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UK News

RZIM apologist pens letter criticising the organisation's handling of scandals involving Ravi Zacharias

by Will Maule

A staff member at the global apologetics organisation Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has called on the group to apologise for its mishandling of scandals related to its founder, the late Ravi Zacharias.  

Max Baker-Hytch, a senior tutor with the RZIM's Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), raised a number of issues relating to Zacharias, his fabricated academic credentials, and RZIM's subsequent handling of allegations of sexual misconduct made against the internationally renowned speaker.

Baker-Hytch said the trumping up of Ravi's qualifications had been "a source of embarrassment" for him as an Oxford faculty member. During a 2012 speech at the C.S. Lewis Institute, Zacharias falsely claimed to be a "professor at Oxford", despite having never been on staff at the prestigious university. 

Baker-Hytch said that RZIM's response to the academic credentials scandal was "defensive and devoid of taking sufficient responsibility for the misrepresentation on our part" and also "risked undermining his own credibility in certain academic circles", not least at Oxford University, where he is a member of the Faculty of Philosophy.

Baker-Hytch's letter was addressed to a number of RZIM's senior leaders and leaked to investigative journalist, Julie Roys. 

The tutor went on to address the sexting scandal and criticised RZIM for framing it as if Ravi was being extorted. "This was the narrative which the senior leadership presented to us...we were told at that meeting that the Thompsons were experienced extortionists with a proven track record of such behaviour, and that Ravi had a strong case against them and had the backing of the RZIM board to pursue the Thompsons to the fullest extent through legal channels."

When reading through Ravi's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the Thompsons, Baker-Hytch said there were many parts he "found strange", including the contradiction of Ravi's claims that Lori Anne Thompson was unstable, but that he considered her a friend and continued to communicate with her through a highly secure and private mobile messaging app. 

"When the settlement was announced to us in early November 2017 I was perplexed as to why Ravi would take this route if he was innocent," Baker-Hytch wrote. 

The academic went on to highlight Ravi's email to Lori Anne in which threatened to "bid this world goodbye" if she did not keep their illicit communications secret - Baker Hytch said this was a clear suicide threat that pressured Thompson into "not disclosing their entanglement to her husband".

The intended meaning behind Zacharias's disturbing remark, Baker-Hytch said, was explained away by Ravi and another senior RZIM staff member as being related to "the death of his public honour" rather than a threat of suicide.

Baker-Hytch went on to point out a number of issues with the way RZIM responded to the recent accusations of sexual misconduct made against Ravi by workers at two day spas he co-owned in Georgia, USA. These issues included an insinuation from senior leaders that the victims were not credible due to their anonymity and a floated suggestion that their claims were nothing more than a smear campaign against the late apologist. 

The academic went on to suggest that a major overhaul was required at the organisation in order to rebuild trust "both internally and externally". He put forward four key responses that he suggested RZIM would be wise to follow, including issuing a "wholehearted apology," ensuring "full accountability" in their operations, issuing "meaningful reparations" and engaging in a "cultural overhaul" at the organisation.

Apologies, he said, will need to be issued to the victims at the day spa, if the allegations are proven to be true by the ongoing independent investigation. In addition, Baker-Hytch said that the Thompsons must be apologised to for "the way that the ministry has unjustly portrayed them as extortionists, despite the lack of evidence to support the claim that they were deliberately trying to entrap Ravi".

An apology must also be issue to "concerned team members" at RZIM who Baker-Hytch says have been ignored, along with a fully-fledged apology in response to RZIM's "corporate complicity in failing to hold Ravi to account".

The academic concluded that "drastic and deeply humbling steps will be required in order to demonstrate to the world that we are serious about rebuilding our institutional culture from the ground up".

"The reality is that Ravi’s reputation is in tatters," he wrote, "but his legacy — this team — need not be."

"If we choose to act justly and do the right things, we could become known as the gold standard for how to recover from a tragic situation such as this and move forward in a way that beautifully demonstrates the faith we commend.”

Premier has been in contact with Max Baker-Hytch who declined an invitation to speak further on the matter.

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