Sadly, 2020 was a year in which scandal after scandal after scandal rocked the church. And on this best of 2020 podcast—or perhaps, worst of 2020 podcast—Julie explores several of the biggest scandals with insiders who had a front-row seat.
You’ll hear highlights from The Roys Report‘s five, most listened-to 2020 podcasts. These include a podcast with an attorney who represented victims of Bill Hybels; radio host Mancow Muller telling of the depravity he witnessed as a close friend of James MacDonald; and Steve Baughman, an atheist attorney, revealing how he discovered deception and abuse by Ravi Zacharias.
These highlights are sobering, but they’re also insightful. And if the church is ever going to heal, it must first face the severity of its disease.
JULIE ROYS, MANCOW MULLER, MATT CHANDLER, RAVI ZACHARIAS, STEPHEN MCALPINE, DAN GEORGE, STEVE BAUGHMAN, ATTY MITCH LITTLE, DR JULIA DAHL M.D.
JULIE ROYS 00:04
2020 has been a tumultuous year, a traumatic year and one that’s forced us to face a very serious disease. And I’m not talking about COVID-19. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. Of course the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down in 2020. And there are plenty of outlets discussing that. But here on The Roys Report, we specifically address what’s going on in the Christian community, and 2020 has been a doozy. With scandal after scandal after scandal. Clearly there’s a spiritual sickness in the church that’s epidemic as well. From Acts 29 and the removal of CEO Steve Timmis for bullying and spiritual abuse, to the hiring of a sexual predator at Cedarville University, and the sexual abuse involving the late apologist Ravi Zacharias. This disease of celebrity culture, image management, and protecting wrongdoers, rather than holding them accountable, is glaring and rampant. This year we also saw the continuing fallout from scandals involving Bill Hybels and James McDonald. And we covered it all here. As Ephesians. 5:11 says, Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them. And that’s what my guests and I have tried to do. Not so we can destroy the church, but instead so we can repent, learn and grow. In the next hour, you’ll hear highlights from our top five podcasts of 2020. From an Australian pastor talking about spiritual abuse within Acts 29, to the atheist who first exposed Ravi Zacharias, and the lawyer who represented Bill Hybels sex abuse victims. You’ll also hear two guests talking about the scandal involving James McDonald. One is a former elder telling what happened behind the scenes leading up to McDonald’s firing. The other his radio personality Mancow Muller, exposing the depravity he saw as James MacDonald’s close friend. But before we do that, I want to take a minute to thank my sponsors Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. I so appreciate my friends at Judson University. There would be no Roys Report without their support. And the reason they support this podcast is because they believe in the truth. So if you’re looking for a truth- exalting, top ranked Christian university, providing a caring Christian community please consider Judson. For more information just go to Judsonu.edu/visit. And if you’re in the market for a car I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. To check them out just go to buyacar123.com. Well again, in today’s podcast, we’re going to hear highlights from the top five podcasts of 2020. These are the podcasts that you deemed as the top podcasts because they received the most listens. And we’re going to listen to these highlights in reverse order starting with the fifth most popular podcast of 2020. This was an interview I did with Mitch Liddell, a Texas attorney who represented several sex abuse victims of Bill Hybels, the founder of Willow Creek Community Church. Mitch tells a very sobering tale – not just of rampant abuse, but of a cover up involving staff, elders and Christian leaders outside of Willow Creek. How bad was the abuse at Willow Creek?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 03:25
Well, to answer your question, very bad. It took a variety of forms. I think one of the ways that Willow tried to reckon with the situation was to permit Bill Hybels to retire from his role at the church. And then everyone could say, oh, how sad that that one person did that one thing. And now let’s put that in the past. Willow did not want to reckon with the deformed culture that had manifested underneath Bill’s leadership. I know from hearing from men, that that Bill abused men emotionally, spiritually while they were working there. In fact, I know some of them. This was something that was very deeply ingrained in their culture. Just what I call a deformed leadership culture at the church where certain things became acceptable. That shouldn’t.
JULIE ROYS 04:15
Hmm. And some of it also involved a culture that was willing to cover for wrongdoing. Right? I mean, there were some things that you learned specifically, that were done to potentially cover wrongdoing by Bill Hybels, correct?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 04:31
Yes. In the course of representing these women, it became obvious that this was not an what I’ll call an Echelon or tier leadership problem just at Bill Hybels level. The cover up of his behavior manifested at the elder board leve. It manifested at the Human Resources level. It manifested even at the IT level at the church. It’s how do we protect the entity and the entity as expressed through the person of Bill Hybels? Once once you make that decision that you’re willing to protect the entity or the person in charge of the entity to the detriment of members of the body or members of the staff, you’ve made some poor choices that are going to have consequences.
JULIE ROYS 05:13
Hmm. When you say the IT department, it’s my understanding you came into some information about emails getting destroyed. Is that correct?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 05:22
Yes, probably a number of your listeners are aware of the situation where the Ortberg’s and Mayotto’s had tried to report to the board an alleged long term affair that Bill Hybels was engaged in, and the church hired an ‘outside’ investigator to investigate the situation. The outside investigation report said something along the lines of, of Bill Hybels hundreds or thousands of emails with this woman were ‘not available’. Well, as it turns out, my understanding from talking to witnesses, those emails were actually destroyed.
