After remaining “largely silent on social media since Ravi’ [Zacharias]’s abuses were made known,” Ravi Zacharias International Ministries’ (RZIM) Abdu Murray has finally spoken publicly about the abuse. Murray joined Josh and Sean McDowell in a conversation Friday afternoon, where Murray apologized for significant errors that he and RZIM have made over the past several years.
“I let my misplaced loyalty for Ravi speak louder than my conscience and my sense of compassion,” said Abdu Murray of his initial reaction to the allegations made by Lori Anne Thompson that Ravi Zacharias had spiritually and sexually preyed on her. “I’m so very sorry for repeating Ravi’s explanations for his email exchanges.”
Doing so “perpetuated a false narrative” that Lori Anne and her husband, Brad, were predators, instead of Ravi himself being the predator, said Murray. “I should have done better.”
Abdu Murray on RZIM’s ‘Extremely Regrettable’ Response
Abdu Murray told the McDowells that he joined RZIM in 2015 and became the North American Director for RZIM in 2017. In 2019, he became RZIM’s senior vice president and general counsel. The reason Murray has waited until now to speak out about Ravi Zacharias’s sexual abuse is because he “didn’t want to come out and say something without really marinating in what had happened.”
Some of the regrets that Murray has from how he has responded to the allegations against Zacharias is that he was quick to defend the apologist and to repeat Zacharias’s version of events. It was “extremely regrettable,” he said, that RZIM “rushed to speak” in response to the spa workers’ sexual abuse accusations last year and defended Zacharias before investigating him. Murray said that he did not want to make that mistake again.
The RZIM leader said that he wholeheartedly endorses the apology the RZIM board issued after the release of an independent investigation found the allegations against Zacharias to be credible.
In addition to endorsing that apology, Murray said he personally wrote a handwritten apology to Lori Anne Thompson for not believing her and for perpetuating lies about her. Even after investigative journalist Julie Roys published Thompson’s version of events in September 2020, Murray said he “looked for any reason to discount it.” He was so concerned about Zacharias’s public honor that he failed to see the damage to Lori Anne Thompson from the resulting public shame. Murray said that when emails exchanged between Thompson and Zacharias were leaked in 2017 and 2018, he should have pushed harder to find out what had actually happened and should have sought the help of sexual abuse experts immediately.
During the conversation, Murray alluded to a statement put out by RZIM’s public relations manager Ruth Malhotra claiming that at one point last September, he suggested turning to a “rough around the edges” ex-cop in Atlanta to find out if the spa workers’ allegations were true. The RZIM leader said that he actually rejected this suggestion and is not sure how Malhotra perceived the exchange differently. “I never advocated for trying to silence or intimidate victims,” he said.
Abdu Murray on Lessons Learned
There are several important lessons that Abdu Murray says he has learned from the past several years. One key takeaway is, “We really cannot in ministry afford to elevate ministry above people, and certainly not above Jesus.” He said, “In the church, we are resistant to seeing and acting on signs of abuse and confronting it.” This is typically because our lives have been impacted by some ministry or organization, and we want to protect that system. Then we end up protecting systems over people. “I’m certainly guilty of that in this instance,” said Murray.
In retrospect, there was too much power concentrated in the person of Ravi Zacharias, and Murray encourages ministries not to locate too much power in one individual. “All of us can benefit from self-examination about how realistic we are of our views of other people in ministry.” He stressed how important it is for Christians to allow their leaders to be vulnerable instead of holding them up high on a pedestal.
Another takeaway has been the importance of being self-aware about whether we actually value truth or whether we have ulterior motives for wanting something to be true. An extremely ironic aspect of this situation for Murray is that he became a Christian even though he didn’t want Christianity to be true. As a result, he thought that he valued truth over comfort. But he did not actually value truth over comfort when it came to the allegations against Zacharias.
“Guard your own heart,” said Murray. “We have to embrace the truth no matter how inconvenient it is.” He said that he has been learning a lot from experts on abuse in ministry, including Diane Langberg, Chuck DeGroat, Dan Allender, and Rachael Denhollander. “Listen to survivors,” said Murray. “Listen to them…take claims seriously, no matter how much it might cost.”
Abdu Murray contrasted his failures over the past year with how Jesus responded to the most vulnerable members of society. Abusers use their power to exploit the vulnerable, but Jesus is the most powerful being in the universe, and he himself knew horrific abuse. Said Murray, “If there is a God, it’s got to be him.”
Other topics that Murray discussed with the McDowells include whether or not we should still read Ravi Zacharias’s books and how we can still trust leaders while being discerning enough to recognize predators.
You can watch the full conversation between Abdu Murray and Josh and Sean McDowell above.
Source: Church Leaders