Editorial Note: The following is an open letter to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) from Brad & Lori Anne Thompson—the couple at the center of the 2017 sexting scandal involving Zacharias. The Thompsons gave the letter to The Roys Report with the condition that it be published in full. The letter is the first public statement the Thompson’s have made since signing an NDA with Zacharias in 2017, and is a response to several statements published by RZIM.
To the Executive Committee of RZIM, & RZIM Board of Directors:
As a follower of Christ, a husband, and a father, I find the public narrative that the late Mr. Zacharias, and now RZIM, has cast about myself and my wife in the media, as outrageous as it is patently false. Together, with Lori Anne, I find the loss of our individual and corporate capacity to defend ourselves via Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) dehumanizing. This open letter is in direct response to the Sept 25, 2020 statement put forth by the RZIM board of directors/the Zacharias Family, as well as the press release issued by RZIM in 2016— both of which are a direct breech of the NDA.
It cannot be overstated that Mr. Zacharias completely fabricated many of his claims against us and sued us with malicious intent. There would be no need to correct the posthumous public record had Mr. Zacharias been truthful or if RZIM’s Board, comprised of many family members, had an accountability infrastructure to investigate Mr. Zacharias in 2017. Due to this collapse of accountability, we are now required to deal with the consequences in the wake of his death.
Oct 2014 — Businessman’s Luncheon, Kingston, ON, Canada
We met the late Mr. Zacharias at a Businessman’s Luncheon in Kingston, Ontario, in October 2014. I (Brad Thompson) had listened to his popular podcasts on UCB Canada for many years and greatly admired his work. This luncheon was sponsored in part by The Kingston Evangelical Fellowship & United Christian Broadcasters of Canada (UCB). I was asked by UCB Canada to sponsor a table at this event. I did so gladly, convincing Lori Anne to attend, who at that time was not familiar with the work of Mr. Zacharias. I had also invited a couple of my business associates, their spouses, and one of Lori Anne’s more senior friends to join us at our table for this event.
After the luncheon, along with many of the other attendees, we had the chance to briefly meet and chat with Mr. Zacharias. At one point, Mr. Zacharias asked his personal assistant to take Lori Anne’s email and provided us with his email address. The COO of UCB Canada, (who removed RZIM podcast from UCB and affiliates in Jan 2017) took our photo together. Initially, the three of us corresponded together by email. At some point in time, and with my knowledge, Mr. Zacharias and Lori Anne continued conversations by email as I prefer verbal communication. We were honored to be in dialogue with Mr. Zacharias, whom I had admired for many years.
June 2015 — RZIM Builders, Toronto, Canada
In June of 2015, Mr. Zacharias personally invited Lori Anne and me to attend his annual Builder’s event at the Old Mill in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Additionally, Mr. Zacharias invited us to dine with him privately on the Friday evening prior to the Builder’s event. Your records would show that RZIM paid for the meal as we were Mr. Zacharias’ guests. Lori Anne and I attended the meal with Mr. Zacharias — his wife Margie joining us late after her Canadian board meeting at another location in Toronto. We brought the couple a gift, as they were our hosts.
The following day, I was excited that we were invited guests at the RZIM Builder’s event. In fact, I was given a seat beside Mr. Zacharias and his wife at his luncheon table, proceeding the morning event. We were also introduced to his extended family and the ministry team. In hindsight, it now seems odd that we were granted a seat of honor when we were not donors and our only interactions with Mr. Zacharias were our original meeting in Kingston and subsequent email communications.
June 2014 – Jan 2016 — Grooming Behavior
Note: “Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior. The goal is to prepare the other person for abuse (for example, sexual or financial) at a later time. The first step the groomer takes is to establish a friendship and trust. Adult grooming is correspondent to child grooming and applies to any situation where an adult is primed to allow him or herself to be exploited or abused. It happens online and in real life” (MOBEIG, 2020).
