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Former RZIM Leaders ‘Not Fit To Be in Ministry,’ Says Team of Apologists

Ravi Zacharias. Screenshot from YouTube / @Apologetics - Jude 1:3

After investigating the leadership culture at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), a team of Christian apologists has concluded that three former leaders of the now-defunct organization are “not fit to be in ministry or leadership positions.” As a result, the apologists say they won’t partner with or endorse the work of Sarah (Davis) Phillips, Michael Ramsden, or Abdu Murray “until the fruit consistent with genuine repentance is evident in their lives.”

On November 9, the apologists published a summary of findings at RisenJesus.com, detailing numerous “types of abuse and deception that were representative of RZIM’s organizational culture.” Included on the team are Paul Copan, William Lane Craig, Debbie Licona, Michael Licona, and Sean McDowell. (All but Debbie Licona hold doctorate degrees.)

Michael Licona, the report’s author, notes that because “no apologetics governing body exists…we believe that we had both a spiritual and moral obligation to set up a committee to make an inquiry and follow the evidence wherever it led.”

The investigators conducted more than 1,000 hours of research, including interviews with 25 people and consultations with abuse experts. The new report follows years of scandal, lawsuits, and fallout from sexual abuse allegations against Ravi Zacharias. After the renowned apologist and author died in May 2020 at age 74, several independent reports indicated “significant, credible evidence” of wrongdoing by him.

Church Leaders has reported extensively about the allegations and reports, as well as continued insistence by Zacharias’ family members that he’s innocent.

RZIM Leaders Intimidated Staffers Who Raised Concerns, Says Report

In their summary, the apologists list 18 conclusions. The first is that RZIM’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT)—consisting of Phillips, Ramsden, and Murray—“intimidated, mistreated, or retaliated against” RZIM staff members who “pushed back or asked legitimate questions” from 2017 to 2021.

“Those employees were doing what the SLT had a responsibility to do and failed to do,” notes the report. It adds that despite the “morally necessary” actions of concerned employees, SLT members maintained that those employees were wrong and intended to “bring the ministry down.” Moreover, Phillips, Ramsden, and Murray portrayed themselves as “victims” and led some people outside of RZIM to “believe the worst about the employees who have raised public concerns.”

Investigators “heard testimony and received documentation stating that SLT members chastised employees for asking questions.” Although the investigators “cannot prove that anyone was terminated for pushing back and asking questions, the environment at RZIM was such that this would have been a reasonable inference.”

The report describes a spiritually and emotionally abusive conciliation process that the SLT allegedly used to control internal “errant troublemakers.” Leaders brought in Judy Dabler to be an “enforcer,” states the report, but the process amounted to “psychological torture.”