The Summit Church in North Carolina, led by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, said they have contracted global investigating firm Guidepost Solutions to independently review their recent hiring of Pastor Bryan Loritts who has been accused of mishandling past sex crime allegations at a previous church.
“At the recommendation of trusted advocates, we have engaged the firm Guidepost Solutions …. This firm was recommended to us based on their independence from any geographic location, entity or denominational affiliation, and because of their expertise in investigations and assessing institutional processes and dynamics specifically related to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault,” the church said in a statement Wednesday.
Loritts’ brother-in- law, Rick Trotter, a former announcer for the Memphis Grizzlies, pled guilty in 2018 to four misdemeanor counts of unlawfully photographing women under their skirts in 2016 in violation of privacy at Downtown Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was also a worship leader.
Trotter, whose full name is Dwayne Rick Trotter, was ordered to serve 60 days at the Shelby County Penal Farm followed by four years of probation which will expire on May 1, 2022. He was also required to register as a non-violent sex offender, and was ordered to have no contact with his victims.
Trotter was also fired from Fellowship Memphis Church in Tennessee for similar behavior in 2010. Loritts served as senior pastor of that church from 2003 to 2015.
One of Trotter’s accusers from his time at Fellowship Memphis told The Christian Post in 2016 that Loritts was among the senior leaders who discouraged her from reporting the abuse and claimed to have destroyed evidence of it.
"Our worship pastor, Rick Trotter, who is also the PA announcer for the Memphis NBA team, secretly videotaped me, and a host of other women and children in the restroom of the Fellowship Memphis church offices and in his home when he was on staff at the church as the worship pastor," wrote the victim to CP in 2016.
"After getting caught by the staff, Rick's brother in-law, Bryan Loritts, and lead pastor and elder, John Bryson (ACTS29 Board), claimed to have destroyed the evidence (Rick Trotter's iPhone) after watching the footage. They told all the women that they had consulted an officer and attorney and if we pressed charges it would ruin Rick Trotter's life and the video would be played in court," she continued. "They set up meetings with all the women to sit down individually with Rick Trotter and his wife, Heather, so he could apologize. I can't tell you how distressing it all was. He was fired from Fellowship Memphis and the church helped pay for him to go to rehab in his home town of Atlanta.”
Bryson denied destroying any evidence and a statement from the directional elders of The Summit Church in June 2020 said Loritts told The Summit Church that he turned over Trotter’s phone to Fellowship Memphis’ elders a day after it was given to him and he never saw it again. As Trotter is a family member, he was also “subsequently removed from the matter, he has no knowledge as to what Fellowship Memphis’ elders did with the phone thereafter.”
Loritts also told Fellowship officials that he had only spoken to two victims before he was removed from the case and one of them told church investigators that he encouraged them to prosecute his brother-in-law.
The Summit Church elders also said they were told that Loritts and Fellowship Memphis had contacted local police about the allegations against Trotter in 2010 but those actions could not be verified by their investigators.
“Pastor Bryan acknowledges there are several things he should have done better. It is frustrating to The Summit Church that a member of the Memphis Police Department said years ago that no report was filed when both Pastor Bryan and Fellowship Memphis say they contacted the police, and when Pastor Bryan believes he had given clear instructions that they should be documented,” The Summit Church elders said.
“In the last few years it has been made clear that a phone report is often not a full and official report, and that may explain what happened in this matter. Pastor Bryan regrets not ensuring a written report was filed or that records were kept, something both Pastor Bryan and The Summit Church know to do today,” the elders added.
Greear announced Loritts’ hiring in May 2020, as executive pastor of teaching and development at The Summit Church just months after he quietly left Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, California.
The SBC president acknowledged being aware of Loritts’ past but said that he was satisfied with the results of their vetting process.
“Pastor Bryan is a gifted pastor and church leader who has a great love for God’s people and for God’s purposes. He has been a leader in the movement of churches seeking to reflect the gospel through multiethnic reconciliation, a true reconciliation that demonstrates the power of the gospel to bring people together as one. He is also a pastor and leader who has been matured by experience and demonstrates the humility that we all need to continue to grow in grace,” Greear wrote in 2020.
In their statement Wednesday, The Summit Church said they were confident that while missteps in reporting were made concerning the 2010 case involving Loritts, they believe he acted in “good faith” and would work toward making their vetting process more transparent going forward.
“At the end of this process, we were fully convinced that though mistakes in reporting and caring for victims were made, Pastor Bryan Loritts acted in good faith and in pastorally responsible ways in this matter, and that he had not sought to protect an abuser or cover up abuse,” the church said.
“However, after conversations with members of the Church Cares Team (LINK), we realized that without an open and confidential channel for victims to report and an independent investigative firm to evaluate that evidence, an important part of our process was incomplete,” officials added.
Nearly two years ago, following an investigation highlighting more than 700 victims of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of hundreds of Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers, Greear, recommended requiring background checks for Southern Baptist leadership groups and entities, and changes to governing documents that would allow for "disfellowshipping" churches that mishandle abuse.