RZIM Americas' director apologizes for failures, furthering late apologist's ‘false narratives’

Ravi Zacharias speaks at Together 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Ravi Zacharias speaks at Together 2016 in Washington, D.C. | RZIM

The Americas' director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and his wife are the latest to release public apologies for trusting the late apologist and furthering the false narratives he promoted, following the release of an investigative report this month detailing Zacharias' years of sexual misconduct.

In a “Personal Confession” from Vince and Jo Vitale that was shared in a video and printed statement released Tuesday, the married couple said they were grieved beyond measure” for every one of Zacharias’ victims, calling his actions against them “appalling and reprehensible.”

Since the interim report was published on Dec. 23, “we have been asking God to search our hearts, to reveal to us the ways in which we personally have failed. And we have recognized some extremely sobering truths: first, our confidence in our friend, Ravi, was severely misplaced; Ravi abused people in horrific ways and then repeatedly and brazenly lied to our faces,” the Vitales said.

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Vince Vitale serves as RZIM's director for the Americas and director of the Zacharias Institute, and his wife, Jo, serves as dean of studies at the Zacharias Institute. Both also serve as speakers for the organization. 

“On the heels of these truths came the sickening realization that by believing Ravi’s lies and then passing on his false narratives, we in turn deeply hurt people — the very people most in need of our care — and we added to their pain. We are sorry. We are so very, very sorry.”

The couple added that they were especially grieved that they failed in the exact areas where they felt called to minister as Vince Vitale desired to offer hope to suffering people, and Jo desired to share with women how God sees them and the value of their worth. 

“I feel particularly convicted that although I’m someone who speaks regularly about the God who sees women, when a woman was abused by someone in my own sphere, I completely and utterly failed to see her. Not only should I have listened, but given the serious nature of the claims, I should have recognized my own personal bias and weighted the victim’s words more heavily. As a woman with a public voice, I failed to use that voice to speak up for another when her voice was not being heard. For this, I am so ashamed and so devastatingly sorry,” Jo Vitale said. 

“We hope that the many people we have wronged might one day consider forgiving us. That would be a blessing that we would forever treasure. But we recognize that we have no right to this and that even if forgiveness is possible, it would likely take time. We also realize that earning trust is a process and depends on what we commit to and how we live in the days ahead,” the couple added.

Since the release of the final report, RZIM has halted all fundraising activities and public relations staffer Ruth Malhotra has come forward with an insider account of how the organization operated in a "toxic" manner. 

In a 26-page letter to the RZIM board of directors, Malhotra expressed how she was not given straightforward answers when she asked leadership questions that were emerging about Zacharias’ various misdeeds and that she felt she was unable to do her job in keeping with her moral convictions.

Malhotra also recounted that RZIM leadership staged a “conciliation” session where she was berated and told she was nearly insane for raising objections.

Allegations against Zacharias include that he had sexually groomed a Canadian woman, Lori Anne Thompson, and that he had inflated and misrepresented his credentials and academic background, which first emerged in 2017. He was also accused of engaging in serious sexual misconduct with female employees at a spa he co-owned in Georgia, which was revealed last summer, not long after his death in May 2020. 

Both sets of allegations were first exposed by Steve Baughman, a San Franciso Bay area attorney who documented Zacharias’ multi-faceted corruption in the book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, and God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias. In media interviews since the release of the final report, Baughman has stressed that the problem that enabled Zacharias to abuse so many for so long is not exclusively about him but is rooted in a broader evangelical Christian business culture. 

The Vitales added in their statement that they would commit to listening to survivors of sexual abuse and learn from them. 

Thompson’s victim impact statement, they said, “is a deeply moving place to start for anyone else who feels they have not listened as God asks us to.”

“We commit to having the courage to challenge situations whenever we witness people being spoken to or about unlovingly and dishonorably. On many occasions in the past — we’re not talking only about work situations but in the course of life generally — we have not loved people enough to challenge conversations in which they have been mistreated. We repent of this and are asking God to give us the strength to be less concerned about ourselves and more concerned about others,” they said. 

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