International House of Prayer-Kansas City’s founder faces allegations of misconduct

The founder of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, a 24/7 evangelical and missions organization, is facing serious allegations of misconduct, members of its leadership team told staff at a special meeting on Friday.

Mike Bickle has led the organization since its founding in 1999. The leadership team did not provide details of the allegations or say who made them, nor did they say whether the allegations had been reported to authorities.

“We have been made recently aware of allegations involving Mike,” Stuart Greaves told staff members, according to a video of the meeting obtained by The Star. “And our leadership team is taking the situation very seriously…. Our primary concerns are those who are affected with pain and trauma, our spiritual family, of Mike and Diane, as well as the Bickle family.”

A statement issued Saturday by three former IHOPKC leaders said the allegations involved sexual abuse by Bickle.

“A few days ago, we made the leadership team of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC) aware of serious allegations spanning several decades concerning its founder, Mike Bickle,” the statement said, adding that they found “these allegations of clergy sexual abuse by Mike Bickle to be credible and long-standing.”

The statement was issued by Dwayne Roberts and Brian Kim, former members of the IHOPKC executive leadership team, and Wes Martin, former pastor of Forerunner Christian Fellowship and former vice president of student affairs of IHOPU. Roberts was a founding member of IHOPKC and was in leadership there for 14 years before leaving to start the Florianópolis House of Prayer (FHOP) in the Brazilian nation.

The men said that prior to meeting with IHOPKC leadership, they tried to bring the allegations and testimony of one alleged victim to Bickle.

“However, we were repeatedly rebuffed by Mike Bickle and we were refused any sort of meeting,” the statement said. “Instead, Mike used manipulating and intimidating tactics towards the victims to isolate them and discredit them.”

They said they met with several members of IHOPKC’s executive leadership team and shared testimonies of “these victims of Mike’s inappropriate words and actions.”

“When these allegations were brought to our attention, we were shocked,” the statement said. “We could never have imagined that inappropriate conduct with women as something we would ever need to be concerned about. The allegations seemed out of character to the man we thought we knew, but they were so serious we could not ignore them.”

The men said they believed Bickle’s actions “were not above reproach and fall short of biblical standards for leaders in the church.”

“To be clear, the allegations made about Mike Bickle’s misconduct were sexual in nature where the marriage covenant was not honored,” the statement said. “Furthermore, the allegations made also reveal that Mike Bickle used his position of spiritual authority over the victims to manipulate them.”

Bickle could not be reached for comment. Last weekend, the focus of his sermon was on false accusations.

IHOPKC did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Saturday, and someone who answered the phone at a number listed on its website for “press inquiries” hung up after being asked if he was with the organization.

With its 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.

Full-time staff raise their own support to work as full-time missionaries. About 2,000 staff, students and interns serve full-time, according to its website, “investing fifty hours per week, as they go from the prayer room to the classroom and then to ministry outreaches and works of service.”

They’re also “spiritually equipping ourselves to prepare others for the unique dynamics of the generation in which the Lord returns.”

IHOPKC made national headlines in 2012 after a follower was found dead in what was ruled a suicide. But after her funeral, another follower came forward and said he’d killed her on the orders of her husband. The man was charged with first-degree murder but later recanted and the charges were dismissed.

And in 2018, a staff member who led an internship program for those 50 and older was accused of sexually abusing a woman at a church in California in the mid-1980s when the accuser was a teen.

At Friday’s meeting, David Sliker, a member of IHOPKC’s leadership team, declined to comment on the nature of the allegations.

“We know there’s lots of great questions to ask,” he said. “In a time like this, you don’t want to feel like it’s not OK to ask questions. We just might not be able to answer all those questions at this time. And we hope that’s OK. Because there’s times like this where just careful, deliberate, slow answers can feel like secrecy.

“…We’re just trying to say at the right time, with the right information, according to truth, as it’s clear to us. And so with that dynamic, our appeal to our community is for patience in the process.”

Isaac Bennett, lead pastor at IHOPKC’s Forerunner Church, told staffers that “I know how difficult these announcements can be.”

