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Bill Gothard

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Bill Gothard
Bill Gothard 03.jpg
Born (1934-11-02) November 2, 1934 (age 80)
Illinois, United States
Residence La Grange, Illinois, United States
Occupation Instructor, author
Known for Institute in Basic Life Principles
Religion Christianity

William W. (Bill) Gothard, Jr. (born November 2, 1934) is an American Christian minister, speaker, and writer, and the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), notable for his conservative teachings. Among the several strong distinctives of his teaching have been encouragement of Bible memorization, large families, homeschooling, aversion to debt, respect for authority, conservative dress,[1] and extended principles related to identity, family, education, healthcare, music, and finances.

At the height of his popularity during the 1970s, the Basic Youth Conflicts seminar with Bill Gothard was regularly filling auditoriums throughout the United States and beyond with attendance figures as large as ten thousand and more for a one-week seminar. In this way, he reached many in the evangelical community from the Baby Boomer generation during their teen years and years of young adulthood. Other seminars during this time included an advanced youth conflicts seminar and as well as seminars for pastors, physicians, and legislators. Bill Gothard has credited a large influence to his parents. His mother, Carmen Christina Gothard (née Torres), was of Mexican-American descent.[2][3][4] His father, William Gothard, Sr. was a speaker at many seminars during the early years, and held high positions at organizations that included the Gideons, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.[5]

By 2009 to 2012 though, Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles began a steady decline, losing money, assets, and greatly decreasing the number of annual seminars it conducted, while allegations of sexual misconduct became more public. Gothard resigned from the Institute in order "to listen to those who have ought [something] against him.".[6]


Bill Gothard received his B.A. in biblical studies from Wheaton College in 1957, an M.A. in Christian education in 1961 from the same institution[7] and a Ph.D. in biblical studies from the unaccredited Louisiana Baptist University in 2004.[8]

Gothard started an organization in 1961 called Campus Teams,[9] which in 1974 changed its name to Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. Later, in 1989, the organization's name changed again to Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP),[10] of which Gothard was the president and a board member until his resignation in 2014.[11]

In 1984, he founded the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), a homeschooling program with a curriculum that is based on the Sermon on the Mount.[12]

Over the years, Bill Gothard has had many political connections with various Republican political leaders, including Mike Huckabee, Sonny Perdue and Sarah Palin.[1] His ministry was also popular with the reality TV Duggar family and others.[1]

Gothard has never married.[13]

In February 2014 Gothard was placed on administrative leave by the Board of Directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principles after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases. [14] The ATI board action is described in a letter from ATI Administrative Director David Waller.[15] By March 2014 Gothard resigned from the ministry he had founded. [16]


Gothard's primary teaching, his "Basic Seminar," focuses on what he refers to as seven "Basic Life Principles." He claims that these principles are universal and that people will suffer consequences for violating them.[17] Gothard's principles are called Design, Authority, Responsibility, Suffering, Ownership, Freedom, and Success.[18]

  • The design principle is that people should understand their specific purpose for which God created them. Gothard writes, "A person's attitude toward himself has a profound influence on his attitude toward God, his family, his friends, his future, and many other significant areas of life."[19]
  • The authority principle is that inward peace results when people respect and honor the authorities (parents, government, etc.) that God has put into their lives. It is based on the idea that God gives direction, protection, and provision through human authorities.[20]
  • The responsibility principle is that a clear conscience results when people realize that they are responsible to God for every thought, word, action, and motive. Part of this principle is asking forgiveness from whomever has been offended so that no one can point a finger at you and say, "You've offended me and never asked for my forgiveness."[21]
  • The suffering principle is that people should allow the hurts from offenders to reveal "blind spots" in their own lives. Genuine joy is a result of fully forgiving offenders.[22]
  • The ownership principle is that people are stewards, not owners, of their possessions. Gothard teaches that anger results from not yielding personal rights to God.[23]
  • The freedom principle is enjoying the desire and the power to do what is right. Moral purity is the result of true freedom. The key to freedom is learning how to walk in the Spirit and appropriate the victory that Christ has already won through His death, burial, and resurrection.[24]
  • The success principle is that when people learn to think God's thoughts by meditating on and memorizing scripture, they make wise decisions and fulfill their life purposes.[25]

In addition to the Basic Seminar, Gothard also has an Advanced Seminar and an Anger Resolution Seminar. He also has a 49-week "Daily Success" series where he expounds on the "Commands of Christ" found in the Gospels. Gothard's "Total Health" training seeks to bring a Biblical view of sickness. He considers that there may be spiritual aspects of illness. His organization published "Basic CARE Bulletins" and offers "Stress Resolution Seminars." Gothard teaches that dating is morally dangerous and that courtship is the better alternative. Gothard encourages parents to be involved in their children's courtship. The father, especially, should be involved in his daughter's relationships. He should at the very least have the right to say "no" when a man asks to marry his daughter. Gothard also advocates conservative dress.[1] Gothard's teachings discourage dating and rock music, including Christian rock. Gothard teaches that women working outside the home are putting themselves under another man's authority and conflict may arise. He has warned that some toys such as Cabbage Patch dolls may cause destructive behavior in children.


