More employees at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) are publicly denouncing the leaders and board of the ministry for their handling of scandals involving founder, Ravi Zacharias. Two are calling for a new board.
RZIM Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist Carson Weitnauer today published a scathing letter, alleging that Zacharias, who’s been dubbed the “greatest apologist of the 20th Century,” was actually the “greatest fraud.”
Weitnauer also called RZIM’s handling of the scandals involving Zacharias, “a catastrophic betrayal,” stating: “We have been badly misled by our secretive board and senior leaders. If the damage to our witness can be repaired at all, it will take a humiliating acknowledgment of our complicity and shame, as well as earnest and sacrificial repentance.”
Weitnauer’s letter follows tweets over the weekend by two members of RZIM’s speaking team, Sam Allberry and Daniel Gilman. Allberry’s tweet criticized RZIM’s leadership and Gilman’s tweets offered support for Zacharias’ alleged victims.
Also this weekend, RZIM apologist Max Baker-Hytch sent RZIM leaders a second letter with detailed criticisms of their handling of the sex abuse allegations involving Ravi Zacharias.
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While Baker-Hytch’s first letter mainly took aim at RZIM President Michael Ramsden and Senior Vice President Abdu Murray, the second letter offered detailed criticisms of RZIM CEO and Zacharias’ daughter, Sarah Davis, as well as the RZIM board.
Baker-Hytch’s latest letter was leaked to me by an RZIM employee who wished to remain anonymous (not Baker-Hytch). However, I contacted Baker-Hytch who confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
When asked for comment, RZIM CEO Sarah Davis told The Roys Report: “The investigation is ongoing and the executive committee of the RZIM board of directors indicated in their October 7 statement that they did ‘not plan to comment on any details of the allegations or published reports until the independent investigation is complete.’ Consistent with the board’s statement, RZIM does not plan to comment or respond to questions that may or may not pertain to the investigation itself prior to its conclusion.”
Sam Allberry, a popular author and global speaker for RZIM, tweeted Sunday around 2:00 p.m. CT that he agreed with “each of the concerns” Baker-Hytch raised in his first letter concerning RZIM leadership.
Allberry added: “Evasiveness, misinformation, intimidation — this is what we all tend to turn to when we try to achieve by the flesh what can only happen through transparency, confession and repentance. It is clear there needs to be an investigation into how RZIM has handled all these allegations, not least because of RZIM’s longstanding motto that ‘no question is off limits.’”
RZIM has commissioned a law firm to investigate the allegations against Zacharias. However, the scope and independence of the investigation has been called into question.
I agree with each of the concerns Max BH raises in this letter. (Scroll to the end of the article to read it). Evasiveness, misinformation, intimidation — this is what we all tend to turn to when we try to achieve by the flesh 1/2https://t.co/tBfAN6B7iH
— Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) December 20, 2020
About two hours after Alberry’s tweet, Daniel Gilman, an itinerant speaker for RZIM who’s ordained by the Anglican Network in Canada, tweeted support for Zacharias’ alleged victims.
This included massage therapists at spas Zacharias co-owned who claim Zacharias sexually abused and harassed them.
“Eye-witness testimony of marginalized women about a man who can not be interviewed are at the heart of our case for the resurrection of Jesus,” Gilman tweeted. “If such testimony is credible, I am compelled to believe the spa allegations against @RaviZacharias.”
Eye-witness testimony of marginalized women about a man who can not be interviewed are at the heart of our case for the resurrection of Jesus. If such testimony is credible, I am compelled to believe the spa allegations against @RaviZacharias
— Daniel Gilman (@DanielGilmanHQ) December 20, 2020
Gilman also tweeted support for Lori Anne Thompson, a Canadian woman who alleged Zacharias groomed her and then exploited her by requesting nude photos and phone sex.
Gilman called Thompson “courageous” and “credible” and said she “deserves to be thanked for . . . refusing to be silenced in her journey to hold @RaviZacharias and @RZIMhq accountable.”
Lori Anne’s voice needs to be heard and her experience told.
— Daniel Gilman (@DanielGilmanHQ) December 20, 2020
Weitnauer, who’s worked for RZIM since 2013—first as director of RZIM’s U.S. speaking team, and now as its innovation and ministry partner specialist—wrote a very personal letter, expressing heartache over what he views as a painful betrayal.
Weitnauer writes that he was “thrilled” to work for RZIM where he regularly saw lives “transformed by the gospel.”
