Bryan Loritts
Bryan Loritts in January 2020 appears in an Instagram post with his wife, wearing a doctoral robe.

After Touting Fake Doctorate, Bryan Loritts Earns Real One

By Julie Roys

After touting a fake doctorate for more than a year, author and executive pastor at The Summit Church, Bryan Loritts, recently announced he’s earned a real one.

Loritts yesterday tweeted a picture of a Doctor of Ministry diploma from Liberty University, stating: “Came home and my wife surprised me with this frame.”

Liberty University Senior Vice President of Communications Scott Lamb confirmed that Liberty had awarded Loritts the Doctor of Ministry in May 2021. Lamb added that the degree can be earned in two years or less. When asked when Loritts enrolled at Liberty, Lamb said FERPA laws prohibited him from disclosing that information.

In January 2020—16 months before earning the Liberty doctorate—Loritts posted a picture of himself in doctoral robes on Instagram with the caption, “Today was a good day.” He also then began using the title, “Dr. Brian Loritts,” at his website and on social media.

Bryan Loritts
Bryan Loritts’ January 2020 Instagram post, which has since been deleted.

When I reached out to Loritts and The Summit Church in May 2020, asking where and when Loritts had earned the doctorate, Summit replied that Loritts had received an honorary doctorate from St. Thomas Christian University.

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By convention, recipients of honorary doctorates are not supposed to use the title “Dr.” (This practice of using the Dr. title for honorary degrees was the basis of the 2015 credential scandal involving Ravi Zacharias.)

Yet as I reported in an article in May 2020, Loritts’ doctorate was not even conferred by a legitimate school.

St. Thomas Christian University was given an “F” rating by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and was not registered with the Florida Education Board. In addition, the president of St. Thomas, “Dr. Zamekio Jackson,” claims to have received his education at Texas Christian University (TCU), but TCU says Jackson never attended the school.

Despite the evidence that his degree was not legitimate, Loritts continued using the title “Dr. Loritts” for a year. However, he deleted the Instagram post from January 2020 picturing him in a doctoral robe.

Loritts never responded to inquiries by The Roys Report about his fake degree. Neither did Loritts’ employer, The Summit Church, which is pastored by former Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear.

Recently, though, The Summit Church hired Guidepost Solutions to investigate another controversy involving Loritts—claims that Loritts had covered up sex crimes at a former church.

That investigation found “no convincing evidence” that Loritts had covered up sex crimes at Fellowship Memphis, where he pastored from 2003—2015.

However, the investigation noted that Loritts did not report the crimes committed by his brother-in-law to police. The investigation also did not resolve many major issues, including what happened to the phone containing evidence of the sex crimes, which Loritts was known to have possessed.

The firm conducting the investigation—Guidepost Solutions—also has come under criticism for not representing the interests of victims, but instead protecting clients.

Guidepost Solutions touts itself on its website as a company that serves “high profile” clients. And in an interview with media, a former CEO stated that Guidepost Solutions is skilled at “making the problems go away with the least amount of repercussions for the client.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday, The Roys Report learned that FERPA laws do not prohibit a school from disclosing the dates a student attended, as Liberty’s Scott Lamb claimed. When confronted with this information, Lamb replied that Loritts had put a block on his file, so Liberty was unable to say when Loritts enrolled in the DMin program.

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32 thoughts on “After Touting Fake Doctorate, Bryan Loritts Earns Real One”

  1. Crystal L Brooks

    I never knew those with honorary doctorates were not allowed to be called “Dr.”. They got it for a reason like body of work or career. In his case, it’s the problem with the school and not him. At the end of the day, the issue is moot since he’s clearly done the work to earn one from Liberty University. Good for him.

    1. A doctorate of Ministry from Liberty University…. Right…:-(

      Good for him??? No – pathetic…. Why not just drink from the sewer and call it food…..

    2. Crystal,

      Not so. Those with earned doctorates notice. It is unethical from the academies point of view and it disgraces christians and it is misleading.