“Our hearts are breaking in the midst of this,” he said. “...We just want you to know we’re with you in the midst of this. And we really care about Jesus. And we really care about all those that are affected by this news.”

Not everyone was satisfied with the leadership’s response.

“I do not consider this an acceptable level of transparency,” said one man in attendance. “In a room full of faithful witnesses, and being a faithful witness to my brothers, there is more to be shared, and what they just shared is well-intended, righteous bull----.”

“I second that!” one woman shouted.

The man added: “I believe that you need to address this in a different way, with a great degree of transparency, or this is not going to be a trustworthy process.”

In 2012, IHOPKC made national headlines when a park ranger found Bethany Deaton, 27, dead in the backseat of a minivan at Longview Lake just weeks after her wedding, a white bag over her head and a pill bottle within reach. A week earlier, she had been temporarily admitted to Truman Medical Center after threatening suicide.

But shortly after her funeral, Micah Moore walked into a police station and said he killed her, even though the death had been ruled a suicide.

Moore was among young people living together under the strict control of Bethany’s husband, Tyler Deaton. Most of the Deaton group, whose members allegedly used sex as part of their religious experience, had come to Kansas City to be part of IHOPKC.

According to court documents, Moore said that he and other members of the group had engaged in a series of sexual assaults on Bethany Deaton. He later told detectives that Tyler Deaton told him to kill Bethany Deaton, “saying he knew Micah had it in him to do it.”

IHOP quickly sought to distance itself from the Deaton group, calling it a cult, condemning its “disturbing religious practices” and saying it operated under a “veil of secrecy.” Moore later recanted his confession after the murder charges were filed, saying his confession came as a result of an exorcism. In 2014, the charges against him were dismissed.

In 2018, IHOPKC was in the news again when a Washington woman went public with her story alleging that Brad Tebbutt, a missionary at IHOPKC, sexually abused her for 2 ½ years when she was a teen and he was a youth pastor at a Baptist church in Modesto, California.

Jennifer Graves Roach, of Seattle, said she had reported the abuse to church leaders in California in 1988 but they told her to forgive and forget and never talk about it again. She later learned that Tebbutt had moved to Kansas City and was leading the Simeon Company Internship at the International House of Prayer.

The internship was described as “a training experience and mentoring community for those 50 and older” who “desire to give their lives more fully to prayer, worship, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, outreach, and works of justice.”

Roach contacted IHOPKC, asking how Tebbutt could continue in ministry after sexually abusing a minor. She received an email from an IHOPKC leader saying when Tebbutt started working there in 2013, he “did make us aware of the details around these events and did provide information of a psychologist practitioner with whom he completed an 18-month repentance and restoration process.”

IHOPKC told The Star that it had placed Tebbutt on administrative leave while it looked into the allegations. It also hired an outside firm led by a grandson of the late Rev. Billy Graham to conduct an independent investigation.

In May 2018, Roach filed a lawsuit against Tebbutt, First Baptist Church in Modesto and its successor, CrossPoint Community Church. She later dropped Tebbutt from the suit when he agreed to cooperate with the case. CrossPoint settled with Roach in 2019 for $267,500. IHOPKC issued a news release in April 2019 saying all investigations of Tebbutt had been completed.

“The critical conclusion of the report is that no evidence of further incidents was discovered by the independent firm, nor has there been any evidence of further wrongdoing over the last 30+ years, including time spent at IHOPKC,” it said.

The statement also said that during both the internal and external investigations, Tebbutt had “demonstrated genuine remorse and repentance over the clear moral failure committed at that time, as well as complete cooperation with the litigation. The injured realized that the accuser made a genuine apology and has genuinely forgiven him.”

In June 2022, Tebbutt was listed as an alleged sexual abuser in a document released by Southern Baptist officials. When The Star asked if Tebbutt was still on staff at IHOPKC, it responded in an email, referring to Tebbutt as “one of our missionaries” and referring The Star to a news release it issued in April 2019 when it announced that internal and external investigations into the case had been completed and had found Tebbutt had committed no “further wrongdoing.”