Advertisement

IHOPKC founder steps away from ministry while law firm examines sexual immorality claims

The founder of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City has stepped away from public ministry while a national law firm investigates allegations of sexual immorality against him, the organization’s executive director told followers Sunday.

Stuart Greaves, IHOPKC executive director, addressed the accusations against Mike Bickle at a packed service at IHOPKC’s Forerunner Church in Grandview.

“Our executive leadership team and Mike Bickle agreed that out of the best interest in the integrity of IHOPKC, Mike will step away from public ministry for an indefinite time, up to and including and until we complete a thorough examination of the allegations and inquiry of the circumstances,” Greaves said.

“Mike has agreed to not engage in public ministry, our platform, attend our prayer room, nor engage in social media messaging.”

Greaves said IHOPKC had retained Stinson LLP, a law firm with 450 attorneys in 13 cities across the country — including Kansas City — to investigate the allegations.

“We have decided to bring an outside law firm in accordance with the best practices for evaluating accusations like these,” Greaves said. The firm, he said, will “conduct an impartial examination of these allegations, with the goal of assessing their merit and advising the ELT (executive leadership team) regarding appropriate steps to take to be done with proper thoroughness and deliberation.”

The work will begin immediately, but will take time, Greaves said.

“When this examination is completed, and based upon the findings, we will be able to determine what next steps should be taken towards healing,” he said. “As this continues to unfold, we want to be clear that our leadership team is open and not in any way opposed to getting even more additional outside independent help in the future. We are starting first with this step to help initially assess the situation, but plan to continue to pursue the truth with integrity, guided by care for the alleged victims, the IHOPKC family and the Bickle family.”

Greaves said there had been “several allegations raised” against Bickle, and “we are taking this process very seriously.”

“Firstly, to the women who have anonymously communicated allegations, we want to say that we value you, and we pray you feel safe to come forward,” he said. He added that “we have received a mix of artificial deadlines and ultimatums that have not been helpful as we seek the truth,” but didn’t elaborate.

“Regarding the allegations so far,” he said, “there has been one allegation from 26 years ago that has some credibility. There are other allegations that have been more difficult to ascertain due in part to the fact that they are either anonymous or represented by third parties.”

He said some of the alleged events occurred prior to IHOPKC’s founding in 1999.

“Additionally, some of the women that were named in the allegations have publicly refuted that they were ever victims of abuse, and even denounced the representatives of the alleged victim group for using their names without permission,” Greaves said. But “due to the variety of the nature of the allegations and our desire that all women involved would be well and fairly represented in this process,” he said, the leadership team decided to hire the outside law firm.

Greaves told supporters to continue to pray.

“And if you are experiencing shock and pain and confusion, we want you to know that we understand and that this response is valid. Many are grieving. But at the end of the day, we are choosing to fix our eyes on Jesus. And we invite you to do the same.

“We are grateful for the IHOPKC community,” he said, struggling to keep his composure. “We pray for grace to love in this time. Lastly, we understand that these statements like this coming forth from our leadership team is new to our community. But what has occurred in the last week is unprecedented for IHOPKC. But even in the times of crisis, we choose to trust in the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bickle, described by Religion News Service as “one of the most influential charismatic Christians in the United States,” has not responded publicly to the allegations. He founded IHOPKC as a 24/7 evangelical and missions organization.

With its world headquarters on Red Bridge Road in south Kansas City, IHOPKC draws people from around the world to its university and round-the-clock “prayer room.” For years, it has come under criticism by ex-staffers and former followers who accuse it of being cult-like.

At Sunday’s service, guest speaker Michael Brown, a well-known Messianic Jewish scholar, author and leader in the prophetic movement, said IHOPKC leaders had asked him for guidance.

“I have not been asked to come in to defend Mike, or to discredit those bringing concerns and allegations,” Brown said. “Such words were never spoken to me. If they were, I wouldn’t be here.

I love Mike. I’ve trusted Mike, had wonderful memories of working together with Mike. When I have interacted with critics of the charismatic movement, as I often build bridges and have debates, I’ve pointed to Mike as an example of someone, a fine leader in the charismatic movement.”

He added, however: “At the same time, I’m friends with some of the brothers who have brought the concerns and the allegations.

“I don’t know all of them, but the ones I know are fine men,” Brown said. “And the ones I’ve interacted with are very sincere. So in that sense, we’re all on the same side, we want the truth. We want transparency. We want Jesus glorified, and his people healthy, That’s what we desire.”

Brown said the law firm wasn’t being brought in for damage control.

“This is being done to bring the truth to light. It is not being done to protect the team here from lawsuits. The whole goal is to have a serious law firm investigate truth because there are very serious allegations that have been made.”

He said the results of the investigation would be made public.

“The leadership team has said that this is the first major step,” he said. “When everything is done, and the findings are determined, they will be released publicly.”

Since the allegations against Bickle began circulating, former IHOPKC staff members, followers and supporters have been posting statements and comments on social media, many criticizing the handling of the case and expressing concern that the investigation would be weak.

On Sunday, Brown implored followers to stop talking about the issue.

“You may have an opinion right now,” he said. “Keep it to yourself. It does no good. You may want to show how prophetic you are, and you’re figuring it out. Grow up. This is not the time to be doing that.

“There’s a process in place. And leaders have said if the process is insufficient, they’ll go another step. Having spoken with some of the people involved in bringing the accusations, those I’ve interacted with, all I heard was sincerity and genuine concern and deep fear that there would be some type of cover-up.

“That’s what I heard from them. I believe they’re sincere. I believe they care about the women, I believe they care about the Lord. I don’t doubt that at all. Sitting with the ELT, speaking with the leadership team, I don’t doubt that they want the truth to come to light. I don’t doubt that. So let us work together rather than against each other.”

Then he went a step further.

“If you have already posted things on social media, defending Mike, and ‘These charges can’t be true,’ and trying to discredit accusers and things like that, just take a screenshot, so you can show, if you happen to be right in the future, take a screenshot and delete it. Delete it, OK? Just delete it. If you have posted, ‘This is a scandal and this is a cover-up and let me tell you this and that,’ take screenshots. If you happen to be right, we’ll praise you afterwards, OK? But delete it, wipe it out. It does no good right now.”

The room erupted into applause.

The allegations against Bickle surfaced on Oct. 27 when leaders called a meeting to inform staff members. They originally described Bickle’s alleged actions as “misconduct,” then told followers at a church service two days later that the allegations were “unsettling” and involved “sexual immorality.”

IHOPKC leaders have not said whether they have reported the allegations to police. At the Oct. 29 service, they urged those who experienced “traumatic events that are of this nature” to seek out an IHOPKC leader or counselor.

On Tuesday night, Greaves told followers during a special service at Forerunner Church that the leadership team had engaged a third party to guide them on how to handle the issue but did not identify that party.

Also speaking to followers at that service was Chris Reed, of MorningStar Ministries in Fort Mill, South Carolina. His presentation had the feel of a pep talk, telling those in attendance that he was there to stand in solidarity with IHOPKC.

“We believe in you,” he said. “This is not the end, this is a new beginning, a fresh start.”

He said IHOPKC “is bigger than any one person” and urged them not to “abandon ship.”

“This is a global prayer movement that the earth is depending on to keep your eyes on Jesus just fix your eyes on the hope. The hope has to be renewed.”