  2. I suggest that his new doctorate needs to be verified by a third party. Did he actually do the full work required for a real doctorate? Do fellow students vouch for this? Do professors vouch for this? Has he published his doctoral thesis online for independent review? Etc.

    1. Cynthia Wright

      “Doctorate of Ministry” in “Ministry Leadership” sounds like credit for holding a high position in a church, but who knows.

  3. Robin Wiggins

    Actually, with the exception of the ivory towers of academia, one should never refer to one with a non-medical (i.e., MD) doctorate by the title “doctor.” I know pastors simply love conferring unearned titles upon one another and then referring to themselves as “doctor” and they have even created the D.Min “doctorate” (of course, the D.Min) which enables the bearer to claim that they actually earned something that gives them the right to use the title (I’d counter that a D.Min probably has less rigor than most academic masters programs and does not remotely involve true academic research–wondering how many D.Min. theses involve 80,000+ words of original peer-reviewed research–probably zero). I’m finishing my 18th year in academia and am only referred to as “doctor” on campus and it makes me cringe a bit even there. It’s gauche and pathetic, this pastoral obsession with titles. It’s a strong sign that they know little to nothing about humility and true Christ-like, servanthood attitudes. More like little pharisees strutting about.

    1. Robin,

      I totally agree with you. It is truly a scandal for the Church and as to the rigor and validity of D.Min: it is questionable. I wonder why you never see a D.Min having a Doctorate in Semitic languages? Jesus was pretty clear when it comes to the misuse of titles.

      The same goes for Doctorate of Education or some such title.

      1. Charles Martel

        A D.Min degree is an insult to those who get a PhD, a ThD, or DSc. At least a lawyer (a Juris Doctor, aka J.D.) has a more rigorous course of study than a D.Min.

        1. No, actually a D.Min. degree can be very beneficial if done from a reputable school that requires rigorous classwork and a research project. D.Min. degree is for for in depth training in practical ministry, not for academia. However, it isn’t necessary to refer to oneself as “Dr” after earning a D.Min. degree. Again, so much depends on the school – but the goal should not be so that one can add “Dr” to his/her name but to be better equipped to serve God’s Kingdom and the local church.

          1. Cynthia Wright

            “in depth training in practical ministry”

            Can you give an example of “in depth training in practical ministry” that can be done well in a classroom rather than in, say, ministry?

    2. Marin Heiskell

      Another viewpoint: historically the title “Doctor” was originally bestowed upon PhD’s, which are “older” degrees than MDs. Many cultures still refer to PhD’s AND MDs as “Doctors” with no one batting an eyelash, as PhD’s take 4 to 7 years to complete versus 4 years for MDs. Also, it is about what one is a doctor of….medicine, law, or another discipline.
      And some of this boils down to respect. If someone has earned a PhD and introduces themselves as “Dr…..”, who am I to rob them of that?

      1. Thank you Marin. For those of us in the field of psychology, whether PhD, EdD, or PsyD, the years of study, dissertations, and internships give us the right to use the title if we wish. I generally don’t care about the title, and don’t usually introduce myself that way. As a female, however, there have been times I have used the “Doctor” to remind the (usually male) person I am speaking with that I have the right to my seat at the table. It’s a little sad, but is part of my experience.

    3. Gordon Hackman

      I generally agree with your claim the academic shoddiness of DMin programs. There are some, however, that do demand a higher level of academic rigor, even if it’s not the same level as a PhD. I worked at a seminary for six years and some of our DMin programs did intentionally push for a greater level of academic rigor from our students.

