Bill Gothard released a public statement, today, wherein he acknowledges a few of the accusations that have been leveled against him recently, online. I felt compelled to respond, but I highly doubt that he will approve my response to published on his site (my comment was #359, and zero had been approved before mine!), so I’ll publish it here in case you’d like to see what I thought.
First, let me show you his public statement (based on the URL for it, I doubt it will be a permalink):
I have withheld this statement in order to honor the request of the Board of Directors to wait until an initial review has taken place. As the review continues, I now want to make this statement.
God has brought me to a place of greater brokenness than at any other time in my life. It is a grief to realize how my pride and insensitivity have affected so many people. I have asked the Lord to reveal the underlying causes and He is doing this.
For many years I have been building the Institute but losing my first love for the Lord. God warns “I know thy works, and thy labour . . . Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent. . . ” (Revelation 2:2, 4, 5). 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.
I put the Institute and its goals ahead of people and their needs. 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.
My wrong focus produced a further consequence. Families were made to feel that they must “measure up.” This resulted in some parents putting undue pressure on their sons and daughters in order for the family to be accepted. When there was a lack of love or consistency, sons and daughters saw this as hypocrisy and rejected it. Also, many felt that the expectations where so high that they could never measure up to them. This resulted in a feeling of deep defeat.
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.
I have failed to live out some of the very things that I have taught. 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: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
More than anything I want to make right what I have done wrong and deepen my relationship with the Lord. I trust in God’s undeserved mercy and pray that those whom I have offended would find grace to forgive me. I know that I do not deserve this. I would certainly appreciate your prayers during this time that God would bring healing to those who have been so deeply affected by my 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.
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.
Dear Mr. Gothard,
I have been grieved these past few months, as the accusations against you have been published on the Internet. I was especially sorry when I realized they weren’t more surprising to me than I think they should have been, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting your response of apology and repentance. Unfortunately, the letter you posted on your site, today, seemed to be more calculated than contrite.
Your opening statement demonstrates that you still do not submit to authority, in the way that you insist others submit to your own authority. You are using the Board of Directors as an excuse to delay your public response to the allegations against you, but carefully avoid saying the Board has finished their review and have given you permission to make a public statement.
This latest round of accusations against you, have re-opened many old wounds, as details have come to light about the 1980 incidents. Your apparent lack of submission to authority, back then, does not seem to have ever been addressed, and seems to be continuing to this day.
I encourage you to publicly acknowledge the authority of your Board of Directors, and take some extra precautions to avoid any appearance that you’re operating outside their authority. Opening this letter with an explanation that the Board has reviewed your statement and authorized it (whether or not they agree with its substance), would go a long way toward reducing the appearance of hypocrisy which makes it very difficult for people to trust the rest of what you say. If I were you, I would have included one or more of the directors’ signatures, attesting to their permission for you to make a public statement. I would want there to be no doubt that I was under authority, I were you.
You acknowledge that your pride and insensitivity have affected people. But, you’re only visible response to that is to turn to the Lord? Your actions have harmed people. In this day, when God does not make Himself physically available to us in human form, people are our greatest means of directly serving Him. Sure, you should be turning to God in your prayers, with meditation and sacrifice; but, when that’s the only action you describe taking, in this whole letter, it seems a bit like the Pharisees praising their spiritual devotion on the street corner.
God is not going to give you a prescription for fixing yourself, until you genuinely humble yourself before the people that you have harmed. You need to be asking the 34 women you’ve injured, how you can help them. You should be meeting with individual staff members (and former staff) who have ever disagreed or complained to or about you. You should be calling ATI parents (and former ATI parents) to ask them what you can do to make things right for them, individually.
You admitted that “standards became more important than relationships.” I believe you are correctly assessing the situation, here, but you don’t demonstrate a willingness to rectify anything. Nowhere in the remainder of this statement do you ever mention how you plan to restore those broken relationships. You only talk about yourself and how you plan to make yourself more spiritual. Again, seems a bit pharisaical to me.
It wasn’t just your “wrong focus” that caused people to feel they needed to measure up to your standards. I believe it was an erroneous approach to setting standards in the first place. You had too many arbitrary standards, with little or no support from an honest reading of Scripture. Far too many times, have I heard you say, “there’s just something about…” when justifying one of your standards.
