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RZIM apologist urges ministry to repent, address failures for mishandling Ravi Zacharias scandals

RZIM apologist urges ministry to repent, address failures for mishandling Ravi Zacharias scandals

Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias speaks to tens of thousands of young adults in Atlanta's Philips Arena on Sunday, January 3, 2016. | Courtesy of Passion Conference/Phil Sanders

An apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is calling for repentance and "reparations" in response to how accusations of misconduct and other scandals were handled.

In a five-page letter addressed to RZIM leadership, Max Baker-Hytch, a senior tutor with the ministry's Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a lecturer at Wycliffe Hall in England, wrote that he was troubled by how the organization responded to the misrepresentation of the deceased apologist's academic credentials and sexting allegations involving Lori Anne Thompson, a Canadian woman, both of which were first reported in 2017. The letter also mentioned more recent allegations that Zacharias had sexually harassed several massage therapists at day spas that he co-owned. 

The letter was sent last week and an anonymous RZIM employee leaked the letter to independent investigative journalist Julie Roys, who noted Saturday that Baker-Hytch confirmed that the letter was indeed authentic though he declined to discuss the matter further on the record. 

Baker-Hytch asked RZIM to make "meaningful reparations" to the alleged victims and radically change the culture of the ministry. 

Regarding the credential misrepresentation, he said the ministry had exhibited "slowness and reluctance to set the public record straight, which finally happened only after a great amount of external pressure was brought to bear on the issue.”

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Even when the ministry issued a public statement it did not take enough responsibility for the errors, Baker-Hytch said, adding that it was embarrassing to him, as an academic. The late apologist never earned a doctoral degree though he was conferred several honorary doctorates and some members of the RZIM staff possess doctorates. 

Regarding Zacharias' interactions with Thompson, Baker-Hytch said the ministry withheld information and that "shifting narratives" about what happened pervaded the handling of the matter, noting that leadership asserted that Thompson and her husband were attempting to extort money from the ministry.

Additionally, he continued, a December 2017 update to staff from the RZIM president claimed that no money had been exchanged between Zacharias and the Thompsons when, in truth, Zacharias had paid the couple $250,000 as part of a settlement in a lawsuit against the Canadian couple a few months earlier.

In a statement to Roys on Saturday, Sarah Davis, the CEO of RZIM and the eldest daughter of the late apologist, said the accusations against Zacharias have "naturally resulted in some internal angst and questions.” 

“In addition to finding the truth, that is why RZIM has commissioned Miller & Martin to conduct an independent investigation and is awaiting its conclusion,” she added, noting that the organization is committed to releasing the findings of the investigation upon its completion. 

The investigation, however, is only limited to what happened at the day spas, and nothing to do with Thompson, Roys reported. 

RZIM defended its handling of the Thompson matter in a statement emailed to The Christian Post in late September, asserting that while Zacharias should have immediately disclosed the fact that Thompson sent inappropriate photographs to him, "he denied any sexually or romantically inappropriate conduct. [And] stood by that statement until his death."

His denial is consistent with the character of the man we knew and worked alongside for years," the ministry added at the time. 

Baker-Hytch also said in his letter that the immediate denial that the spa allegations were true was "hugely damaging" since two Christian publications followed up with stories verifying the identities of the victims. He explained that RZIM President Michael Ramsden and Senior Vice President Abdu Murray had remarked during an October Zoom call that they thought the victims were either not credible or nonexistent and appeared to liken what was happening to Zacharias to the false charges the Apostle Paul faced in Acts 17. 

“If there is even the faintest hint of a self-preservation or damage control mentality in our response to all of this, not only will that be wholly futile but it will prolong the agony we are enduring. Drastic and deeply humbling steps will be required in order to demonstrate to the world that we are serious about rebuilding our institutional culture from the ground up,” Baker-Hytch concluded his letter, stressing the necessity of organizational repentance. 

“The reality is that Ravi’s reputation is in tatters; but his legacy — this team — need not be. ... If we choose to act justly and do the right things, we could become known as the gold standard for how to recover from a tragic situation such as this and move forward in a way that beautifully demonstrates the faith we commend.”


 

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