JULIE ROYS 05:56
Hmm. And destroyed by a staff person.
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 05:59
Destroyed by a staff person. That’s my understanding. So when, when you have a culture that’s willing to, you know, exfoliate evidence, destroy documents in order to preserve a narrative, there’s really very little that the culture will not accomplish at the cost of innocent people.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 06:15
And this is what’s so difficult, I think. As believers, we should be standing for truth. We should not look the other way. And yet here we see a church that’s extensively about serving God. And it’s about proclaiming the gospel. And yet this is happening within the church and so many people are looking the other way. And I, I saw this at Harvest Bible Chapel when I was doing reporting there. What is it that causes so many people who know better, to look the other way and allow evil to prosper?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 06:53
As I was working through the Willow Creek representation with these women, the thing that kept cropping up to me was the Milgram experiment. Maybe some of your listeners are familiar with that. You can go on YouTube and see what that’s all about. It’s Milgram, the Milgram experiment. But basically, American researchers were trying to figure out after World War Two, why so many in German society were willing to go along with the Nazis or go along with their leadership, do incalculably horrible things to people. In this Milgram experiment, they found that people are willing to do things under color of authority, and that they would not probably otherwise do. So when you have someone who is trusted, who’s supposed to be an expert. You know, like a pastor, like a longtime senior pastor is supposed to be a theological expert. And someone who’s in authority, like a senior pastor. People are willing to do things to satisfy that person that they would not otherwise do. Even if they even if those things seem harmful to another person. Really what it is, Julie, if you want to get down to it in spiritual or biblical terms, these are these are works of the flesh when we’re not led by the Spirit. This is what manifests.
JULIE ROYS 08:04
It is what manifests. And I realized that as we were discussing this, that there might be some people who have heard about what happened at Willow Creek, but somewhat superficially, right? Through the headlines and don’t really know beneath the surface. So there were more than 10 women that came forward and said that there was sexual misconduct by Bill Hybels. But then it’s my understanding, too, that when these women met with the elders, the level of bullying and abuse that they were subjected to, was such that I know Vonda told me, there were elders in tears at the end of this. Of how pervasive the abuse was. I don’t know how specific you can be. But can you give people an idea of, of what actually happened to these women that were abused?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 08:54
Let me give you some examples. It was everything from Vonda Dire’s situation of being asked to come up to Bill’s room and talk leadership and a forced kiss. You know, grab around the waist. And Nancy Ortberg’s situation: a hug that lasted too long, and another woman situation: they’re in an elder board meeting, and Bill Hybels, you know, has his hand on a woman’s leg, and no one else can see. Telling another woman how she looks in a dress and how it accentuates her body. Everything up to an alleged affair to Pat Baranowski is, you know, Bill Hybels, longtime assistant, you know, stating in the New York Times that Bill Hybels made her, you know, obtained pornography and they watched it together. And you know, he committed sex acts with her. This is the kind of thing that you would expect from someone who’s cruel and not in relationship with Jesus. The thing that is so terrifying is that someone who has been a senior pastor to an organization like that is not beyond it. A person is not walking in the Spirit is susceptible to that type of behavior, even a senior pastor.
JULIE ROYS 09:54
Well, let’s talk a little bit about the leadership that protected him because I think that is the question that I keep hearing over and over from folks is, how do we prevent this from happening? How does our elder board navigate things differently with our pastor? And you mentioned to me that there were some stop signs along the way. There were some areas, or some critical times when things could have gone differently. But the elders caved, in essence, to Bill Hybels, and that set the course for some of these more severe things to continue happening, and then to even get more and more severe.
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 10:33
I think there were a few major events. Hybels, at one point, had a major conflict with a woman who was serving on the elder board, who was trying to hold him accountable and essentially used a ‘reconciliation’ process involving some other big names in evangelicalism to essentially run her off, put her under an NDA. And I still haven’t been able to get her to visit with me. I wasn’t throughout the representation. There’s another circumstance that I became aware of where the board had a 360 review done on Hybels and his leadership and some problems they were experiencing with his management style from, you know, bullying, abusive style, and presented him with the information, he essentially tossed to the side and said, So what?
JULIE ROYS 11:17
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 11:18
No consequences. And basically, my understanding is his cavalier attitude was well just pick up and open a new church down the street. You know, if you don’t like me the way I am.
JULIE ROYS 11:27
There had to have been a lot of church leaders who knew about what was going on and knew that there were problems with Bill Hybels. Why is it that nobody outside a very small group of women who had no power really, no position. Why didn’t others come to their rescue? Why didn’t other support them?
ATTY MITCH LITTLE 11:47
Why were they silent? I think that they were scared of what I’ll call the Christian Industrial Complex that had risen up around Bill. The economic consequences of speaking out on a topic of high consequence. When you think about the economic reach of an organization that was that size within evangelicalism, I might believe even Christianity Today was scared to run articles about it.
