The British branch of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, RZIM UK, has decided to cut any ties to the global RZIM ministry which is based in the United States. Citing their “wholly misplaced” trust in the late Ravi Zacharias himself, RZIM UK is also going to be changing its name.
The move comes following the release of a bombshell report into the allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse perpetrated by famed apologist and ministry leader Ravi Zacharias.
“Very serious issues and systemic failings have been raised in recent months and confirmed by the Miller&Martin report,” a statement, released today, from RZIM UK reads. “These demand accountability and urgent action beyond the measures outlined in the RZIM US statement.”
The Miller & Martin report outlines evidence of Zacharias engaging in extramarital romantic relationships, sexting, touching without consent, and, in once case, even raping, women. The International Board of RZIM, which is headquartered in the U.S. (hence referred to as RZIM US in the statement by RZIM UK) released a statement in conjunction with the full Miller & Martin report in which they expressed their “sorrow” over its findings and “repentance” over the way it had treated Zacharias’ victims.
RZIM UK Found the RZIM US Response to Report Inadequate
The UK Board says their decision to “make a clear separation from the global RZIM organisation” was “unanimous.” Additionally, the board’s statement articulates that they are specifically attempting to distance themselves from RZIM US due to what they perceive as an inadequate response from RZIM US to the report: “the response of the RZIM US Board does not go nearly far enough in terms of actions relating to leadership and governance.”
UK Board members say they “applaud Lori Anne Thompson and the other brave women, victims of his abuse, for coming forward to allow the abuse to be uncovered.”
The end of the statement includes the names of the members of the UK Board, which for the discerning eye stands in stark contrast to the statements released by the board members of RZIM US. The RZIM US statements are anonymous—simply signed “The International Board of Directors”—due to the fact that RZIM US has refused for many years now to disclose the identity of its board members.
What the Miller & Martin Report Revealed
Following the report into Ravi Zacharias’ sexual abuse, there can be little doubt as to the predatory and deceptive nature of the man who founded the ministry that bears his name. However, the report brings into question the actions (and lack of action) RZIM leaders at the ministry’s headquarters in the U.S. took that ultimately allowed for the cover up and perpetuation of their founder’s abuse.
To be clear, Miller & Martin were not hired by the board of RZIM to look into things like “systemic failings” or financial mismanagement concerning RZIM. They were only hired to look into the allegations of Zacharias’ sexual misconduct, and they articulate this in their report. However, at least a couple points that beg further scrutiny come up in the report concerning the actions of leadership that should have held Zacharias to account.
The first is leadership’s response to Lori Anne Thompson’s account of being groomed into a sexually abusive sexting relationship by Zacharias. When news of the allegations broke to members of RZIM US’ leadership, the report indicates leadership failed to hold him accountable to disclose the truth. Zacharias deceived members of his team and threatened to resign if anyone pressed him to hand over the evidence in his possession. The report states:
Mr. Zacharias told certain members of his staff that the phone records and full, complete emails would exonerate him, but he did not give them access to these documents. Two high-level staff approached him directly asking for the phone records, since he claimed they would prove exculpatory. Both of these staff members told us Mr. Zacharias responded to this request with rage and threatened to resign from the organization.
Additionally, the report states that Zacharias made sure his communications—emails, cell phone messages, etc.—were inaccessible to members of his organization:
Witnesses told us that Mr. Zacharias had multiple phones and email addresses over time, and he had at least two phones at any given time. He insisted on remaining separate from official RZIM communication platforms, and his phones were on a separate plan rather than the RZIM plan. He also used private email addresses rather than an RZIM account, and while at RZIM headquarters he used the public wireless access rather than RZIM’s virtual private network. He claimed this was for security reasons, but the end result was that no one at RZIM would have had administrative access to his devices or email communications. He also used encrypted communications platforms including BlackBerry Messenger and What’s App, from which messages are not retrievable once deleted.
As anyone who has worked for a ministry can tell you, this kind of maneuvering around any kind of online accountability system that most ministries have in place would raise eyebrows in even the most lenient of organizations.
The second point that will hopefully garner more scrutiny in the coming months concerns the financial gifts Zacharias gave to some of the massage therapists who served him overseas. These funds were taken from RZIM under the project name “Touch of Hope.” The report states it was a “purely discretionary fund and no clear guidelines governing how money would be granted.” Evidence outlined in the report implies the funds may have been used to pay romantic partners (or victims) of Zacharias. A more thorough investigation into how these funds were used will likely be the subject of upcoming discussions RZIM will need to have.
For the background of the allegations concerning Ravi Zacharias, please see:
The Story Behind the Ravi Zacharias Allegations (Part 1): Lawsuits, NDAs, and Email Threads
The Story Behind the Ravi Zacharias Allegations (Part 2): ‘Cursory’ Investigations and More Accusations
‘Significant, Credible Evidence’ Ravi Zacharias Engaged in Sexual Misconduct, Report States
RZIM Apologist: Ministry Needs to Apologize to Victims and ‘Overhaul’ Culture