Sometime later, Mr. Zacharias told Lori Anne that “he saw something special in her that weekend” — “a kind and attentive wife.” It apparently mattered not that she was my wife. Friendly emails between Mr. Zacharias and Lori Anne continued to be exchanged and she would share those communications with me. Near the end of October 2015, citing supposed “security concerns,” Mr. Zacharias requested that their email communications be moved to his Blackberry Messenger (BBM). I was not aware of his request.
Due to his personal interest over an extended period of time, Lori Anne and I both believed that she had found a much longed for spiritual father and senior advisor in Mr. Zacharias. Due to his pastoral position, she and I both trusted Mr. Zacharias implicitly. Urged to disclose our faith journeys, she shared my personal struggle with attachment and interpersonal relationships stemming from adoption as a child, prior divorce, and previous church abuses. Lori Anne also shared her own horrific physical and sexual abuse as a child, the struggles in our marriage, her parenting difficulties, her love of literature, and her many questions about her faith. A significant power imbalance (age, gender, theological knowledge, position) existed between Mr. Zacharias, a world renowned, educated Christian apologist and Lori Anne, who lived a quiet life as a wife and a mother to five. She was 30 years his junior — the age of his own children.
Jan 2016 — Traumatic Sexualization
Note: Traumatic sexualization (Summit, 1983) occurs when a person of greater power sexualizes an otherwise sacred trust with a person of lower power. (i.e. parent/child, physician/patient, pastor/parishioner, employer/employee).
In January 2016, after 14 months of grooming Lori Anne, Mr. Zacharias traumatically sexualized the relationship under the guise of “love,” which took the form of sexually explicit communications and culminated with him asking for and receiving, increasingly intimate photos, as self-described “gifts” to him and his “vitamins for the day.” The most intimate communications were sought and received on his Blackberry as “special gifts” for his 70th birthday. Our phone records show Mr. Zacharias called my wife extensively on her cell phone, work phone, and home phone. His cell phone records, which are available to RZIM, would show these calls. This contact continued until August 2016, unbeknownst to me.
March – June 2016
Also unknown to me, from March through June 2016, Lori Anne became suicidal. I was aware that she required frequent medical care and had sought local counseling in March 2016. Lori Anne disclosed to this counselor Mr. Zacharias’ profession of love. This counselor told Lori Anne “not to inform me, that the Kingdom of God was at stake, and the Muslims would celebrate.” Lori Anne was in such distress following this session, she never was able to speak of the sexual nature of her abuse. The counselor asked no further questions with regards to the matter, instead focusing on treating her protracted childhood trauma (PTSD & EMDR being his specialty). Counseling with this male Christian mental health professional ended in June 2016. She was left appalled and ashamed by what had happened, by the fact that this betrayal had occurred with someone in whom she (and I especially) had placed a high degree of trust.
July – Aug 2016
Due to a combination of Mr. Zacharias’ position of public trust, the private grooming process, and Lori Anne’s vulnerability, she came to believe in Mr. Zacharias. During this time period it is my understanding that email and some BBM correspondence occurred. This correspondence reflects her confusion, pain, and perceived connection to Mr. Zacharias. Lori Anne did not feel as if she could talk to anyone about what had happened. She confided in the only person who knew — Mr. Zacharias.
In Sept, 2016, Wellspring International was holding a symposium entitled The Impetus of Grief. Lori Anne attended, at Mr. Zacharias’ urging. RZIM email records would show that Mr. Zacharias also arranged a tour of his old office with his private secretary. Mr. Zacharias, via email, urged Lori Anne to visit the new location also, which was under construction at the time. She did so at his request. Lori Anne did not go to his home or neighborhood on this or any other occasion. During this trip, Lori Anne also visited with her sister with whom she later disclosed Mr. Zacharias’ abuse. It was Lori Anne’s sister who first alerted Lori Anne that Mr. Zacharias’ conduct was predatory.
