Truth-telling is essential to the cause of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. For if an unbelieving world can not regard Christians as trustworthy people, why would they even bother to listen to us, when we speak about Jesus?
Events of late in the Christian world have brought me much despair. But some recent news have given me a ray of hope.
This past weekend, an apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) wrote an internal letter to RZIM’s leadership, calling upon RZIM for more transparency regarding the controversies regarding some of Ravi’s actions, while he was living and leading the RZIM ministry. The letter was leaked out from RZIM, and published at Julie Roys’ website, where Julie describes the letter’s content as “stunning.” The fact that such a letter was even “leaked” out from RZIM is stunning in and of itself. Interestingly, the letter calls for RZIM to rebrand itself, something that I made a case for several months ago, after a new series of allegations were disclosed. The author of the letter, Dr. Max Baker-Hytch, a senior tutor with RZIM’s OCCA The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, a private hall of the University of Oxford, urges that the corporate culture at RZIM is due for an overhaul.
In response to the letter, several apologist associates, working with RZIM, have decided to sever their ties with the organization. One of those associates, John Dickson, believes the ministry of RZIM to be in “grave peril.“
Serious accusations against Christian leaders should not be taken lightly. We should uphold the reputations of leaders, as best as we can, and not jump to conclusions. Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that all of us have skeletons-in-the-closet, that we need not always publicize. Everyone falls short of the glory of God, and we should extend grace towards others, as much as possible, so that relationships can be healed and integrity maintained.
But that being said, when a Christian leader or organization presents a story, that does not jive with the available evidence, then that warrants a measure of skepticism. An initial act, that might lead to disgrace is one thing. But when a concerted effort is made to cover-up such an act, the lack of trust associated with the cover-up effort is infinitely more damaging than the original transgression itself. When this type of behavior is exhibited by Christian leaders, and the organizations that support them, then this is a clear case where the celebrity cult of personality has eclipsed whatever good the ministry might be doing.
It took courage for Dr. Baker-Hytch to write such a letter, and that courage gives me some hope that integrity is still something to yearn for. Let us pray that RZIM will make good on their promise to pursue truth, take Dr. Baker-Hytch’s letter to heart, and do the right thing immediately.
A broken trust can be hard to rebuild and repair.
December 14th, 2020 at 11:24 pm
Collin Hansen at The Gospel Coalition published his “top ten theology” stories of 2020. He lists the controversy about Ravi Zacharias on his list, but included the observation that Ravi Zacharias was “not evidently involved in a local church.”
That is a scandal enough right there. Sad. Sad.
December 16th, 2020 at 10:20 pm
This whole, unfolding story is very sad and quite a mess. A working critical tension among the leadership would have been much healthier than having family and likeminded individuals on the board. It’s a mistake we see repeatedly. We much prefer a warm, irenic group experience rather than to be challenged. However, just as our critics are often more useful and helpful than those who tell us what we want to hear, having true accountability in the leadership could have produced a stronger, healthier organization and, perhaps, avoided this dumpster fire and all that comes with it.
December 23rd, 2020 at 7:02 pm
Interim report released by RZIM’s law firm investigating the spa allegations:
December 22nd, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Calls for a new board at RZIM:
December 26th, 2020 at 3:57 pm
[…] UPDATE: December 23rd, 2020. Review of the sexual impropriety charges at a spa, partly owned by Ravi Zacharias, conducted by a la…. […]
January 10th, 2021 at 9:30 am
The accusations against Ravi are difficult to hear, as all of us are fallen creatures, but they pale in comparison to how the top brass at RZIM responded to those allegations. They had the opportunity even 5 years ago to set things right, but failed to do so.
When you put your trust in the leadership of a ministry to tell the truth, while at the same time, that leadership puts out statements that they know are falsehoods:
……..[RZIM] “may salvage the ministry if they can get cooperation from the people at the head,” said L. T. Jeyachandran, former executive director of the Asia-Pacific branch of RZIM from 2001 to 2012. “I don’t know if that can happen because of the cult of personality. The culture of RZIM is adulation and unquestioning loyalty. You praise Ravi all the time and never hold him accountable.”…..
….Staff members were also told that the lawsuit [with Lori Thompson and her husband] was “dismissed,” only to later learn it had been settled with a payment of about $250,000, according to four people inside RZIM. When they complained the term “dismissed” was misleading, they were told the details couldn’t be discussed because of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), even though RZIM is not party to the agreement……
….Other teammates have called out inconsistency in Zacharias’s own response to the lawsuit. He said he safeguarded his marriage by following the “Billy Graham Rule” and never spending time alone with a woman who wasn’t his wife or daughter. But that wasn’t true.
“He was alone with many women on staff,” said Carson Weitnauer, a longtime staff member who worked in the Atlanta office until he resigned from RZIM on Monday after publishing an essay in the Christian Post about how he lost faith in Zacharias. “They’d meet in his office to work on projects.”
No one has alleged that anything inappropriate happened between Zacharias and women on RZIM staff, but staff members are now asking why he lied about being alone with women—and why leadership let him misstate the truth. During one staff meeting, an assistant pointed out that people in leadership knew this was a false statement when Zacharias said it.
“The leadership’s message to us is ‘We’re above reproach. We’re going to find out what happened. Trust us,’” Weitnauer told CT. “It’s really clear what kind of person Ravi was. It’s clear there was a lot of complicity at this organization.”…..
January 28th, 2021 at 2:08 pm
RZIM isn’t the only major Christian ministry having troubles.
Hillsong has had issues, too:
February 11th, 2021 at 5:46 pm
Release of the Ravi Zacharias report:
February 12th, 2021 at 9:19 am
Pretty gripping evaluation about the RZIM report. I just read pieces of it, and got depressed. The sexual stuff is concerning, of course, but the lack of accountability at RZIM, when I was personally assured that they had accountability at RZIM, back when I contacted them in 2017, is simply baffling:
February 12th, 2021 at 10:06 am
Why personality cults in evangelicalism are so, so dangerous. We need institutions founded upon doctrine, and not on personalities: