Besieged by scandals and sex abuse allegations, IHOPKC to close, form new organization

Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

April 18, 2024

By Judy L. Thomas, Laura Bauer, and Katie Moore

The International House of Prayer-Kansas City, plagued for months by sexual abuse allegations against its founder Mike Bickle, plans to close its doors and open a new, smaller organization.

The news, first reported by The Roys Report, an online Christian media outlet, was based on a leaked recording of a Monday staff meeting at IHOP University and an email sent to staffers announcing the action.

“IHOPKC will be closing for good in a staggered fashion, with different things such as stipends, work emails, etc. being eliminated over the next couple of months to prepare us to close,” said the email, from “The Prophecy and Healing Leadership of IHOPKC.”

“The leadership feels the best way to resolve the issues is to close IHOPKC as an organization and shift to a more missional church structure in the future. This would still include night and day prayer with worship in the context of a church. It would also mean far fewer compensated staff members and a much bigger pool of volunteers.”

The email said the 24/7 global prayer movement with headquarters in south Kansas City “is suffering significant losses every month and cannot sustain the current infrastructure in place.”

“These problems are far more complex than simply finances,” it said.

In an emailed statement late Tuesday afternoon, IHOPKC attorney Audrey Manito said IHOPKC was not shutting down, but reorganizing.

“In a word, IHOPKC is NOT closing,” Manito wrote. “To state the obvious, the last six months have been a test to the strengths and fortitude of our missions-based organization.”

Over the past months, she said, IHOPKC’s leadership team “has tirelessly endeavored to review and analyze the entire IHOPKC organizational structure and the many missions we have undertaken over our 24 years of existence.”

“That review and reflection has led to internal decisions to begin a transition and reorganization process, which will allow us to focus on our main mission, yet deal with the realities of finance,” Manito said. “We are NOT closing the 24/7 prayer room; it remains a main stay of our existence. We do intend to review the functionality of various operational locations and will likely consolidate several. We have also decided to conclude the operation of IHOPU, our ministry school, after this year’s graduation.”

Manito added that “we have supported and will continue to support any and all victims of abuse, sexual or otherwise, whether here within IHOPKC, or anywhere in the community. “

“To be clear, there have been no lawsuits filed against IHOPKC; the allegations of prior misconduct pertained to an individual, not our organization,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, Isaac Bennett, senior pastor of IHOPKC’s Forerunner Church, said the organization had been hit hard by the scandal.

“Our mission base has been in a crisis for the last six months, and that crisis began on the day that allegations were brought against Mike,” he said on the recording. “And over a process of time, there are certain things that are unavoidable to us that we’ve had to face as a leadership team and reconcile with in terms of what our future looks like.”

When the allegations surfaced, Bennett said, IHOPKC began losing donor support.

“There was obviously a lot of distrust that was beginning to be sown and because we’re a donor-based ministry, many of our donors began to step back,” he said. “Many of them permanently, some of them were just temporarily on pause, et cetera.”

He said IHOPKC accrued “some pretty significant financial challenges,” with expenses outpacing revenue by about $500,000 a month.

“That’s half a million dollars a month,” he said, adding that the organization had been operating at that deficit “for the last six months with no end in sight.”

“And so we’ve been not only managing the crisis, continuing to run the missions base as it is, but also having to think of how do we set up this community for the future in the best possible way?”

As news spread Tuesday morning and storms moved out of the area, rows of cars filled much of the parking lot at IHOPKC’s mission base on Red Bridge Road. Several people entered and exited the building, including a woman who had been part of IHOPKC for about seven years.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said her “heart’s kind of broken.” But, she said, God is in control and has a bigger plan. She continued, saying the church “wasn’t one man,” alluding to Bickle.

She also said the prayer room had a sweet atmosphere and was full of people who wanted to be there for God.

Two IHOPKC security guards approached a Star reporter Tuesday morning at the entrance to the prayer room. They said the reporter would need to contact an IHOPKC spokesperson for comment.

One guard said the situation was “dynamic.”

Many had turned to social media, slamming IHOPKC leaders and saying they haven’t taken any responsibility for what has happened.

“They think that they can change the name of the organization, fire people, consolidate assets, and the whole issue will miraculously disappear because all of their problems are everyone else’s fault and not a result of this toxic organization’s mishandling of this crisis,” said a post by @thearmchaircom on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We won’t let them slink away from this, nor will we allow them to play like they are the victims when there are literally thousands of bodies behind the IHOPKC bus,” said another post by @thearmchaircom.

Some on X had personal ties to the movement.

“So many thoughts and emotions right now regarding the IHOPKC news,” posted Andy Hailstone, a cousin of Bennett’s. “Empathy for my friends still involved there and what this means for their lives. Even though i left in January – IHOPKC was such a huge part of my life since I was 14. Heart breaking to see it end like this.”


