RZIM says it 'does not agree' with entire explosive Guidepost report, but vows to 'learn' from mistakes

Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias speaks to tens of thousands of young adults in Atlanta's Philips Arena on Sunday, January 3, 2016.
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

The board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries reacted to a report detailing how leaders turned a blind eye to Zacharias’ misdeeds for years and spent nearly $1 million to defend the late apologist against allegations of sexual misconduct, saying that while it does “not agree with everything in it,” it hopes to nevertheless “repent and learn from our mistakes.”

On Wednesday, the board of RZIM released a statement in tandem with a report from Guidepost Solutions highlighting Zacharias’ moral failures as well as oversights by the organization's board and ministry leadership.

“Although we are releasing this report, we do not agree with everything in it,” the board of directors said. “We believe there are inaccurate accounts or pieces of information that were either overlooked or omitted by Guidepost and we disagree with some characterizations therein. Regardless, we believe this report provides an important assessment of our organization's actions to investigate Zacharias and the steps we sadly failed to take.”

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The board said it has endeavored to honor the biblical exhortation to be “quick to hear, slow to speak” “even when some narratives about RZIM differ from our experience.”

“Our focus has been instead to repent and learn from our mistakes,” it added. “We remain committed to supporting ministries that present the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those with deep questions in challenging settings around the world.”

RZIM had engaged Guidepost in February 2021 to independently evaluate RZIM’s “structures, culture, policies, processes, finances, and practices, including the handling of any former abuse allegations” against Zacharias, who died in 2020 after battling cancer.

The report, released seven months after the board of RZIM received it, found that the organization used nearly $1 million of ministry funds to pay for Zacharias’ legal bills after he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017, “thus ensuring that Zacharias himself did not pay a single penny, even though RZIM was not a party to the legal action.”

The board had previously publicly stated that no ministry funds were used in connection with his legal action. 

Guidepost also found that leaders at RZIM had been aware of allegations of inappropriate behavior by Zacharias since at least 2008 when he was seen in Singapore holding the hand of a young woman who was not his wife. When confronted about the incident, Zacharias claimed he required assistance to walk across the street due to ongoing back pain.

The report also detailed how, in 2011, an RZIM board member traveled to Singapore at Zacharias’ request, as the apologist “was concerned because he had been seen leaving a massage therapist office and there was an inference that he had done something inappropriate.”

“Zacharias told the board member that he had visited the massage studio because it was essential for his back issues, and then separately added that he had never viewed pornography (which seemed odd to the board member),” the report states.

Though Zacharias’ family raised concerns about the ministry leader traveling with a female massage therapist, Zacharias’ daughter and former CEO Sarah Davis told Guidepost they “did not suspect that there was anything untoward about the relationship between Zacharias and the massage therapist; rather, they were concerned about the appearance of the relationship and its potential impact on the ministry.”

In the fall of 2020, months after Zacharias’ death, numerous allegations surfaced against the apologist accusing him of sexual misconduct at spas that he had co-owned in the United States. 

A February 2021 report from Miller & Martin found the ministry leader had engaged in “sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape” during his life. He also was accused of having an illicit online relationship with Canadian Lori Thompson, allegedly soliciting sexually explicit photos from her and engaging in sex over the phone.

Zacharias later sued Thompson and her husband before paying a $250,000 settlement, authorized by the RZIM executive committee, according to the Guidepost report. The committee then gave the apologist a $400,000 bonus “for the specific purpose of paying back the $250,000 loan made by RZIM to Zacharias for settling the litigation he started against the Thompsons.”

Overwhelmingly, Guidepost found that RZIM leaders and board members showed Zacharias “near-complete loyalty” even in the face of his “inconsistent and incomplete explanations, evidence undercutting those explanations, and an ever-evolving storyline that played out in the Christian and mainstream media.”

Since the release of the Miller & Martin report, Guidepost said many current and former RZIM employees had come forward to speak with them and claimed to have had suspicions and unanswered questions dating back to 2017.

“However, each of these individuals also told us that somehow, in spite of their concerns and questions at the time, they were satisfied enough with the explanations provided by Zacharias to stay at the ministry,” the report said. “We are unaware of anyone who left RZIM in 2017 or 2018 because they did not get answers to questions or did not believe the statements by Zacharias regarding his relationship with the Thompsons. As one RZIM employee told us, ‘We were all duped.’” 

Still, the report stressed that “many RZIM leaders, employees, and the board of directors chose not to press for further investigation of Zacharias’ interactions with Thompson, despite clear indications that Zacharias had not provided a truthful account of those interactions.”

“Ultimately, we believe that RZIM’s leadership and cultural weaknesses stem from the devotion and loyalty to Zacharias shown by the ministry’s leaders, directors, employees, and followers,” it said.

Guidepost offered a series of recommendations in light of its findings, including advising the organization to “periodically communicate and train staff about sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct, to demonstrate the ministry’s commitment to prevent this improper and illegal behavior.”

It also recommended changes to RZIM leadership, expressing concern “about RZIM’s ability to move forward under its current leadership and board.”

“Many of the current leaders and directors of RZIM are the same individuals who mishandled the ministry’s response to allegations about Zacharias in the past,” it said. 

“It will be difficult for the current RZIM leaders and the board to rebuild trust with the ministry’s employees and members and to reestablish their credibility as leaders, because of their previous failings.”

In its statement, the board of RZIM said the past 18 months “have brought to light painful and sinful realities which have impacted so many lives.”

“We at RZIM sincerely apologize for the enormous pain caused by Ravi Zacharias' sin and our failure to uncover it sooner. Regretfully, we trusted and defended a man of whose integrity we were firmly convinced,” it said. 

In the fallout from the scandal, the global apologetics ministry downsized and restructured into a grant-making organization. Davis, who has since left RZIM and been replaced by Garth Morrison, announced in March 2021 that RZIM intended to change its name and remove all content featuring her father from the organization’s website. 

In May, Davis apologized for her initial reaction to her father’s sexual misconduct allegations. She said 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.”

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