And in 2017, when he heard of the sexting allegations involving Lori Anne Thompson, he was relieved “to hear that (Zacharias’) incriminating emails were taken out of context, that exculpatory material had been reviewed by the board, and that (Zacharias’) RICO lawsuit had put an end to (the Thompson’s) falsehoods with a non-disclosure agreement.”
However, Weitnauer writes that in September 2020 when “new evidence surfaced” about the sexting relationship, he studied the information carefully and became convinced Zacharias was the predator, not the victim.
“(S)lowly it dawned on me that Ravi had personally and repeatedly lied to me and others in the ministry about his relationship with her,” Weitnauer writes. “If true, it revealed that his RICO lawsuit was a malicious attempt to bully his victim into silence, and that Ravi had perjured himself in the effort.”
Weitnauer called the spa allegations, which were published about two weeks later, as “another bombshell.”
“If true, these allegations suggest that Ravi’s abuse of Lori Anne Thompson wasn’t an isolated affair, but rather part of an ingrained pattern of life stretching over a decade or more,” Weitnauer wrote. “His constant traveling, especially overseas, now seemed ripe with foreboding possibilities.”
Yet Weitnauer wrote that when he shared his concerns with colleagues at RZIM, a senior leader emailed him, stating: “I don’t think repeating potential lies or passing on judgment are qualities we want to embody at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.”
Weitnauer added that “despite an obvious conflict of interest, members of the family have actively spoken out in Ravi’s defense, while Ravi’s daughter has guided us through this crisis with the unwavering support of the board and senior leadership.”
Weitnauer added that the day after he asked Sarah Davis a series of questions about the non-disclosure agreement between the Thompsons and the Zacharias estate, “two senior leaders challenged me on the propriety of my questions.”
Weitnauer added that he’s heard other colleagues in RZIM tell “similar stories” and it’s “only a matter of time before their voices are heard.”
Weitnauer ends his letter by calling on RZIM to change its name, remove Zacharias’ material, repent, and provide “restorative response to the harm that Ravi’s victims experienced.”
Max Baker-Hytch’s 2nd Letter
Max Baker-Hytch’s second letter also takes aim at RZIM CEO Sarah Davis and RZIM’s board, specifically outlining a “litany of missteps” by the board.
(To date, RZIM has not named the members of its board. However, in his letter, Baker-Hytch names Davis as the chair of RZIM’s board, and Ravi’s wife, Margie, as a board member.)
The board’s alleged “missteps” include:
- Failing to properly investigate the sexting allegations in 2017, but instead relying on the Christian & Missionary Alliance’s internal inquiry
- Allowing a task force, which was led by Ravi’s daughter and had “ongoing loyalty to Ravi,” to review the sexting allegations in 2017-18
- Supporting the non-disclosure agreement between Ravi/Zacharias family and the Thompsons
- Reaﬃrming Ravi’s “highly implausible narrative” regarding the sexting scandal when new information surfaced in September 2020
- Denying the spa allegations when they first surfaced and implying that the “female eyewitnesses were lying”
- Retaining Sarah Davis as board chair and CEO while her late father is being investigated
- Retaining a law ﬁrm lacking expertise in investigating sexual abuse in a ministry context, Miller & Martin, to investigate the spa allegations
- Refusing to pledge that Miller & Martin’s full report will be accessible to the public
- Appointing Judy Dabler as the ombudsman concerning the spa allegations. (Dabler, who’s spoken at a number of RZIM events, was proposed as a mediator in a confidential concilliation process for Christ Community Chapel in the highly controversial Sankey orphanage scandal. Baker-Hytch writes: “Dabler’s training and conciliation methods are at best questionable and at worst dangerous, and have caused considerable confusion and pain amongst our team. Furthermore, Dabler’s particular approach is largely repudiated by sexual abuse victims and many in the advocate community as improper and harmful . . .”)
- Failing to file Form 990s for the past few years, which has “allowed suspicions . . . to grow around various aspects of the financial practices of the ministry (RZIM has not filed a 990, which discloses executive salaries and board members, since 2015.)
- Keeping staff in the dark about the board’s contingency plans for a potential guilty verdict.
Baker-Hytch concludes by calling for a “brand new Global Board of Directors and Global CEO, none of whom are Zacharias family members.”
He also calls for RZIM to start filing Form 990s, and to file retroactively for the years when the organization failed to file. He also urges an independent investigation into the conduct of the board and executive leadership throughout the crises of the past few years.
“It is clear that Ravi’s reputation cannot be salvaged at this point,” Baker-Hytch writes. “However, I ﬁrmly believe that this wonderful global team of apologist-evangelists can thrive and ﬂourish once again — but only if radically humbling steps are taken very soon.”