Lori Anne was referred to biblical counsellors in Georgia by friends in ministry. In a counseling intensive in October 2016, she sent an email to Mr. Zacharias, indicating that she planned to tell me everything about his betrayal and the resulting explicit communications. In correspondence through Lori Anne’s email, Mr. Zacharias threatened to commit suicide if she disclosed his abuses to me. The counselors who witnessed ALL the email exchanges responded on Lori Anne’s behalf that they would call 911 if he did not assure them he would be okay. Mr. Zacharias responded, stating “he was fine and would be praying for Lori Anne.” Lori Anne reports that Mr. Zacharias was at the 2016 RZIM Founders event in Colorado at the time.
When something of this magnitude happens to your spouse by a trusted Christian leader, it is a catastrophic betrayal trauma. I was shattered and I had no cognitive framework to understand what had happened to her, to me, or to us. I was devastated that Mr. Zacharias, a man I admired and trusted, would manipulate the woman I love and wound us both so deeply with no regard for our marriage and family.
As a couple, Lori Anne and I have learned a profoundly painful lesson through this whole ordeal. We were not aware of our own vulnerabilities, nor the capacity of some religious elites to abuse their office, control the public narrative, and use the legal system to humiliate, harass, and harm. The cost to us has been catastrophic.
April – July 2017
Being people who lead quiet lives with a marriage on the verge of collapse, we opted not to seek public accountability. Rather, we privately approached Mr. Zacharias with legal counsel after exploring other possible avenues for accountability. We believed approaching RZIM’s Board of Directors (which was comprised of several of Mr. Zacharias’s family members) to be an impotent course of action. We were unprepared to be in the public foray, therefore we opted not to go to the media or abuse bloggers (even though we explored those options.)
August 2017 Federal Lawsuit Against Us
In response to our letter of demand (which we were told was standard in such cases) — Mr. Zacharias filed a public federal lawsuit against Lori Anne and myself. He falsely accused us both of an elaborate plan to frame him, alleging that we were committing both extortion and RICO by sending him a standard letter of demand through a lawyer. The amount of demand was set by our lawyer, who referenced amounts awarded in similar abuse cases in the media at that time.
A letter of demand is categorically NOT extortion.
Recently, The Roys Report, WORLD, and ChurchLeaders.com have researched and written extensively on the matter of our fiscal fitness. Mr. Zacharias falsely and maliciously claimed that we sent in a letter of demand as a means of extorting him for money. My tax returns alone reveal an income in excess of $400,000 annually, with $50-105,000 donations per annum. In 2016, I donated $105,000 from my corporation and $56,000 personally — much of which went to Christian and community organizations. We were not in financial distress at any point prior to meeting Mr. Zacharias, nor have we been so in subsequent years.
Mr. Zacharias claims of extortion were outrageous and patently false.
A Pattern of Predatory Behavior
Mr. Zacharias litigious response was an attempt to silence and crush our allegations and our persons. In the recent release of the two spa articles by Christianity Today and World Magazine, we see similar tactics used to terminate and silence credible therapists.
We believe Mr. Zacharias and RZIM have extensively profited from, and created a culture of clericalism, elitism, and intimidation. This is a culture that makes use of false credentials, celebrity endorsements, Christian media, and an expansive donor base to fund the suppression of the truth, while claiming the pursuit of it. Unfortunately, the late Mr. Zacharias, whom RZIM has heralded as the defender of the truth, did not foresee the ability of the truth to rise up and defend its self.
A Family Fractured
The shame of these false allegations added to an already toxic church situation, which we were in at the time. Therefore, we decided that we would no longer reside in the community in which we lived. We sold the home we built, our children changed schools, we moved to a new city, and we downsized our life to fit our now limited capacity to cope. Over the past four years we have rarely slept through the night, struggled to maintain our own mental/physical health, and parented in the margins of our misery. Our marriage, our family, and our faith are still recovering.
The Former Lawsuit, A Flagrantly False Narrative, and the C&MA Investigation
This is a patently false narrative RZIM has propagated and profited from. Abhorrently, Mr. Zacharias also used a previous well documented financially and spiritually abusive experience at Maranatha CRC in Belleville, Ontario, to intentionally mischaracterize and malign both Lori Anne and myself. Even though there was extensive publicly available evidence that the CRC denomination found the pastor in question to be in abuse of office, Mr. Zacharias’ 2017 false narrative (supported by the C&MA statement) has been widely circulated and remained unquestioned until the recent abuse allegations surfaced.
