Church celebrities who are above criticism (II): Bill Gothard...

Error message

He deprives the trusted ones of speech And takes away the discernment of the elders. (Job 12:20)

In a post put up a couple weeks ago, I recounted how, in the late sixties, Dad Bayly publicly criticised Bob Jones University. He did so in his monthly column in ETERNITY Magazine. It was also in his ETERNITY column that Dad issued public criticisms of Bill Gothard.

Back in 1975.

Forty years ago.

Now, Bill Gothard is eighty years old and others are seeing their way clear to say a few things themselves...

Mr. Gothard founded and ran his Institute in Basic Life Principles (formerly Institute in Basic Youth Concepts) for half a century. He also founded and ran his Advanced Training Institute for Christian homeschoolers, and Clearnote Church, Bloomington, has had several of ATI's alumni in our membership—including one of our pastors, Jody Killingsworth.

For the past year Mr. Gothard has been laying low following a number of women who worked closely with him at his headquarters through the years coming forward with accusations of sexual misconduct. At first Mr. Gothard issued an apology of sorts, but sandwiched in that apology were these two sentences: 

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.

This man is really precious with himself. World reports sixty women who worked with Mr. Gothard have accused him of sexual contact and he responds "I have never touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent." Think about it: the man is eighty years old using a publicity photo showing him with a full head of black hair; sixty of his former young female associates say he was a toucher-with-sexual-intent when they worked for him; in the face of these accusations by the young pretty women he made a habit of surrounding himself with through the years, he admits to holding their hands, hugging them, playing footsie with them, and touching their hair—even admitting these actions were indiscretions, wrong, a double-standard, and a violation of truth. But then this howler:

I do want to state that I have never ...touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.

That was a year ago. Now, a year later, Mr. Gothard is making a move for redemption, publishing a new web site selling himself as repentant...

But the repentance he wants us to focus on is his losing his "first love." So now Mr. Gothard is selling to the hundreds of thousands of fans you see pictured below "the rewards of meditation." Here's a screen shot from his new web site:

As for his apology a year ago, Mr. Gothard is parsing it more closely now in his latest version just released:

A few years ago, I was accused of having selfish motives for inviting young ladies to the Headquarters. I knew this was not true. However, those who believed these reports relived their Headquarters experience through these presuppositions and were deeply offended. As a result many inaccurate statements have been made that are not true. God is my witness that I have never kissed a girl, nor touched any young lady in a sensual way. However, I do understand in a much deeper way how these young ladies feel and how my insensitivity caused them to feel the way they do. I have deeply repented before the Lord for offending some of the very ones whom I have dedicated my life to serve. I do want to continue pursuing reconciliation in a Biblical way.

So Mr. Gothard continues to play the victim of all the pretty young women he surrounded himself with all the years of his "ministry" who say he touched them immorally and with sexual intent. Here's World's report of the account given by one of those women, Gretchen Wilkinson:

Wilkinson said Gothard’s attention quickly became physical. A handshake became a hug. The hugs became longer and more intimate. She said Gothard started touching her hair, her legs, her feet. Then she said the touching became sexual, though she added that no sexual intercourse occurred. The relationship lasted several years. When she finally told her family, a blow-up ensued. Gothard denied the allegations. Her family sided with him. Wilkinson became estranged from her family and tried several times to commit suicide, her faith all but destroyed.

Of course her family didn't believe her. This stuff has been going on at Gothard's headquarters since the seventies, starting with the sexual immorality of Steve Gothard, Bill's brother who was an executive, there. Steve got away with it because Bill refused to discipline him. Then Bill got away with it, too, even to the point of convincing fathers and mothers that their daughter was a liar, leading her to such despair that she tried to kill herself "her faith all but destroyed."

World also publishes this testimony by Rachel Lees:

Rachel Lees said she was a victim of “emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological” abuse in 1992 and 1993, when she “was 20 and 21 and Gothard was approaching 60.” She said the sexual contact was limited to “intimate caresses in secret.” Lees, who now lives in New Zealand, told me in an email that the board “has chosen to protect Bill and themselves. They have been self-serving and have not shown love, mercy, or justice.”

