A longtime employee of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has released an Op-ed in the Christian Post detailing how the Board of Trustees and Senior leadership obfuscated, covered up, and/or swept under the rug accusations and information about the late apologist’s perverse appetites.
Carson Weitnauer, who has worked at RZIM for the last seven years and functions as their their “Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist” describes a history of close ties and a sense of honor he felt by interacting with Zacharias and other apologists, and now the sick feeling of betrayal he has after the team investigating the allegations confirmed that the rumors were true.
In August 2017, the ministry team at RZIM was informed that a greedy couple in Canada had identified Ravi as a target for extortion – and felt no scruples in falsely accusing Ravi. Taking advantage of his friendly, even naïve, approach to people, they had conspired together to defraud him of millions of dollars. Through prayer meetings and regular updates on these “Satanic attacks,” we managed to get through this trial with renewed unity and commitment to our mission.
As we sometimes heard troubling details that suggested Ravi was guilty of what he had been accused of, it was a relief to hear that his incriminating emails were taken out of context, that exculpatory material had been reviewed by the board, and that his courageous RICO lawsuit had put an end to their falsehoods with a non-disclosure agreement.
We gave thanks that Ravi’s bold leadership had freed us to focus once more on the ministry God had called us to. Convinced of this narrative, I served at RZIM with great passion and joy, and then wept and grieved for weeks when Ravi’s health unexpectedly declined, followed by his death in May of 2020.
Though Weitnauer says he was relieved to hear the emails were taken out of context, we wonder what “proper context” would possibly justify Ravi threatening to kill himself if Lori Ann Thompson told her husband about their relationship?
Weitnauer states that he became convinced in Sept 2020 that “Ravi had personally and repeatedly lied to me and others in the ministry about his relationship with her” and confesses that like others, his “longing for the approval of others” kept him from “asking hard questions and accepting the painful truth much sooner.”
As he was coming to the understanding, the bombshell report that we first published exploded in the public. These were new allegations that Ravi was importing masseuses into his spas and was sexually molesting them, a story uncovered by Steve Baughman.
As I discussed these revelations with colleagues at the ministry this fall, I have often felt discouraged. A senior leader took the initiative to email me, saying, “While I agree that we should remain transparent with the truth, I don’t think repeating potential lies or passing on judgment are qualities we want to embody at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.”
And 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. Yet the day after I asked her 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. Unfortunately, I have heard similar stories from other colleagues within the ministry. It is only a matter of time before their voices are heard.
While I believe most of my colleagues are not only talented but earnestly committed to serving God, 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 an earnest and sacrificial repentance. We will need to implement new processes and learn how to build a culture that cherishes accountability, transparency, and humility.
We could not agree more that the board acts in secrecy and has no transparency whatsoever, being a major part of the problem. What have they done to this point, other than hide cover-up, and lie?
After we broke the story about the allegations, RZIM sent us a statement saying that it was virtually impossible to investigate the claims. This was strange, given that his accusers were still alive, including his business partner who has made the accusation, and in fact still lived in the same city as RZIM headquarters.
Consequently, the ability to investigate was not “virtually impossible” but rather “imminently doable.” They just didn’t want to, and it was only when a larger news source like Christianity Today picked up the story three weeks later that they were forced to do so.
One of the challenges with this organization is that the Senior Leadership of RZIM and the Board are staffed with several of Ravi’s family members, but we have no idea which ones or how many, as RZIM does not make this public, recommending a drastic overhaul of the apologetic organization. This is why it’s not sufficient to investigate just Ravi but rather the board that helped hide and conceal his potentially criminal misdeeds.
…RZIM must change its name, remove Ravi’s material, repent for its many failures, and provide a restorative response to the harm that Ravi’s victims experienced. The depth of complicity by the board and senior leadership in this cover-up must be clearly established. Finally, an organization with credibility in the survivor community must be hired to do a thorough assessment of the organization and its culture, and their proposals for reform will need to be implemented.
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