Bill Gothard, the owner of the Big Sandy ALERT Academy campus (former Ambassador College/Worldwide Church of God property) has been relieved of his duties over the ministry he has run since the 1960's. Thirty-four women have accused him of sexual harassment over the years.
A group of ex-members have been running a web site called Recovering Grace where they've documented the horrendous tales of abuse in his organizations. Like Armstrongism, his religious system is rotten to the core. Like Armstrongism, it has taken legalism to the extreme.
The public face of his cultish organization is the ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, the Institute of Basic Life Principles, the Advance Training Institute, and the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting.
Christianity Today writes:
Bill Gothard, Basic Seminar speaker and home-schooling advocate, has been placed on administrative leave as president and board member of the Institute in Basic Life Principles following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
The Board of Directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principles is doing a very prayerful, thorough, and Biblical review in regards to the assertions brought by various individuals and groups. After completion of the review the Board will respond at an appropriate time, and in a Biblical manner.
Gothard, who has been single all his life, is an outspoken proponent of biblical literalism, patriarchy, large families, training children to be submissive with corporal punishment, homeschooling, and preparing for the end times. Here is man, who has never married nor had any children, who has trained over 2.5 million people on proper marriage and family life. That's like Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong training church members on how to have proper marriages and family lives. Oh wait! They did that!. Just like Gothard, our fearless leaders were just as immoral and perverted. Like the Gothard ministries, Armstrognism's moral cesspool carries on down the food chain to other ministers and splinter group leaders. What is it about being a religious leader that makes them such degenerate people?Mr. Gothard is on administrative leave while the Board completes its review. He will not be involved in the operations of the ministry. The Board of Directors will be prayerfully appointing interim leadership.
Thanks to the internet, the Gothard ministries are being held accountable for their decades of abuse through various web sites put up by ex-members, many of who were high up in the organization or are children of long time members. Sound familiar?
The biggest critic that documents these abuses is the Recovering Grace organization. They say:
Recovering Grace is an online organization devoted to helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Recovering Grace provides a unique perspective in that it was founded and is operated entirely by adults who were raised as children in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. We all have attended Bill Gothard’s seminars, and most of us served within the IBLP organization in some form or fashion. Among the members of our team are pastors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, businessmen, and stay-at-home moms. We have all taken different journeys, but we all have one thing in common: We survived ATI.
It's like deja-vu with all of us that have survived Armstrongism. The internet and Facebook is filled with web sites, blogs and groups with people sharing their stories of abuse. The biggest is on Facebook were people tell appalling tales at times of things that have happened to them. The internet has made accountability a big issue for these organizations.Some of us had pretty great parents who, by the mercy of God, were able to bring balance to Bill Gothard’s legalism. To this group, survival means that they graduated high school and moved on. However, many of those involved with our site survived physical and/or sexual abuse that causes nightmares and trauma even today. Some survived spiritual abuse at home or training centers that has left them with years of untangling who God is, whether faith is worth having, and whether church and religion are anything more than a cosmic joke. Others have survived emotional abuse, being told that they weren’t good enough, weren’t pretty enough, didn’t look right, or whatever. To these people, survival means a lot more. It means there is a lot of hurt, guilt, and pain that is dealt with every day.Together, we have decided it is time to speak out. Others have done so before in books, magazine articles, and websites. Still, they couldn’t speak from the perspective we can. They wrote about Bill Gothard’s ministry from the outside. We write about it from the inside. They observed our legalism and tried to warn our families. We lived in legalism and wish we’d listened sooner.
The stories of these abused women and members can be found here Gothard Files
Gothard and his ministers were adept at misusing scripture. Again, just like in Armstrongism, the similarities are frightening!
The week that I spent at Basic Youth Conflicts in 1973 (Portland) was one of the most difficult of my life. In this seminar I was regularly assaulted by a misuse of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, on a level that I have never experienced in a public ministry before that time (or since). All speakers, including myself, fail to interpret and apply the Bible rightly from time to time. But in the Gothard lectures, Old Testament passages were used time after time to argue points that they did not prove. I was as troubled by the errors made from the lectern as by the seeming acceptance of these errors as true and factual by the many thousands of people in attendance.