In a Sept 15, 2020, press release, RZIM stated that you believe these new abuse allegations to be false. Yet in an Oct 7, 2020 statement, RZIM also claimed to take these allegations “extremely seriously.” In a Sept 25, 2020, statement, RZIM cites Mr. Zacharias’ denials as well as the C&MA “investigation” in 2018 as evidence of his innocence. RZIM has not ever contacted us to review this matter.
It is now public record that RZIM and the C&MA did not complete so much as a cursory investigation into the allegations made against us by Mr. Zacharias. Both RZIM and C&MA failed to do the most rudimentary due diligence into this matter. This has been to our personal peril. I find it appalling that in 2017, rather than appoint an investigatory team to elucidate the truth of the matter, RZIM retained Mark DeMoss — a well-known evangelical public relations professional. Lori Anne had to block Mr. DeMoss from her Twitter account twice.
Understandably, both Lori Anne and I were devastated at the time of disclosure, and for an extended period of time post disclosure. Neither Lori Anne nor I felt we could withstand the public and private cost of litigation with someone so powerful. Mr. Zacharias’ legal counsel informed our legal counsel that we faced long, protracted litigation and that Mr. Zacharias had a donor who would cover any and all legal costs that Mr. Zacharias incurred. We had/have no such philanthropists. At the time of settlement, having five children at home in Canada, it was unthinkable to have the next two or more years consumed by Mr. Zacharias, who had already consumed so much.
We did NOT request mediation, rather both parties agreed to mediation to avoid a lengthy and costly public legal battle. This, too, is a standard course of action in civil disputes. If a settlement could not have been reached, we were fully prepared to go to trial. A settlement was reached, however, and ALL parties signed an NDA.
We have remained silent in the face of statements made by Mr. Zacharias/RZIM in 2016 and now by RZIM in 2020. Mr. Zacharias and RZIM have taken the liberty to speak freely as it suits RZIM’s public relations, while citing an NDA at RZIM’s own discretion, and for RZIM’s own convenience. This does not comport with the agreement we made with Mr. Zacharias, nor the one that we have until now, abided by.
We would never sign an NDA today.
Meeting in Person
RZIM was correct in its recent statement, that Lori Anne did not ever meet alone with Mr. Zacharias, however that did not stop him from planning such an event. Through electronic communications, Mr. Zacharias did invite Lori Anne and one of our older children on a mission trip to India, with the expressed intent of hands-on engagement with Lori Anne. Mr. Zacharias had made other attempts to plan an in-person sexual encounter, which thankfully did not come to pass.
Mr. Zacharias communicated extensively with Lori Anne, both before and after he sexualized the relationship and betrayed both her and my trust. RZIM is correct in a recent statement that there is no evidence of the request of illicit photos (with the exception of the chain of authentic emails in one where he stated “he deleted them every time” and in another where he would be “destroying his phone”). This is in keeping with the coded nature of his requests via encrypted messaging technology.
Mr. Zacharias requested that his conversations with Lori Anne move from email to a more secure form of communication called Blackberry Messenger (BBM). BBM required that a personal PIN to be given directly to Lori Anne from Mr. Zacharias. BBM had a simple blocking function that would not have permitted Mr. Zacharias to receive even one unsolicited message.
As Mr. Zacharias’ requests for intimate photos and interactions escalated, Mr. Zacharias requested a deeper layer of protection in communication, asking Lori Anne to communicate with him on his Blackberry’s Private Chat. In Blackberry Private Chat, messages were automatically deleted after one or both parties left the encrypted conversation for longer than one minute.
As stated, Mr. Zacharias was very concerned about security, requesting no contact be made on the occasion when his son was working on his phone. Lori Anne uses an iPhone, therefore she had to download a BBM app to meet Mr. Zacharias’ requests. Citing security concerns, Mr. Zacharias asked Lori Anne to put her initials only and a non-identifying photo on her contact, so that when communication arrived on his Blackberry, it would not draw attention from anyone who looked at the screen.
