The recent independent report detailing sexual abuse by late apologist Ravi Zacharias continues to make news, as people connected to him and his ministry weigh in. Some employees, such as Vince Vitale and his wife, Joanna, are issuing apologies, while family members are defending Zacharias, who died last May. Meanwhile, many others are addressing the scandal and Christians’ responses to it.
Joanna and Vince Vitale Are Sorry for Perpetrating “Lies”
In a video posted to YouTube last week, Vince and Joanna Vitale, leaders of the Zacharias Institute, apologize for hurting people by believing Zacharias and making it “too easy for Ravi to live a lie.” Vince Vitale, the institute’s director, says he blames himself for defending Zacharias both inside the organization and to outside partners. “The result of all that we have shared,” he says, “is that some people believed Ravi’s lies because they believed us.” If he had demanded an investigation sooner, Vitale admits, some abuse may have been prevented.
Joanna Vitale, the institute’s dean, says, “I should have recognized my own personal bias and weighted the victim’s words more heavily. As a woman with a public voice, I failed to use that voice to speak up for another when her voice was not being heard. For this, I am so ashamed, and so devastatingly sorry.”
In their “personal confession,” the Vitales specifically mention Lori Anne Thompson, who alleged in 2017 that Zacharias groomed her for an inappropriate relationship. They apologize that they “lengthened but also intensified the pain” of Thompson and her husband, Brad, who were “slandered for years.” The Vitales say they’re “heartsick” about the suffering experienced by all survivors of Zacharias’ abuse.
Lori Anne Thompson responded via Twitter, thanking the Vitales for their “complete and comprehensive” apology. “So often we pray for truth, light and sight but when it [shows] up—it can be devastating,” she writes.
Son Defends Father Via Blog
To speak up for his father and family, Nathan Zacharias recently launched the “Defending Ravi” blog. In the first post, days before the report was released, Zacharias clarifies that Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) “does not speak for me” and calls Christians’ discussions about the situation “an absolute disgrace.”
Nathan Zacharias criticizes people for attacking his father posthumously and for piling on “punishment AFTER he has already faced the ultimate judge.” Modern-day “Pharisees” want to “cancel my dad,” he writes, and they’re using “laptops instead of stones.” The first post, dated February 5, states: “Even if these allegations are true, there is no doubt that God actively blessed my dad and did so right up until he passed. His impact was only getting greater.”
In a February 11 post, after the report’s release, Nathan Zacharias expresses disappointment about the investigative process. He calls the interview list “one-sided,” says his mother, Margie, was “silenced and sidelined,” and claims that “RZIM’s choices…have added more pain that actually could have been avoided.” Nathan writes, “If these things about Dad are true, there was a way to handle this honestly and respectfully without being hurtful and voyeuristic.”
Subsequent posts feature screenshots of Ravi Zacharias’s text messages, which his son says are being taken out of context. For example, Nathan disputes the implications of testimony from a spa worker who says Ravi called her his “reward” for serving God. An explanation lies in his dad’s debilitating back pain, writes Nathan, adding that investigators would’ve learned that if they had “bothered to interview my mom or involve her.”
Nathan Zacharias also challenges assertions by Steve Baughman, a whistleblower who runs RaviWatch.com. Baughman, who has declared victory, names people and groups he considers enablers. “It fell to an atheist (me) to complain that the evangelist had no clothes,” he writes. “The Christian press remained largely silent, and when it commented it did so with a clear pro-Ravi bias.”
Other Responses to the Scandal
The website of Atlanta-based RZIM has been drastically pared down but features a statement from its board of directors about the troubling report. RZIM CEO Sarah Davis, daughter of Ravi and Margie Zacharias, hasn’t commented on the report yet and deleted her Twitter account.