Christian Conference Features Alleged Sexual Predator Bill Gothard
By H.A. Editorial Team
Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and its homeschool branch Advanced Training Institute (ATI), resigned in March of 2014 amid allegations of sexual harassment and molestation. A group of eighteen women and men came forward to sue him and IBLP alleging an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment, molestation, and failure to report abuse.
In spite of these serious charges Total Outreach for Christ Ministries invited Gothard to speak at their Overcomers Conference held June 8-10, 2016. Total Outreach for Christ Ministries was founded by Bishop Robert E. Smith. Bishop Smith’s church, Word of Outreach Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, hosted the conference. The three day conference concluded with a banquet at a local country club which featured Gothard as the keynote speaker.
Leading up to the banquet, Gothard taught conference attendees about “The Four Fears-Foundational Truths Dealing with our Reins”. This is based on Gothard’s new book “Life Purpose Journey to the Heart and Reins for Genuine Love and True Success”. This details how our reins (digestive system) hold the secrets to success, spiritual power, and long life. Gothard even claimed he, like Moses, will live to 120 years of age and that his “ministry has just begun.” Coverage of that is coming soon.
Bishop Smith opened Friday night’s banquet with a tribute to the life and ministry of Gothard. Gothard then continued to teach the audience about the importance of the reins. He also emphasized his teaching on rhemas. A rhema is a Bible verse that stands out to a person while reading scripture, like a promise. Gothard recommends praying about and repeating this verse throughout the day and while going to sleep to ensure success. He testified that since he started meditating on scripture day and night and keeping his rhema journal 2.5 years ago he’s only had 2 or 3 sensual thoughts.
It is hard to see how his ideas about the reins of the body being a way to control sensual thoughts have had any affect on him, given the lawsuits and allegations pending against him and the number of stories that have been published alleging harassment, abuse, and molestation.
On June 15, 2016, Homeschoolers Anonymous reached out to the organizers of the Overcomers Conference – Bishop Robert E. Smith and his wife Carolyn Ann.
HA spoke to Carolyn Ann about the event, Gothard’s involvement, and the allegations of sexual abuse that forced him to resign. Throughout the call, answers to questions devolved into preaching from Carolyn Ann and she emphasized how those criticizing Gothard, including survivors, were just bitter and angry.
The Conference was attended by 200-300 people and 200 attended the keynote address at the Country Club Friday night. Gothard was a “surprise” keynote speaker that evening and HA found out about it via a tip Friday afternoon. Both videos of Gothard’s presentations are available on this site. According to Carolyn Ann, she and Bishop Smith have known Gothard for over 35 years back to when Gothard was the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. Before HA could ask specifically about the allegations, Carolyn offered that “we are familiar with [Gothard] and what he’s gone through. We also know what David and Solomon went through.”
When HA queried specifically whether the Smiths knew about the sexual abuse allegations against Gothard, Carolyn Ann responded that they “heard about Bill Gothard’s dilemma [and were] hurt and disappointed, but we didn’t shut him out of our life” because she believes “God is still working in him…. We pray that everybody that Bill Gothard has wounded would let him make restitution.” When asked if their response would be different if he was proven guilty of the allegations, Carolyn Ann explained that they would be satisfied if Gothard approached the victims for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Carolyn Ann said victims and others should have mercy on Gothard because he is an old man in his eighties and shouldn’t go to jail. Carolyn Ann compared Gothard to the Apostle Paul, saying “If he’s found guilty [and is imprisoned], he’ll be in jail like Paul. Our system of justice would deal with that.” Veering to describe Gothard as David as well, Carolyn said we can’t throw away the entire Bible because of what David did, so we can’t throw away Bill Gothard. She listed David’s many crimes and explained how God still used him. She added, “survivors have to be mindful not to become bitter.”
Carolyn Ann admitted that even some of their homeschooling friends refused to support or attend the Conference because of Gothard’s involvement, but she thinks “only God knows his heart.” Rather than wishing for jail, Carolyn Ann said survivors should wish for “mercy to triumph over Bill Gothard’s life.”
At what point will the church wholesale reject Bill Gothard, his teachings, and his “ministry”? It’s easy to see how Gothard’s “teachings” can still find a place in the modern church as many other Christian leaders and pastors driven by a similar dismissive theology towards abuse. Leaders like Bishop Smith and Carolyn Ann who give Gothard platforms to speak are enabling one of the most destructive cult leaders in American to continue his dangerous work.
If you hear about a Bill Gothard speech or event, please drop us a line.
We will not keep silent as Gothard and his followers push for “reconciliation” and “forgiveness” in the face of allegations of decades of sexual abuse, harassment, and molestation.