No parachurch organisation can presume that it will be permanently around. Indeed, even local churches cannot make that assumption according to the first few chapters of Revelation. Too often, institutions have focused on protecting their own reputation over and above the priorities of
- The honour and glory of Christ
- The Gospel
- Those who have been most deeply hurt and damaged by abuse
With that in mind, and noting that Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)) have now acknowledged that the allegations against him were true and that particularly Lori AnneThompson and her husband were truthful but were disbelieved and let down by RZIM, it seems to me that there is only one honourable course of action now.
If those involved wish to seek true reconciliation through genuine repentance then they must
- Release Lori from her NDA
- Make public the names of the board members and stop hiding behind anonymity
- Disband RZIM
- Ensure that board members submit to pastoral accountability within their local churches.
Even at this stage there is a level of blame shifting. The open letter says:
“Our trust in Ravi’s denial of moral wrongdoing and in his deceptive explanations of emails and other records that became public was severely misplaced, and our failures in 2017, including our failure to commission an independent investigation at that time, allowed tremendous pain to continue to be caused in the Thompsons’ lives.”
Notice that this still risks the impression that their failing weas being too trusting. They were let down by his “deceptive explanations.” No. They had a responsibility to weigh and discern those deceptions.
Notice the passive voice “allowed tremendous pain.” That should reall be more active. Their actions over these past few years have not just allowed but caused pain.
Disbanding RZIM will show first of all that they recognise the seriousness of the matters. It will allow others who have been part of the organisation to move on. Remember that organisation members may well have been victims but also that they will have learnt about how to serve the Gospel ina toxic culture. There will be unlearning to do. This action will be grace to them.
Disbanding RZIM will put a statement out that we do not build ministries outside of the local church around personalities.
Disbanding RZIM will mean that the individuals involved will be able to take personal responsibility. If repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration is needed, then it is for individual people not an organisation.
Postscript: The UK branch of the ministry have since announced they are severing ties with the US based ministry. This is a start but I think it does not go far enough. First of all there is the problem that they have waited until now to distance themselves why not sooner? Secondly it doesn’t allow for questions to be considered about how deep the problems might go and the impact on culture and individuals. Thirdly the UK trust runs the Oxford apologetics centre. Given RZ’s history of seeking academic endorsement through questionable means, I’m wary of an organisation that seems to trade off the Oxford association.