JULIE ROYS 12:13
Well, friends, that is what’s enabling so much of this corruption and abuse within evangelicalism. It’s this web of Christian leaders who seem to care more about the bottom line than the purity of the church. And I think as you listen to highlights from our third and fourth most popular podcasts of 2020, you’re going to see a pattern emerge. My fourth most listened to podcast is an interview with Dan George, a former elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. Dan was in all the key meetings leading up to James McDonald’s firing. And his tale is a sobering one as well. It shows how many leaders at Harvest wanted to protect James McDonald, just like the elders at Willow Creek protected Bill Hybels. And even after some staff members wrote letters, exposing McDonald’s egregious sin, some leaders at Harvest wanted to keep those letters hidden.
DAN GEORGE 13:04
I knew letters were coming to the elder board, per First Timothy 5. This wasn’t anything else. These were people bringing charges against an elder, and scriptures really clear that it’s got to be two or three witnesses. We turned out to have six witnesses who wrote 28 pages with innumerable charges. And so she sent me a letter before it went to the elder board. She wanted me to look at it, and I got it. And I looked at it. And I could not read the whole letter in one setting. I felt physically sick reading the letter. I stepped away from my computer a couple of times. And I thought, well, I got to read the letter. She sends it to me, and I read it. And I wrote back to her, and I apologized to her. I said, Sandy, I’m so sorry, for what happened on my watch. I didn’t know these things were going on. But I’m so sorry. And, you know, told her that I would get it to the Elder board.
JULIE ROYS 13:51
Can you share what was in it?
DAN GEORGE 13:52
Yeah, I can share some of it. Sandy talked about over the years, other staff members coming to her after meeting with James MacDonald in tears, just crushed. And this wasn’t a one-time thing. This was a many time thing. She wrote about the end of this Risen for the Nation’s tour when they were in Haiti. And the demands that James McDonald made to try to go home a day early.
JULIE ROYS 14:18
He demanded that he be flown home on a private jet. I mean, here he is in Haiti, that’s just been wracked by an earthquake, unbelievable poverty and devastation. And you have James McDonald coming in, from the United States, getting off the plane for a little bit, doing a few meetings, which I guess he complained about doing. And then saying, I need a private jet to fly me home. Am I characterizing that correctly?
DAN GEORGE 14:44
You’re characterizing it correctly. And when I read that, I just shook my head.
JULIE ROYS 14:50
When these letters were first given, as you said, they were given to pastors with the exception of Sandy’s letter that went directly to you and you’d then forwarded them to the pthe Elder board. But the other letters, my understanding is they came in, and you’re in a meeting with the other elders. And I don’t know whether it was Rick Donald who was was talking at that point about he had the letters, and didn’t think that the elders should read all of them.
DAN GEORGE 15:17
Right. The meeting that night on the agenda was to go through the letters to look at the charges and to walk through it and decide, does he meet the qualifications of an elder? It was a pretty tough meeting. But by the time we were done, and at the end of the night, we looked around the room, we had talked through it, and we had consensus from everybody in the room that James MacDonald was not qualified to as an elder and his employment at Harvest Bible Chapel was over. Whether he was going to resign or have an opportunity to resign or, you know, terminate his employment was to be determined at that point.
JULIE ROYS 15:50
Okay. And that was a big question. Because if he resigns, he gets up in front of the church, gets to spin things, and, you know, can probably relaunch somewhere else. If he’s fired, and it’s in the church is very clear on him being fired and disqualified for ministry. That’s that’s a much harder relaunch. So then James McDonald flies in, right? And, and the drama begins. So walk us through the drama of that weekend, James McDonald, trying to save his job. And when he sees he can’t save it, it sounds like then he was trying to lobby for being able to resign, and a lot of emotional manipulation being used that weekend from from what you’ve told me. So what happened?
DAN GEORGE 16:37
We all greeted each other. We were in the former executive pastors office around the oval table, and Jason McDonald was sitting across from me, and he opened the meeting, looking at me and said, I know what you’re going to do. And the church is going to implode or blow up and it’s going to be on you.
JULIE ROYS 16:54
DAN GEORGE 16:55
It was really it was a painful meeting. It was a was an eye opening meeting as well, though. We brought up several things from the letters with James McDonald that night. And he was just dismissive of everything we brought up. That didn’t happen.
JULIE ROYS 17:08
And in those letters, like Jacob Ross, who was the bodyguard of James McDonald. I mean his letter, not just talking about the abusive behavior of James, but the things he did with the money – going on African safaris with the church money. On that Haiti trip, I don’t know whether it’s the way way down all the way back, I’d have to reread the letter. But I mean, they stopped and went to the Dominican Republic, a resort there, and invited their wives to come with them. And again, this was on the church’s dime, Jacob Ross, saw the credit card that James used for personal expenses. Again, James is now saying, Oh, all of that had approval. Well, maybe it had approval by the executive elders. Maybe it had approval by Fred Adams, who was the CFO at the time. I don’t see that as absolving James McDonald. I see that is just simply implicating a larger group and a conspiracy to use church money for stuff that was never intended. But again, reading those letters, and it does have a different impact when you read the actual letter than someone summarizes it. So if you’re listening, you need and you haven’t read those letters, you need to go back and Dean Butters, that mean that one has to be just the emotional impact of the bullying and the abuse, and then even a video where he mocked a very well known Christian leader because she was getting married in midlife for the first time and mocking her for never having sex before. I mean, just stuff that you just can’t even fathom comes from a man who supposedly is a man of God, a preacher of the gospel. So those letters, and I just, I had to thank you, Dan, because those letters may have never reached the full elder board, had you not pushed the issue. And you got all of them and eventually became really the sticking point for James, wasn’t it? He was like he started appealing the process. Am I right?