Sixty women have come forward and Mr. Gothard responds to them:

Charlotte [Gretchen Wilkinson] claimed I touched her in inappropriate areas. Those allegations are false.


Of all the ones claiming that I offended them, only a few have revealed their names. All the others are still anonymous, so I have no idea who they are or how to contact them, or if they really exist. I have tried to contact those I know but have been rebuffed each time.

Now really, ask yourself what sort of reconciliation could be had with a man such as Mr. Gothard who seems incapable of the most fundamental self-knowledge when it comes to his manhood? If you were a middle-aged mother who, in your teenage years, had been sweet and beautiful and Christian, and sent by your father to Gothard's headquarters to serve your father and mother's great spiritual prophet, personally, and discovered he wasn't a great spiritual prophet, but a commonplace sixty-year-old bachelor who forced the young women he employed to give him sexual favors, how would you respond to his accusation that you weren't willing to reconcile with him? Your job description hadn't mentioned handsie and hairsie and footsie and gropesie and sitting-on-lapsie. So now, how would you respond to his announcement that what he did to your body was not "immoral" and had "no sexual intent?" Could you bear to meet with the man? Talk with the man? Look at the man?

Finally, the table has turned enough that someone with a seat at the Evangelical Banquet Table has summoned the courage to question the Great Bill Gothard publicly. But of course, it's too little too late. Mr. Gothard is eighty, now, and it's been years since he was useful helping other Evangelical organizations to turn a profit. Finally it's time to look at the accusations of all those women Mr. Gothard was fondling...

A quarter-century ago.

Where was Mr. Gothard's board back then? Where were the other women who worked at Gothard's headquarters, were on his payroll, and knew what he was doing to the pretty young things who travelled with him across the country and internationally; those young daughters of supporters he forced to sit on his lap back at headquarters, in his private office? Where were the editors of Christianity Today there in Carol Stream just a few miles from Gothard's Oakbrook headquarters? Certainly they heard the same accusations my own father heard. Wheaton is a very small town. Where were Christianity Today's investigative reporters a quarter-century ago when Mr. Gothard was at the top of his game?

Now Evangelical publications are publishing those accusations, but it's so very late. It's decades after Mr. Gothard was busy molesting his pretty young assistant, Gretchen Wilkinson. And by the time of young Gretchen Wilkinson, Mr. Gothard was long-established in his trajectory of refusing to confront and discipline sexual immorality at his Oakbrook headquarters. Back in the seventies, Dad told us he had been contacted by Mr. Gothard's board members (as I remember, it was more than one) who asked him to use his column to bring accountability to Mr. Gothard. They told Dad they themselves had been unable to get Mr. Gothard to discipline the sexual immorality of his brother, Steve; but also that there were a number of issues connected with Mr. Gothard's curriculum and teaching that needed to be addressed. Dad himself was busy at the time as an itinerant preacher and speaker at Evangelical conferences around the country and he himself heard firsthand from women who told him their pastor and husband used the bad doctrinal teaching of Bill Gothard to justify wives submitting to their husband's command that they commit adultery. Surely Dad wasn't the only Evangelical leader who knew of such scandals within Mr. Gothards headquarters and constituency.

There's little doubt any number of Evangelical leaders knew of Mr. Gothard's failures in doctrine and practice concerning Biblical immorality, but they must have decided not to do anything about it. At the time Mr. Gothard was one of the biggest of the big in money and fame, consistently filling the largest venues in our nation's largest cities.

If Dad knew the accusations, many Evangelical leaders knew them; and when a board member asks you to do something to bring their man under discipline, it's not gossip to act on those requests, but rather Biblical leadership, discipline, and accountability.

It would have protected young Gretchen Wilkinson, Rachel Lee, and 58 others from the predations of Mr. Gothard and his brother in the nineties, fifteen years later.

