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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Layoffs, upheaval at Zacharias ministry roiled by scandal

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The worldwide Christian ministry based by the late Ravi Zacharias mentioned Wednesday it is going to droop fundraising, lay off 60% of its workers and overhaul its mission within the wake of revelations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with therapeutic massage therapists and carried on many amorous extramarital relationships by way of texts and electronic mail.

Ravi Zacharias Worldwide Ministries CEO Sarah Davis introduced the group will shift away from its present mission as a worldwide group of audio system making the case for Christianity. It can change into a grant-making entity with funds directed to 2 areas: RZIM’s unique mission of preaching the Gospel, and the prevention of sexual abuse and caring for its victims. Beforehand the group had mentioned it could change its identify.

“RZIM can not — certainly shouldn’t — proceed to function as a corporation in its current type,” mentioned Davis, the eldest daughter of the creator and speaker who died final Might earlier than his misconduct got here to gentle. “Nor can we consider we will merely rename the group and transfer ahead with ‘enterprise as regular.’”

“We anticipate this transition to grant-making will probably be full in 4 to 6 months, and when accomplished will probably be accompanied by management adjustments,” she added.

RZIM had skilled a gradual decline in monetary help in latest months, based on Davis, and had determined to cease soliciting or accepting contributions no less than quickly.

Citing “present financial realities,” she mentioned the group’s international workers — which included scores of touring audio system — could be diminished by about 60% starting Thursday. She mentioned staff who’re laid off will obtain severance pay and won’t be requested to signal nondisclosure agreements.

Allegations of sexual misconduct by Zacharias started to floor final fall in social media and information shops, notably a Sept. 29 article within the evangelical publication Christianity As we speak. It asserted that over about 5 years, he sexually harassed three ladies who labored as therapeutic massage therapists at two day spas he co-owned in an Atlanta suburb.

RZIM’s management initially challenged the claims, saying they “don’t in any manner comport with the person we knew for many years — we consider them to be false.”

Nevertheless, in October it employed an Atlanta legislation agency which in flip engaged the providers of a non-public investigation firm comprising former federal legislation enforcement officers. The legislation agency, Miller & Martin, issued a scathing report final month based mostly on interviews with greater than 50 folks, together with greater than a dozen therapeutic massage therapists.

5 of the therapists mentioned Zacharias touched them inappropriately, and one mentioned she was raped, based on the report. It mentioned investigators looking Zacharias’ cellular gadgets discovered greater than 200 images of youthful ladies, together with nude photos of a salon worker in Malaysia.

Zacharias, who died of most cancers on the age of 74, was broadly in style and counted many celebrities and outstanding Christian leaders amongst his admirers. Then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke at his memorial service in Might.

Zacharias based his worldwide ministry in 1984 with a mission to interact in “Christian apologetics” — defending Christianity by way of mental arguments. Primarily based in suburban Atlanta, RZIM has operations in about 20 international locations and scores of touring audio system.

After launch of the legislation agency’s report, RZIM’s board mentioned it was hiring a consulting agency, Guidepost Options, to conduct an unbiased evaluation of the group. It additionally employed lawyer Rachael Denhollander, a outstanding advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, to function a confidential liaison with survivors of abuse associated to RZIM.

RZIM additionally mentioned it’s eradicating Zacharias’ publications and movies from its web site and social media platforms,

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Related Press faith protection receives help from the Lilly Endowment by way of The Dialog U.S. The AP is solely answerable for this content material.

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