DAN GEORGE 18:57
If people start arguing the process, you know you have them, right? If they’re arguing the process. And I remember Julie, I was in that meeting that Tuesday night. I remember saying to the larger board, Guys, it is the grace of God that we have these letters. Here were six people who were brave enough, vulnerable enough to write letters. Six people who I doubt were ever actually all in the same room. Nearly 30 pages, innumerable charges between all those people, Julie. They served on the staff of Harvest Bible Chapel for somewhere between 40 and 50 years collectively.
JULIE ROYS 19:30
Also, in addition to those, you have the letter that was written by eight former elders at Harvest, who brought them in 2012 to the elder board, and within 24 hours were excommunicated for bringing charges against James McDonald. And none of those charges were looked into. So I mean, again, this was round you know, there’s I would say round two, but I my guess is there were lots of small rounds in there, of people being silenced and bringing charges and and the board looking the other way, and I’m just grateful that finally, the board open their eyes, at least some did. And I know it was a battle. At the end of that weekend, before James McDonald got fired in February 2019, you really didn’t know at that point whether he was going to get fired or resign or what was going to happen until Mancow Muller aired those vulgar excerpts from this hot mic recording that James McDonald didn’t know he was on mic. He was in Walk in the Word studios apparently, and said some really vile things including, you know, joking about putting child porn on a computer, joking about me having an affair with a Christianity Today editor, which has no basis in fact, whatsoever. Did you have any idea that that this was out there and might get aired?
DAN GEORGE 20:46
I did not. Although as soon as pretty much after Mancow aired it, I had, of course, people from Harvest who had heard it, sending me sending me clips. I was at work. Thankfully, I had headphones on. And I listened to it. And I thought, Oh, my gosh! You can imagine it wasn’t it wasn’t long before the elders were, you know, talking and, I don’t remember the timing exactly. But by the middle of day, right, we were talking about how we were clearly going to have to have an elder board meeting that night. I know James McDonald says it was a conference call. It was a conference call because it happened fast. And remember a week before the decision had been made, in terms of not qualified as an elder and his employment would be over. The airing accelerated the timeline. We had to deal with it. And by the meeting that night, the executive committee came to the elder board with a unanimous recommendation, per the bylaws, that James McDonald’s employment should be terminated for cause at that point.
JULIE ROYS 21:41
Well, James McDonald was fired by Harvest Bible Chapel, but he hasn’t left. In fact, he’s back in Chicago, and he’s suing his former close pal Mancow Muller. Mancow was the guest on my third most popular podcast of 2020. And wow! Was it a doozy! And did Mancow have a lot to say about James McDonald.
MANCOW MULLER 22:02
Look. I think the man is completely motivated by money. I spent a lot of time with him. I forget what person it was. I think he’s been quoted elsewhere, of saying, I made a lot of money, but James McDonald, lived like the Sultan of Brunei. I’ve been around billionaires, and you can’t name a celebrity that I haven’t interviewed or been around. They didn’t spend money like James McDonald. I’ve made some money. I don’t have a $200,000 security system. I don’t have a plate flipper on my car so I can evade the cop, on my truck, like McDonald wanted, to try to get from my friend Harry at Studio Hot Rods. I didn’t give away Harley Davidsons and cars as gifts. If I believe some of what I’ve read and some of what I’ve seen. He is absolutely the most piggish money-oriented person I’ve and I got with all the Board of Trade people. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. And of course, to me, in my opinion, that’s not his money. That’s God’s money.
JULIE ROYS 23:00
When you got that lawsuit. I mean, what’s going through your head? How are you feeling when here, your former friend who obviously you called out and call a con man and did expose him but suing you now?
MANCOW MULLER 23:13
Well, anyone who reads this lawsuit knows that it’s frivolous. Now, this will help me in the future going back against McDonald and I intend to fight back. I don’t want to give names but there’s another guy that he wanted to do some awful things. To me he behind the scenes, like a like a little mafioso want to be. So he had other people and I have certainly names they’re gonna, you know, be subpoenaed and people are gonna come to court. There’s endless people that are disgruntled. There’s endless people that he hurt. It is endless! Julie, I deal with it every day. This guy is so. ugh! you feel dirty, I got a shower. Every day, the amount of information that I had on this guy. I mean, it’s overwhelming. But he does he doesn’t sue anybody but me. Why? Wouldn’t you sue the guy that if it’s not true that said he wanted to hire me to kill his son in law? You know the elders wouldn’t you sue them? No, he sued me. Why? Because he had to silence me. He doesn’t want the truth out. Because the James McDonald of the pulpit is not James McDonald. That’s an act. That’s the facade it’s the Wizard of Oz. And that whole act is about one thing in my opinion. And that’s, you know, getting as many widow mites as he can in his pocket.
JULIE ROYS 24:30
I was absolutely stunned honestly, Mancow, when he came after you because I’m like, What does he not learn? And he has so many skeletons in his closet, right?