So now, let me ask the obvious question: what responsibility do all the leaders, journalists, editors, board members, and pastors who heard of the sexual immorality in Gothard's headquarters have for what was done to Gretchen Wilkinson, Rachel Lee, and 58 other young women? What responsibility do Evangelical leaders in the know back then have for the suffering and shipwreck of faith these women have suffered?

If you read the sites collecting information on the decades of immorality within Mr. Gothard's organization, you'll find people reporting that the first efforts to discipline Mr. Gothard were back "in the eighties," but it was well-known in the seventies with Dad the lone voice calling for reform.

Here is what he wrote:

Is a Husband a Hammer?
A misguided, unbiblical marriage analogy

by Joe Bayly, ETERNITY magazine, March, 1975

I was speaking about the limits of obedience to authority, and had quoted Jesus' words, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." This meant, I said, that we do not obey Caesar—whether Caesar represents the authority of the state, the employer, the parent, the husband—when he commands anything God has forbidden, or forbids anything God has required.

Afterward a woman said, "If my husband told me to lie, I'd obey him. God commands me to obey my husband, and if I disobey, I'm disobeying God. My lie would be my husband's responsibility, not mine. I'd only be doing what God tells me to do: obeying."

Some other women were not so extreme; one said, for instance, that if her husband told her to lie when she answered the phone, saying that he wasn't at home, she'd leave the phone and try to get him to answer it. "That delay would indicate that my husband really was there." But nobody seemed willing to come out flatly and say, "I'd obey God rather than my husband if he told me to lie."

I think these women misunderstood some teaching that has been given to large audiences throughout the United States in recent years. I say I think so, because I'm not sure (though ETERNITY editors who have attended assure me that the women must have misunderstood). Those who are under this teaching are asked not to share the syllabus of these meetings, and so unless you are willing to give up a week to attend the lectures, you are forced to judge by what you hear from those who attend.

Let's agree at the outset that God has established patterns of authority, and expects submission to duly constituted authorities. Because we are Christian doesn't mean that we have license to disobey Caesar. Caesar's authority comes from God; it is derived authority (as we are told in Romans 13).

Every business needs a president, every magazine an editor, and every family needs a head. According to the Bible, that head is the husband—father.

Now it's at this latter point that we tend to drift apart today, those of us who agree in other areas that authority is God-given, and submission God-ordered.

I find several reasons for the drift. Many Christian husbands lead in the business affairs of the home, but expect their wives to lead in the spiritual life and discipline of the children. Their abdication forces the wife to assume leadership in the more difficult parts of the family.

Another reason is that some wives are brighter, better-educated than their husbands. Does God really expect the husband to lead, the wife to submit, in such a situation?

Still another reason is a recent teaching that the father is a hammer, the wife a chisel, and the child a stone in the home. Hammer hits chisel, chisel strikes stone, and stone assumes its God-pleasing shape.

Related to this is a military expression, "chain of command," used to describe the husband-wife-child relationship in the family.

The Bible does not describe the shared life of husband and wife as a military chain of command; it calls that wonderful life a "one flesh" relationship: "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it."

Nor does the Bible describe childtraining as "hammer, chisel, stone." In both Testaments, children are told to obey their parents; in Exodus 20, father precedes mother, while in Leviticus 19, mother comes first. The great passage on child-training, Deuteronomy 6, is addressed to "you"—singular—rather than to fathers or mothers.

If we are one flesh, we are not divided—else we were schizophrenic. It is the unity of husband and wife we must seek. rather than a relationship of sergeant and private or hammer and chisel.

We should never forget that when God through St. Paul commands wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5), he has first said. "Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God."

How about the marriage in which the wife is brighter than her husband, or can handle the finances better?

I am an executive and have others rcporting to me. Does this mean I must make all decisions, show myself better equipped than they? if I am to fulfill my responsibilities as leader of the team?

Of course not. I would be stupid and remiss not to recognize that these men and women excel me in various skills and experience. I gladly accept their decisions; nor in so doing does my own leadership suffer—rather it is enhanced as I encourage each individual to exercise his gifts and develop his potential.

