When Homeschool Leaders Fall

Within the past six months, two homeschool leaders have either admitted to, or have been accused of some sort of sexual immorality. Doug Phillips of Vision Forum has admitted to his actions, and Bill Gothard of ATI/IBLP has been accused, and has since stepped down from his company.

While a lot of folks seem fairly upset about these events, I haven’t found it too surprising. I’ve been disappointed, yes. But not surprised.

We all have a sin nature. We all can easily succumb to sin if it is left unchecked, and if we lack accountability. While my family has not been deeply engrained with either of these organizations (I’ll elaborate more in a minute), I’ve heard many, many folks swearing off all of their material as false teaching because they were or were accused of being immoral.

On one hand, I understand. 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “Therefore, an elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, stable, sensible, respectable, hospitable to strangers, and able to teach.” Both of these men were ordained ministers, or elders. In order to hold this office within the church, they must be above reproach. Which means they shouldn’t be accused of sinning in this manner, which discredits their ministry within the church. But should all homeschool materials that they wrote, recommended, or sold be thrown away?

Let’s look at David, for example. He had an adulterous affair with a married woman, impregnated her, and then had her husband killed! And yet he was said to be a man after God’s own heart, and through him God spoke his inspired Word. Do we avoid the Psalms like a plague, and refuse to read them?

God uses us all, as imperfect as we are.

Earlier I stated that homeschool material shouldn’t be thought to be false teaching only because someone has been immoral. The way false teaching is recognized is to hold it up to the Word of God, and to discern using that standard.

While I’m not incredibly familiar with either of these men, I have heard that Doug Philips has some ideas that are not biblical. I understand this, and yet I truly appreciate the fact that he helped found the NCFIC and my family still enjoys several Vision Forum resources. After reading about ATI several years ago, I decided that we would never formally enroll our children in their homeschool program since I found several of their teachings to be unbiblical. At the same time, I think that their character program and it’s relation to animals is top notch, and I use that with my children unashamedly. We actually were planning on attending the ATI homeschool conference in Big Sandy, Texas this year until my girl’s dance photos were changed to that weekend. (Which I believe is 100% God’s providence, given some of the recent accusations that have been made!)

(I laminated these character sheets from ATI and taped them to a wall in our kitchen awhile back. Character First! used these same qualities with ATI’s permission in their curriculum, but they leave out biblical principles so I prefer this format.)

Some have argued that all that should be taught is Jesus and grace, and if we are told anything differently we should run. But the thing is, in our culture we are inundated on all sides by folks who claim to be Christians but do not believe in holy living and their children are floundering! I do not want that for my kids, and I look for concrete examples of how to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I don’t believe that is following man, but following the Lord through examples He Himself has raised up.

So if we do look to teachings that give us some “applications” in regards to this homeschooling and parenting thing, we must hold them up to the teachings of scripture. If the teachings do not line up, drop them like a hot potato. If they do, explore, test and pray over them more to discern if the teachings are God’s will for you and your family. If the leaders lack accountability, look elsewhere. For example, while counseling women, a spouse (or another trusted person) should be in the room with the leader as well. This is just good sense. An entire ministry can be destroyed otherwise. If a leader is unwilling to do this, there could be trouble brewing.

While it may be tough for some who were very involved in either Vision Forum or ATI, we should pray for these men, for their families, and for any victims. Above all, we must remember to keep our eyes on God, and not man.

9 thoughts on “When Homeschool Leaders Fall

  1. Jackie B. says:

    What a wonderfully helpful article, Nicole! Thank you for sharing your insight on this, and the truths behind it. You are correct; we are accountable to lining up everything with the word of God, not just listening to other’s opinion or their personal interpretation. God bless!

  2. Shannon Payne (@SimplySaidMom) says:

    Nicole- thank you for sharing your heart on this issue. While I’m not a homeschooling mama, I can relate to feelings of betrayal and disappointment which no doubt those affected by this situation are feeling. Keeping our eyes focused on God and not man is a discipline easier said than done, but none-the-less can and will sharpen our sights to those things which wreek of immorality and unrighteousness. Praying for these men, their families, and any ones affected.

  3. Laura says:

    Thank-you for sharing this Nicole. The take home lesson rings out clear: test everything you hear/read against the Scriptures. You just can’t go wrong doing this! In the end, it is the parent’s responsibility to teach the child, and assure that the teaching in the curriculum is sound.

  4. Lori Nyi says:

    well-written article, but what seems to be missing is drawing the clear distinction between what Doug Phillips admitted to, which is an adulterous affair, and what Bill Gothard is accused of, which is child sexual abuse, and not just an immorality, but a FELONY! big difference!!

    • Nicole says:

      What Gothard is accused of isn’t sexual abuse, as in say, raping 12 year old girls, but is none the less disgusting. Ultimately I think the blame goes back on the parents of any underage girl. I know there is no way I would allow my daughter under the age of 18 to leave home, even if it was to work for a “ministry.”

    • Anne S. says:

      Actually, Doug Phillip’s affair began when the lady in question was underage. She was a nanny for his family and around 16-17 when it began.

  5. Jennifer Harrison says:

    I enjoyed your article. I am interested in how I could order a copy of the animal character sheets you showed. Do you have a link, or a suggestion on where I should look? Thanks

    • Nicole says:

      Hey Jennifer! I purchased them here: http://store.iblp.org/products/CC/ They actually cards, but I copied them on my printer before I perforated them so I could hang a copy on the wall as well. The back of the cards discuss the animal and character trait in more detail. The set is only $3.

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