Independent investigation confirms: Ravi Zacharias was guilty of sexual misconduct

"Ravi Zacharias International Ministries issued an apology Thursday as it announced the results of a monthslong independent investigation in which victims claimed the late Christian apologist engaged in 'sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape' during his life." - C.Post

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Bert Perry's picture

....I've not read the report--it's out and it looks pretty detailed--the question I have is whether there were people who were looking the other way when they should have been seeing signs that all was not right.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

This report should cause RZIM to shut down and use whatever assets they have to pay Ravi's victims.

dgszweda's picture

I think more Christian leaders need to think about castration.

Paul Henebury's picture

I am sure I am not alone, but I have personally witnessed the way some well known evangelicals behave when they're not in the public eye.  They seem to think the command for humility doesn't apply to them.  They use people and then discard them without a moment's thought.  They misuse funds to feather their nests.  

I could go on...but.... 

Zacharias was a gifted communicator, but I never like the way he kept talking about himself.  And honestly, spas?  What is a full-time minister of Christ doing owning spas?   Urghh! 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Give us names, Paul! Give us names ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

....but massage parlors, really.  He was also hiring the help from overseas, which indicates two other things; he wasn't interested in U.S. accreditations, and he was interested in workers who might fear ICE and deportation if they spoke up about being abused.

(side note; OK, perhaps a pastor ought not be moonlighting as the owner of a spa, but I can see a place for Christians to operate them, if possible, in a way that honors God)

Back to the subject, I think that if we really knew, we'd be very shocked at the extent of sexual misconduct in the church, and maybe one of the reasons we don't spot it as an "outlier" is because...it's not.  I know my wife and I have been pulled aside a few times by people asking for prayer for others stuck in fornication, and we've even been asked for counsel by those who find themselves there.  My wife was also told after we married that she was one of the few people another person knew who hadn't taken their spouse "out for a test drive" before marriage.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

I have taken some heavy hits for standing up to this stuff, including my reputation.  In one particular case I felt that while broaching these matters with the individual was important, I did not wish to ruin his reputation.  I did not feel God would bless that.  The individual was dealt with.  The rest awaits the Bema.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

I fully concur with what Bert says.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I know you can't name names. It was a joke!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul Henebury's picture

Sorry Tyler, I realized that.  Didn't mean to get all serious.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Bert Perry's picture

They're following up on this with more investigations, and have hired Rachael Denhollander to counsel them on how to interact with victims of sexual abuse and assault.  They have also looked through his cell phones back to 2014.  So they are taking this deadly seriously, and the one thing that's hanging out there is the NDA which RZ concluded with the Thompson family--an NDA over which apparently RZIM had no authority or knowledge.  So that one is apparently in the hands of his widow.

I hope never to be able to apply this knowledge, but this is about as good as I've seen for a response, albeit belatedly. 

Reading through the report, I must confess that I'm afraid this will get far uglier, because there are a bunch of warning signs of problems.  I would also suggest that since RZ's career included a fair amount of falsification of credentials to go along with his adultery and sexual abuse, RZIM is going to need to go over his body of work with a fine toothed comb to figure out what's real, and what is not.

Hate to say it, but shutting the whole thing down per Tom's recommendation does not seem like the worst thing they could do in this case.   Let another organization get the intellectual property, take it off the market, and then publish new works as each claim is vetted for the truth.  Make sure that any statements from RZ are used sparingly and very carefully, because right now, they're poison to large numbers of people.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Another fault of Christian celebrity. "Ministers" get so big that their victims are easily silenced. This happens in small ministries as well of course but "it will hurt the ministry" is too often a justification for misconduct for years before it comes to light. This is another reason that para-church organizations are not the way to go. There needs to be direct accountability from a church. 

Bert Perry's picture

No argument that we ought to have churches taking part in this, Josh, but the Houston Chronicle just put out another (sigh) set of articles about how the Southern Baptists aren't dealing terribly well with this kind of thing, either.  The way I see it, Ravi had his publisher to keep him accountable, his ministry leaders, his family, and his church, and whatever each group saw, they failed to act.  

