Recent Blog Posts


The Ravi Zacharias Report is Out

RZIM released the Miller & Martin investigation report into Ravi Zacharias’s sexual misconduct on Thursday, along with two statements. Substantial news coverage immediately followed from both religious and nonreligious outlets (Christianity Today, RNS, Washington Post, New York Times), so you know news outlets were given the report earlier but agreed to wait to publish until RZIM was ready. Here’s my take on the news.

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February 13, 2021 rzim ravi zacharias

RZIM & Ravi Zacharias Document List

Last updated: Mar 8, 2021 As the number of primary source documents available regarding the Ravi Zacharias case has grown quite rapidly, I thought it would be useful to put together the links in a quick reference page. For a more exhaustive timeline / reference for the Ravi Zacharias case, take a look at Brad’s work over at Spiritual Sounding Board. For my commentary on this topic, see my blog posts diving more specifically into particular areas or my Twitter feed. (... read more ...)

January 25, 2021 rzim ravi zacharias timeline

RZIM: Why Fear Transparency?

Happy 2021? What a week. On the church transparency front, it’s been four business days since I wrote to RZIM asking for some documents that they are (1) required by federal law to provide on request and (2) required by their participation in ECFA to provide on request. I haven’t gotten a response. This is frustrating but not particularly surprising. I’m not a donor who can withhold funds; I’m not a reporter who can publish an expose. (... read more ...)

What Should RZIM Do Next?

RZIM has said they expect their investigation to complete in January or February. They have pledged to release Miller & Martin’s report publicly. Good. It was always a minimum to release the report. What next? When I worked in tech, we did an exercise called a “postmortem” after serious technical problems. A postmortem is always a no-blame debriefing—yes, even if the problem was caused by human error. The reason is simple: in our view, the system should have been designed to prevent operator error—failure is a failure of the system. (... read more ...)

December 27, 2020 rzim ravi zacharias church abuse

The Ravi Zacharias Case Takes a Turn

Yesterday, RZIM released a statement regarding an interim report from their investigative firm. In a dramatic reversal of their earlier statement saying they did not believe the allegations against Zacharias, this one admitted that the investigation had found significant evidence to corroborate the allegations already made in the news, as well as evidence of additional, more serious, misconduct. This feels like the culmination of weeks of statements from RZIM speakers saying they have concerns with RZIM’s handling of the allegations. (... read more ...)

December 24, 2020 rzim ravi zacharias church abuse

Book Reactions: World Class, and What School Could Be

New series! These are what I’ll call book “reactions”—not quite a book review or a book summary, but something in-between. I read these two books back to back and so I think it’s most fair to post my reactions together. World Class: One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children by Teru Clavel What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America by Ted Dintersmith (... read more ...)

December 10, 2020 book reactions education

How I came to realize the church has an abuse problem

It was the summer of 2018. Willow Creek had just imploded with the Chicago Tribume breaking the story of sexual harassment allegations against senior pastor Bill Hybels in March and the New York Times following up with a bombshell interview with Hybels’ former assistant Pat Baranowski in August. That very weekend co-lead pastor Steve Carter stepped down. Soon afterward, the other co-lead pastor, Heather Larson, and the entire Elder Board, stepped down. (... read more ...)

October 22, 2020 church abuse advocacy sankey

How I wish church leaders responded to questions (Day 6)

I wish leaders understood better what advocates are trying to accomplish when we ask for more information or question their decisions. We are a part of the community. We are not trying to bring it down or hurt you. We are trying to make sure victims of abuse are helped and further abuse is prevented. In today’s world, we have seen too many tragic news stories to take this as a given. (... read more ...)

Investigating the truth is hard (Day 5)

The last movie I watched before lockdown was Knives Out, which is a very good murder mystery movie (97% on Rotten Tomatoes). I’m glad I got to see it because the other two movies I watched were mildly disappointing (Little Women) and devastatingly, depressingly, life-alteringly bad (The Rise of Skywalker), so it was nice to end on a good note. Sometimes advocacy feels like being in a murder mystery. Someone in this room murdered Mr. (... read more ...)

October 9, 2020 dailies church abuse advocacy

How bias makes leaders ignore allegations (Day 4)

Excuses leaders make when declining to investigate abuse or respond to victims and advocates: a list. If you’ve been a victim or advocate in church abuse, you’ve almost certainly been on the receiving end of one or more of these. It sounds like a playbook, but it isn’t. It’s just human nature. And you know what that means? (... read more ...)

The church has a problem with teen girls—why? (Day 3)

Let’s talk. Why do Christians have such a negative view of teen girls? (... read more ...)

What does it mean to humanize abusers? (Day 2)

Before the “monstrous” abuser who demands and takes by force is the person who lies and takes by deceit… and before that, the person who manipulates and guilt trips and nags… What else do we accept as normal? (... read more ...)

