Former RZIM leaders 'are not fit to be in ministry', say apologists

(Photo: RZIM)

Influential apologists have said they will not work with former leaders of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) until they see signs of "genuine repentance".

That is the conclusion drawn by William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell, Michael and Debbie Licona, and Paul Copan following a lengthy investigation into allegations of abuse and deception at RZIM.

The investigation was carried out following the publication of a damning report by law firm Miller & Martin that concluded RZIM's late founder, Ravi Zacharias, had perpetrated sexual misconduct and rape.

The report, published in February 2021, said that there was "a deep need for corporate repentance".

The apologists, however, write in their report published this week, "We have not observed the signs of repentance from former or present RZIM Executive Committee members that would be appropriate in light of the extensive damage caused by their negligence."

They say that the RZIM Executive Committee "has never acknowledged the hurt caused or to even offer the bare minimum of restitution such as payment of counseling costs".

The report strongly criticizes former RZIM leaders Michael Ramsden, Sarah Davis Phillips and Abdu Murray, and says that they "have not displayed a godly sorrow nor demonstrated the fruit consistent with repentance for their actions".

Instead, they "excused or minimized their roles in various ways" and saw themselves as "victims" when staff members went public with their concerns, garnering "undue sympathy and support", the apologists allege.

"They have acknowledged that 'mistakes were made' but have not specifically owned their actions or expressed remorse to those they hurt. Nor have they repaired the damage they have caused," the report reads.

Members of RZIM's international staff who "pushed back" or asked questions about the allegations being made against Zacharias, or who went public with concerns about alleged mistreatment or bullying within the organization were "intimidated, mistreated, or retaliated against" by RZIM senior leaders, the report states.

The apologists defend staff members who went public, saying that it was "morally necessary" for them to do so.

"We conclude to the contrary that they who went public showed courage and bravery in the face of immense pressure and intimidation from their leaders and who by all appearances suffered loss of income, relationships, and reputation. We commend them for doing so," they write.

"Therefore, we believe that, as things currently stand, Ramsden, (Davis) Phillips, and Murray are not fit to be in ministry and leadership positions.

"We will not partner with them or endorse their work until the fruit consistent with genuine repentance is evident in their lives."

RZIM has been contacted for comment about the claims. 

Last year, following the release of the Miller & Martin report, Davis Phillips admitted to making "serious errors that only furthered deep wounds". 

Ramsden said that he had been "wrong" and apologised for failing to listen to Zacharias' victim, Lori Anne Thompson.

"I recognize with great sorrow that for many of you silence was not a choice," he said at the time.

"I completely trusted various deceptive narratives and accounts. And I was wrong.

"I realized that in passing on those false accounts to others, and in speaking in (Zacharias') defense, I have greatly multiplied the pain, the hurt and the damage that's been felt and experienced by many."

Murray also apologised for believing Zacharias in a podcast recorded last year with Sean McDowell and his father, Josh McDowell.

Specifically addressing Thompson, Murray said, "I'm sorry that I left unchecked the false narratives about your motives for exposing what (Zacharias) did, and how that fostered a perception that you are the predators, and he was the prey -when in fact the opposite was the case."