For example, when I was a Family Coordinator, I remember quite a few ATIA applications that we rejected primarily because the father wore a beard. Connecting facial hair (which should be properly considered under your principle of design) to anger and immorality is arbitrary and unscriptural. The most applicable Scripture references to facial hair actually prohibit cutting beards, they certainly don’t mandate shaving! It is perfectly acceptable to have “corporate standards” and, if you preferred that men who represented your ministry be clean shaven, you could make such a standard. But everything was a Law of God with you. If you didn’t, personally like something, you would formulate some principle to explain why your preference was really a Godly standard.
Deep in the middle of your letter, you seem to have buried the crux of your message. You vaguely admit to inappropriately touching young women, and acknowledge that such physical touching “crossed the boundaries of discretion.” But, then you immediately get defensive. This is not a sign of repentance and humility.
Presumably, you wrote this letter to me, and others like me, who followed you at some point in the past (or present). The world doesn’t consider “holding hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair” to be immoral, but you taught us to consider these actions as immoral. The way you’ve worded this paragraph has the effect of diluting your humility and genuineness. If you mean to specifically deny the allegations of, say, “Charlotte,” who claims you felt her curves and ordered her to buy specific kinds of bras, then you should say so specifically. The vague and generic you are in your apologies, the less I believe you actually mean them.
I believe that if you are genuinely repentant, you should acknowledge that, under the standards you taught, your actions were indeed immoral. I believe you, when you say you never kissed a girl, and I also believe that you probably never intended to have intercourse with any of your victims, but the way you are wording this admission seems to be carefully calculated to minimize acknowledging the emotional damage you caused.
I believe that genuine repentance, on your part, will require a more specific accounting of what you believe your failures to be. You needn’t share details with the world, but you do need to explicitly address very specific details with each person you have directly injured. And, it would be wise, in my opinion, to explain to the world that you are doing this.
For example, I would encourage you to meet with not only the individual women (such as “Meg,” and “Charlotte,” etc.), but also with their parents and/or counsellors. Most of the women that I still have contact with, have spent a lot of time and money in professional counselling to work through the issues they have as a result of their experience with you. I can imagine they would be frightened to speak with you alone, but much healing could come from a few honest sessions with you and whatever support team they have become comfortable with.
Perhaps I am still under the influence of your (works-focused) teachings, but I do not believe that God will grant you His undeserved mercy until you have done everything in your power to reconcile with your victims. You need to demonstrate (not just speak some pretty words) that you are willing to sacrifice everything (including the Institute’s ministry itself) and lay down your own life, in order to save the lives of those who have accused you… even if some of the details of those accusations are incorrect! You should be holding yourself to an even higher standard, and giving yourself to healing your accusers.
There is a popular activity on the Internet, known as an “AMA” (which stands for “Ask Me Anything”), which I believe would be a powerful way for you to reach out large audiences at once. Here’s a website that describes how these things work: http://webtrends.about.com/od/Reddit-Web/a/What-Is-A-Reddit-Ama.htm
If you were to host an AMA specifically for members of the various former-ATI and anti-ATI student groups (such as the “ATI Student Survivors” group on Facebook, or the Recovering Grace subscribers), I believe you would be greatly blessed. It would give you an amazing opportunity to express your grief and repentance, and you would also be able to address specific accusations that may arise. (I’m sure you have very capable technical staff who could figure out how to do this, but if you need any assistance, I’d be happy to help, or maybe the technical staff at Recovering Grace would be interested in helping.)
Finally, I wanted to comment on your concluding paragraph where you say that your “greatest offense has been against God.” Your greatest offense is NOT against God. He has limitless grace and mercy to cope with all of our betrayals of Him. Your greatest offense is against women and children who put their hearts and lives into your hands, and who are fallible humans who may or may not have the power to forgive you.
Remember the story of the pauper woman who gave her last penny? When you offend God, who has endless capacity to tolerate pain and to forgive, how can that be your greatest offense? When you offend the poor woman, with a broken and fragile soul, who struggles to forgive herself, let alone you—that is your greatest offense!
I guess I’m not expecting this response to be approved for the world to see on your website, but that’s alright. I’m not writing this for everyone to see (though I may share it with some of my friends, who are also struggling to understand all that’s been going on these past few months), but I want to believe that you really are repentant.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Let me know what you think.