ST. LOUIS (MO)
The Roys Report [Chicago IL]
February 8, 2024
By Julie Roys
A Michigan woman is accusing International House of Prayer founder Mike Bickle of sexually abusing her 43 years ago, when she was 14 and Bickle was pastoring a church in St. Louis, the Kansas City Star reported.
The woman, Tammy Woods, told the Star that Bickle began abusing her in the early 1980s, when he was the pastor of South County Christian Fellowship, where her family attended, and Woods was Bickle’s babysitter.
According to Woods, Bickle’s abuse began with kissing, but progressed to fondling and Bickle moving on top of her “until he released.”
Woods, who’s using her maiden name, is the second woman to tell her story of alleged abuse by Bickle to the media.
The primary alleged victim, “Jane Doe,” told her story exclusively to The Roys Report (TRR) last November, and weeks later, the International House of Prayer Kansas City (IHOPKC) permanently separated from Bickle. Doe claimed Bickle used prophecy to sexually abuse her from 1996—1999 and said the abuse included everything but intercourse.
Similarly, Woods told the Star her abuse never included intercourse.
However, she said she wanted to make something clear, given a report of IHOPKC’s third-party investigation, which published last week. That report stated that Bickle admitted he had sexual contact with another woman in 2002—2003 but claimed it involved “her touching me but not me touching her.”
“He did touch me,” Woods told the Star. “And so he moved my hand to touch him sexually. And he did touch me in return.”
Woods also told the Star that Bickle told her that he believed his wife Diane would die and “we could be together”—something Doe reported that Bickle had told her, as well. However, unlike Doe’s account, Woods said Bickle never said God had told him that.
Woods, who’s now a mother and grandmother, told the Star that she stayed silent all these years because she believed she was Bickle’s only victim. However, after reading the details of Doe’s abuse, she said she could no longer stay silent.
“Holy mackerel, I was duped,” Woods recalled thinking. “The parallels took my breath away. Literally.”
Last week, Woods told her husband, her pastor, and some family members about the abuse, the Star said. She also reportedly filed a report with the St. Louis police.
TRR has filed a request for the report from St. Louis police but has not yet received it.
Woods said she hopes that by speaking out, she will help “others to find their voice” and realize they “don’t want to have a life sentence of shadows and lies. We don’t want to be given a script, like we can be manipulated as some pawns.”
TRR reached out to Bickle via email for comment but did not hear back.
We also reached out to IHOPKC for comment. IHOPKC directed us to its attorney, Audrey Manito, for comment, who did not immediately respond.
However, Manito stated in an email to the Star that IHOPKC did not know about Woods’ allegations until contacted by a Star reporter. Manito added, “Information coming from another individual claiming to be a victim of sexual misconduct by Mike Bickle, remains a deeply disturbing theme.”
She added, “We note that while the timeframe of the claimed misconduct is more than 40 years ago, and decades before IHOPKC was even in existence, the claim still resonates, and even much louder so, because it is the claim of an individual who was a minor at the time.”
Manito said IHOPKC immediately reported the new information to Rosalee McNamara, who conducted the investigation into allegations regarding Bickle for IHOPKC.
Abuse started with babysitting
Woods told the Star that she met Bickle at a potluck at a church member’s home in St. Louis in the 1980s. Bickle reportedly asked Woods how old she was and was surprised to discover she was only 14. He then reportedly asked her if she’d be open to babysitting his two sons, who were both younger than 2 at the time.
Woods began watching the Bickles’ kids on Monday nights, when the couple regularly went on dates, as well as other times, the Star reported. Bickle also began mentoring Woods in spiritual things. And Woods said she began “coming alive in those things and wanting a relationship with the Lord.”
Bickle also reportedly began providing rides for Woods and her sister and befriending her parents, as well.
One time, when Bickle and Woods were alone in the car, Bickle reportedly pulled over and asked Woods if she had feelings for him. Woods told the Star that she nodded in reply and then Bickle said he had feelings for her too.
At Bickle’s request, Woods said she started calling him from a pay phone at school during her lunch hour. Bickle also began physical involvement, embracing Woods and playing with her hair, Woods said.
Then, at Woods’ home one Saturday morning, when no one else was around, Bickle kissed Woods “like a man kisses a woman,” Woods told the Star. The physical activity then reportedly progressed to fondling and other sex acts.
After every sexual encounter, Bickle was remorseful and sometimes repented in tears, asking for forgiveness, Woods said.
Despite this, the sexual encounters reportedly continued. And Woods said Bickle told her that if they were ever caught, she’d have to “own” it since he was a father and had a ministry.
Then, in 1983, Bickle moved to Kansas City from St. Louis, which devastated Woods. Yet Woods told the Star she had “made a vow to him” that she “would cover him in love to the grave.”
Woods and Bickle remained in contact throughout her high school and college years, Woods said. In 1988, Woods got married and Bickle didn’t attend because he reportedly said it would be too painful. But Bickle’s wife and sons attended, Woods told the Star, adding that Bickle called in tears the morning of her wedding “to bless me.”
The two stayed in touch during the following years, and Bickle even spoke at Woods’ St. Louis church in 1993, the Star reported.
But in 1996, while staying with Woods’ family during a trip, Bickle reportedly told Woods that they needed to completely cut things off. Once again, Woods said she felt devastated but told the Star it also forced her to “really seek the Lord.”
At about the same time as this conversation, Bickle allegedly began an inappropriate relationship with Jane Doe in Kansas City.
Several years later, in 1999, Bickle launched IHOPKC.
Then, in 2001, Bickle visited St. Louis to discuss launching a house of prayer there, and Woods said that their relationship had changed. She now had three children, who referred to Bickle as “Uncle Mike,” the Star reported. And Woods said she believed she and Bickle could be distant friends and co-laborers in a similar ministry.
