Ravi Zacharias’ daughter launches new apologetics ministry; former employees express concern

Sarah Davis, CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and oldest daughter of the late apologist, speaks during a video message shared on May 26, 2021.
Sarah Davis, CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and oldest daughter of the late apologist, speaks during a video message shared on May 26, 2021. | Screenshot: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Sarah Davis, the daughter of late apologist Ravi Zacharias and former CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), has left the organization her father founded to launch a new apologetics ministry.

The news elicited disappointment from one abuse survivor and two former RZIM employees, who believe Davis should be “disqualified” from leading a ministry.

According to a report from investigative journalist Julie Roys, Davis filed articles of incorporation earlier this month with the state of Georgia for a nonprofit corporation titled Encounter, Inc. 

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The organization has the stated mission of “carrying the Gospel invitation to individuals,” “engaging their questions” and “training and disciplining messengers of Christ’s love for their spheres of influence.”

Zacharias' oldest daughter became CEO of RZIM in November 2019. She led the organization amid the posthumous scandal surrounding her father and as an independent investigation detailed serious allegations that the late apologist engaged in years of predatory behavior and sexual abuse.

According to Roys, RZIM also backed a fake humanitarian effort called “Touch of Hope,” which funneled money to four of Zacharias’ massage therapists.

On Twitter, Carson Weitnauer, a former RZIM director, said he was “disappointed” by Davis’ decision to launch a new organization.

He contends that the “new name and the new legal structure do not change that this organization is effectively RZIM.” He points out that Davis remains in charge, Encounter’s office is housed in RZIM’s building and argues that Encounter “likely is funded by RZIM’s donors.”

“I’m also disappointed that Sarah believes herself to be a credible and trusted leader of an apologetics organization,” he added. “Under her leadership, RZIM mismanaged finances, concealed sexual abuse, retaliated against employees, etc., etc., etc. ... she is disqualified for this role.”

Ruth Malhotra, RZIM’s former public relations manager, also said she was “disappointed” in Davis’ decision to launch a new ministry.

“Sarah Davis continually drove key aspects of RZIM’s destructive actions which enabled leaders to operate without accountability, silenced victims, maligned internal dissenters, & allowed ministry resources to be severely misused—all actions which significantly harmed many people,” she tweeted.

Malhotra also stated that "former RZIM speakers comprise the team" at Encounter and that the organization employs the "same attorney as RZIM."

Lori Anne Thompson, who Zacharias sued in 2017 for alleging they had an online sexual relationship, also expressed dismay over the news.

“Breathing in new life (inhaling) is difficult to do if we have not properly processed (exhaled) the old,” she tweeted. “It is simply not possible to breath well individually or institutionally when your tidal volume is full of trauma. It’s a time for respiration and rest — not reproduction.”

In the fallout from the scandal, the global apologetics ministry downsized and restructured into a grant-making organization. 

Davis announced in March that RZIM intended to change its name and remove all content featuring her father from the organization’s website. 

In an email to supporters, Davis stated that RZIM “cannot — indeed should not — continue to operate as an organization in its present form."

“Nor do we believe we can merely rename the organization and move forward with ‘business as usual,'" she added. "That, we are convinced, is not right for numerous reasons.”

RZIM’s board, whose members remain anonymous, decided to stop accepting donations and hired Guidepost Solutions to investigate RZIM’s culture and practice. However, the RZIM board of directors has since moved to limit the scope of the investigation and keep any findings from becoming public, according to sources that spoke with Roys.

In May, Davis apologized for her initial reaction to her father’s sexual misconduct allegations, admitting that she erred by ignoring allegations against her father and defending his innocence. 

“I earnestly wanted the truth, but I recognize that the steps I took didn’t always show this,” she shared. “I should have immediately called for an independent investigation in 2017, but I trusted my father fully, and I carried his narrative, both in 2017 and then initially in 2020, when we were first made aware of those allegations. In both of these, I know that I caused pain. I did not serve well, and I did not love well. And for this, I’m deeply sorry.”

“My goal and my heart were not to attempt to cover up the sins of my father — or any sin — to further a call or a mission,” she added. “I believed this man, my father, whom I loved and trusted more than anyone else, could not have done these things. … But I was wrong.”

At the time, Davis said she hoped to be a “conduit of healing” and move forward with truth and transparency.

In response to his sister’s statement, Nathan Zacharias, who runs a blog dedicated to defending his father, wrote a brief response in which he said that Davis “is not speaking for the family.”

“As has been clear, we do not share her take on this situation,” he wrote. “A while back she chose the path of doing what she felt was best, strategically, for the organization. We disagree with her opinions and stance very strongly. And we do so for very legitimate reasons.”

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