A Template for Evaluating the Miller & Martin Report and RZIM’s Response

Published February 2, 2021

My understanding is that Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) will receive the final report from Miller & Martin in the next week. Miller & Martin’s complete findings, and RZIM’s response to it, should therefore be public in the near future.

As I’ve resigned from RZIM, it would be convenient to quietly move on without any further comment. At the same time, both former and current employees, as well as friends from many different circles of influence, continue to share their thoughts with me about what they would like to see from the ministry.

In light of this unique vantage point, I’d like to provide a template for anyone interested in the future of this organization to consider as they evaluate Miller & Martin’s report and the response from RZIM. Of course in doing so, I can only speak for myself.

I have heard many people say that the only legitimate course of action is for the organization to shut down and disperse all of its funds to survivors and more credible nonprofits. Unfortunately, that does seem to be an increasingly likely outcome.

As valuable as RZIM’s ministry has been in the past, what is more important than “keeping the show going” is to do what is right. That means a complete presentation of the truth and a righteous response to the truth.

At the same time, there is a need for nuance. RZIM is a global organization – different country offices have responded to the news in different ways. The UK office has made strong statements. Other offices have spoken up for Ravi, retaliated against staff, or just kept quiet. Board members and senior leaders carry a different level of culpability from the hard-working, talented staff who find themselves caught in an unpleasant situation.

Given the damage done, what kind of reform might provide an opportunity for RZIM to have a future?

First, as we’ve been promised, of course we need the full report from Miller & Martin to be published without any redactions, editing, or interference from RZIM. Depending on how severe the findings are, the appropriate next steps may need modification.

At a minimum, though, here are some evaluative questions that some current and former staff have in mind as we await Miller & Martin’s report and RZIM’s response.

Miller & Martin’s report

1. Is Miller & Martin’s final report limited to the spa allegations or does it provide a comprehensive report on Ravi’s misdeeds?

In particular, it is desirable that Miller & Martin provide an evaluation of Ravi’s relationship with Lori Anne Thompson. The unwillingness of the Zacharias Estate to release Lori Anne from the NDA is disappointing, to say the least, but that does not mean that reasonable people cannot reach a conclusion about the nature of the relationship. (Please sign and publicly share the petition to have the NDA released).

Additionally, one of the most overlooked but publicly known victims is Shirley Steward. It is important that her testimony is acknowledged.

Further, both evidence and reason indicate there are many more victims. It is critically important that every effort is made to identify as many of them as possible so that there can be a sustained effort to provide apologies, restitution, and care for these women.

2. Is Miller & Martin’s final report limited to findings on Ravi or does it provide findings about problems at RZIM?

Many employees have provided the Miller & Martin team with testimony and documentation regarding serious problems at the organization. Of course we hope that these issues were investigated and that any concerns which were substantiated will be included in Miller & Martin’s final report.

RZIM’s response

1. Does RZIM place the needs of survivors before themselves?

This will undoubtedly be costly and painful to do.

However, that is the way of Jesus. In the gospels we see that he was particularly invested in caring for and honoring marginalized women (just read Luke 18:1-8 or John 4). RZIM needs to do the same — whatever the cost.

Candidly, depending on the extent of the abuse, taking the right course of action on just this question might bankrupt the organization.

2. Is RZIM’s response anonymous or signed? Does RZIM disclose the name of every board member? Does RZIM commit to registering with the IRS as a 501c3 charity and file 990s going forward? Are the missing 990s from previous years published?

These actions are necessary in order to demonstrate a commitment to transparent governance that is above reproach.

3. Is RZIM’s apology limited to what the report reveals or do they confess additional sin?

At this point, there is a clearly documented pattern of withholding information until it has to be confirmed. For instance, to provide just one further example, John Lennox severed ties with the organization as soon as the allegations surfaced, but this information was never shared with the entire team at the Atlanta headquarters.

