Bill Gothard – Truly Repentant?

by on April 24th, 2014

The Internet was again all abuzz when A Statement from Bill Gothard Is Bill repentant or is he just embarrassed that he has been publicly exposed? Obviously I cannot know his heart but over the last 17 years I have been able to observe how Bill does things. In the sex scandal of the early 1980s he was able to divert nearly all attention to the behavior of his brother Steve. Did that leave him free to sweep his actions under the rug? As we have pointed our in our book A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life Bill was aware of Steve’s behavior for several years before it became public. It is also the case, that although to our knowledge Bill has not had sexual relations with any of the young woman who are assigned as his assistants, he has been caught in very compromising situation. A few years ago Bill contacted Gary Smalley to request that he write a statement to refute the claim which was published on Wikipedia:

“(Veinot et al. 2003, pp. 52-55) alleges that Gothard tried to cover up the scandal but “despite Gothard’s best efforts at containment…the story was reported in the Los Angeles Times.” In 1982 the Los Angeles Times also reported allegations that “Bill Gothard was seen by staff members patting and fondling women employees. Later, he admitted in staff meetings that these actions were ‘moral failures’ on his part.

Gary’s response is rather enlightening and is published in full in Bill Gothard Covering Up Sin . One paragraph of Smalley’s response is very important:

As I read the criticisms of you from many different Christian leaders, I wondered what your end objective is? Is it to add evidence that you didn’t touch any of the girls inappropriately? Remember I was one of the staff who saw #6 sitting on your lap with her sheer night ware [sic] on. That alone was so inappropriate that a case could be made from just that one act I saw for you to take time away from ministry in order to be healed by God’s Spirit and renewed to purity. That one act would have taken Ted Haggard out of the ministry as his other actions did.

As Recovering Grace pointed out in their Response to Bill Gothard’s Statement there is little difference between this statement and the one issued to pastors on July 22, 1980. I would suggest he is currently on step 20 of what we have outlined as Bill Gothard’s 21 Steps to Conflict Resolution :

Admit along the way – to the staff – a tiny infraction to do damage control and explain away problems. – this is also great for the appearance of deep humility and repentance – “I practice what I preach AND LIVE BY MY OWN PRINCIPLES”.

And, in keeping with his practices, he has admitted to small infractions in his Statement He caused people to feel like they didn’t measure up, was insensitive and prideful, placed the Institute ahead of people and:

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.

There was no mention of being caught in his cabin late at night with a young lady on his lap in her “sheer night ware.” Wouldn’t that qualify as “sexual intent”? Did it not progress to the final act simply because they were caught?

From time to time Bill contacts former staff under the pretense of trying to reconcile and he is less than honest in those situations. A dear friend who recently went to be with the Lord contacted me in 2006 when Bill supposedly contacted her for reconciliation as Bill started out the attempt with what she claimed was a lie. I wrote to Bill, included her note and posted the Open letter to Bill Gothard – March 25, 2006 As I reviewed this document again this week I was struck as I read my words then:

The primary difficulty is not that folks (such as Linda) would not like to see repentance and restoration happen for that is the core of the Christian faith. The primary difficulty is that telling the truth and keeping your word seems to elude you. They are not part of your character. In our experience, breaking or simply ignoring commitments you have made and then blaming those to whom you have made commitments because they actually believed you is common place.

Bill contacted me several months later requesting that I take it down as it was causing difficulties in marketing his Character Curriculum overseas. I told him that if he would compose a public apology for us to post we would gladly take our Open Letter down. We never heard back on that issue. If Bill Gothard is truly repentant this time I would be glad but history tells me to regard his claims with suspicion as we have seen this movie before.

3 responses to “Bill Gothard – Truly Repentant? ”

  1. chris Symonds says:

    As much as his moral failures are enough to discount him from ministry, in the big picture his mishandling of scripture and his erroneous teachings are the real issue. This should have taken him down a long time ago.

    I have recently had issues with one branch of Christian’s discrediting and misrepresenting other Christian’s who hold different views that in the end are not even salvation issues. The amount of mud raking I see Christian’s do to others is truly despicable.

    The irony here is that Bill Gothard’s teaching in my mind does have eternal consequences. The central doctrine he undermines in the unmerited favor of grace by faith through Christ Jesus and yet the heretic was able to fly under the radar for a long time. I take my hat off to you Don for sounding the alarm all those years ago but sadly most who knew Gothard simply turned a blind eye to his teachings.

    I don’t want to be harsh, however the fact can’t be avoided that those who ignored the warning share some of the blame.

  2. Nicole says:

    I am grieved at this article coming from an apparent champion of victims. It was Michael Pearl’s pointed and direct articles regarding Dysfunctional Patriarchal Families (an article series that called out Bill Gothard by name) that helped me feel free enough as a late-twenties lady to follow God’s direction without being in fear for my soul.

  3. White Man says:

    “Remember I was one of the staff who saw #6 sitting on your lap with her sheer night ware [sic] on.”
    Given that Gary is now reported as having no memory of seeing a nighty-clad girl on Bill’s lap, it would appear that Tony made a typo in his transcription of Gary’s email to Bill (or the typo may have originated with Gary. Apparently what Gary meant to tell Bill was:
    “Remember, it was one of the staff who saw #6 sitting on your lap with her sheer nightwear on.”

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