BREAKING: Embattled IHOPKC to Close, Start New Organization to Limit Liability

The Roys Report [Chicago IL]

April 16, 2024

By Rebecca Hopkins

The International House of Prayer Kansas City (IHOPKC) will be closing its doors and starting a new organization, following months of clergy sexual abuse allegations against its founder Mike Bickle, leaders announced at an internal IHOP University staff meeting yesterday.

A leaked recording of the meeting that The Roys Report (TRR) obtained reveals the organization is bleeding $500,000 a month due to donors being too connected to the now-permanently removed Bickle.

Leaders hope this move will limit IHOPKC’s liability regarding victims’ lawsuits, said Isaac Bennett, pastor of IHOPKC’s Forerunner Church, in the meeting. “We’re the people to sue at the end of the day,” said Bennett. “That produces significant liabilities there.”

However, Boz Tchividjian, an attorney who represents multiple Jane Does who’ve accused Bickle of clergy sexual abuse, told TRR that IHOPKC is in “fantasyland” if it thinks closing down and starting a new organization protects its assets from lawsuit. To try to do so would be “fraudulent,” Tchividjian said.

Matt Candler, president of IHOP University, made the announcement about IHOPKC’s gradual closing to staff yesterday. TRR also obtained an email of the same announcement.

“IHOPKC as an organization is beginning to wind down . . . ” Candler said. “We’re going to be maintaining our prayer room and eventually beginning a new organization.”

IHOPKC hasn’t made the announcement public and didn’t immediately return an emailed request by TRR for comment.

“We are seeing this present era . . . coming to an end, and the Lord beginning a new era,” said Bennett in the meeting.

IHOPKC has been consulting with various experts on how to handle the crisis, said Bennett on the recording. It could rebrand, but that doesn’t address its underlying governance issue that has led to many allegations of mishandling of abuse allegations, Bennett said. It also doesn’t protect the organization from the people who may decide to sue IHOPKC.

“In cases where there’s clergy abuse, where there’s allegations that are outstanding—when there’s now interest in having an investigation that goes back through all of our 24-year history to find cases where there’s been mishandling of abuse, or where there’s been cover-up, or whatever else it is people believe has been gone on—those things will produce inevitably a contingent of individuals who are wanting to get restitution,” said Bennett. “And they’re not going to go knock on Mike’s door because, well, he probably won’t answer. But they’re not going to knock on Mike’s door because he doesn’t have any money. But IHOPKC has facilities.”

Tchividjian, however, told TRR this thinking is misguided.

“The notion that they can just shut it down and start a new organization and all of that prior potential liability is wiped away is fantasyland,” Tchividjian said. “To suddenly take all the property, put it in name of new organization to limit liability that would what I believe be called a fraudulent transfer. A court would not allow that.”

Tchividjian said he’s put IHOPKC “on notice” about one claim but isn’t aware of any pending lawsuits. Typically, people can still sue organizations for a set period of time after they’ve shut down, he said.

“If somebody files a claim against the old organization, they will be able to attach the claim to the new organization and new assets,” he said.

Financial problems at IHOPKC

Bennett said IHOPKC’s financial woes have been part of the crisis IHOPKC has been navigating for the past six months.

“We began to accrue some pretty significant financial challenges of moving along at a pace of our expenses outpacing our revenues at about $500,000 a month. . . with no end in sight,” Bennett said.

Many of IHOPKC’s donors previously gave because of Bickle, his message, and his anointing, Bennett said.

“A lot of our donors have been attached to the IHOPKC brand and to Mike specifically,” Bennett said. “Now we get a look at the pulling apart of Mike Bickle from IHOPKC. Those two had become largely inseparable.”

Bennett also blamed the drop in donations on “a lot of distrust that was beginning to be sown.”

To keep IHOPKC at its current operational level, IHOPKC would have to let go 90% of its paid staff, Bennett said. So, instead of 500 staff, IHOPKC would have to run the organization with just 50, Bennett said.

“We are at an impasse,” Bennett said. “There’s no other way forward. So, the Lord is kindly inviting us into a new era.”

However, lack of donations isn’t the only reason why IHOPKC is in a financial crisis, Tchividjian said. Rather than prioritizing care for alleged victims, IHOPKC has been spending money on lawyers and crisis managers, said Tchividjian.

“They’ve been slowly draining funds by navigating this absolute disaster in about a bad a way as you can by spending more money than any of us probably can begin to (imagine) on lawyers and PR people, all who, in my opinion, have done a great disservice to not only victims, but also, quite frankly, in my opinion, IHOPKC,” Tchividjian said.

IHOPKC’s closing will include IHOPKC’s ministries, camps, church, and IHOP University, which is in its final semester, said Candler. IHOPKC will phase out other ministries in the weeks to come, he said.

The new organization will have a much smaller staff and won’t depend on one single leader, Bennett said. Bennett blamed “governance”—namely Bickle’s large role—for leading to IHOPKC’s current challenges.

“We are set up, governance-wise, to go through exactly what we’re going through today,” Bennett said. “The chairman of the board, the operations director, and the senior pastor of this ministry have all been held by one person, Mike Bickle, for nearly 20 years of this ministry. For a short stint that was Stuart Greaves.”

The new organization will split these roles and not have a parachurch missions structure, but rather a “missional church” structure, Bennett said. Leaders will focus on keeping 24/7 prayer going as it works with a larger community to plant a new organization. The organization will focus on the next generation and on outreach, which could include helping human trafficking victims, he said. Bennett said the ministry must steward a people, its values, and its mandate from God as intercessors.

“That’s still who we are,” he said. “Regardless of what the last six months has done has not changed us as a people. It has in some ways, but it hasn’t changed our values and what we love and what we celebrate and enjoy. . . . IHOPKC and all ministries involved is about a people, at the end of the day, in the eyes of the Lord.”

TRR reached out to Jono Hall, a member of an advocate group that had brought allegations internally to IHOPKC’s leaders, about IHOPKC’s closing. He wrote in a text that he hopes this will be a “turning point.”

“While the response of the various IHOPKC leaders over the past 6 months has been disappointing related to dealing with sin in a biblical manner, we are ever prayerful that this may mark a turning point of righteous concern to respond biblically to those who have been victimized and those who have transgressed related to sexual misconduct,” he wrote.

But he also expressed sadness.

“We are saddened at the impact that this crisis has had on so many lives and continues to have through this recent unconfirmed news,” he wrote in a text. “It didn’t have to be this way.”