Bill Gothard, an influential conservative Christian leader in the homeschooling movement, has released a statement denying allegations that he sexually harassed women and teen girls. He insists in the statement that his behavior toward those whom he favored, such as holding hands or touching the feet or hair of young ladies, was never carried out "immorally or with sexual intent."
- (Photo: iblp.org)
In his statement publicized via his Twitter account Thursday night, Gothard addressed ways in which he believes he failed in his leadership of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which he quit last month more than 50 years after founding the nonprofit organization.
"For many years I have been building the Institute but losing my first love for the Lord," Gothard, 79, writes in the statement, which appears in full at the end of this report.
"I was finding value and affirmation from the accomplishments of the ministry and those involved in it instead of filling this void in my life with God and His love. I have repented in deep sorrow. However, over the years many people have been offended in different ways because of my lack of genuine love."
Gothard goes on to suggest that putting the Institute in Basic Life Principles' goals ahead of people's needs harmed relationships and led to unhealthy standards and expectations.
"Standards became more important than relationships. People who didn't 'measure up' were cut off and those who were not seen as adding value to the ministry were treated as though they were expendable. The more I have listened to people describe their experiences the more grieved and sorrowful I have become," he explains.
In regard to his behavior toward youth workers, Gothard writes, "This emphasis on outward appearance was also manifested by bringing selected young people to serve at the headquarters and causing others to feel rejected and offended by my favoritism."
"My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong. They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent."
Gothard has been accused by dozens of women who did administrative work as teens at the IBLP headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., of making unwanted and inappropriate physical contact and manipulating them emotionally.
The allegations, going back decades, were published online by Recovering Grace, an organization "dedicated to helping those affected by the teachings of Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles and the Advanced Training Institute."
In the accusations published by RecoveringGrace.org, Gothard's alleged victims claim the minister specifically used his teachings on authority to manipulate them into doing what he wanted.
"Gothard plays a mind game with certain young women who may attempt to graciously and discreetly evade his physical affections and implied emotional intimacies," reads an account from a woman identified as Lizzie. "He wordlessly removes that option from the table while verbally assuring them of the importance of their continued presence in the ministry. He uses his position of spiritual and organizational authority to frame leaving his side as leaving God's will and losing the most effective place for ministry."
RecoveringGrace.org claimed the allegations had been confirmed as true by men and women who served in leadership at IBLP and felt "powerless to do anything at the time."
"In fact, we have learned that the IBLP Board of Directors has on more than one occasion addressed this behavior with Bill Gothard, but to no lasting avail," the online ministry stated.
Before resigning as president from his organization, Gothard had been placed on administrative leave as determined by board members while an investigation into the allegations were ongoing.
Gothard's IBLP, and the related Advanced Training Institute, are popular with Christian homeschooling families that use its curriculum not only for education but in all areas of family life. Gothard's teachings and "concepts of life," based on his interpretation of the Bible, have impacted more than 2.5 million people who have attended his seminars over the past 50 years. Well-known proponents of his teachings include the popular Duggar family of the TLC show "19 Kids & Counting."
"I have failed to live out some of the very things that I have taught," Gothard says in his statement, released a day before the Christian holy day of Good Friday. "I am committed to learning from my failures by God's grace and mercy, and do what I can to help bring about biblical reconciliation as Jesus commands …"
Expressing a desire to "right" his "wrongs" and "deepen (his) relationship with the Lord," Gothard asks for forgiveness from those he has "offended" and prayers that God would bring "healing to those who have been so deeply affected by (his) actions."
"I am grateful for the opportunities I have had thus far to be reconciled with individuals and it is my goal to contact as many others as I can, fully hear them, and do whatever I can to bring about biblical reconciliation," he writes.
"My greatest offense has been against God. I have earnestly sought His mercy and forgiveness and have asked Him to allow me to experience more of Him and the power of His resurrection," he writes.
While Gothard, who never married, denies that the behavior he displayed toward his "favorites" were immoral or sexual in nature, at least one alleged victim, identified as "Charlotte," claims in her account posted on RecoveringGrace.org that the IBLP founder had fondled her on many occasions and "kissed (her) deeply on the lips" during her time volunteering at age 16.
At least two other individuals who worked or volunteered at IBLP's Illinois headquarters during the period "Charlotte" volunteered verified some details of her account, and have expressed confidence in her claims.
The Institute in Basic Life Principles Board of Directors announced in March its choice of Tim Levendusky to oversee the nonprofit's operations as interim president.
Levendusky, who has worked for IBLP in different capacities for several years, issued his own statement regarding his appointment as interim president, and sought to assure those concerned about the allegations made against Gothard.
"Because of the necessary steps involving outside legal counsel, proper board involvement, and the time delay in appointing new leadership, communications have been minimal. The staff is startled and concerned, as many of you, by the claims and information that has been disseminated over the Internet and by news outlets. For this reason, the board is seeking to know and understand the facts and will be responding in due time," Levendusky states in his letter, published online March 14.
"Everyone involved is taking the situation very seriously. We are in no way minimizing or disregarding the communications from people expressing hurts, frustrations, or shock at what has been shared. Be assured that we are examining the different aspects of the ministry, especially as we hear and understand the perspectives involved. As a staff we want to honor the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is 'the way, the truth, and the life,' and His Word in all that we do."
Read Bill Gothard's statement below: