Eyewitnesses Accuse J.D. Greear & Summit Church of Conducting “Sham” Investigation of Bryan Loritts

By Julie Roys

Two eyewitnesses of an alleged cover-up of sex crimes are accusing J.D. Greear and The Summit Church of conducting a “sham” investigation into the past of newly-hired executive pastor Bryan Loritts.

Summit hired Loritts on June 1, despite allegations that Loritts had covered up criminal voyeurism committed by his brother-in-law, Rick Trotter, 10 years ago at Fellowship Memphis.

In a May 24 letter, Greear, who’s also president of the Southern Baptist Convention, assured his congregation that Summit leaders had thoroughly investigated Loritts to ensure that “his prior conduct aligns with our missional values and beliefs.”

However, Greg Selby, a former insider at Fellowship Memphis, and Jennifer Baker, one of Trotter’s victims, say Summit’s investigation of Loritts was neither thorough nor objective.

Selby and Baker say they tried to tell Summit about Loritts’ role in the cover-up of Trotter’s crimes during a conference call on May 28, but church leaders were not interested in hearing their story.

“It was not actually a research mission on their part,” Selby said. Instead, Selby characterized the call as “a mission to find out what Jennifer and I were willing to say” so Summit could do “some sort of jujitsu” to defend against it.

Bryan Loritts

Selby and Baker allege that Loritts likely destroyed, or allowed the destruction, of evidence; discouraged victims from reporting Trotter to police; and threatened whistleblowers and victims with church discipline if they spoke.

Yet the two say that when they mentioned these issues to the leaders on the conference call—Summit Elder Dave Thompson and Associate Pastor Todd Unzicker—they were met with silence.

Baker and Selby added that Thompson and Unzicker would not answer any of their questions about the investigation. And Baker said when she asked if there was anything specific that Summit needed to know from Selby’s and Baker’s first-hand knowledge of events, Thompson and Unzicker responded, “Absolutely not.”

Selby and Baker also expressed dismay that none of their testimony was included in the church’s official statement, which Thompson emailed a concerned individual on June 1. Instead, the statement indicated that everyone Summit had interviewed supported Loritts’ denial of wrongdoing.

“(I)t become abundantly clear to Summit elders that Bryan had not attempted in any way to cover up the incidents of abuse that occurred at Fellowship Memphis in 2010, protect the abuser, or discourage victims from seeking justice for their abuses,” Summit said in its statement. “In fact, our thorough background check, interviews, and examination revealed quite the opposite,”

“Shame on Summit for taking a full hour to meet with Greg and (me) ‘to gain more insight and information,’ and then put out this blatantly false statement in complete contradiction to what we testified and what we spelled out for them,” Baker said.

“Shame on Summit for taking a full hour to meet with Greg and (me) . . . and then put out this blatantly false statement in complete contradiction to what we testified and what we spelled out for them.”.

I reached out to Thompson and Unzicker for comment, but neither one responded to my email.

I also reached out to Rachel Denhollander, a lawyer and well-known abuse survivor advocate, who according to Selby and Baker, was also on the conference call.

Denhollander confirmed that she was on the call. However, she said she was participating as a neutral observer and didn’t feel it would be fair to either party if she commented.

Denhollander added, however, that she has urged J.D. Greear and Summit to hire a third party to investigate Loritts’ handling of Trotter’s crimes.

“In cases like these, churches should obtain trusted and qualified third-party firms to publicly investigate and assess serious allegations of unfitness for ministry so that survivors who disagree with, or have information contrary to the majority narrative have a safe place to speak,” Denhollander said.

More Red Flags

In addition to the glaring omission in Summit’s statement, Baker said she also observed a glaring omission in Summit’s investigation—a failure to speak with many of the other victims.

Baker said she knows of about 50 people connected to Trotter’s crimes and the cover-up. But of those she’s talked to, she said none have been contacted by Summit.

Baker said this includes the Fellowship Memphis staff member* who discovered Trotter’s phone and gave it to Loritts.

This is especially concerning because Summit says in its statement that it “spoke directly” to one of only two victims that Loritts talked to before elders allegedly removed Loritts from Trotter’s case.

Summit says one of those victims was a family member of Loritts’; the other would seemingly have to the staff member who gave the phone to Loritts. Given that Summit’s statement specifies that the victim Summit spoke to directly was not a family member, this would seem to indicate that Summit spoke to the staff member who found the phone.

Yet Baker said the staff member told her in a text on May 27 that she’s “never even heard of Summit.” And when Baker asked directly if “Summit the church” has called her for a statement, the staff member responds: “Nope. I haven’t talked to anyone about any of that in a long time.”

 

 

According to Summit, the victim with whom they spoke said Loritts encouraged her to pursue prosecution of Trotter. This victim allegedly also confirmed that Loritts was removed from the Trotter case “early in the process.”

I reached out to Thompson and Unzicker and asked specifically if anyone from the church had contacted the victim who had found the phone—and if so, when—but no one responded.

I also reached out to the victim, but she did not want to comment.

Enablers and Predators

In a podcast released today, Selby and Baker explain how they’ve repeatedly witnessed the pattern of hiring guilty parties and enabling predatory behavior in the church over the past decade.

Though Fellowship Memphis fired Trotter in 2010, Memphis police say no one from the church ever reported Trotter to police. The next year, Downtown Church in Memphis hired Trotter to lead worship, where Trotter repeated his crimes until he was reported to police in 2016.

Alarmed by what was happening, Selby said he approached Sandy Willson in 2011, then pastor at Second Presbyterian—the sending church for Downtown Church, which at the time was called Downtown Presbyterian.

Willson is a council member of The Gospel Coalition, as is Crawford Loritts, the father of Bryan Loritts. Willson also was on staff with Downline Ministries, as was Bryan Loritts and John Bryson, the lead pastor at Fellowship Memphis.

Selby said when he went to Willson and complained about Trotter being on staff at Downtown Church, Willson refused to get involved and directed Selby to talk to Downtown Church Pastor Richard Rieves. Yet Selby said when he went to Rieves, Rieves dismissed his concerns about Trotter.

I have reached out to both Willson and Rieves, but have not heard back from them.

Also in 2015, Bryan Loritts hosted a Kainos Conference and hired Trotter to lead worship at the event. Loritts had an old blog post on his website talking about the conference and mentioning Trotter. Lorrits recently deleted that post, but it’s still available on his old Tumblr page.

In Summit’s recent statement, Loritts said he now realizes that hiring Trotter was wrong and sent “a terrible signal to victims that caused tremendous and unnecessary confusion and pain.”

Selby said the experience of watching church leaders protect and cover for each other’s bad deeds has so soured him on the church that he no longer attends.

“I didn’t abandon church because somebody did something as wicked as Rick (Trotter) did,” Selby said. “I understand the sinful nature. What I couldn’t understand was everybody that was complicit. That was the part that got me. It was that Bryan Loritts and these other guys were part of a systematic coverup.”

“What I couldn’t understand was everybody that was complicit. That was the part that got me. It was that Bryan Loritts and these other guys were part of a systematic coverup.”

Similarly, Baker said she no longer attends church either. And she said she was infuriated that at the end of the conference call with Summit, one of the Summit leaders apologized to her for what Rick Trotter had done to her.

“That was just unfathomable,” Baker said, noting that the trauma from what Trotter did to her pales in comparison to the harm from church leaders who tried to silence her.

“Every victim that I’ve talked to has agreed that (what Trotter did) was a terrible, terrible, terrible thing that shouldn’t have been allowed to continue. But the real damage has been done by the manipulation, the intimidation, and the effort to silence and keep separate and discredit all of the victims—(that) has been the most traumatic and ongoing harm, far greater than the incident that happened in 2010.”

*The staff member’s name who found the phone has been removed as a courtesy to her. An earlier version had printed her name.

Click here to listen to my podcast with Selby and Baker discussing these events.

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12 thoughts on “Eyewitnesses Accuse J.D. Greear & Summit Church of Conducting “Sham” Investigation of Bryan Loritts”

  1. Pamela A Roble

    This suggests that people should go directly to the police rather than taking items or information to church authorities. Then, you have to hope that the local police and church are not covering for each other. Sad situation.

    1. Well said Ms. Roble!! The people who are perpetrating these loathsome crimes against and within the body of Christ should be IMMEDIATELY reported to the police not just to church officials who have no authority to punish such crimes anyway. Is there some kind of unwritten “law” within the church that says don’t go to the police when criminal activity occurs because the investigation and “punishment” should be handled internally? If that is the case, no one is safe in God’s house. How bad can it get I wonder? I’m certain there is a ton of stuff like this still out there that we don’t know about. I myself came out of the Harvest Bible Chapel mess and even to this day, James MacDonald is still walking around free as a bird. Really quite disgusting.

  2. Paul Lundquist

    Thank you, Mr. Selby and Ms. Baker. God bless you both. Those of us whose lives have been ripped apart by false brothers and sisters sympathize with your pain and praise God for your perseverance. Please accept this word from a fellow griever and (I think) kindred spirit. Go to church. Not to a megachurch led by people like J.D. Greear and Bryan Loritts. They are not men of God. But there are plenty of churches with just a few dozen believers led by honest souls who love Jesus Christ and who drive a school bus during the week to make ends meet. And if you can’t bring yourself to go to even such a church as that, then meet in your home with a handful of others to pray, read the Scriptures, and share Holy Communion. I assure you that I speak from a similarly wounded heart. Neither your experience nor mine exempts us from what may well be a pained and reluctant obedience to the commandment not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. God be with you.

    1. Hmmm? Paul, you write… “Go to church.”

      Depends on which Church…
      WE, His Ekklesia, His Body, His Called Out Ones, His Church…
      Be talken bout… ;-)

      1 – “The Church of God.” Where Jesus be runnin the show.
      Jesus, He is the head of The Body, The Church. Col 1:18.
      OR
      2 – the church of man. Where man is runnin the show.
      The 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax $ Deductible…
      Religious $ Corporation…
      The IRS calls church.

      Should one of His Disciples call an IRS Corp. His Church?

      NOPE…

      Does anyone know what the word “Chuch,” really means?
      ——-

      Makes an interesting study. An interesting challenge.
      Printout evey verse with the word “church” in it…
      Read them, over and over, again and again…
      And ask yourself… Ask Jesus…

      In the Bible?
      Did any of **”His Disciples?”**
      Ever?

      1 – *Go to* Church?
      2 – *Join* a Church?
      3 – *Lead* a Church?
      4 – *Plant* a Church?
      5 – *Pastor* a Church?
      6 – *Attend* a Church?
      7 – *Tithe* to a Church?
      8 – *Look for* a Church?
      9 – *Teach* Go to Church?
      10 – *Bring their friends* to Church?
      11 – *Become Members* of a Church?
      12 – *Apply for Membership* in a Church?
      13 – *Call themselves, Pastor,* in a Church?
      14 – *Call themselves, Leader,* in a Church?
      15 – *Call themselves, Reverend,* in a Church?
      16 – *Give Silver, or Gold, or Money* to a Church?
      17 – *Build a building with a Cross* and call it Church?

      18 – *Were any of **His Disciples,** ever Hired?
      As a Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit?
      Preaching, to People in Pews?
      Weak after Weak?
      In a church?
      ——-

      NOPE…
      NONE of these 18 things exist in the Bible…
      For one of **His Disciples.**

      If, In the Bible…
      Jesus did NOT teach **His Disciples** to do these things?
      And, **His Disciples** did NOT do these things?