MANCOW MULLER 24:39
Yes. Oh, God, all the horrible things that he you know, now that we’ve talked and I’ve gotten to know you, they’re not true. And I didn’t want to say them, but you know, the horrible stuff he was saying behind the scenes, and he didn’t want to be exposed. I think it’s the movie Goodfellas. I don’t know one of those mobster movies and McDonald loves mobster movies and he dressed up like a mobster this past Halloween.
JULIE ROYS 25:00
Right, I couldn’t believe that.
MANCOW MULLER 25:02
Probably the most honest moment he’s had in the last decade, dressing like a mobster, but what does the mob do? You know, they get these small businesses, load them up on debt, torture them and collect insurance. MacDonald i thought was very mob like in that he would, hey, We’re Harvest. We’ll let us help you. And so here are these paid off churches that would get donated or get involved in the McDonald network. And he would load them up on debt. McDonald told me that he was donated an expensive TV station. He told me he was donated a camp worth millions of dollars from from I think he said the Hobby Lobby people. That’s what he told me.
JULIE ROYS 25:42
Hobby Lobby was Elgin. The camp was the Van Camp and family.
MANCOW MULLER 25:46
Oh, that’s right. I don’t know if its the Van Camp Bean company or whatever. But you know, and look, he turned a big chunk of it into his private deer preserve with high fences, where he invited me to come shoot deer. Again, what any of this has to do with Jesus and saving souls I don’t know. I read they’re nearly $40 million in debt. He got a piece of land. He got millions of dollars. Wasn’t it all about saving souls? Wasn’t it for the kingdom of Christ? And you really see, no, it wasn’t about any of that. This is this is eternity we’re talking about. I’m sorry, I get I get worked up. But that’s why people have to know about McDonald’s because I’ve met too many people. I’ve had too many people come crying to my to my front door that they gave up on church. Look at look at my friend Costa, who they played videos of, who was a pillar of the church who was that, you know, this guy they save. I think I got him to set foot into a church once. It’s been over a year. He’s totally rejected the church because of McDonald. This guy has destroyed so many people. So we’re gonna let him keep continuing my my mission in life is to make sure that he doesn’t destroy anyone else that is honestly seeking Jesus Christ. That’s it. That’s my goal right now in life. And I’ve got the wherewithal to do it.
JULIE ROYS 27:02
For those who don’t know, you had aired this hot mic recording excerpts of even air the whole thing, the whole thing was like 50, some minutes. But the whole thing has been posted online. So if you want to see what he said, it’s all posted online. But he’s saying that this hot mic recording that you aired, or excerpts from and then he was fired, like the same day or the next day. I think it was actually later that night, they the elders met late into the morning, and then decided to fire him after you had aired these these excerpts. He’s saying that you edited them to say something he didn’t say. What do you say to that?
MANCOW MULLER 27:40
That’s exactly what he says, and worse. And you’re not going to find anyone that’s going to say otherwise. I didn’t alter anything. Look, I I was on commercial radio and our commercial breaks. There’s weather and traffic together. That’s what’s so appealing about podcasting and so appealing about what we’re doing. I’ve never been able to do that. I edited it for time. But he said what he said. James McDonald is a liar who can’t stop lying. The good news for me in court is he forgets. And by the way, there’s lots of case history for this. He cannot win and he knows it. The sad thing about this lawsuit with the father is, in my opinion, the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. And I think my lawsuit, what we have will also be devastating to other members of the family. The files that we have, the things that we know from Harvest, will be devastating. Look, I McDonald, James McDonald is is who picked a fight with me. But in exposing him there’s some other things will come out. Yeah, I Where do I go? It goes on and on with him. Him asking me if you know if I knew mafia people and I said I interviewed mafia people. But he wanted people beat up and strong armed and threatened and there’s those stories and then of course, there was the guy at church. I don’t want to bring him into something else. But this guy Manny. Manny was a former Marine. Did he ever want you to? Anyway.
JULIE ROYS 29:12
Manny told me the whole thing. It’s unbelievable. Murder for hire from a megachurch pastor.
MANCOW MULLER 29:17
Yeah, no, it’s very, it’s very, it’s,
JULIE ROYS 29:20
I’ve got the story up on my website.
MANCOW MULLER 29:22
And recently, he’s been going to all of my witnesses. Everybody that I’m going to have in court, and he’s crying and he’s biting his lip, and he feels horrible. And, and of course, nobody but, well, most people don’t believe it. They’ve been down that path before. Look, once he gets what he wants from you, you never hear from him again.
JULIE ROYS 29:41
MANCOW MULLER 29:41
So he’s he’s desperately trying to silence people that would prove everything I’ve said in court, but he’s going to fail miserably as well. Truth. I still believe in truth. I believe Truth Wins and if Truth Wins, then I’m going to win in court.
