Why Make Public a Private Investigation?
Why Make Public a Private Investigation?
The circumstances and events relating to our founder, Ravi Zacharias, have been a shock, a horror, and a source of deep grief to us all and to the public who follow this ministry. As painful as these revelations have been, we must recognize the Lord’s hand in bringing these deep-seated sins to light. As a ministry committed to the public proclamation and defense of the gospel, it is incumbent upon us to discover the facts and follow them wherever they lead, with a view to pursuing repentance, restitution, and restoration that matches the rigor and transparency of the investigation itself.
Given the severity of the allegations against Ravi as well as the public nature of his ministry and global platform, the Board made a decision in the fall of 2020 to initiate an independent investigation and to share the final report with the public. We have further decided to follow that initial report with an open letter from the Board that includes a commitment to an in-depth organizational assessment and next steps. We understand that some will object to the timing and public nature of these proceedings, along with the use of outside experts, and question whether these actions comport with Scripture. These are questions that ministries are facing with increasing frequency as the horrific problem of abuse in evangelical circles has been progressively coming to light through the work of survivors and advocates. As such, we would like to explain why RZIM has taken these steps.
First, we stand as a warning to others. RZIM has failed in many ways, and we know we are only beginning to identify and learn how to correct these errors going forward. Steps we have taken recently and which we are taking now are steps we should have taken years ago.
Second, Scripture tells us that in many counselors there is wisdom, and we recognize that our ministry and its leaders do not possess the knowledge, skill, or expertise to be able to identify and diagnose all weaknesses, biases, or dynamics of abuse and harassment. We also recognize the critical importance of having counsel and accountability from those who do possess this expertise and skill set. We further recognize that without outside accountability and counsel, overcoming bias and blind spots is nearly impossible. Refusing skilled, outside perspective and counsel is much like rendering judgment after hearing only one side of the story (our own)—a practice Scripture strongly warns us against.
Third, we take these steps before everyone because we believe a public platform demands nothing less than public accountability. RZIM was constituted and has grown as a ministry committed to bringing truth into the public square—literally around the world. Ravi held a significant degree of trust, and now that this trust has been fundamentally compromised, the situation demands transparency. Principled leadership requires that we act in full accordance with the demands of truth. We do this, as the Reformers said, “Coram Deo”: “In God’s presence, under His authority, for His glory.” This is essential to our Christian beliefs and vision.
In light of this, here are four principles that have guided our process.
1) The Glory of God
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Scripture insists that we do everything for the glory of God: This means that our response to Ravi’s actions and RZIM’s failures must be rooted in a deep desire to honor God—above all—in both the process and the outcome. Once again, given the public nature of Ravi’s platform and ministry, and the ministry’s errors, we believe that the most God-honoring approach is to pursue transparency and public repentance and to acknowledge that repentance in the hopes of pursuing restitution and restoration.
2) The Demands and Consequences of Truth
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5-6).
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…. Everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Ephesians 5:11,13).
These passages remind us of our deep responsibility before a holy God to walk in truthfulness and not participate in concealing evil. Moreover, Paul also reminds us in 1 Timothy 5:24 that the “sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” In Ravi’s case, a long-term pattern of sin has come to light after his passing. Since our allegiance is to Christ and our commitment is to walk in the light of Christ’s truth, we deem it fitting, necessary, and just to bring into the light Ravi’s actions in an effort to pursue repentance, restitution, and restoration. Similarly, RZIM’s failures must simultaneously be brought into the light.
3) The Demands and Consequences of Stewardship
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
As a ministry, we must give diligence to make sure we steward our time, our talents, and our treasures, and this includes managing well and responsibly the implications and fallout of what these tragic events entail. A critical aspect of this is bringing actions to light and being willing to face their full ramifications with repentant hearts.
4) The Demand for Repentance and Restoration
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
In Scripture, there are numerous examples of the public exposure of wrongdoings, injustices, and sin. The failures of Moses are recorded for all to see (Exodus 17, Numbers 20), including his exclusion from entry into the promised land; the sins of rebellion in the wilderness are documented and recorded for all to see, with two of the most memorable incidents involving Achan in Joshua 7 and the sons of Korah in Numbers 16. The long and unsparing list includes everyone from judges to kings and queens. Perhaps one of the most notorious involves King David’s great sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and the massive consequences that follow for all to see. In the New Testament, Paul calls attention to Peter’s hypocrisy in his letter to the Galatians. Scripture challenges us not to shrink from the full demands of truth. There are lessons to be learned, and the Bible does not spare our sensitivities. It calls us to a different way.
Additional insight can be considered in the examples of public contrition before God in the light of things done by God’s people that brought not only individual shame and reproach, but which had communal implications. Notable examples are the response of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) upon discovering the Book of the Law and in recognizing and acknowledging (publicly) how far God’s people had departed from the covenant. In Ezra 9-10 and Nehemiah 9, we see leadership examples of calling God’s people to corporate confession and repentance.
It is in light of these principles that we believe it is important to take these steps publicly. We pray for God’s grace and mercy for all, and for restoration that brings peace, hope, forgiveness, and change where most needed.