John Cornish

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

My childhood in the ATI/IFB world

In General, Life, Spiritual Issues on April 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm

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What I share in this story is something that I have never shared with anyone in its entirety except my wife. Some of you will know bits and pieces of this story, and some of you will recognize yourselves in it. I am not going to share names of friends and associates in the ATI/IFB world because it is not my intention to hurt anyone. I’m not angry with anyone, and I only desire to share a little of my spiritual journey. Also, my mother and father know that I am sharing this, and that I have no animosity or anger towards them because of choices that they made. All things do indeed work together for good.

The writing of this story is triggered by a series of events that have taken place in the past week of my life. The ATI/IFB world is something that I have thought very little about in the past 5 years or so. I have moved on with my life and career as a professional musician and minister, and I have put the past behind me. For those of you that don’t know, ABC news ran a story on 20/20 last Friday (4/8/2011) about a branch of the Baptist denomination called the Independent Fundamental Baptists. It stirred up a great deal of emotion for me, and brought back a lot of emotions that I hadn’t dealt with in years.

I initially shared the broadcast on my Facebook page with the intention of stimulating conversation…which it definitely did. However, much of the discussion was about the actual cases of abuse mentioned on the program, which wasn’t my goal at all. Abuse happens in many churches in different ways. My goal rather, was to provoke discussion about the mindsets that could lead to such behavior. After thinking it through, I realized that the sharing of my story would probably be the most effective way of communicating my concerns.


I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church (my father was a minister), but was homeschooled from Kindergarten through 12th grade using curriculum written entirely by members of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church. Our basic curriculum (math, English) came mostly from institutions such as Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College (A Beka books), which are two IFB colleges. The other major portion of our curriculum came from a man named Bill Gothard, who led a homeschooling organization called ATI, which stands for the Advanced Training Institute. While not an official IFB organization, a lot of ATI members were IFB members as well, and there are entire IFB churches which consist primarily of ATI members. In the years I spent officially working with ATI, we were bused to IFB churches on Sundays. Many of the books we were told to read were written by key IFB leaders, and numerous IFB leaders came to speak at ATI events. To be in ATI usually meant that you were in IFB, however most IFB members are not in ATI. The typical non-ATI IFB education consists of attendance at private Christian schools, usually associated with whatever church one attends, followed by attendance at one of the major IFB institutions. Read the rest of this entry »