How much more the family. What a beautiful home it is, the closest thing to heaven, in which the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church: in which they come to decisions unitedly, as one human body; and in which together they provide the model and training for their children.

Now back to lying because the husband commands it.

My fear about this is twofold. First. such a view is sub-Christian, even anti- Christian. It represents a view of authority that has frightening implications—as frightening as Dachau and Belsen and My Lai. Second, it denies the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers. In that priesthood there is no male or female. The husband does not stand between his wife and God. They stand alone and together. In any "thus saith the Lord" decision, the weight is on obeying God, not husbands.

* * *

Are Our Spokesmen Infallible?
Responsible criticism the best manure

by Joe Bayly, ETERNITY magazine, August, 1975

Yes, I was writing about Bill Gothard’s Seminars on Youth Conflicts several months ago (March, 1975), in connection with a wife’s being a chisel, or a link in a “chain of command,” and disobeying her husband when he commands something that the Bible or conscience does not allow.

This magazine and I personally have received many letters about the column, most of them negative—the sort of outpouring that an equally mild reference to gun control also provokes.

I want to comment on what people wrote, and some questions that have been raised in my mind by the matter.

But first, with total sincerity, I start by saying that I thank God for the biblical content of these seminars. Bill Gothard has helped thousands of Christians in their husband-wife and family relations, and in understanding what the Bible teaches about the life of a Christian. To raise some questions about five percent of his teaching does not negate this.

At the same time, I can’t help wondering what pastors and churches have been teaching during the past 20 years, that this main body of seminar teaching comes through fresh to all these people—most of them from fundamental-evangelical churches. For the seminar locations have almost invariably been strongholds of the faithful: Portland, Dallas, Chicago; not New York or New Orleans.

Many of the letters made the same point in various ways, that a man who is quite evidently being used by God, who has such a following, is above criticism. Or at least he’s above my criticism, since I haven’t attended a seminar. “Go to a seminar,” I’ve been told, “then you’ll understand what he’s teaching. Don’t just listen to people who have been there and draw your conclusions from what they say.”

These same people would never have said in the past, “You have to take a course under Paul Tillich or Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Seminary in New York before you can criticize their teaching.”

Of course both of these men wrote books and periodical articles about what they believed and were teaching. So you weren’t limited to their disciples’ reports.

Bill Gothard not only has refused to write down his ideas for people like me to read; he has forbidden those who attend his seminars from showing their textbook with others who will not or cannot go. (Thus, he puts some teens in a Catch-22 bind: share the book and break faith with Bill Gothard, or refuse a request by their parents to read it.)

This is something new, and I think we should recognize that it’s something new. From new Testament times until the present, Christian preachers have spread their ideas out for the world—not just other Christians, even—to see. St. Paul or Martin Luther or the Wesleys or Moody or Graham never said, “Give me a week of your time and $45 and I’ll introduce you to some ideas that you cannot share with others.” They preached and taught the Word to whoever came; they wrote, holding nothing back.

From the beginning of Christianity to the present, “these things were not done in a corner.”

One common element in what most people have said or written to me is that “a wife may disobey her husband” if he commands something that the Word or conscience forbids, or forbids something that they require. That word “may” interests me. Not “must,” or “should,” but “may.” Somehow, a lot of people who have responded to me have the idea that Bill Gothard opens the door to a possibility here, not that he affirms Jesus’ word about obedience to God always taking precedence over obedience to Caesar.

I’m puzzled by this strong reaction against responsible criticism today. It’s not just true of Bill Gothard’s followers, it’s true of just about every other teacher’s following.

In the past, and in some parts of the world today (England and the Netherlands particularly come to mind), healthy controversy has thrived, and nobody—not even Martyn Lloyd-Jones or John Stott or Herman Dooyeweerd—have been considered privileged because of their position or following. The result has been light on the truth, occasionally correction of error. Sometimes that light has been accompanied by heat, but the light wasn’t extinguished, even so.

Everyone—including and especially myself—is open to criticism in a Christian environment. I grow by people questioning my ideas and correcting them. We share an infallible Word; we who speak or write for God are not His infallible spokesmen. Nor are our constructs or systems necessarily correct, even though we use many proof-texts.