    4. It depends on the school. There are Seminaries which do require dissertations. Full disclosure, I earned D.Min. from one from a reputable school and had to write a dissertation which almost did me in as I was also working full time with young children. The education, learning and interaction with others involved in ministry was truly beneficial. I don’t refer to myself as “Dr”. My father had an earned ThD and was referred to as “doctor” on campus but never introduced himself in church world “as doctor,” though those who introduced him in speaking engagements did. I do find it “off putting” to see pastors referring to themselves as “doctor.” Often I will check on where they got their degrees and it is often from some place that where very light work and no dissertation or research project. I know a pastor who was given an honorary doctorate and was being introduced as “Dr” and he stated that an honorary doctorate was like the corkscrew in a pigs tail. “It has no earthly value, but sure tickles the ham in front of it.”

      I think before disparaging a D.Min. one should work through the process from a reputable school. One would find that the research and interaction with others in an educational environment is beneficial. But that doesn’t necessitate sticking the “Dr” in front of one’s name. For a pastor responsible as an undershepherd before the Chief Shepherd for His flock, I don’t think there is a better identifier than “pastor.”

  4. This degree is 30 hours. Doesn’t require Masters of Divinity(MDiv) or Masters in Theology (Th.M) which in total would be over 100 credit hours.
    This is an insult to those who put in the work and a money maker for Liberty.

  5. Let’s be clear on what happened here.
    For the last several years, Bryan Loritts has claimed that he was working on his doctorate at Omega Graduate School. This is a school that disingenuously tried to pass itself off as Oxford Graduate School, until the actual Oxford University sent them a cease and desist order. Omega has a couple of super tiny buildings in the middle of of rural TN, with just a handful of parking spaces, so it’s hard to imagine how any faculty, let alone students, operate inside this school.

    After COVID, they switched to all virtual, but they did claim to have actual on-site learning prior to this, when Loritts claimed to be a student.

    Omega only offers two degrees. TWO. A Doctor of Philosophy in Integration of Religion and Society (what?) and a Master of Letters in Family Life Education and Organizational Leadership. https://ogs.edu/degrees/

    Despite Omega putting the bar about as low as you could get, Bryan was still unable to “earn” his Omega doctorate, and instead he later opted for buying one at the St Thomas diploma mill, where the entire criteria for obtaining Bryan’s doctorate was paying $400 for a Doctor of Theology gown. Bryan then started immediately calling himself Doctor and wearing the gown, including wearing it to officiate weddings. What kind of poser does that?

    Bryan Loritts has never shown an ounce of academic integrity prior to today, so why would we believe he has any now? If he was unable to finish his bogus Omega/fake Oxford degree in Integration of Religion and Society, after claiming to be studying for that for years, then WHY would we believe that he has taken enough time away from his high-end golf excursions to work on a completely different doctoral degree, and doing so before completing his first one, that he alleges to have spent years on? That makes no sense.

    I would also ask readers to consider Liberty’s careful wording. At no point would they confirm that Loritts was enrolled at Liberty, attended or completed the work necessary to earn this degree and neither would Bryan or Summit. Why would they not be crowing about such an achievement?

    Compare this to Bryan’s prior posts and remarks about working on his degree at Omega and his over the top reaction of changing his name to Doctor Loritts and posting plenty of pics after purchasing a $400 honorary doctorate from one of the sleaziest fake degree vendors in the US.

    Also consider that in the two years leading up to the May 15, 2021 “graduation” date, Loritts, who posts on social media like a teenage girl, has said NOTHING about attending Liberty or working on a doctorate. Not even on graduation day! Not one word. Although a few weeks before his surprise “graduation” (which he posted about being in San Francisco, but said nothing about a graduation on that day?), he mysteriously claims to be writing a dissertation about “multiethnic church”. However, he never once mentions what school this is for. Who would conceal this and why?

    It seems far more likely that Summit used their connections to have LU “award” this degree, substituting “real life experience” for any actual coursework, but asking him to submit one of those Bryan Loritts’ famous “tell the church how to do race” papers, so a committee can award him with such a degree.

    Those who did the work and paid the dues to earn such a degree in full, should be disgusted by this. I think Gangster Capitalism may have a new episode to work on.

