In the months that followed, the Thompsons seemed to extend forgiveness to Zacharias. In the emails, it appears that while the couple was devastated by the events that allegedly transpired between Zacharias and Lori Anne, they offered him forgiveness relatively quickly. In a letter Lori Anne wrote about the situation, she says “initially my husband sent [Ravi] email of forgiveness. While a necessary last step, it was a premature first step.” The Thompsons’ close friend interpreted their initial forgiveness of Zacharias as Brad’s attempt to take the higher road.
However, Zacharias maintained that the Thompsons were extending forgiveness he had not asked for in an effort to trick him into admitting fault on his part. In a lawsuit Zacharias filed against the couple in 2017, Zacharias’ lawyer wrote:
As part of their scheme, Defendants began sending a series of e-mails that were blatant attempts to extract statements from Plaintiff that could be misconstrued as an apology or admission for wrongful acts and thus used to extort money from Plaintiff. For example, Mr. Thompson told Plaintiff that he had “forgiven” Plaintiff (despite the fact that Plaintiff had not asked for forgiveness)
The emails ChurchLeaders obtained seem to show a different story, though. On November 18, 2016, Brad wrote to Zacharias: “Your MOMENTARY failure is safe with us, we assume ours is safe with you.” While Zacharias doesn’t admit fault, nor does he ask for forgiveness, he does seem to receive the couple’s forgiveness with extreme gratitude. In an email responding to Brad’s words, Zacharias writes, in part:
My dear Brad and Lori Anne
I received your message a couple of hours ago and I kid you not, like Pilgrim of old I felt the burden I had carried, roll down as he ascended the hill with the Cross on it. I truly sobbed my heart out when I read your last paragraph, Brad. That is the most incredible thing to read- that you would be cheering me on….we sing so much about Grace but there is nothing like being on the receiving end when it is a pure gift and completely undeserved by the recipient.
Lori Anne believes Zacharias not only took advantage of her vulnerability but also the couple’s forgiveness. By December of 2016, a shift in how the Thompsons saw the situation had occurred. In a letter dated December 27, 2016, Lori Anne and Brad both expressed how they believe Zacharias subtly pressed Lori Anne into a sexual relationship. Brad, who looked up to Zacharias as a “hero” of the faith, had a hard time reconciling the hero he admired with the way Zacharias had allegedly groomed his wife. “The fact that she had shared her abuse and my struggles with him and he had full knowledge of her vulnerability and walked in and abused her too,” Brad wrote, expressing his incredulity.
Lori Anne and Brad’s forgiveness eventually turned to anger, especially after Zacharias implied in an email he hadn’t done anything to solicit the pictures Lori Anne sent. This is an excerpt from that email from Zacharias, dated January 24, 2017:
Let me answer your question as best as I can without risk of seeming to avoid the full force of the responsibility. Whatever the reason the blame is real and inescapable. But to answer your question– I can say from my conscience that I never initiated or proposed that action. Brad, I am not given to that kind of perverse desire. In seventy years I have never even thought of that possibility with anyone. And once that came about I can also say that I repeatedly made every effort to not let it continue and suggested that I even block my mail, which I did. Each time I asked for no further contact, agreement was made, and never once did I ever initiate it again. I think I shall leave it as enough said. If any of this is disputed I shall yield to the other view because I have no desire to intensify the pain and bring division. I speak with my conscience and if wrong will stand corrected. By the way, with the determination to not continue what was wrong, I purposely never met her even once. When she paid a visit to Atlanta for other reasons, I deliberately was out of town. In fifty two years of ministry I have never been with a woman alone and that will never change.
It was this denial of wrong-doing on Zacharias’ part that infuriated Lori Anne and Brad.