And even if we don’t appreciate the criticism, even if it hurts us, there’s value in it. As Bishop Stephen Neill said, “Criticism is the manure in which the Lord’s servants grow best.”

More manure might produce more Stotts and Lloyd-Joneses in the United States.

* * *

Basic Conflicts
An open letter to Bill Gothard

by Joe Bayly, ETERNITY magazine, June, 1977

March 10?, 1977

Mr. William Gothard
Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts
4S055 North Adams
Hinsdale, Illinois 60521

Dear Bill Gothard:

God has given you great opportunities and responsibilities in recent years, and I, along with most evangelical Christians, am thankful for your ministry. Many people have told me of their growth through your Institutes. I therefore approach you as a Christian brother, believing that we share deep concerns for the church of Jesus Christ and its testimony in the world.

Two years ago I was ministering to a group of missionaries in South America. During a session on the biblical teaching about the relations of husbands and wives, I asked a question: "If your husband were at home, and the phone rang, and he said, 'If it's for me, say I'm not here,' would you do it? Would you lie because your husband told you to?"

I was surprised when not one of the women answered "No." The closest anyone came to saying she would not obey her husband was one woman who said she'd delay long enough in replying that it might tip the person off to the fact her husband really was at home.

After the meeting, another woman said to me in private, "Yes, I'd lie if my husband told me to do so. God would judge him for the lie, not me. I would only be doing what God tells me to do: obeying my husband."

When I asked her and some of the silent ones (who later revealed that they felt the same way) the basis for their willingness to lie on their husbands' instruction, they said that their opinions had been formed at your Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. Several told me you used Sarah's willingness to pass herself off as Abraham's sister as the biblical precedent.

Since then, others have told me that this is a misunderstanding of what you teach about the relations of a man and his wife to each other, to sinful acts and to God.

As a believer in John Dewey's principle, "Lord, deliver me from my disciples," I was willing to believe this, even though other women in the intervening years have told me that they received that same impression from your seminars.

Now I'm not so sure, because of two recent incidents about which I've heard. It is for this reason I write an open letter to you, with opportunity for you to disclaim the impression people have received.

Since this is an open, public matter involving tens of thousands of people who have sat under your teaching, rather than a private matter between the two of us, I feel that this public means of your denying or confirming the teaching is appropriate and biblical. (An example would be St. Paul's writing public letters to the Corinthian church and other churches, rather than going to individuals in private.)

Three weeks ago an attractive woman told me that her pastor is a firm supporter of you and your seminars, and that she had said to this pastor, "'In the business world, an occasional husband who wants to succecd or get a big contract will offer his wife to his boss or a purchasing agent. If my husband told me that he wanted me to have such a relationship, should I do so?'

"My pastor told me that I should try to talk my husband out of this idea if he ever proposed it. But if he wouldn't back down, I should obey. He said I would not be judged by God for adultery; my husband would be judged for telling me to do this. I would merely be doing what God tells me to do: submitting to my husband, which pleases God."

A week later, in another city, I heard of a case that may be familiar to you. If it is, I think you may welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.

A father who claims his idea came from your Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts has recently been found guilty by a court and sentenced to seven years in prison for killing his young son. This man was a respected member of an evangelical church—in fact, he was about to start teaching a course on child discipline.

The father, believing that it was his duty to break his three-year-old child's spirit, an obligation which he said you taught, had an argument with the child about birds perched on a wire which they could see through a window. The child—precocious and strong-willed—would not respond as his father desired. So the father struck his son, and for the next two-and-a-half hours, when the child continued to oppose his father, repeatedly struck him. At this point the child died.

[At the request of Mr. Gothard, I wish to add the following facts not available to me at the time I wrote the letter. This information is from accounts in the (Portland) Oregonian and Journal newspapers. The three-year-old boy was not the man's son, but a foster child. (From another source I have learned that his previous years were tragic: both parents died in separate incidents.) The child did not die of the beating, but died of drowning in the bathtub where the man said he put him to revive him after beating him with a wooden stick. The autopsy further showed that the child had suffered multiple bruises in the buttocks, thighs, and calves. "Over the most minimal controversy, (the convicted man) took it upon himself to beat a baby almost to death," noted Multnomah County Circuit Judge Clifford Olsen.]