It would not have been physically possible for Mr. Zacharias to have received even one unwanted message — much less multiple.
Lori Anne and I have sought trauma informed counseling. I received counseling for a period of time, while Lori Anne has completed countless online counseling sessions and one-on-one counseling intensives. Because of the actions of Mr. Zacharias, we have incurred in excess of $33,000 CAD for counseling to date and approximately $156,800 CAD in legal fees.
C&MA 2018 Investigation
In Feb 2018, we were informed by a pastor on social media that the C&MA was doing an investigation on the allegations against Mr. Zacharias. Lori Anne contacted the C&MA and a one-time phone call discourse ensued between Gary Friesen (general counsel for the C&MA) and another unnamed male (whom we thought was C&MA President John Stumbo) from the C&MA leadership. None of the available evidence was given, neither do we recall it being requested. Gary Friesen stated that this matter was a “he said she said’ and “that the truth of the matter could not be known.”
RZIM references the C&MA’s own admittedly inadequate investigation to prove Mr. Zacharias’ innocence.
In RZIM’s statements on the recent spa abuse, RZIM states that the allegations (of four women and six corroborating witnesses) does: “not comport to the man we knew for decades and we believe them to be false.”
The recent allegations do, however, comport with the man we had the misfortune to come to know over six years ago — the man behind the now infamous Blackberry, the man at the helm of RZIM, whose actions against us indicate that the truth of the matter AND the lives of his victims matter not.
We believe these women and we stand with them.
In hindsight, we regret not taking a more public approach to hold Mr. Zacharias to account. We hope this proves to be our final attempt to communicate the full extent of the extensive harm Mr. Zacharias has inflicted upon our lives, and now yours (RZIM & RZIM’s board), as you process the incongruence between the man you believe you knew and the man we came to know.
Sexual abuse occurs in secret — very little direct evidence of sexual abuse can be found in even the most egregious of cases. Nevertheless, a careful review of the fabricated lawsuit filed against Lori Anne and me, and a dissection of the facts, would demonstrate a pattern of falsehood sufficient enough to call into question Mr. Zacharias as the victim that he portrayed himself to be — a position that RZIM maintains.
Lori Anne and I understand, due to recent allegations and public outcry that RZIM, separately from the C&MA, has NOW proposed do a complete, comprehensive, independent, and fully transparent forensic investigation of the facts.
As victims, we offer our full support and endorsement of any truly independent investigation done by either G.R.A.C.E. or Sacred Spaces, where we and other victims can be assured of public transparency. To interested, good faith parties, we are open to full forensic disclosure that will comport with the aforementioned facts regarding our personal finances, our personal history (friends, family, counsellors) and the prior lawsuit.
Our life has been forever altered by Mr. Zacharias. We acknowledge that there are those who have been enriched by his life and his work. That acknowledgement does not alter the fact that our lives and faith have been torn asunder.
Public Trust & Abuse of Power
It has been our collective experience, backed by evidence, that there are very specific assumptions and circumstances in some faith-based communities that allow for abuse of power by those in a fiduciary role. However, all clerics hold a position of public trust and they ought to be held to the higher standard they purport to hold. Indeed, the pursuit and the defense of truth is what Mr. Zacharias claimed in life and RZIM claims to maintain in the wake of his death
A Call to Courage
History demonstrates, time and again, that religious institutions who have been faced with allegations of sexual abuse have chosen institutional cowardice and cover up — to their shame.
This open letter is a call for public transparency and institutional courage. We matter. What happened to us matters. We are hoping to collaborate with RZIM as you endeavor to “leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of truth.”
Please be advised that while we are seeking both truth and reconciliation, we expect neither from RZIM. Should RZIM’s investigatory body wish to contact us directly, you may do so through our counsel, Boz Tchividjian at [email protected].
Lori Anne Thompson