October 6, 2020 dailies

Daily Roundup Experiment: Day 1

Ravi Zacharias, investigations–internal, investigations–independent, hoping and waiting, spiritual bypassing, endorsements & silence, Tedd Tripp, terrible parenting advice, don’t spank babies (... read more ...)

Truth First

One enormous piece of cognitive dissonance right now for the staff and congregation at Menlo is how to reconcile what they thought they knew about their senior pastor and elder board and what they are discovering, now that the cold hard facts are spreading. The brain rebels. It implores the thinker to stop disrupting the worldview that has made sense until now. It comes up with rationalizations, justifications, for why this new information should be rejected. (... read more ...)

July 11, 2020 ortberg culture

Accountability and Menlo Church

Whenever someone is forced to go public in holding a church accountable, they immediately receive pushback: “Why are you attacking the church? This is our home—it’s supposed to be your home—why are you tearing it down?” (... read more ...)

July 6, 2020 ortberg culture

Virtuous Pedophiles

Note. This post covers some heavy topics: pedophilia, child sexual abuse, sex and sexuality, masturbation, suicide. A few years ago, there was a flush of profiles of “non-offending pedophiles” in various publications—see here, here, here, here, here, here and here to start. Their stories are usually poignant and empathy-evoking, describing a journey of depression and self-loathing before reaching acceptance. Some stories are more troubling. Many of the stories credit a website and support group called Virtuous Pedophiles for helping them avoid influences that claim adult-child sex is good or harmless. (... read more ...)

June 29, 2020 pedophilia

A PSA for Parents at Menlo Church

Based on my last emails from the elders, the Town Halls in March, and Menlo Church’s behavior since then (John Ortberg has preached all services and hosted special guests Condoleezza Rice and Max Lucado), I’m getting the distinct vibe that the church has moved on. I wrote my letter to the editor in the Almanac back when I had hope the church might still bring in a qualified, unbiased third party. (... read more ...)

May 14, 2020 ortberg

Menlo Church Town Hall #2

As promised, the second town hall yesterday was very similar to the first. The content of the elder updates was equivalent. The questions were different, but there was substantial overlap in the answers. John and a few different elders answered questions on this topic. I couldn’t help but notice where the answer either dodged the question or chose not to read what was on the card. For example, in response to the question, “Did John support the volunteer’s work with minors? (... read more ...)

March 9, 2020 ortberg

Two Sides to Every Story

Menlo Church doesn’t seem to realize that by trying to keep the volunteer secret and doing such an incomplete investigation, they’ve hurt both the volunteer in question and every other volunteer. We are in the worst of both worlds. The volunteer’s name is a guessing game that unfairly puts others under suspicion. Some people will guess correctly, and without a real investigation, the person’s name hasn’t been cleared. If this person is not a predator, just someone struggling to manage a mental illness, they have been put in a terrible position by John and Menlo Church. (... read more ...)

March 6, 2020 ortberg

Thoughts on the Menlo Church Town Hall

Sunday’s Q&A was a bit less filtered than previous messages from the church. My overall impressions:

1. Menlo Church really doesn’t want you to know who their investigator was, which is too bad for them, because it’s already on Twitter: Fred Alvarez at Coblentz Law. Boz Tchividjian has a great summary of why a practicing attorney cannot be considered independent:

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March 3, 2020 ortberg

Menlo Church Town Hall #1

This will just be a quick blow-by-blow—cleaned up notes, basically. The meeting was relatively well attended. One speaker joked that they would be doing other town hall meetings, and she hoped to see everyone again in the future. The meeting began by introducing the Session members. Not everyone was present but most were. There were short updates from a few committees. One mentioned that elder nominations would likely be opening up soon for two new elders. (... read more ...)

March 1, 2020 ortberg

A Weighing

Two days ago, Menlo Church sent out an email announcing John Ortberg’s upcoming return to the pulpit. They didn’t respond at all to Danny Lavery’s Feb 2 statement or his Feb 6 blog post. They did say they have full confidence in John as their spiritual leader. They said John has been having great conversations with various folks in the church, so I guess I’m just one of those constituencies whose concerns were weighed and found wanting. (... read more ...)

February 29, 2020 ortberg

Secrecy & The Soul

“I feel really strongly that if your ‘good life’ is based upon keeping information a secret, pretending that you did not do something you did, lying to the people closest to you about a serious breach of trust that you committed, you do not, in fact, have a good life. You might have a comfortable life. You might have a life that looks really good to people from the outside. You might have an easy life. (... read more ...)

February 19, 2020 culture ortberg

Menlo Church & John Ortberg - Child-Attracted Volunteer Allowed In Youth Ministry

I believe everyone, including the church, is best served by having all the assertions out in the open. This post is a chronological account of what has happened, as best I can piece it together. (... read more ...)

February 13, 2020 ortberg timeline