    1. Mark Zimmerman

      Thanks Amy for this additional helpful summary of Lying Loritts’s preposterous vain posing and bragging about his pitiful academic record. This would be more laughable if Loritts weren’t a prominent pastor/author/speaker/board member/etc., and if others like J.D. Greear and these bogus institutions weren’t enabling him.

      Rather, Christians are repeatedly reminded about humility and proper boasting, e.g.:

      Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 9:23-4)

      “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

      “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

  6. First, I am disappointed and saddened once again by yet another leader whose giftedness has far outpaced his character development. It is a huge problem in the church for sure. I agree with Robin that often we see pastors who are obsessed with titles and honors unbefitting the call to servant/leadership in local church ministry. But she seemed to use a broad brush to dismiss, even belittle the many, many pastors who have sought to continue serious study in their given field by pursuing and earning a D.Min. while continuing to juggle the many responsibilities of local church ministry.

    Years after graduating from Denver Seminary with an M.Div, I entered a D.Min program at Gordon Conwell. After attending three years of classes and writing a 298 page, 124,000 word thesis that focused on two research projects, I was able by God’s grace, to receive the degree. The entire program was a great help to me developmentally in so many ways. To my knowledge none of my fellow pastors who were in my particular program use, or have ever used the “Dr.” title in any of their books, published works, or even on their web pages. It is not why they entered into the program.

    Although we all suffer from the malady of what Haddon Robinson used to call “curvature of the soul,” not everyone in ministry is seeking the limelight helped along by their degrees. And I’ll add that I don’t believe that any of us would ever say that our degree required near the same academic rigor as a PhD program.

    There have been so many high profile ministry failures in recent years, and sometimes we may be tempted to think that no one can be trusted. That everyone in ministry has desperately tainted motives. That is simply not true. Having worked with dozens and dozens of pastors over the years I know that for every individual who shows an appalling lack of humility and character, there are many, many more who simply, mostly obscurely and without fanfare do the work that God has called them to do.

    Julie Roys is doing an important work in exposing the hypocrisy of some and helping “restore the church,” but please know it is not everyone. Not by a long shot.

    1. There definitely are more rigorous evangelical programs. Trinity is an excellent institution and D.A. Carson teaches there.

  7. And just how much is a Doctorate from Liberty U worth?
    I suspect it’s LESS than a fake one.

    When the subject came up on another blog regarding how preachers LOVE the title Doctor(TM) and use it whenever they can, an actual PhD weighed in with “The more they insist you call them ‘Doctor’, the more likely their Doctorate’s a fake.”

    1. AKA “Dr.” Lance Walnau who insists everyone call him Dr. He bought a piece of paper for a little over $5k from a house in West Phoenix. General Boykin also bought one from there. Why someone who is a retired General needs another title? Well only narcissism is a lust that is never satisfied, I suppose.

  8. Vance,
    Dr. Carson actually is retired from TEDS. On the other hand, I honestly do not see the value of this story. This is like the MacArthur watch story. What does this ancillary story have to do with restoration of the church? It was like the reporting of John MacArthur having an honorary doctorate. Dr David Jeremiah and Dr. Joseph Stowell both have honorary degrees. Why are they not a focus? Both men I highly respect, especially Dr. Stowell. It’s just picking and choosing who to focus on. Where is the unbiased news?

    1. The small seminary that I am doing my D.Min at has this outline of competencies for our programme:

      THE DOCTOR OF MINISTRY CREDENTIAL

      This research project is being submitted for consideration to fulfil the requirements for a Doctor of Ministry degree.
      This has been chosen specifically as the material, a series of teaching modules, falls in between a more recognisable PhD programme and a Doctoral Artefact.

      The MIHAEL STARIN Seminary requirements for this Doctor of Ministry are as follows:

      80,000 to 100,000 words including Literature Review, Methodology, Bibliography and Footnotes.
      Exhibit competency in understanding and applying scriptural principles to ministry applications.
      Provide documentary analysis within an academic framework that provides for philosophical and theological considerations.
      To provide structured understandings of strategic ministry expressions in a manner that is practical as well as theoretical.