IHOPKC has been in turmoil since the allegations against Bickle surfaced in late October. Those allegations were presented to IHOPKC leaders on Oct. 24 by former leaders who described the incidents as “clergy sexual abuse” and said they found the allegations “to be credible and long-standing.”

But on Nov. 15, IHOPKC leaders released a report of their initial findings involving the case, discounting some of the allegations.

Bickle, 68, issued his first public statement on the allegations on Dec. 12, admitting that he had “sinned” and “my moral failures were real.” But he was vague on details. In the lengthy note posted on X, Bickle said his “inappropriate behavior” occurred more than 20 years ago, but he did not admit to engaging in any sexual misconduct.

On Dec. 22, IHOPKC announced that it was “immediately, formally and permanently” separating from Bickle, saying it had confirmed “a level of inappropriate behavior” on his part.

As staffers learned of the movement’s fate Monday, Bennett told them there were multiple options leaders considered.

One, he said, would be to continue “soldiering through” while running “a massive deficit.” Another, he said, would be to scale back and “rebrand.” However, he said, “One of the challenges is that the IHOPKC brand — who we are and what we’re known for — is very connected to Mike.”

“It’s very connected to who he is, and the anointing that is on his life,” Bennett said. “And those things are very inseparable. And because we’re a donations-based ministry, a lot of our donors have been attached to the IHOPKC brand and to Mike specifically. However, the future of this ministry doesn’t include Mike. I’m sad to say that … but that’s the reality of it.

“And so now we begin to look at the pulling apart, Mike Bickle from IHOPKC, and those two have become nearly inseparable in many ways.”

Rebranding, Bennett said, also could lead to liability in the event of future lawsuits from those seeking retribution.

“They’re not gonna go knock on Mike’s door, because he doesn’t have any money. But IHOPKC has facilities,” he said. “You know, we’re the people to sue at the end of the day. So that presents a significant liability there.”

The best option, Bennett said, is to wind down IHOPKC, maintaining “a 24/7 prayer sanctuary” while planting a new organization. The new organization, he said, “is not going to be a parachurch missions base, but rather a missional church.”

He said the organization “will have a very small staff. “

“ … But the community will be very large,” he said. “And we’ll have missionaries and we’ll have a day and night prayer room and we’ll have outreach into the city and we’ll have training, we’ll have singers, musicians.”


At the end of January, IHOPKC released the results of an investigation that found Bickle “more likely than not” engaged in inappropriate behavior that included sexual contact and clergy misconduct.

That behavior was “an abuse of power for a person in a position of trust and leadership,” said a report of the findings. The investigation, conducted by Rosalee McNamara of the Lathrop GPM law firm, was commissioned by IHOPKC in December to look into the allegations against Bickle. Though IHOPKC called it a third-party investigation, critics — including those supporting Bickle’s accusers, who have become known as the “advocate group” — questioned whether it would be truly independent. They continue to push for what they call a “true” third-party investigation.

In early February, a Michigan woman came forward with allegations that Bickle sexually abused her starting when she was 14 and before he formed the Kansas City ministry.

Tammy Woods’ allegations, told exclusively to The Star after four decades of silence, were the first claims that involved sexual abuse of a minor. She alleged the abuse began when she was a babysitter for Bickle’s two young children.

Woods said the abuse occurred in the early 1980s in St. Louis, where Bickle pastored a church before moving to Kansas City and later founding IHOPKC in 1999. She said the abuse took place in Bickle’s car, at her home, in the church and in his office, and that it involved sexual contact but not intercourse.

Woods’ story contained several similarities to that of Bickle’s primary accuser, Jane Doe, who has said in interviews, first with The Roys Report and including The Star, that Bickle sexually abused her from 1996 to 1999. She said it started when she was 19 and he was 42. She said Bickle told her repeatedly that God had spoken to him, saying his wife was going to die and that they would then be married. She said that during that time, Bickle gave her a key to his office, put her up in an apartment and had sexual interactions with her that included everything except intercourse.

Woods’ sister, Susan Woods Claridge, posted on X Tuesday morning.

“My prayer for IHOPKC leaders – May you feel the hunger and the poverty you forced upon others and may you experience the same level of mercy you showed them,” Claridge wrote. “Karma baby.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Woods told The Star that when she first heard that IHOP University was closing, camps were being canceled and the ministry was being shut down, “I thought, ‘all hopeful developments.’”

“However, to close these doors and just rebrand for the sole purpose of protecting assets is like pinching off some dead leaves of a plant with root rot and calling the plant healthy again,” she said in a text. “It’s delusional. It’s ludicrous.

“As far as protecting assets, protecting them from whom exactly? Those harmed by clergy sexual abuse and those complicit in the cruel cover up?” Woods said. “It sounds an awful lot like protecting the organization over taking responsibility and making wrong things right in the lives of those harmed. Once again, it smacks of a serious lack of discernment, humility and the true Shepherd’s heart.”