Premier Christianity asked me to write a report on the report from RZIM re the allegations against Ravi Zacharias. It was painful to read. And it was the last thing I wanted to write about. But given that I had said we should not comment, until the evidence was in – and now the evidence is in – I agreed to write this article. You can read the Premier one here – below is a slightly fuller version. (Since this was published the UK RZIM has announced it is leaving RZIM). I am saddened and sickened by all of this.
An investigation into the once respected evangelist Ravi Zacharias has revealed far more disturbing behaviour than many had anticipated. In looking at the final report, which includes an allegation of rape, David Robertson says the future of the ministry, RZIM, is in serious doubt
Victims Exonerated, Ravi Guilty – What Now For RZIM?
When it was reported that Ravi Zacharias was being accused of sexual abuse through a couple of massage parlours that he had financial investments in – the news was so shocking that it was hard to take in. As with all such allegations it is better not to comment until we know the truth. Now we do. Although there are concerns about the speed at which Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) began the investigation, once it was started it was done throughly and speedily with no excuses and no attempt to cover up. This has now just been published. Entitled “Report of Independent Investigation into Sexual Misconduct of Ravi Zacharias February 9, 2021” it is devastating.
It’s a tale of money, sex, abuse, greed, exploitation, and more. It’s far worse than we anticipated. For those who wish to know all the sordid details the report is in the public domain, but the following is a summary of the main points.
- Ravi Zacharias was guilty of sexual abuse on many occasions, in different places, over a period of many years. These involved not only women in the US, but also in Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and almost certainly other places. Martin Miller did not particularly investigate ‘Asia” and what he did on these trips.
- He especially used those who worked in massage parlours – even ‘importing’ them from overseas and seeking ‘more than a massage’.
- In one example in offered to take a masseuse to travel overseas with him.
- He used RZIM ministry funds to fund his abuse. He would give masseurs large gifts or pay for them financially. Four received monthly support from RZIM’s charity for the poor for a lengthy period of time.
- He used the Gospel and Christian language to gain the confidence of his victims. This paragraph is a horrific example. “This witness told us that their relationship began as a normal massage therapist-client relationship, and she came to think of him as a father figure. He elicited information about her faith and her financial situation. She reported that after he arranged for the ministry to provide her with financial support, he required sex from her. According to this witness, Mr. Zacharias used religious expressions to gain compliance, as she was raised to be a person of faith. She reported that he made her pray with him to thank God for the “opportunity” they both received. She said he called her his “reward” for living a life of service to God, and he referenced the “godly men” in the Bible with more than one wife. She said he warned her not ever to speak out against him or she would be responsible for the “millions of souls” whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged.
- Several RZIM staff expressed concerned about Ravi travelling with a personal masseuse because ‘they feared the appearance of impropriety’. When challenged he became angry. From 2018 several members of staff expressed doubts about Ravi’s explanation for the Lori Thompson case. Although he accused those who accused him of being ““nasty people” and “lunatics” who were engaging in “‘satanic-type’ slander and falsehood.”
- Ravi owned at least two apartments in Bangkok. On one occasion he spent 256 days in one of those apartments and charged RZIM for rent.
- There is more detail about the Lori Anne Thompson case. The report concludes that given the pattern evidenced elsewhere it is highly likely that the complaints of sexting are true. The report contains the sad and disturbing details that “In order to avoid “protracted and public litigation,” on April 27, 2017 the Thompsons sent Mr. Zacharias a letter demanding $5 million in exchange for a release of claims against him and the ministry. And that Ravi paid them $250,000 to buy their silence.
- Some people excused Ravi as being ‘naïve’ and not using language wisely. The report provides evidence that his language was way beyond naïve. For example, he wrote to one massage therapist in Bangkok “I know more than ever that you have become the love of my life. I’m waiting to hold you close to my heart again”. There are many such examples and over 200 photographs.
- Ravi consistently lied – “In my 45 years of marriage to Margie, I have never engaged in any inappropriate behaviour of any kind.” Just weeks after the Thompson case he was engaging with similar behaviour with a Malaysian masseuse.
The evidence is clear. Ravi Zacharias was a liar, a sexual pervert, and an abusive, deceitful manipulative, greedy hypocrite. This goes way beyond one incident, one fall. It reveals a lifestyle and pattern over many years. He fooled many people, shamed his family and brought disgrace upon the Church. He was someone of whom the Scripture warns us – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Does that negate the message he so often preached? No. If someone who says that two plus two equals four, turns out to be a mass murderer it does not negate the truth that two plus two equals four. But it’s somewhat more complex than that. Given that one of the evidences of the truth of the Christian message is the fruit of the Spirit; when a preacher of that message displays the opposite, it is a terrible blow for the credibility of that message. Ravi betrayed the Lord he professed to love; he denied the Gospel he preached, and he caused the name of God to be blasphemed. May God have mercy on him!
What about the victims? In a world where the word is so often misused, they are real victims. Perhaps they will rightly feel exonerated. Perhaps ashamed. Perhaps angry. All we can do is pray for them and commend them to the One who never abuses, manipulates, deceives or lets us down.
What about the future for RZIM? The report exonerates them in that it states, “ we did not find evidence that anyone within RZIM or on its Board knew that Mr. Zacharias had engaged in sexual misconduct.” Although there are still questions to be answered about the lack of accountability (which they admit).
In response they have issued a statement – the opening words really say it all –
“It is with shattered hearts that we issue this statement about the allegations against RZIM’s Founder, Ravi Zacharias”
They also include this apology.
“We regret that we allowed our misplaced trust in Ravi to result in him having less oversight and accountability than would have been wise and loving. We also regret the ways that many of us have publicly extolled Ravi’s character and the impact this will have had on victims of his abuse.”
The Board have appointed Rachael Denhollander and Guidepost Solutions, a management/compliance consulting firm and have added “In light of the findings of the investigation and the ongoing evaluation, we are seeking the Lord’s will regarding the future of this ministry.”. It is clear that, whatever the future holds for the many talented Christians within RZIM, the current organisation cannot continue under its present name and it is difficult to see how it can continue at all. Perhaps something new will rise out of the ashes?
Whatever the case we know that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Lord’s church – no matter the blows it takes. ‘Millions of souls’ will not be lost because of the damage to Ravi’s reputation – just as they would not be saved if he had been a saint. We are saved by the grace, love and mercy of Christ – not the reputation of his people. Thank God.
Michael Ramsden. President of RZIM tweeted “I am heartbroken and ashamed”. I feel his pain and share his heartbreak. I didn’t know Ravi – although he did sit at our dining table once and did preach in my church – and I didn’t work for him. But I do feel some of the heartache and shame. Only God knows the pain that all the victims, the abused and the deceived, are going through just now but of this one thing I am sure: “I am not ashamed. I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12).