“I felt this is a beautiful story of redemption and how wrong things are made right,” Woods told the Star.
Others see red flags
The Star spoke with several of Woods’ family members and her childhood best friend, Barbie Thompson, who all reported seeing red flags in Woods’ relationship with Bickle over the years.
Thompson told the Star that when Bickle and Woods became friends, Woods changed and became like Bickle’s wife, Diane, “speaking like Diane” and dressing like her.
Thompson also said that Bickle would visit Woods at school, meeting her at her locker. People would whisper about Bickle being Woods’ boyfriend, Thompson told the Star, “And I’d be like . . . ‘No it’s a creepy preacher.’”
Thompson said she tried to talk with Woods about Bickle but Woods was not willing. Then, on Monday night, Woods reportedly called Thompson and said she wouldn’t protect Bickle anymore.
Similarly, Wood’s aunt, Rochelle Woods, told the Star that she felt something was wrong with Bickle’s relationship with Woods from the beginning. Rochelle Woods added that her mother once told her that she saw Bickle put his hand on Tammy Woods’ bottom and “was livid.”
Tammy Woods’ younger sister, Susan Claridge, also told the Star that she believed her sister’s relationship with Bickle was “off.”
Claridge said her sister would talk to Bickle on the phone, moving into another room for privacy. Claridge added that she once saw Bickle grab her sister’s leg and rub her thigh.
But Claridge noted that back then, “you trusted preachers.” Plus, she said Bickle not only groomed her sister, he also groomed her parents, playing racquetball with her dad and coming to the house for dinner.
Like Thompson, Claridge said she recalled her sister mimicking how Diane Bickle dressed and looked.
Claridge also said she remembered her sister being devastated when Bickle moved to Kansas City. “It was the way that you would be if you were in love with somebody who up and left,” Claridge told the Star.
Claridge said her parents eventually recognized that her sister had feelings for Bickle. Her mother wrote Bickle a letter, telling him to stay away from her sister, and her father drove to Kansas City and told Bickle to “leave Tammy alone,” Claridge said.
Over the years, Claridge said she tried to talk with her sister about her concerns with Bickle, but Woods wasn’t willing.
In 2012, Claridge wrote a novel, called “House of Lies,” about a woman who tried to rescue her sister from a cult. It published around the same time that Bethany Deaton, who was part of a group that had moved to Kansas City to join IHOPKC, was murdered.
In a statement, Claridge said IHOPKC was one of five groups “with cult-like tendencies” that she studied when researching her book, but added that the book was fiction.
According to the Star, Tammy Woods called Claridge two weeks ago to tell her about the allegations against Bickle. Claridge said Woods told her that Bickle was lying, but at the time, denied that Bickle had abused her.
However, on Monday, Woods reportedly called Claridge and told her the truth, which Claridge said was a “huge relief.”
Woods told the Star that she first learned of the new allegations against Bickle in October. That’s when Woods’ supervisor at her church in Michigan, where Woods oversees a prayer room, called Woods and informed her of serious allegations against Bickle.
Woods said she then texted Bickle three question marks. He reportedly texted back that people were saying false things about him.
Woods told the Star that Bickle also told her that if she wanted to make a statement, “you can just tell them . . . he’s the godliest man.”
Then, Woods said she read Jane Doe’s account of Bickle’s abuse, which was eerily similar to her own story. Woods then realized she had been “duped.”
Woods told the Star that Bickle started texting her more frequently and even showed her the statement he released in December, admitting an inappropriate relationship with Doe.
Woods said she realized that in the past when Bickle had reached out, it had been during difficult times in her life when he needed to make sure she didn’t “crack” and tell her story.
According to the Star, Woods decided to come forward because, in the past six weeks, she had lied to three loved ones who had asked her direct questions about what had happened with Bickle.
“This chafes my soul to live as a liar,” Woods told the Star. “It’s not who I am. And I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ And then I realized he’s doing this to these younger women . . . all of them.”
Woods added, “Nobody can control the narrative of your life. No matter how dark the chapters are, they don’t define you.”
Woods said she’s now told her story to her pastors. She’s also retained Attorney Boz Tchividjian, who’s representing the primary Jane Doe and others, as her legal counsel. And she’s reported her case to police, though she said she doesn’t expect much due to the statute of limitations.
Alleged Jane Does affirm their denials
In response to Woods’ story, several women, who were alleged to be Jane Does but denied abuse by Bickle, affirmed their denials.
The “Jane Doe Group” today posted on X: “We want to reiterate, in light of Tammy’s allegation statement ‘and then i (sic) realized he’s doing this to these younger women…all of them’” that we are not Mike Bickle’s victims. We have no comment on the allegations of other women, only that we are not among them.”
Included in the Doe group is IHOPKC worship leader, Executive Leadership Team member, and one-time Mike Bickle Products Director Misty Edwards.
On Oct. 31, when allegations about Bickle first surfaced, Edwards posted on Instagram that “in my personal experience (Bickle) has only been godly. . . . I have never been sexually or spiritually abused by Mike Bickle.”
Another one of the alleged victims is April Rose, who worked closely with Bickle for years as a researcher. Rose also posted a denial on social media on Oct. 31, stating that Bickle is “one of the purest if not the purest man I’ve ever gotten to know. . . . I have found him actually to have a childlike innocence that many people might misinterpret for something else because we live in such a pornified society.”
A third alleged victim is Catherine Slezinger, who likewise stated in a now-deleted Facebook post: “. . . I have found Mike to be upstanding in honor and laser focused on the assignment that God has given to him, operating with an intense fear of the Lord. These so called evidences, regarding my life experience, are manufactured and manipulated for the sake of someone else’s agenda . . .”