During this time [of the beating] the man's wife came in to the room, but did not intervene. The reason: she believed that it was not her right to object to the beating, because she would be taking authority away from her husband (which she had learned in the Institute was wrong).

I was told that the man, who pleaded guilty, does not feel that he disobeyed God; rather, he did what God commands Christians to do. The result of his obedience must be left in the hands of the Sovereign God.

Here are the questions I should like to have you answer, for the sake of the people who have attended your seminars; and for those who have not, but have been exposed to your teaching second-hand; and for the sake of the evangelical community's testimony, with which you are closely identified.

1. Does a Christian woman who is a wife have the responsibility to obey God rather than her husband, when the two are in conflict? Specifically, does God hold her guilty of lying, of adultery, of complicity in child abuse/manslaughter when she does not cross her husband but obeys in these areas?

2. Do you follow the New Testament doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers, including women, reaffirmed by the Reformers, with their immediate access to God; or is a married woman's husband her priest, the connection between herself and God?

3. Is Old Testament Sarah a proper example for Christian women, in her obedience to Abraham when he told her to lie about their being husband and wife? If you have taught this (and a number of people claim that you have), do you give any weight to God's act in the New Testament in striking Sapphira dead for agreeing with her husband to lie (Acts 5:1ff.)?

4. Does a Christian parent have a responsibility to break his child's will? If so, to what lengths should he go to achieve this end?

5. This question is not so important as the others, perhaps, but I'd like to know whether it is a concern for you that people such as I must depend on second-hand accounts of what you teach in your seminars if we do not have the time or money or inclination to attend? Do you not feel a responsibility to put any of your ideas or explanations into print for the general public? Must we always judge your ideas by what others report?

Thank you for answering this open letter. I assume that you can do so in the next four weeks. If I receive your reply by April 10, it will be carried at the end of my column in ETERNITY magazine where this open letter will be published. Otherwise the letter will be published without a reply.

Sincerely, in Christ,

Joe Bayly

Perhaps, in the absence of a reply from Mr. Gothard, I should detail our contacts after he received the above letter.

1. Mr. Gothard called me on the phone after three weeks, telling me he had been away and, later, sick. He said he had not yet read my letter but it had been summarized for him. We discussed areas of disagreement, and he suggested I "interview" him instead of publishing the letter. I said No.

2. A psychologist who "advises Mr. Gothard" (in his words), and who has been blessed by his ministry, phoned me to say that he hoped I'd not publish the letter. Would I accept an answer from someone other than Mr. Gothard? When I replied No, he said that he had advised Mr. Gothard not to reply, since if he replied to me, he'd have to "defend" himself against all sorts of people—something that he has not done. Rather, Mr. Gothard, he said, has refused to answer criticism to date.

3. Mr. Gothard called me several days before the April 10 date, and again discussed various aspects of this open letter with me. He said he was writing a reply which I'd receive by April 10.

4. On April 11, Mr. Gothard's secretary spoke on the phone with my secretary, giving several very brief comments from Mr. Gothard. I feel no Christian responsibility to publish these round-about comments, nor to pursue the matter further. It is my considered opinion, however, that no servant of the Lord is in a privileged position when it comes to answering the allegations of unbiblical teaching. And no leader, Christian or otherwise, who programs the minds of tens of thousands is above answering responsible criticism. (JB)

* * *

How Basic the Conflict?
An open letter from Bill Gothard

by Joe Bayly, ETERNITY magazine, August, 1977

I have now received a written reply from Bill Gothard to the open letter published here in the June, 1977 issue.

Questions which I raised, to which he addresses himself, were:

1. Does a Christian woman who is a wife have the responsibility to obey her husband rather than God, when the two are in conflict? Specifically, does God hold her guilty of lying, of adultery, of complicity in child abuse/manslaughter when she does not cross her husband but obeys in these areas?