Gothard has been the subject of much debate in Christian circles, and occasionally in mass media.[26][27] Various books[28] and articles[29][30] have challenged Gothard's teachings on legalism, law, and grace, and questioned his handling of the IBLP ministry.

On February 27, 2014 the Board of Directors of the Institute in Basic Life Principles placed Gothard on indefinite administrative leave while it investigated claims that he sexually harassed and molested several female employees.[31] The claims had been publicized on Recovering Grace, a website and support group for former followers of Gothard's teachings.[32] As many as 34 women who worked for Gothard claim that he harassed them; four claim that he molested them,[1] and one of the accusers claims that Gothard molested her when she was 16 years old.[33]

On March 6, 2014—a week after the investigation started—Gothard announced his immediate resignation as president of the IBLP. According to ATI administrative director David Waller, Gothard felt compelled to resign in order to comply with a directive in the Gospel of Matthew to "go and be reconciled" if "your brother or sister has something against you."[34]

On June 17, 2014 IBLP issued a statement,[35] summarizing the investigation conducted by "outside legal counsel". In it they noted that although no criminal activity was uncovered, Bill Gothard had acted in an "inappropriate manner" so "is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry".



  1. ^ a b c d e Pulliam, Bailey (2014-03-07). "Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations". Washington Post (Washington, DC: Washington Post). Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  2. ^ Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008. {6F4264FE-9EED-43E6-8E7A-F49A41733724}
  3. ^ Year: 1910; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_238; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1539; FHL microfilm: 1374251.
  4. ^ Year: 1940; Census Place: La Grange, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_782; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 16-277.
  5. ^ "A Tribute To William Gothard, Sr". Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  6. ^ Pulliam, Bailey (2014-03-07). "Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations". Washington Post (Washington, DC: Washington Post). Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  7. ^ "Biographical Sketch". Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Outstanding Alumni". Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Cassels, Louis (June 23, 1973). "Clergyman-Novelist Links Wit, Theology". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ Poll, Rich (March 1, 2003). "A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life". Christianity Today. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ Knowles, Francine (June 18, 2014). "Ex-head of religious group acted inappropriately, not criminally: investigation". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ "IBLP Educational Programs". Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  13. ^ Menzie, Nicola (18 April 2014). "Bill Gothard Denies 'Sexual Intent' in Hugs, Foot Contact With Young Ladies in Statement Following Resignation". Christian Post. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Resolving Conflicts". Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Basic Life Principles". Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  19. ^ Basic Seminar Textbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1979. p. 10. 
  20. ^ Basic Seminar Workbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1993. p. 16. 
  21. ^ Basic Seminar Textbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1979. p. 42. 
  22. ^ "Basic Life Principles". Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  23. ^ Basic Seminar Textbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1979. pp. 100–102. 
  24. ^ Basic Seminar Workbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1993. p. 46. 
  25. ^ Basic Seminar Workbook. Institute in Basic Life Principles. 1993. p. 64. 
  26. ^ "Religion: Obey Thy Husband". Time Magazine. 20 March 1974. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  27. ^ Chandler, Russell (5 April 1982). "Moral, Morale Questions Rock Gothard Ministry". Los Angeles Times. 
  28. ^ Don Veinot; Joy Veinot; Ron Henzel (2002). A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard & the Christian Life. 21st Century Press. 
  29. ^ Bradbery, Angela. "Minister`s Kingdom Not Without Foes". 29 December 1992. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  30. ^ "Gothard Staffers Ask Hard Questions". Christianity Today. 6 February 1981. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  31. ^ "Bill Gothard placed on administrative leave". World Magazine. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  32. ^ Knowles, Francine (7 March 2014). "Leader of Oak Brook religious group resigns amid sex harassment allegations". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  33. ^ Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (2014-02-28). "Conservative leader Bill Gothard on leave following abuse allegations". Religion News Service. 
  34. ^ Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (2014-03-06). "Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations". Religion News Service. 
  35. ^ "A Time of Transition: A Statement From the Board of Directors". IBLP. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 

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