Is there any Church of God minister capable of preaching a sermon without 5, 7, 15, 21 steps or points to it? Like Armstrongism, the Gothard camp has the same legalistic issue:...Gothard’s use of Scripture is so suspect as to render him a poorly informed and untrustworthy teacher.
There are ten steps for this and five steps for that, yet eight steps for another. Such an approach to human personality accords neither with the variations in people or with the dynamics of Scripture. The listing of these “steps” is pure human invention, but Gothard presents each of the lists as though they were the direct teaching of the Bible. This is my principle objection to his ministry.
Like Armstrongism, Gothard has an unhealthy view of sex:Gothard’s approach is not that of the careful exegete who wishes to determine the meaning of the text, but of the engineer who wishes to use the material in his own programmatic approach which is mechanical and not personal, mechanistic and not dynamic. Gothard does not really teach the Scripture; he really uses the Scripture to fit into his own categories.
The husband is the leader and wives must submit. How many sermons have we heard over the decades saying the exact same thing? David C Pack still does it. Gerald Flurry still does it. On and on the list will go.Given Gothard’s low view of the body and his repressed views of human sexuality, it is not surprising that he neglects entirely the Song of Solomon with its beautiful eroticism and its delight in human sexuality. For Gothard, the things done between a man and a woman are the secret things of Ephesians 5:12, a disgrace even to speak of such. Only on the basis of his own negative, programmatic approach to human sexuality would Ephesians 5:12 refer to the marriage bed. Serious exegesis matters little in such an approach.
Paramount among these is the terrible picture of the chain of command in the family with the husband as the hammer, the wife as the chisel and the children as the gems in the rough. (In my Red Notebook, this is page 3 of the “Chain-of-Command” Notes). The ghastly picture is that he beats on her and she chips on them. If ever there were a reason for a women’s movement in the evangelical church—this is it. This illustration is simply not reflective of biblical theology; it is a parody of patriarchalism.
Lost is all concept of mutual submission and inter-relatedness of wife and husband which the Bible truly presents; instead there is the basest form of male chauvinism I have ever heard in a Christian context.
Women are stripped of dignity other than that which they have in their husband; children are to be broken; the husband is to be permitted tyranny over the grin-and-bear-it little woman. Gothard has lost the biblical balance of the relationship between women and men as equals in relationship. His view is basically anti-woman.
Guilt is a mighty weapon, just as it is in Armstrongism:
Women with rebellious sons are made to believe that these heartaches are the direct result of their own lack of submission to their husbands. Guilt is piled on guilt.
Surpassing even my credibility level is the audacious new teaching reported to me that Gothard now warns parents of adopted children that they may be under the injunction of God’s displeasure because the children they have adopted may be visited by God for the iniquity of their fathers. The only result of such a teaching is guilt—something Gothard seems to desire to produce in his people.
Gothard lives a hypocritical life style, just as the Armstrong's did and every single COG leader still does today.
All of these things are not distinct to Gothards ministry or Armstrongism. These kinds of abuses are being documented by ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, ex-Seventh day Adventists,. ex-Mormons, etc.Gothard makes an issue of a low personal profile. He shuns magazine and news reporters, refuses to allow interviews or photos. But somehow he does make it well known that he lives on a sub-standard wage (about $600 per month, as I remember), without mentioning that every creature comfort is provided by company funds. A person who does not think through these issues would imagine Gothard to be living at a poverty level—as a modern monastic.
Is it any wonder that people get so disgusted with religion!
On child punishment: Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
On abuse of women: Quivering Daughters
No Longer Quivering: A Gathering Place for Women Escaping and Healing From Spiritual Abuse
Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement
Anti Spanking Resources:
Samuel Martin (COG) Why Not Train A Child?
Samuel Martin blog