The right thing is for RZIM’s leadership to demonstrate a level of self-awareness and acknowledgement of their complicity that goes beyond what Miller & Martin was able to find.

4. Is RZIM’s response only a statement or does it announce actions – including the resignations of leaders?

There’s something powerful in saying that you’re sorry. In the ordinary course of life, this is sufficient to repair a relationship.

Sadly, in this case, the failures of leadership are so severe that those most responsible need to resign. Of particular concern is how the organization’s senior leaders gravely mishandled the claims of Lori Anne Thompson in 2017-2018.

This step would necessarily include all Zacharias family members.

An apology without resignations is just a maneuver to stay in power.

An apology with resignations – of the US board and senior leaders – would demonstrate genuine contrition and acceptance of responsibility.

5. Does RZIM repudiate and oppose the Thompson NDA? Do they apologize for their role in slandering the Thompsons?

In the fall of 2020, I was told by a senior leader that RZIM could not oppose the NDA for a variety of legal reasons.

But of course the NDA with the Thompsons is unacceptable. RZIM needs to state this.

They also need to take responsibility for their slander of the Thompsons. To provide just one example, they stated to Ministry Watch:

The lawsuit filed by Ravi Zacharias is a response against a Canadian couple that has made egregious false claims against him and have attempted to extort a large sum of money from him based upon meritless allegations.

Ravi Zacharias will vigorously defend himself against these harmful mistruths and extortion attempt. It is our prayer that these false allegations will stop, but because previous actions by the couple have indicated that may not be possible, Ravi Zacharias will seek all available remedies in the legal system.

6. Does RZIM announce a thorough review of their own culture and history by an independent and qualified organization?

Hopefully the Miller & Martin report will provide a substantive update on these issues. Unless it is incredibly comprehensive, it is likely that there will be a need for a further investigation under the auspices of new and more credible leadership.

This cultural assessment would provide guidance on new policies and other necessary reforms in order to provide a strong foundation for any new season of ministry.

7. Does RZIM announce a new name (or an intention to do so) and a commitment to removing content featuring or praising Ravi?

After the release of the final report, there should be no remaining doubt that Ravi has been disqualified as a minister of the gospel. This is a long overdue step.

8. Does RZIM acknowledge and thank the work of critics like Steve Baughman, Julie Roys, Daniel Silliman, Emily Belz, and others? Does RZIM blame anyone for their circumstances or take complete responsibility?

One of the problems at RZIM has been a tendency to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than acknowledge the message.

For instance, among other contributions, for many years Steve Baughman valiantly attempted to help RZIM see specific ways that Ravi Zacharias inflated or invented his credentials. Instead of thanking him, taking disciplinary action, and correcting the errors, the organization responded with character assassination, denials, and avoidance of the issue for as long as possible.

Similarly, instead of suggesting to employees that Julie Roys, Christianity Today and WORLD publish fake news, it is long overdue to acknowledge their courage, honesty, and truth-telling. Their investigative reporting has been a gift and a blessing!

There’s a long list here, but it is not beyond the capacity of the board to identify and acknowledge those who have presented the truth to the organization.

Let’s Hope For The Best

To date, the coverage of RZIM has been overwhelmingly negative. That’s because — among other serious issues — credible allegations of criminal sexual abuse have been denied in a foolish effort to protect Ravi’s legacy.

But hopefully it isn’t the end of the story.

Truth telling, repentance, resignations, and rebranding can set a new trajectory for whatever remains of the organization. What is left might only be a tiny remnant. But apart from these steps, it probably will not survive at all — nor should it.

More importantly, my prayer is for those who are still involved to walk before the Lord in a righteous manner, that their faith and witness might again bring glory to God. Acting in this way could also mean that the survivors experience a fuller sense of vindication and restoration.

For the sake of the Lord and those who have been most harmed, I and many others are praying for the full publication of the truth and an equally wholehearted repentance.