JULIE ROYS 29:57
Now we turn our attention to another Christian leader who has been exposed as a fraud. Ravi Zacharias. This one was a shocker for many people in 2020, but not for Steve Baughman. Steve was a lawyer who first investigated Ravi and discovered his deception and abuse. This began in 2015 when Steve realized that Dr. Ravi Zacharias wasn’t really a doctor. Two years later, he smelled a rat when Ravi sued a woman who was involved in a sexting relationship with him. And most recently, Steve reported allegations that Ravi abused massage therapists in spas that Ravi co-owned. We begin our discussion with the credential scandal in 2015.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 30:38
When I call them on it, it took a long time. But eventually they put out a statement about how well Ravi in the past has called himself doctor. But most of the time, it’s because people in India just call him that and he resists it, and he, they even made a statement about how he encouraged his employees not to call him doctor. that’s nonsense. I called his office to speak to him. And I think this would have been in late 2015, maybe 2016. And I was put through to his personal secretary who answered by saying, Dr. Zacharias’ office. Okay. So you’ve got his personal secretary calling him Dr. Zacharias. And they’re pretending that Ravi’s encouraging employees not to do that. And the idea that they were they occasionally overlooked a few things, you know, Ravi called himself professor at Oxford. Did they not know that he wasn’t a professor at Oxford? it was at his website. You know, anyone who was paying any attention should have been able to see a pattern and practice of deceptions on Ravi’s part. And it’s just really discouraging to see them say, Oops!, occasionally, we didn’t catch things, and then we quickly corrected them. Nonsense. You know, this was a pattern in practice.
JULIE ROYS 31:51
You’ve made reference to this claim that Ravi studied at Cambridge, was a professor at Oxford University. In fact, I have a clip from a video where Ravi refers to this. I just want to play that so people can hear it and realize you’re not making this up. Take a listen.
RAVI ZACHARIAS 32:07
I love books. You must read. In fact, when I was doing my studies at Cambridge, we used, anyone of you has been to Cambridge. Now I’m a professor at Oxford. I hope nobody quotes me, but Cambridge is prettier than Oxford.
JULIE ROYS 32:22
It’s pretty clear there. Ravi said he was a professor at Oxford.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 32:27
I confirmed with the university, Ravi has never held any formal teaching position at the University of Oxford or at any of the schools within the University of Oxford. Also, he didn’t just make the ‘I’m a professor of Oxford’ claim in that clip you just you just played. But he made it up there for years. You can see it, if you go back to the internet archives. You can see it there front and center at his website, referring to himself as a visiting professor at Wycliffe Hall, the University of Oxford. Never happened.
JULIE ROYS 32:59
I think because I’m hearing this a lot now. Why didn’t these allegations come out when he was alive? And I’m like, nobody was paying attention when he was alive.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 33:07
Yeah, it’s like, what’s their point? Yeah, if Ravi were alive now, he would boldly step up to the plate and address all these allegations. Nonsense! He never did that when he was alive. You know, he suppressed this stuff. And he got a lot of help from Christians in high places. So don’t tell me that if only he were alive, we’d be having a really good defense of all this stuff. No.
JULIE ROYS 33:28
Let’s move on to the other big scandal was a sexting scandal, which involved a Canadian woman Lori Ann Thompson. But if you’re not familiar with the story, Ravi admits that in 2016, he received nude photos from Lori Ann Thompson. He said he repeatedly asked Lori Ann to stop sending him these photos through his Blackberry messenger, and that she did so only because she and her husband were trying to set up Ravi so they could extort money from him. So according to his narrative, he’s the victim, and they’re the predators. Her narrative is that Ravi groomed her when he met her, knew about her abuse background, preyed on that, became a father figure to her and then use that leverage to begin requesting nude photos and then phone sex. And it was her, according to her, who cut it off. But she says Ravi was the sexual predator. She was the victim. What told you that there were problems with Ravi’s narrative?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 34:26
Ravi, he alleged that this was an extortion plot that Lori Ann and her husband had plotted, because they needed the money. Well, Ravi admits in his lawsuit that he was the one who asked Lori Ann to communicate with him via a “more secure means of communication”. This is exactly what he said. None of that nude stuff would have been possible if he’d been communicating with Lori Ann the way he’d been before, which is on emails. Often an email account that had Brad’s name on it. It was Ravi who upped the secrecy level to Blackberry, which allowed all this sex stuff to happen. And he admits this. That was a necessary part for their intimacy to increase. And he’s the one who asked for it. And then his whole thing smelled so desperate to me. I mean, here’s this couple, no criminal convictions. Just a nice couple going about their business. And they decide they need money. So they come up with this elaborate plot that could have landed them in prison. To frame some guy who lives in Georgia, but passes through town once in a while. And so they have this this plot where they, they’re going to get him to cross some lines with Lori Ann, and then they’re going to use it to get millions of dollars out of it just seems so far fetched. Ravi made that up. He needed something to pin on them as having a motive to come after him. And he didn’t have it. So he just fabricated the whole, they were in financial distress thing. So it just all smelled really bad right at the outset. The other thing is in his complaint, Ravi denies lots of things. But he never denies that he threatened suicide to keep her quiet. I mean, the whole suicide threat, October 29, 2016, she emailed him and said, I’m going to confess to Brad. Ravi’s response was, If you do that, I’m going to bid this world Goodbye, I promise. So he’s threatening suicide, and that that suicide reference appears in Exhibit One of his complaint. And he never denies making that. And I just think that’s a pretty explosive thing. If you’re innocent, you don’t threaten suicide to keep someone from confessing to her husband. Ravi had absolutely no evidence that he’d asked her to stop repeatedly, nothing. And that’s what’s really suspicious to me also.