      The reason it is placed within the D.Min category is that final output is not designed to add to the corpus of knowledge within the academy but rather a series of teaching modules to assist Church Leaders in understanding and responding to the growth of paganism in what are formerly Christian cultures.

      I have to read 500 books, cite 100 academic journals and be peer reviewed in all my submissions.

      I would suggest that there are many PhD programmes that are less rigorous than this one. We also have to have an M.Div to enter the D.Min programme.

      So please do not generalise about D.Min credentials.

  9. There are good seminaries out there and the fault of the church is seminaries. The job of the church is training people for the ministry and a key way is teaching people how to study their Bibles. Teaching congregants to query the text, study scriptures, to understand biblical theology, systematic theology, eschatology, ecclesiology, understanding the big picture of the Bible and to learn to think biblically. The church has failed.

    Therapy has replaced theology, period. Look on the websites of churches, or the bulletins for their Sunday school hour (If they have one) and the class titles. Very little is actually teaching Biblical truth. There are a lot of pragmatic classes on what to do and not how to think biblically. The statement from the LDS missionaries is that Christians are easy to debate. The reason why is that they state that Christians do not know the Bible. Lifeway research did a study (2017) that 87% of American homes own a Bible yet 11% have actually read the entire Bible. Less than 1/2 of church goers have read the Bible. Sad, the church is failing.

    Restoring the church? Let the church do its New Covenant mandate. Make Disciples. We are failing. It is easy to comment about these men (I.E. Loritts, Driscoll, MacDonald, MacArthur and others) and their ministries.

    It is sad what MacDonald is writing about Julie on his website. That is sinful and destructive. How are these articles restoring the church?

    I am concerned that Mrs. Roys will not respond to my repeated biblical questions. What are her Biblical convictions? The value of God’s Word Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, God’s Grace Alone, God’s Glory Alone, Biblical inherency, Biblical Preaching, Biblical Gender Roles, Real Hell and eternity.

  10. @Cynthia Wright – “Can you give an example of “in depth training in practical ministry” that can be done well in a classroom rather than in, say, ministry?” – sure can – but it isn’t an either or situation. That is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the D.Min. Two illustrations listed below.

    In developing a discipleship pathway to help move someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus to becoming a “committed” follower of Jesus in the context of a local church setting. What does the individual need to know and do? What are the fruits of the Spirit that ought to be evident? Research is done, a dissertation is written for the context of that local church and then the concepts are taking back to the local church and implemented. Discipleship pathways are often different from say the context of the Philippines and the United States, though even there ministry in Appalachia is a lot different than ministry in Baltimore. The message is the same but ministry opportunities and methods are different. So it takes place both in the classroom and local context to make it happen. So it isn’t limited to classroom but certainly does include that as one is exposed other models that have and haven’t been effective.

    Another one — how do we train up the next generation of pastors with changing methodologies in today’s environment? Same approach as illustration above. Again, there is a certain body of knowledge that an individual needs to know Biblically, but ministry in Appalachia, Baltimore, Philippines, etc.

    One very credible seminary that I know of offered Th.D’s but no longer does so. The Th.D is more focused toward the educational environment. The purpose of the Th.D is to produce (develop?) more professors for Bible Colleges and other seminaries. This seminary has changed its focus to developing more pastors. So instead of the Th.D they are now offering a D.Min. in which research is done on a particular topic such as discipleship. The candidate then seeks to apply that research to his/her local setting, and then writes a dissertation and defends it whether or not his/her thesis was proven true or false. The goal is not so one can run around and “boast” a degree, but that one has done significant work, evaluated by professors, from a credible institution. Unfortunately, there are many institutions/organizations that use this as a means to generate more income and grant degrees that have not required significant work.

    Hope that helps

    1. Cynthia Wright

      Thank you, DONJONES3008. That was an excellent response with clear, specific examples and explanation. The paragraph distinguishing the utility of Th.D from D.Min. was a very informative bonus.

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