Sex abuse scandal at Zacharias ministry forces staff cuts, new direction

The Alpharetta-based ministry founded by influential Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias has cut staff by 60% and is changing its mission, following an independent investigation and explosive allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

CEO Sarah Davis said in an announcement to staff earlier this week that the ministry has been “on a journey unlike anything we could have imagined.” Since the preliminary report on the investigation was released in late December “we, as a ministry, have been processing a wide range of emotions, including intense grief for victims of abuse, abhorrence at Ravi’s actions, disillusionment, dismay, anger, and uncertainty about the future of the ministry we love and serve,” Davis, who is also Zacharias’ daughter, said in the announcement.

Last year, the RZIM board hired a law firm of to look into the allegations that Zacharias had engaged in sexual misconduct and abuse tied to two day spas and individual massage therapists. Zacharias died last May at 74.

The report founded credible evidence that Zacharias was involved in incidents of unwanted touching, sexting, spiritual abuse and rape. The investigation included a review of his electronic devices and found evidence of text- and email-based relationships with women, as well as more than 200 “selfie”-style photographs of women.

RZIM has experienced a steady decline in financial support as well as the loss of certification with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, according to Davis’ statement that was given to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Davis said the ministry decided to stop seeking or accepting donations until further notice.

The organization will change from a global speaking team of evangelists and apologists to a grantmaking entity, much like a charitable foundation, which will support a variety of ministries and causes.

ExploreLaw firm finds credible evidence of sexual misconduct by Ravi Zacharias goes back years

Separately, the ministry is removing Zacharias’ content from its website and social media platforms, including publications, videos, and other forms of content.

And recently, the Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance posthumously expelled Zacharias from licensed ministry in its denomination, according to its website. The move also means an automatic revocation of his ordination.

The evidence against Zacharias clearly establishes that the Christian apologist “preyed on women, violating the trust of those who were particularly vulnerable, during the time he was credentialed by the C&MA. The evidence also confirms that this pattern of behavior was longstanding,” read a statement on the Alliance’s website.

Robert M. Franklin Jr. is a professor of Christian ethics at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of “Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination.”

Franklin said there are examples throughout history of the dangers of unchecked power, whether in the political arena or the religious world.

“This appears to be another tragic example of a downfall rooted in the lack of accountability and honesty of the leader to acknowledge when he has significant challenges and needs help,” he said.

Franklin said the current leadership at RZIM needed to make significant changes, given the damage done to the global ministry. RZIM’s transition to grantmaking is expected to take four-to-six months and will be accompanied by leadership changes, Davis’ statement said.

“There’s responsibility to repair the harm done both in Christian and spiritual terms and in secular legal terms so there can be a way to make good out of a bad situation,” he said. “Since the offending leader has died, he can no longer be held personally responsible.”

Franklin added though, that people cannot forget the women, who are the real victims.

“Ultimately, the people who have been harmed need to be acknowledged and made whole,” he said.