JULIE ROYS 36:49
So Steve, I want to talk about now what’s been reported in Christianity Today and World Magazine. Reporting that these massage therapists at two spas that Ravi co-owned and that in and of itself, the fact that Ravi Zacharias owned two massage parlor kind of health spas – a little bit shocking. But this came out in the media claimed that Ravi had sexually assaulted and harassed several of these massage therapists.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 37:19
Yes, I was able to speak to another woman who had worked in the massage business there with Ravi, and he had repeatedly exposed himself to her. And it’s it’s one of those sad situations. Speaking to this woman, I really understand why people don’t want to come forward. She was so reluctant to speak to me. You know, people say how these folks come out, they wait till Ravi died to come forward. That woman wasn’t waiting for anything. That woman- it was all I could do to get her to talk to me. She didn’t want to talk to me. And even though she knows people at RZIM, she has friends at RZIM. She doesn’t want to talk to them about what Ravi did to her.
JULIE ROYS 37:59
It can be re-traumatizing for these women.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 38:01
JULIE ROYS 38:02
To every time they tell their story. And if it doesn’t do anything, when they tell their story, that’s devastating. So, I can totally understand where they were coming from. I do think this is part of a move of God to clean up this church and the bowl of wrath is full. And God is taking his church back. And I do think there’s going to be more of this. And I think until we repent of what we have done, and until those who are doing wrong come forward and begin to repent of it or are removed by their boards, God is just going to keep exposing it. And to me that’s biblical, First Timothy 5:20, that an elder who is sinning should be publicly exposed so that others may take warning and stand in fear. So I hope those who are doing wrong, stand in fear because that’s why we do this.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 38:52
I can’t agree with you on the God part because I’d have to give up my atheist card, but but but no, there does seem to be a much more awareness about this than there was two years ago. So I’m very grateful for that.
JULIE ROYS 39:04
Well, now we come to the number one most listened to podcast in 2020. This was an interview with an Australian pastor who was instrumental in exposing Steve Timmis. Timmis is the former Acts 29 CEO who was fired this year for bullying and spiritual abuse. And the pastor who helped expose Timmis is Steve McAlpine. In this clip, you’ll hear Steve McAlpine’s personal story of abuse. But I think one of the reasons that this podcast was so popular, is that Steve’s experience is representative of the experience of many victims – that they feel isolated and trapped.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 39:40
One thing you find when these things happen to you is you feel alone. You think, how have I got myself into the position where I’m sort of like an isolated sheep and someone who’s tearing into me. And, you know, as I’ve written those things, but people have resonated, that they’ve had the same experiences. And our experience probably didn’t start that way, as they never do. But it certainly ended that way.
JULIE ROYS 40:04
You likened The Crowded House to the Hotel California. Tell me what you mean by that?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 40:10
For those of a particular age, welcome to the Hotel California. You can check out any time but you can never leave. I think that’s the key to me that makes it so hard in the in settings in churches like this. One of the boasts of The Crowded House was that you come in by the front door, and you leave by the front door. So you can leave speaking to people and making sure that relationships are intact. Never saw that happen. Our experience wasn’t bad. And anyone who did leave subsequent to that, who we had spoken to, never that way. So people had said to me, how do you leave The Crowded House, and I said, Through the bathroom window. You kind of got to scurry out. You make an excuse to go to the bathroom, and you push your belongings through the window. You scamper down the wall. Because once you’re out, you’re out. When you have a deep community like that, it’s very hard to leave. But when you do leave, it’s over and you feel stuck up on the shore, wondering who you are, and what your supposed to to do next, and where to go.
JULIE ROYS 41:15
One of the characteristics I know named by some former staff members at Acts 29, who worked under Timmis, was this idea that they should give him unconditional loyalty. And that sort of raised a red flag for me because when I was reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel and James McDonald, he actually made all the elders, in the midst of my investigation, sign this document pledging unconditional loyalty to him. A lot of us read that and went Whoa! Who do you sign unconditional loyalty to? Was that that sort of thing that you experienced as well at The Crowded House?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 41:50
That word was used often, and about loyalty being demanded. And I did say at one stage loyalty is for lap dogs and henchmen. We don’t do loyalty. It’s not part of the Fruit of the Spirit. Loyalty can cover lots of things that shouldn’t be covered over. And it never happens on day one. It happens in the context of a web of community and network and vision that’s shared. And it’s very hard then to extract yourself from being loyal. Because if you show disloyalty, you’re putting a lot of things at risk.
