Former ministry leader Bill Gothard acted inappropriately, showing a “lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach.” Those are the findings of an internal investigation conducted by the board of directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the ministry Gothard founded.
The investigation followed accusations that Gothard, over several decades, made inappropriate sexual advances toward young women involved in the ministry. Watchdog group Recovering Grace has been gathering and publishing accounts of Gothard’s alleged behavior on its website for the past three years. The board placed Gothard on administrative leave in February. He resigned his position from the ministry in March, which coincided with the launch of the board’s investigation.
A statement released Tuesday by the IBLP board said “no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed.”
The board, despite its findings of indiscretion, did leave open the possibility that Gothard could return to the ministry: “We believe God still desires to use Bill Gothard for His work in the Kingdom of God, but we also believe it is important that he be held to the high standards clearly taught in the Scriptures and upheld by this ministry. 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.”
The IBLP board also said it was working toward reconciliation with the women toward whom Gothard acted inappropriately, and their families: “We want to encourage reconciliation within families and are very supportive of efforts toward reconciliation with Mr. Gothard or with IBLP. The Board is asking that Mr. Gothard submit to and cooperate with a team of Christian leaders who will direct his reconciliation process.”
Recovering Grace, the group that brought the allegations against Gothard to light, expressed its concern with the board’s findings. In a 3,000-word statement released today, the group said the board report was a “severe disappointment” that minimized the “exploitation of innocent young women” for the sake of “saving the organization above all else.” Recovering Grace called the board statement an exercise in “choosing self-preservation, ignoring the abuse and broken lives left by a predatory leader.”
Recovering Grace also questioned whether the investigation was truly independent, noting that David Gibbs Jr., who led the inquiry, has had a “long-term relationship with Bill Gothard and the IBLP organization since the 1980s.”
Requests made by WORLD to interview Gothard, the chairman of the IBLP board, and Gibbs have so far gone unanswered.
Gothard has been a prominent Christian leader since the 1970s, when he often led arena-sized events with thousands in attendance. The ministry claims to have trained more than 2.5 million people since the late 1960s. In the 1980s, Gothard’s organization—then known as the Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts—had another major scandal. At that time, Gothard’s brother Steve, then administrative director for the ministry, stepped down following accusations he had sexual relationships with several of the organization’s staff. Bill Gothard faced accusations then that he had tolerated an environment where such abuses could take place, and he stepped down for three weeks, but later returned to leadership in the ministry.