Reality is that it's tough to cultivate a culture of accountability and reporting.  In my church, I'm attempting to do a bit of that, and here are some of the tactics I've put into our church's child safety manual:

  • Explain that in any actual legal case, any evidence will get revealed to us in discovery.  We therefore can go first to authorities with high confidence we'll learn everything we'll need to learn.
  • Explain that it's good to go to authorities because they've got a good nonsense detector, far greater resources to investigate, subpoena power, capability of collecting physical evidence, and....the blame if they drop it.  
  • The reporting form is an "incident" report, not an "accident" report.  We want people to report for the little stuff too so they don't freak out as much over the big stuff.
  • We describe problematic situations in some detail, and ask that those be reported--and point out that if you violate the rules, imagine an aggressive plaintiff's lawyer asking you about it.
  • We also teach about the definitions of the crimes involved and the responses many victims had to them.

Is it working?  I don't know.  I want to think we're doing better than average, and thankfully we haven't had any disastrous reports yet.  Suffice it to say, though...."there but for the grace of God go I", no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

I agree, Josh. While churches have failed in this regard it is only because they have not followed biblical guidelines for leadership and accountability. The solution (note: not a "cure" as sinners will continue to do evil until the end) is not to look to outside regulators but to actually do ministry according to the NT.

Bert Perry's picture

pvawter wrote:

I agree, Josh. While churches have failed in this regard it is only because they have not followed biblical guidelines for leadership and accountability. The solution (note: not a "cure" as sinners will continue to do evil until the end) is not to look to outside regulators but to actually do ministry according to the NT.

Perhaps not on this thread, but I'd love to see thought about how churches can do better than parachurch ministries.  The observation I've got is that just about everybody, from MSU to BJU to ABWE to First Baptist of Hammond to whoever else, is making about the same set of mistakes.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

I agree, Josh. While churches have failed in this regard it is only because they have not followed biblical guidelines for leadership and accountability. The solution (note: not a "cure" as sinners will continue to do evil until the end) is not to look to outside regulators but to actually do ministry according to the NT.

 

 

Perhaps not on this thread, but I'd love to see thought about how churches can do better than parachurch ministries.  The observation I've got is that just about everybody, from MSU to BJU to ABWE to First Baptist of Hammond to whoever else, is making about the same set of mistakes.  

How about following what the Bible teaches, Bert? Disdain for the local church is easy, but as bad as it is, it's the best thing going, since it's God's thing. That's where we should start at least. The fact that the NT principles have been poorly implemented doesn't negate that God's way is still better than anything else going. 

Jim's picture

https://www.zachariastrust.org/news

 

The UK Board of the Zacharias Trust, which operates OCCA The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, notes with deep regret and great sadness the Miller&Martin report and RZIM US statement released yesterday.

We are appalled by Ravi Zacharias’s abusive actions and their impact on the victims of his abuse. We also lament the effect this will have on many around the world who looked up to him as a role model for their own Christian faith. Ravi Zacharias’s conduct is against everything we stand for and believe as a Christian organisation, as we made clear in our statement in December last year. Our trust in Ravi Zacharias was wholly misplaced, and for this we apologise wholeheartedly to all those who have been impacted.

We applaud Lori Anne Thompson and the other brave women, victims of his abuse, for coming forward to allow the abuse to be uncovered. We believe what they have said and recognise that the treatment they received was not worthy of any organisation, let alone a Christian one. We deplore any and all efforts to silence, intimidate or deceive victims, and indeed members of the global RZIM team.

We also express our strong support for those courageous members of staff across the global RZIM ministry who have spoken out in recent months. Together with many others outside the ministry they demanded truth, repentance, accountability and reform.

The UK Board welcomes the RZIM US statement, and in particular its focus on the victims, its repentance and its intention to make amends. However, we have sadly concluded that the response of the RZIM US Board does not go nearly far enough in terms of actions relating to leadership and governance. Very serious issues and systemic failings have been raised in recent months and confirmed by the Miller&Martin report. These demand accountability and urgent action beyond the measures outlined in the RZIM US statement.