2. Do you follow the New Testament doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers, including women, reaffirmed by the Reformers, with their immediate access to God; or is a married woman's husband her priest, the connection between herself and God?

3. Is Old Testament Sarah a proper example for Christian women, in her obedience to Abraham when he told her to lie about their being husband and wife? If you taught this (and a number of people claim that you have), do you give any weight to God's act in the New Testament in striking Sapphira dead for agreeing with her husband to lie (Acts 5:1ff.)?

4. Does a Christian parent have a responsibility to break his child's will? If so, to what lengths should he go to achieve this end?

5. This question is not so important as the others, perhaps, but I'd like to know whether it is a concern to you that people such as I must depend on second-hand accounts of what you teach in your seminars if we do not have the time or money or inclination to attend? Do you not feel a responsibility to put any of your ideas or explanations into print for the general public?

Here is Mr. Gothard's written reply.

>>Dear Joe Bayly,

>>My great reluctance in replying to your open letter was not because I reject criticism. On the contrary, I not only welcome criticism, but I actively seek it from many, especially recognized Bible scholars throughout the country. Neither is it because I don't want to clarify publicly what is taught in the seminar.

>>In answer to your questions: the seminar teaches that a person should never do evil, even if asked to do so by one in authority. On the other hand, it does emphasize that we must have a spirit of obedience, even if we must refuse to do evil. Daniel illustrated this spirit when he refused to defile himself with the king's meat and later when he refused to obey the king's command not to pray. In the first instance, he was able to design a creative alternative. In the second, he willingly went to the den of lions. In both cases he had a spirit of obedience but did not do evil. The apostle Peter condemned Sapphira for agreeing to tell a lie; but this same apostle used Sarah as a model of an obedient spirit. He urges all women to learn Sarah's spirit without doing evil: "...whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well..." (I Peter 3:6).

>>In our day the source of most conflicts with authority is not over commands to do wrong actions but in demonstrations of wrong attitudes by those under authority. Chief among these are ungratefulness, disrespect, disloyalty, and pride. For this reason, it is unwise to cite hypothetical situations. By their very nature they do not contain vital facts nor the power of God in a particular situation.

>>The seminar teaches that every Christian has direct access to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

>>The seminar emphasizes that a person should never break his child's spirit. Instead, he must win the child's will without breaking his spirit. If the child resists discipline, the parents should stop and examine their own attitudes. All too often, a child will reflect the wrong attitudes of the parents back to them.

>>My reluctance in writing a response to your letter was because of a deep respect for you as a Christian brother and a commitment to the scriptural principles behind Matthew 18 and Galatians 6:l. These require that we privately check all facts when a brother misses the mark, and that we do it in a spirit of trying to restore that person rather than trying to expose him. These apply to your report on the child abuse case. When someone who appears to be a "respected church member" brings shame to the cause of Christ, it is absolutely vital that all the facts be checked out before commenting on them publicly. Only then will others understand the real causes of the problem.

>>Those who were directly involved in this case have given me the following information: that the father who killed the boy was involved in a previous marriage and was accused of abusing the child of that marriage; that his present wife was unaware of the former child abuse and his pastor was totally unaware of both the previous marriage and the former child abuse. (We explain in the seminar how conflicts in previous relationships will affect a parent's ability to give proper discipline, and Scripture explains that if a man covers his sin, he will not prosper.)

>>Further information given to us is: that the man stated to his pastor, "I was not following seminar teachings"; that the three-year-old boy was not their own son, but was a ward of the court from another family; that the man was absorbed in many books on child discipline and claims that these influenced him; that the man used an object for spanking which is not scriptural; that there were bruises on the child from his knees to his head; that the child did not die by spanking but by drowning; that the wife did interfere, but was ordered by her husband to go downstairs; that the man has acknowledged his wrong to the church and asked for their forgiveness.

