP, leading some to wonder whether the 50-year saga of this organization was coming to an end. Although for various reasons we have been doing far less writing about the ongoing saga with IBLP and Gothard, our team does continue to monitor the situation closely. And as we have done so, we have become aware of some recent developments that may interest our readers.

First mention is, of course, the highly publicized news that five women filed a lawsuit against IBLP and its current board members: John Stancil, Anthony Burrus, Gil Bates, Timothy Levendusky, Stephen Paine, and David York. The lawsuit alleges that the women experienced “sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching” while “participants, interns, or employees of IBLP.”

IBLP commentsOn Friday, November 13, 2015, the IBLP Board released a statement commenting on the lawsuit. While the statement was a fairly straightforward denial of the primary tenets of the suit, one aspect of the statement stood out to us. In the first paragraph, the Board states that “the attorney representing them is David Gibbs, III.*” The asterisk pointed to a footnote which read, “Not to be confused with his father David Gibbs, Jr., a friend of IBLP.” One of the allegations in the lawsuit—an issue we also brought to your attention last year here on RG—is that the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations that the IBLP Board solicited—and later referenced on their website—was not conducted by a non-biased third party. David Gibbs, Jr., has had a long relationship with both Bill Gothard and IBLP, speaking at IBLP conferences as recently as last year. Now the IBLP Board has acknowledged publicly that the person they hired to conduct the “independent investigation” is a “friend of IBLP.” Note: the website has now been edited to remove the “friend of IBLP” reference.

We have also uncovered further insight into what exactly may have taken place during the time that Gibbs, Jr., was conducting his investigation. This information comes from a new pro-Gothard website called Discovering Grace (yes, the name is designed to mimic ours). This new website, while not claiming to speak directly for Bill Gothard, is run by individuals who claim to have current and ongoing direct contact with him. The website also claims to use Gothard as a source for answering some of the questions posed on the site.

Concerning his resignation, Discovering Grace writes:

“Bill was never asked to resign by the Board. He was not encouraged to resign. In fact, the Board pleaded with him not to resign. The Board wished instead to assume responsibility for the resolution of this matter and asked him to step aside until they could complete that task. Bill felt he was best prepared to resolve the problems by personally contacting each offended individual. There was a strong disagreement and, rather than limit his response, Bill resigned, as he understood it, temporarily.”

In our 1980s scandal series, we noted that Bill’s board of directors firmly instructed him to stop contacting the women who had been involved with him and his brother. He initially agreed but continually communicated with the women anyway. This behavior—which directly contradicts his own teachings on authority—created such a rift between Bill and his board that certain members of the board resigned in protest. In this case, it appears that Bill tried a new tactic—”temporary” resignation—to allow himself to address the accusations as he chose without any accountability.

Discovering Grace continues its assertions with apparent knowledge of Gothard’s thought processes over the past year and a half:

“Since they [the board] cleared him of these objective concerns, there should have been no further barriers to his resuming his responsibilities in the ministry he founded, responsibilities he felt pressured to relinquish because the Board would not work with him to allow him to fix, responsibilities he insists he was only temporarily stepping away from until the 'dust cleared'.”

Except that there were further barriers, according to IBLP’s board of directors. 

The site creators appear to consider themselves well-versed on the board’s side of things, as well:

“They [the board] wanted to see if Bill was guilty of criminal or immoral crimes which would encumber IBLP. That investigation was completed to their satisfaction – it is our opinion thorough interviews with the 8 published accusers could not have changed that perspective. If they had wanted to completely clear Bill’s name, a more thorough investigation would be called for, including active participation in the reconciliation process.”

Following the investigation that ostensibly “cleared” Gothard of criminal liability, the board was resolved that Gothard not be allowed to return.

Our takeaway from this decidedly anti-RG Gothard “fan site” is that, in Bill Gothard’s mind, he was only resigning temporarily until the “dust cleared.” Even more significant is the indication that the internal investigation conducted by Bill’s “friend” Gibbs, Jr., was only to see if there was criminal activity for which IBLP could be liable. Does this mean that Bill did not resign in repentance, but rather in order to preserve his ministry while he rehabilitated his image? It should be noted that, while the board wrapped up their “investigation” with a public statement that they did not find criminal activity, they did determine that Bill Gothard would not be allowed “to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry.”

HeadquartersProductionCenterWe are left with a key question: what did they find that would cause them to permanently cut off Bill Gothard from the ministry he founded? We know that David Gibbs, Jr., did not interview any of the women who alleged sexual harassment on our website. (RG was approached with the request to facilitate such a meeting, but, in order to begin even a preliminary conversation with Gibbs, Jr., to this end, the team was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. With the integrity of our independent media website at stake, we found ourselves very uncomfortable with that restriction and refused to sign. Gibbs, Jr., apparently decided he could not pursue it any further.) We do know they talked to other individuals, because we’ve been informed by those individuals and others behind the scenes. Even without our published witnesses, the IBLP Board easily gathered enough information to sever its ties with Gothard for good. Even so, 17 months after the conclusion of the investigation, the Board still has not publicly addressed any of these issues. Nor have they addressed any of the many other concerns we at Recovering Grace have raised on our website—concerns that are unrelated to the sexual harassment scandal—including rampant theological problems, mistreatment of student volunteers and employees, and other abuses that took place at various training centers.

One last development we would like to point out is that 80-year-old Bill Gothard is not waiting around for the IBLP Board to take him back. He recently launched a new website called “Life Purpose Power Teams.” Gothard has actually filed paperwork to establish a new non-profit corporation in the state of Illinois, apparently wholly unconnected to his previous multi-million-dollar ministry. According to our research, the corporation was originally filed under the name “Life Purpose Prayer Teams” on August 14, 2015, but the name was changed to “Life Purpose Power Teams” on September 25, 2015.

The website offers the opportunity to join a “Life Purpose Power Team” for $49, which also includes four new books by Gothard. Of particular interest is one entitled The Inner Brain that Controls Our Life, which purports that we all have a “gut brain” that controls our heart and soul, and that is capable of containing “strongholds that must be torn down.”

We at Recovering Grace continue to monitor these developments with interest and continue to pray that God’s truth and justice will prevail.

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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