JULIE ROYS 42:28
Can you share any of those incidents that might be sort of indicative of the larger issue?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 42:34
The key one for me, I think, was when I was watching a group of people come from the US to visit the model. And I one of them invited me to the States to live. And so I just assumed that it would be okay to do. And I just cleared that just generally cleared that, that that’s what I was going to do. And I had my own finances. And it was pretty much a ‘come in and chat with me’ comment that I went to see Steve about and I literally came out of that house shaking, because I was accused of so many different things of being a law unto mysel,f with making decisions without referencing anyone else about what the gospel. And I went straight to one of the other ladies’ house and said, What’s going on here? That is odd. No one’s ever said that to me before. Why would I ever be a law unto myself? The interesting thing about when I reported that incident in a blog post, I did a series on it five years ago, it was that incident itself that resonated with several other people who’ve had almost the identical conversation. One of the anguished things, I think afterwards, is how did I allow myself to get into that situation? And how did I bring my family into that situation? And I it’s that, crossing that line between what the gospel is, in essence and insight and then some of the variable fruits of the gospel. You can do close community together, according to the gospel. But that’s not the gospel. And when you blur that distinction, and then you blow that distinction with youngish people living in a university town, a life of family, that can be most destructive. And that’s the main part of the problem.
JULIE ROYS 44:20
Before this, spring of 2011, Matt Chandler, who’s currently the president of Acts 29, he was speaking at the Elephant Room One conference. This was a conference that was held by the now disgraced, very bullying, very strong-handed pastor James McDonald. And he made some comments and these are breathtaking.
MATT CHANDLER 44:44
We have not created a system here that hides from you. We’ll receive any bit of rebuke and any bit of critique. But you sign your name when you send stuff in, you immature weak, little cowards. You sign your name, you silly, pathetic little boy. You don’t take jabs behind an alias. Who does that? Sign your name! I probably need to get some help. I work through that.
JULIE ROYS 45:19
So they’re laughing, but it’s not funny. It’s not funny. Yeah, it’s, it’s it’s so sad. I mean, I hear that I’m like, either this guy’s under a tremendous amount of pressure. But what I’m hearing is contempt.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 45:33
I can see the pressure that people are under in ministry. And I can see that unsigned email do that. But that anger and level of anger that then is applauded, gives permission for that to spread out. And I think you’ve got to be very careful about those because that is that is very, very dangerous way to speak. But it’s there’s something underlying there as well. I mean, that’s got to speak to what the anger is in underneath the surface of you, at that point.
JULIE ROYS 46:06
What do you think needs to happen, right now, with this organization that’s under, you know, it’s really beleaguered right now?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 46:12
Organizations, perhaps like actually not . . . , have taken on the frameworks of the hard heavy CEO business model, which is very cut throat, etc. It does, what business does in in CEO hard heavy narcissistic leaders at the top and it implants that because it gets stuff done. And I think the first thing organizations like an Acts 29 will have to do is bring things into the open and stop doing the non disclosure agreements that we even saw, like Craig Scott McKnight had spoken out against as well last year. And it’s pretty much where did we get to the point where NDA has become the norm in a Christian organization? In light of the fact that on the last day, everything’s gonna get revealed anyway? It’s all about protection of the brand. And once we come away from that, and so actually brand, Jesus isn’t looking so good here. And never mind that brand, Acts 29, or whatever it is, because of these things. That’s where we go back to the basics. Somewhere along the line, we need to humbly repent and publicly say we were wrong. And I don’t think we’ve got the kind of culture in evangelicalism do that because we’ve ate the rest of the culture, the celebrity culture. And so what comes with the celebrity culture is canceled culture. When the leader who’s suddenly shamed is exposed. , they’re thrown under the bus, and everyone says, It wasn’t me it wasn’t that.
JULIE ROYS 47:45
We had nothing to do that. It was systemic. We were enablers. Now we had nothing. We had no idea. We had no idea.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 47:52
And I’ve said that before, and I wrote about it nearly three years ago, after reading some articles about the reboot of Acts 29, and after the Driscoll problem. And I said at the time that when the enablers surface again, after the perpetrator has been kicked out, they present themselves as the solution to the problem of which they were part.
JULIE ROYS 48:15
Yes. And for the victim.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 48:16
To be an issue.
JULIE ROYS 48:18
They were victims.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 48:19
We were victims too. Yeah, yeah, that’s perhaps a truth with that. But that’s why you are leaders and you stand up and say no to things. These sort of exposures are like mini apocalypses, mini reveals. They are God’s kindness and severity to expose this in this age, in such a way that you have the opportunity to do some repair work. Because the biggest issue you have besides it, these people do not believe their eschatology. They do not believe like, one day all things will be exposed and the chief Shepherd will say let’s go to the videotape and have a look how that went down. Because God’s kindness, he gives us these exposures now, in order to save us from a future shameful exposure.
JULIE ROYS 49:04
Well, I wish I could end 2020 on a little brighter note, but the truth is, the church is in crisis. When you have a scandal like what happened at Acts 29. And today, there’s been no public owning of this scandal from Acts 29, President Matt Chandler. There have been private apologies, I understand, but nothing public. When you have what many believe to be the greatest apologist of our time revealed as a fraud, you know that a movement is in trouble. Friends, I hope that these revelations drive us to our knees and I hope that leaders and influencers who happen to be listening to this podcast are thinking seriously about what needs to change. Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report and for your generous support of this ministry. I am deeply grateful. To find me online just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this important content. But friends, let’s pray that 2021 is the year that we turn a corner in the Christian community. A year when we humble ourselves and get back to worshiping God and not our superstar celebrities. Again, thanks so much for joining me. Hope you have a happy new year and God bless.