>>Joe, I spoke to you privately on two occasions after checking out this information. I urged you to do likewise and give a fair report based on the facts. You refused to do so. Now I ask you publicly, is it "responsible criticism" when a critic's use of incorrect information incites public indignation; when he refuses to check out secondhand reports, even after being told that they are false but instead puts the full burden of defense on the one being publicly criticized? I believe this question is vital to the cause of Christ and his reputation in the world.

>>If we are to turn back the forces of evil, we must demonstrate to the world a spirit of accuracy and of genuine love in all of our words. I would be grateful for the privilege of personally meeting with you and discussing these points together with any other questions you may have on the seminar ministry.

>>Sincerely in Christ,

>>Bill Gothard

In about two hours of telephone conversations, Bill Gothard and I have discussed many matters related to my open letter. I have reassured him, as I did in the letter itself, that I am thankful for his ministry, that many people have told me of growth and problems solved through his seminars.

I should like to make several comments about the letter.

Concerning Mr. Gothard's judgment that I violated Scripture by not discussing these matters with him in private, I can only say that in this (as in several other areas), I realize more than before that our understanding of Scripture differs. This was no private "trespass" by Mr. Gothard against me (Matthew 18); it was a question of Christian doctrine that may have been taught or misunderstood by a multitude of people in the United States and Canada. (Mr. Gothard's estimate is that a million people have attended his seminars.)

Because of this involvement of the church, the relevant example—if I may mention it with any semblance of humility—is Galatians 2:14, "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, 'If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?'"

Nor do I consider Mr. Gothard a man who has done wrong and needs to be restored (Galatians 6:1). He is instead a Christian leader whose teaching needs to be examined, as does my own and that of any other person with a public ministry.

One thing the church has lost in the past 30 years is the public discussion of issues on which differing opinions are held by Christian speakers and writers—what might be called creative controversy. And this loss has left us vulnerable and isolated. It is my opinion that on significant matters of faith and life, Christian periodicals can rightly and biblically provide such a forum—but only if they are open to such discussion.

Concerning Mr. Gothard's statement that he asked me to investigate the influence of his seminars on the man who caused the death of his three-year old foster child in Portland, Mr. Gothard did suggest that I check with the social worker about this. Since I had previously heard directly from responsible members of the man's church—people who knew him—of his repeated attendance at the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminars, and that there was a significant relationship between this and his practice of discipline, I felt no necessity to find what a social worker assigned to the case might say.

I can understand a pastor's desire not to cause any problem to the seminars; I can understand the man's desire not to harm something that meant so much to him.

Out of a rather tense exchange between Mr. Gothard and me, precipitated by my open letter, has come a positive result: I can now quote Mr. Gothard directly to all those missionaries in South America; the lady whose pastor told her she could commit adultery without guilt can show Mr. Gothard's letter to him, and everyone will in the future know that this is not what Mr. Gothard teaches.

Perhaps one further statement is in order. There may be "creative alternatives" to the suggestion of violation of the ceremonial law (defilement), as in Daniel 1, but there is no creative alternative to a command or suggestion to sin. The only answer is disobedience (Daniel 6:10 ff; Genesis 39, in which Joseph proposes no alternative to Potiphar's wife). Christian believers in Russia know this. Unfortunately, many Christians in Germany during the Third Reich did not.

I appreciate Bill Gothard's gracious spirit and anticipate fellowship with him in the future.

So now, whose fault is greater? Bill Gothard's, or Evangelical leaders who allowed him to continue to lead hundreds of thousands for decades, and to abuse young women privately?

A short while after Dad went public with his criticisms of Mr. Gothard, he flew to Dallas Theological Seminary to fulfill a commitment he had made to speak in their chapel service. When he arrived at the airport, he was picked up by a friend from DTS who, as they drove to the seminary, informed him an unfortunate oversight had occurred. Another man had been scheduled to speak in chapel, so Dad would not be speaking.

Dad asked his friend, "Was it because of my articles criticizing Bill Gothard?"

The man said "yes."

This whole episode is a terrible blot on the Evangelical world, but most of the men responsible are gone.

Still, there's a lesson to learn:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!