Who Is Bill Gothard? Everything to Know About the Institute in Basic Life Principles Founder

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Bill Gothard founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles more than 60 years ago — but since then, he’s become a controversial figure in the religious community.

Growing up, Gothard, 88, was raised in a religious household, and as a teenager, he devoted his life to God and spreading Christianity, particularly aiming to help other young people “make wise choices” in their adolescence. As he traveled to speak at youth groups and visited with families in crisis, he obtained a degree in Biblical studies from Wheaton College.

In the following years, Gothard pursued a graduate degree in Christian education, and it was during this time that he created the basis for the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). His master’s thesis highlighted “seven Biblical, non-optional principles of life,” which, if followed, would lead to “harmonious relationships in all areas of life.” Those seven principles would become the core of his most widely taught seminar.

It wasn’t long after Gothard’s first seminar that his teachings found a foothold in the fundamental Christian community. In a matter of just a few years, he was teaching seminars in front of more than 10,000 people and sharing his lessons with other pastors. IBLP came to include a homeschooling program, a juvenile rehabilitation program, orphanages and more than 60 other ministries.

But over time, a dark side to the radical organization was exposed. In addition to controversial teachings that require women to be subservient to their husbands and shun much of modern popular culture, Gothard has also been accused of sexually harassing more than 30 women, many of whom directly worked for him. Now, decades after IBLP’s founding, former members are speaking out, including several members of the Duggar family, once the popular stars at the center of TLC’s hit reality series, 19 Kids and Counting.

In the upcoming docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, the family’s ties to the religious organization are explored, with first-hand accounts from Jill (Duggar) Dillard, Derick Dillard and Amy (Duggar) King, as well as several former IBLP members. In a trailer for the series, one former member alleged that Gothard “turned every father into a cult leader and every home into an island.”

Speaking with PEOPLE, executive producer Olivia Crist shared that the documentary team’s research uncovered “how far and wide” the IBLP ideology and Gothard’s teachings went.

“It went into our police system. It went into the military,” she said, adding that with all IBLP members from Australia to Tennessee, “you’re going to see the same exact thing happen in terms of really just this pandemic of abuse that Gothard’s teachings inhabit.”

Gothard and his radical organization are set to take center stage in the docuseries, which premieres June 2 on Prime Video.

So who is Bill Gothard? Here’s everything to know about the Institute in Basic Life Principles founder.

Gothard was raised in a religious family in Illinois

Gothard was born on Nov. 2, 1934. He was raised in Hinsdale, Illinois, by his parents, William and Carmen Gothard, along with his five siblings. Growing up, his father served with various ministries and was executive director of the Evangelical Christian association Gideons International.

As a pre-teen, Gothard was a part of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, where he was encouraged to dedicate his life to God. By the time he was 15, Gothard was an avid church attendee and had committed his life to helping other teenagers and their families “make wise choices.” He went on to work with church youth groups, inner-city gangs, high school clubs and families in crisis before he graduated high school.

He received degrees from Wheaton College and Louisiana Baptist University

In the 1950s, Gothard enrolled at Wheaton College, where he received a degree in Biblical studies. He also earned a graduate degree in Christian education from the university, writing his master’s thesis on a youth program that highlighted “seven Biblical, non-optional principles of life” — which would later become the basis of his teachings.

Following his graduation in 1961, he was ordained and continued his journey working with young people. Gothard later went on to receive a Ph.D. in Biblical studies at Louisiana Baptist University in 2004.

Gothard began IBLP in 1961 under the name Campus Teams

In 1961, Gothard formally began his youth ministry under the name Campus Teams. He continued his work with teenagers, speaking to groups of young people involved with inner-city gangs, high school clubs and church youth groups. Several years later, he gave his first seminar called “Basic Youth Conflicts” at his alma mater, Wheaton College.

In the following years, the scope of Gothard’s ministry quickly expanded. Attendance at his seminars grew to be as high as 20,000 people per event and pastors from around the world signed up to learn Gothard’s teachings. Seminars began to focus on a variety of topics, including homeschooling and solving financial problems — all based on the teachings of the Bible.

Due to the organization’s increased reach, its name was officially changed to Institute in Basic Life Principles in 1989.

Content retrieved from: https://people.com/who-is-bill-gothard-the-institute-in-basic-life-principles-founder-7506014.

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