Sunday, March 2, 2014

IBLP Leaders, Followers, and Directors

from Character First training materials

Much abuse, and abuse cover-up, occurred under the auspices of the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the decades since the 1980 scandal. Numerous instances of child abuse were not reported, despite the Institute referring to itself as an "educational" organization and Bill Gothard touting his status as a Christian minister. So who was he accountable to? If they later left IBLP, why did they leave, and did they leave quietly?

We know who currently sits on the IBLP Board of Directors, but there has long been considerable turnover. Additionally, there is the opaque "Advisory Board". For the purpose of this post, I will use "Board member" to refer to any man who has served on either the IBLP Board of Directors or Board of Advisors since 1980. They gave legitimacy to Gothard's nonsense by lending their names to his so-called ministry. I for one would like to see any of these men make a public statement distancing themselves from Bill Gothard and his "principles".

Here is the list I have come up with so far:

  • Gil Bates, pastor in Tennessee
  • John Beckett, CEO of a manufacturing company in Ohio
  • Roy Blackwood (Board of Directors 1980-2012), pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis and member of the board of the Indiana Biblical Counseling Center
  • Dr. Billy Boring (Board of Directors 2005-present), physician in Texas  UPDATE: resigned 3/14
  • Thomas Brandon, pastor in Texas 
  • Anthony Burrus, linguist? language teacher? in Texas
  • Wes Cantrell (Board of Directors 2003-2005), CEO of Lanier Worldwide, Inc.
  • Dr. Gustav Hemwall, deceased (Board of Directors 1961-1998), physician in Illinois
  • Thomas Hill (Board of Directors 1993-2005), president of Kimray and founder of Character First (now part of Strata Leadership)
  • Ralph Hudgens (Board of Directors 2007-present), State of Georgia Insurance Commissioner 
  • Sam Johnson (Board of Directors 2003-2012), Congressman from Texas
  • James Leininger, Texas billionaire and Republican kingmaker
  • Dr. Stephen Paine, physician in Oklahoma
  • Bernie Reese, attorney in Illinois  UPDATE: resigned 3/14
  • Jim Sammons (Board of Directors 1980-2002), real estate developer in Fort Worth
  • John Stancil, businessman in Tennessee
  • Jerry Wells, pastor of Western Hills Church in Oklahoma City and Gothard's "personal pastor" for several years
  • David York (2012?-to present), pastor in Wisconsin
  • Dr. Dean Youngberg (Board of Directors 1994-2003), physician in Kansas

It may have been possible for board members to maintain a distance from what was actually happening at IBLP Headquarters and the various training centers. Some of them may have truly been ignorant of the abuses that were taking place week after week from Michigan to Arkansas:
  • physical neglect and abuse ranging from callous to violating to inhumane
  • isolation and solitary confinement
  • denial of necessary medical care
  • verbal and emotional abuse that left some "student" disciples with longterm disabling anxiety/PTSD/health problems
  • educational abuse (especially for minors placed in the care of the Institute away from their parents
  • not to mention sexual abuse and harassment that either took place at training centers or was confided to leadership who never reported to authorities
The men and women who used Gothard's teachings as a cloak for their own cruelty should be investigated, as well. Together, they hurt so many more young men and women than Gothard could have alone. Everyone who was put in charge of a training center or an Institute program or lay claim to the "authority" to grant privileges to underlings who were sent there or were paying weekly for the privilege of discipleship should be held accountable for the way they treated those young people. 


  1. It sounds like the problems in IBLP are systemtic, rather than the doings of a bad apple. I hope the organization is investigated and any wrongdoers are held accountable.

    1. Yes, Gothard's behavior toward his secretaries is but the tip of the iceberg.

  2. Hi, this is my first time commenting, so I just want to say first of all that I recently discovered your blog, and can relate to what you write in so many ways. I was homeschooled during roughly the same period (I think I'm a few years younger than you) and exposed to many of the same leaders in the movement, as well as having similar experiences at home. Your thoughts in this post dovetail with mine--I've been thinking a lot lately about those who were supposed to hold Gothard accountable. I was a member of Roy Blackwood's church in Indianapolis for 8 years; my family was not in ATIA but a large percentage of that church was at the time, and we were regularly exposed to the teachings of Gothard (and his affiliates, such as Jim Sammons' lectures on financial freedom) and stories about Dr. Blackwood's interactions with him and other board members. We were an "approved" church for students from the Indianapolis Training Center, and we saw lots of people from there too. I'm pretty sure more than one of the men mentioned above spoke at the church at some point. I could probably say a lot of things, but in the interest of keeping this short--one of the things about this whole mess that makes me feel sick to my stomach is the thought that Dr. Blackwood knew about all this, and yet effectively helped sweep it all under the rug and remained an avid supporter of Gothard for all those years. I left that church over ten years ago, and I could say many negative things about it, but most of them would have little to do with Dr. Blackwood. Many of the other men you listed above are businessmen, politicians, and others who enjoy the limelight. Dr Blackwood, by contrast, is an intellectual theologian, a bookish man (I know that sounds old fashioned but I can't think of a better term), and someone I have always considered a man of integrity. If I had one criticism to make (and this is not a new criticism, but something that struck me years ago), it would be that he often seems rather naive about human motivation, and is perhaps too willing to think well of people. This, of course, would make him easier to manipulate, and could help explain his willingness to give Gothard another chance, and perhaps assume that many of the accusations leveled at him were false. Still, I keep going back to, in the face of so much evidence, how could they not do a proper, thorough investigation and hold Gothard biblically accountable? I know that biblical (Gothard style) accountability was taught--stressed, even--at Second Reformed, and as far as I know practiced by the leadership.