RZIM and C&MA Start New Investigations
It is Zacharias’ reputation and now legacy that RZIM hopes to clear from suspicion. In a statement published September 15, 2020, acknowledging the spa workers’ allegations, the organization says the accounts don’t “comport with the man we knew for decades—we believe them to be false.” Despite this belief, however, the ministry has commissioned an investigation:
We have commenced an independent external investigation to look into this matter to the fullest extent we are able. We do not intend to comment further about this matter until the investigation’s findings are presented to the executive committee of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. We at RZIM remain committed to truth; it is the foundation of what we do and that has not changed.
In an update published October 7, 2020, RZIM says they have commissioned the law firm Miller & Martin to conduct the investigation. The statement describes Miller & Martin as having “expertise in this area.” ChurchLeaders reached out to Miller & Martin inquiring about their expertise, specifically whether they have expertise in cases involving clergy abuse and sexual harassment. They declined to comment on that point. They did, however, confirm that RZIM has hired them.
While it is unclear whether Miller & Martin has experience investigating the delicate issue of sexual harassment involving a clergy member, their website lists “crisis management” as one of the firm’s areas of expertise, alongside others such as real estate law and white collar criminal defense. “Miller & Martin’s Crisis Management team aggressively pursues avoidance, management and recovery from unexpected business interruptions,” the firm writes.
Sexual abuse survivor and victim advocate Rachael Denhollander says that when allegations of sexual misconduct come to light, she advises institutions like churches and ministries not to hire defense lawyers to conduct an investigation.
For their part, RZIM says they are “committed to submitting fully to this investigation, and to publicly releasing its findings.”
C&MA is also commissioning an investigation, although they have not disclosed who they have hired to conduct it. Their investigation might look back into Thompson’s allegations as well. An October 2, 2020, statement acknowledges the fact that the new allegations being brought up raise “concern among some media entities and other parties over the decision of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in 2018 not to discipline Mr. Zacharias.” The statement goes on to say “the C&MA contracted an independent investigative firm to explore the recent allegations of Mr. Zacharias’ sexual misconduct and will determine an appropriate course of action based on the investigation’s findings.”
Victims of Alleged Abuse Find Courage
Thompson says she was unaware of the spa workers when she wrote her account of what happened between herself and Zacharias in 2016. Had she known there were others, she told us she “would have been so much more brave.”
Indeed, our spa worker contact intimated as much to us when she said the reason she is talking now is not because she wants anything as far as compensation, but that she wants to help others who have been hurt. She believes there are many more women who Zacharias preyed upon: “There have probably been hundreds and it has gone on for decades,” she told us.
The spa worker would like RZIM to set up a task force to help victims, a place victims can go and express their concerns without any negative impact, for as long as the ministry exists.
Thompson’s sister, Tamara Battiste, was the first person to whom Thompson disclosed the abuse. Battiste also believes RZIM has some work to do. “This has been happening since the world began—corruption in leadership and sexual sin, etc.—the issue is his ministry knew about this and nobody investigated it.”