The UK Board has therefore taken the unanimous decision to make a clear separation from the global RZIM organisation. In governance terms the UK entity has always been a separate charity with independent trustees, but in the current circumstances we believe that we must now operate without any link to RZIM US. The UK entity will also choose a new name. This process will take time to complete but the UK Board is convinced that this is the best and only way to ensure that the ministry can continue to serve the UK church with integrity. This will also give us the opportunity to review the lessons to be learned from these awful events.

Some of the leading speakers and supporters historically associated with OCCA including Sam Allberry, John Dickson, Os Guinness, John Lennox, Amy-Orr Ewing, Becky Manley Pippert, John and Alison Riches, Akeel Sachak and others have indicated their strong support for the decisions being taken by the UK Board as well as their willingness to consider supporting a new ministry organisation.

The UK Board asks that you join in prayer for the abuse victims, the global staff team and all others whose lives have been traumatised by these revelations as they come to terms with what has happened.

Jim's picture

The inside story of how Ravi Zacharias’s ministry concealed and enabled his abuse.

You've got an anonymous board at RZIM!

What are the lessons we can learn? Some are obvious. When family members of founders occupy the controlling heights of an organization, they are placed under immense strain and face an obvious conflict of interest when their father is accused of misconduct. Rigorous, independent investigations should be mandatory when accusers come forward. Compliance with reasonable investigatory requests (such as turning over phones and other communications equipment) must be required. Governing boards should be powerful, independent, and transparent.

I can go on. Nondisclosure agreements—especially in Christian ministries—are poisonous and enable additional abuse. Do not trust instincts over evidence. Never say, “I know this man, and he would never do anything like this.” The goal of any organization facing claims of abuse should be discerning truth, not discrediting accusers. All accusers should be treated immediately—publicly and privately—with dignity and respect. 

But it goes even deeper. Christian ministries are populated by leadership teams who derive not just their paychecks but also their own public reputations from their affiliation with the famous founder. They’re admired in part because the founder is admired. They have influence in part because the founder has influence. When the founder fails, they lose more than a paycheck. There is powerful personal incentive to circle the wagons and to defend the ministry, even when that defense destroys lives.

The zeal to protect the leader and punish or discredit the accuser can also rest in a particular brand of arrogance. “My ministry is necessary.” “Souls are at stake.” “Look at all the good we’re doing.” In reality, God will accomplish His purposes, with or without any of us, regardless of our gifts or talents. 

Bert Perry's picture

If it's disdain for the church to bring up the sins of her members, does that mean you feel the same way about the epistles of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude, and against the rebukes Christ gives to many churches in Revelation?  Come on, Paul, this is simply saying that the bulk of evidence suggests that we as fundagelicals have a lot of the same problems as do the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics.  (and USA Cheerleading, and the Olympic Committee, and.....)

Put the blinders over your eyes and accuse me (falsely) of disdain for the church if you like, but this problem is not going away.  All of the churches listed in the Houston Chronicle series would claim that they were doing things according to God's Word.  So would have BJU, ABWE, New Tribes, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Trinity Baptist (Chuck Phelps' church), 1st Baptist of Hammond, and a host of others tainted by this sort of thing--and now RZIM.

It's not enough to tell these churches "just do things Biblically".  You've got to tell them how they were doing things un-Biblically.  So what are we going to change?  What is your plan?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

This is one of those cases where years ago we had multiple witnesses, yet a blind eye was turned.  This does not surprise me, because many on this site have made it clear that they are willing to look the other way even when there are multiple witnesses.  This needs to change.

TylerR's picture

Editor

JD wrote:

This does not surprise me, because many on this site have made it clear that they are willing to look the other way even when there are multiple witnesses.

What does this mean?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, I don't know precisely what JD's referring to, but I do remember any number of dismissive comments about cases like the Nassar case, the ABWE crimes, and the BJU investigation that were deriding the accusers as "having an axe to grind" or being "online crusaders" and the sort.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Got it. Those reactions are unfortunate. I suspect, in these situations, there is so much mud flying around that outsiders become cynical about the whole thing, and simply become skeptical about the credibility of the side that appears most strident.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?