Bill Gothard is the son of William and Carmen Gothard. He has two older sisters and three younger siblings. He is known as the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles.
William "Bill" W. Gothard, Jr. was born on November 2, 1934, to William and Carmen Gothard. He was the couple's third child, and they went on to have three more children after him. His mother was counseled to abort him as having three children in three years would be a hard financial burden.
At the age of fifteen, Bill grew concerned over his classmates' poor decisions and decided to dedicate his life to working with teenagers to help them and their families make wise choices.
Bill attended public school, where he initially struggled. He had to repeat the first grade and was almost forced to repeat second grade as well. His primary struggles were learning to read and retention of taught knowledge. Although he did not wind up repeating second grade, he was on probation from second through eighth grade. After his older sisters expressed their concerns of being known as "the sisters of a dumb-bell", he dedicated himself to work harder in high school, regularly devoting five or six hours a night to homework, although his grades still remained average.
At some point between his sophomore and junior years of high school, a woman he knew taught him that he should memorize Scripture on a regular basis if he wanted to be successful. She provided him with booklets of about twenty verses to memorize each week, then quizzed him on how he would apply them to his life. After he began this process, he began to get A's in school. As a senior in high school, he placed second in a contest held by the Future Scientists of America, which granted him membership. He also won a book writing contest. In 1954, Bill graduated from Lyons Township High School l as a member of the National Honor Society and was offered a scholarship to Harvard University.
Bill Gothard earned his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Wheaton College in 1957, then went on to earn his M.A. in Christian Education from the same school at 1961. As a graduate student, he organized undergraduate students to organize Bible studies in Chicago-area public schools. He called them Campus Teams, and ran the organization out of his home. This allowed him to gather data for his master's thesis.
Institute in Basic Life Principles
After seeing successes with his Campus Teams throughout his master's program, Bill Gothard developed a list seven Biblical principles that he felt would result in a harmonious life in all areas. He was ordained in 1964 and commissioned for youth work, which lead to his first seminar, Basic Youth Conflicts, at Wheaton College.
In 1974 he founded the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. Largely through word of mouth, this seminar rose to national attention. Seminars throughout the US began seeing up to sixteen thousand attendees per one-week seminar, with some cities hosting sold-out seminars twice a year.
In 1989, Bill Gothard's successful Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts changed its name to the Institute in Basic Life Principles. Bill was the president and also a member of the board. The organization grew to add a number of programs, including homeschooling curriculum, a law school, and over sixty ministries.
Advanced Training Institute
In 1984, Bill Gothard founded the Advanced Training Institute of America as a homeschooling counterpart to his seminar. He based this program on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and rose to a level where over 5000 families were participating. This program later dropped the "of America", and is now known as just Advanced Training Institute.
In February of 2014, amidst years of sexual abuse allegations, the board of directors for the Institute in Basic Life Principles announced that Bill Gothard had submitted his resignation and the board had unanimously asked him to withdraw it. The board launched a review done by outside legal counsel, during which time Gothard was placed on administrative leave with no contact with the ministry.
On March 5, 2014, Gothard again submitted his resignation, citing his desire to follow Matthew 5:23-24, and the board decided to accept this resignation.
On March 14, 2014, the board announced the appointment of Dr. Tim Levendusky as the interim president while continuing the review process. The background of this appointment was announced on March 17, 2014, with a promise for more information after the review was complete.
On June 17, 2014, the board of IBLP announced that their legal review had determined that while no criminal activity had taken place, Gothard had behaved in an inappropriate manner. In this statement, they shared their hopes that God would continue to use Bill Gothard for His work, but also that they had voted unanimously that Gothard would not be permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the organization.
Attempt to Return
On April 29, 2018, Bill Gothard traveled to the ATI conference in Big Sandy, TX. After four years of relative isolation, he decided that he had had enough, and traveled to the conference with a young man who had been helping him. The pair registered as attendees and quickly drew attention from others attending. This quickly resulted in board members Tim Levendusky, Stephen Paine, and Gil Bates arriving and escorting him to a small room. They demanded he leave, and, at Gothard's request, agreed to let him meet with the board later that night. They requested he remain out of sight until then, a request he did not submit to. Near the end of the day, Gil Bates asked him to meet with the board in the administrative building. Many surrounding attendees advised him not to leave public areas.
Upon arrival at the administrative building, Stephen Paine and Gil Bates informed Bill Gothard they were uninterested in a meeting, requesting that he present his papers and leave. He finally relented, but as he tried to leave he was stopped by an ALERT officer who worked to get Gothard to admit that he had refused a request to leave. As soon as he agreed, a police officer stepped forward, accusing Gothard of criminal trespass and requesting he sign a document that the message had been delivered. He assured Gothard it was "no big deal" and simply a document affirming that the officer had done his job. After much argument, Gothard reluctantly signed. Due to this document, Gothard will now be liable for a large fine and prison time should he ever step foot on the IBLP property in Big Sandy again. This interaction was recorded from the officer's dash cam, with audio from a microphone in his vest.
In September of 2015, a group of continued Gothard supports founded a website called Discovering Grace, which works hard to paint Bill Gothard as a remorseful and changed man.
Sexual Abuse Allegations
(This section is a work in progress, and is far from complete or thorough.)
Bill Gothard has been accused of sexual assault by at least 34 women, with four of these women alleging molestation and one alleging rape. A lawsuit was filed against IBLP in October of 2015, with five original plaintiffs. In January the suit added five more plaintiffs and specifically named Gothard as a defendant, dropping the rest of the IBLP board. The judge ruled any further plaintiffs would have to file a separate suit. This lawsuit later grew to sixteen female and two male plaintiffs before going to trial in April of 2016. On February 27, 2018, the lawsuit was withdrawn. The suit could not go forward due to "the unique complexities of this case, including the statues of limitation".