Business as Usual for IBLP

Oh dear. The Board of Directors for the Institute for Basic Life Principles, formerly run by Bill Gothard, has released a statement, and it’s not good. In fact, they can’t even bring themselves to admit what happened—and nor can Gothard himself.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We are grateful for your prayers and patience as we have all walked through these difficult months. As Board members, each of us has been positively impacted by the relationships, teachings, and opportunities available through the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It is because of our appreciation for this ministry that we agreed to serve on the Board of Directors. We also recognize our duty as Board members, and we bring this statement with great heaviness of heart.

I’m not sure starting out by praising IBLP up and down is the right approach here. It’s like how HSLDA starts it’s section on child abuse by insisting that child abuse in homeschool settings is very, very rare.

In response to allegations against Bill Gothard, the Board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former Board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.

Actually, this “outside legal counsel” is not so very “outside.”

Gibbs, whose Christian Law Association has been described as “the Fixers for fundamentalism”, gave three sermons at last year’s ATI training conference in Nashville and is slated to address this year’s conferences, too.

Gibbs is best known as a defense attorney for notorious child sex abusing pastor Jack Schaap.

Look, if I were the IBLP board, I know who I would bring in: Boz Tchividijian’s Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE). Boz is the grandson of Billy Graham and a professor at Liberty University. He also has a long history of prosecuting child sexual abuse and takes a strong stance on abuse of any kind. GRACE conducts reviews of both organizations’ current policies regarding sexual abuse and their history of dealing with the issue. He does so in an effort to help organizations, so that they can be honest about what happened and move forward with new policies.

But no, IBLP had to hire a notorious defender of infamous child sex abusing pastor Jack Schaap.

At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, 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.

Look, knowing that it would be David Gibbs Jr., carrying out the investigation as David Gibbs Jr. does, I would not have been willing to be interviewed had I been one of Gothard’s victims. There’s also the pesky little fact that the IBLP board has known about Gothard’s indiscretions for decades. And guess what? They sent the (minor) girl involved home in disgrace and didn’t report anything to anyone or offer her any sort of help or counsel of any sort.

However, the review showed that Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach. As a Christian leader, he is to avoid the appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22), and he must have a good reputation, even with those outside the Church (I Timothy 3:7).

First of all, the IBLP board already knew about Gothard’s indiscretions. This is not new. Secondly, note the focus here: The concern is not for the victims but rather for Gothard’s reputation.

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.

Well thank goodness for that, I guess. At least Gothard is excluded from IBLP leadership roles “at this time.” But it’s not because he was a sexual predator or because he groomed the young girls he chose as personal secretaries. No! It’s because of his “reputation.” Got it.

I do want to know—are they changing any of their teachings about victims’ share in the blame, or about the real damage being caused not by the abuse but by the victim’s bitterness, or their strong emphasis on obeying your given authority? In other words, are they doing anything to change the toxic culture that allowed this to happen?

We also know that the Word of God teaches that believers should have a good conscience toward God and men (Acts 24:16). 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.

Wait. Wait wait wait. The IBLP board has not apologized for what happened or expressed any regret for allowing it to happen (except to pontificate about Gothard’s reputation). They’ve only said that Gothard behaved “in an inappropriate manner” that damaged his “reputation.” Gothard himself will suffer no repercussions beside stepping down as director and moving on to another ministry position elsewhere.

And yet the IBLP board is ready to jump in pressuring victims and their families into forgiving what happened and moving on. Oh, and you need to do it their way! If Mr. Gothard sexually harassed or molested you, you need to go through IBLP’s formal reconciliation process!

I cannot begin to say how uncomfortable that makes me.

The Board does not believe that Mr. Gothard’s shortcomings discredit the truths of God’s Word that were taught through him. All of us are reminded of our need to look to Jesus and to His Word “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). We are committed to evaluating each part of the ministry on the basis of God’s Word, and we encourage everyone to search the Scriptures to determine what is true, as did the Bereans (see Acts 17).

Okay, well that answers that question. It seems they’re keeping their toxic culture and toxic victim-blaming teachings. Then what are they actually doing? They hired a pastoral child sexual abuse defense attorney who has long been associated with their organization to investigate. They’ve said Gothard didn’t do anything illegal, but was indiscreet, which damaged his reputation and has made him unfit to serve as director. They’ve pushed for families to go through their own “reconciliation” process with Gothard, because otherwise they’re not following the Bible.

But they haven’t even admitted that there are victims. They’ve offered not a word for the victim, not a smidgeon of regret, not a single admission that they did anything wrong, and not a single policy change. This is ridiculous.

We look forward to doing all we can to advance the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local Church. We dedicate ourselves to help build up families and individuals in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are seeking and praying for a new permanent president for the IBLP ministries. Please pray with us to this end.

Sincerely in Christ,
Board of Directors
Institute in Basic Life Principles

Yeah, back at you. You’re the one making your Jesus look terrible, not me.

How is Gothard responding to all of this? This from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Gothard said in a Sun-Times interview: “I respect and honor the board, and my number one goal right now . . . is to go back to the ones that I have offended and ask their forgiveness.”

Asked if he engaged in sexual harassment, Gothard said, “Sexual harassment is to a large extent intent, and my intent was never to harass them.” As for whether he has any interest in returning to the institute in a ministerial or leadership capacity, he said, “That’s not my goal or desire right now. I just have a desire to work with and encourage the young people that I have served in the past and I want to continue that on a personal basis.”

How in the blazes can you ask forgiveness for something you cannot even admit you did?! “I’m sorry I played footsie with you, and fondled your breasts, and held your hands, and touched your hair. But just to be clear, I never sexually harassed you.” I mean seriously, what does that even mean? It reminds me a bit of the word-mincing of Gothard’s first statement:

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.

Right. And I’m sure Gothard’s teaching that long curly hair was the godliest also had nothing to do with sexual attraction.

Wait a minute. I’m pretty sure that, regardless, sexual harassment can occur regardless of “intent.” I mean, if that were the case, anyone sexually harassing someone could say they never intended to harass their victims. And most of them probably would, because who sets out saying “I’m going to harass that person”? Sorry, Gothard, but no.

I know it probably seems like I’ve been harping on sexual abuse a lot lately. Well, that’s because a lot has been going on in the evangelical world on the subject lately. And you can see the interconnections, too. Remember the article Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal published last week? Now try, for a moment, to imagine what it would look like if Gothard wrote a similar article. I’d put my money on them sounding pretty much exactly the same. This is how sexual predators work. Now think about the stories penned by Bill Gothard’s victims. My guess is that if the victim of the Leadership Journal’s youth pastor were to write her side of the story it would look pretty much like theirs.

Evangelicals need to get their act together here. And you know what else? They need to stop complaining that policies to prevent child sexual abuse get in the way of loving children like Jesus did. If I remember correctly, Jesus had some strong words about millstones and being cast into the sea.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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