      Why do WE?

      1. Daniel Wallace

        Why Gather?
        First, we see that churches regularly gather. Paul uses phrases like “when you come together as a church” and “the whole church comes together” (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:23).
        Second, a church assembly is a distinct event. This is evident because Paul provides specific instructions on what believers should do “in church”—that is, in the church meeting. “In church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19); “if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church” (1 Cor. 14:28).
        Third, even large churches met as one body in the New Testament era. Thousands of believers belonged to the congregation at Jerusalem, yet they met “all together in Solomon’s Portico” (Acts 5:12).
        Fourth, the New Testament writers instruct churches to do activities that can only be done by meeting together: teaching and admonishing one another; singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16); reading Scripture publicly (1 Tim. 4:13); encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24–25), and sharing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:17, 11:18, 33). None of these can happen in a vacuum. And while it’s true that many of these things can take place among smaller subsets of the church (such as your Tuesday night Bible study), we should assume that they belong first and foremost to the main congregational gathering given the biblical emphasis on the whole church meeting together.
        Fifth, church discipline is an act of the gathered congregation. Jesus envisions “the church” as a whole, the ekklesia, speaking to the unrepentant sinner. In order to do this, they must be “gathered” in his name (Matt. 18:17, 20). Paul echoes this language as he instructs the Corinthians to implement church discipline: “when you are assembled [same Greek word as gathered in Matt. 18:20] in the name of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4).

        https://www.9marks.org/article/why-gather-thinking-about-gathering-when-churches-cant/

        Have you read the book of Acts? Have you read all of Paul’s letters to churches? To the qualifications for elders who were Shepherds/pastors in the church? To Jesus or Paul speaking about church discipline? The very word ekklesa means gathering for goodness sake? The church is both organism and institute, a basic study of scripture reveals this.

        1. DANIEL

          I love to gather with His Church, His Brethren…
          His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones, His Body.

          You write…
          “Paul provides specific instructions on what believers should do “in church”—that is, in the church meeting.”
          ——-

          Seems Paul, and most likely Jesus…
          Had a simple effective idea when brethren come together…
          That many of “Today’s titled pastors, church leaders,” “Ignore.”

          When brethren come together…
          ALL can, and are expected to, “Participate.”

          1 Cor 14:26 KJV
          How is it then, brethren?
          **when ye come together,**
          **every one of you**
          hath a psalm,
          hath a doctrine, (Teaching)
          hath a tongue,
          hath a revelation,
          hath an interpretation.
          Let all things be done unto edifying.

          Yes, In the Bible, When brethren come together…
          “ALL” brethren can, and are expected to…
          “Participate.”

          NOT listen to just “one,” and…
          “Regurgitate.”
          ——-

          Haven’t you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?

          NOT one of **His Disciples** ever took the “Title” pastor?
          Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

          NOT one of **His Disciples** called another Disciple, pastor?
          Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

          NOT one of **His Disciples,** was ever Hired? Or Fired?
          As a Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit?
          Preaching, to People in Pews?
          Weak after Weak?
          In a church?
          ——-

          Jer 50:6
          “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
          **THEIR shepherds**
          have caused them to *go astray,*

          1 Pet 2:25
          For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
          BUT are now returned to
          the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

          {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

        2. DANIEL

          You mention Qualifications…
          “To the qualifications for elders
          who were Shepherds/pastors in the church?”

          Seems Paul, and most likely Jesus…
          Gave some 17+, very tuff Qualifications…
          In 1 Tim 3, and Titus, for elders…
          Who desired to be overseers…
          That many of Today’s titled pastors…
          “Ignore” or “Twist.”

          Here’s just three Qualifications in Titus…
          That “most” overseers “Ignore.”
          1 – Must Be *BLAMELESS.*
          2 – *JUST,* 3 – *HOLY,*

          Titus 1:5-8 KJV
          …ordain elders in every city…
          If any be *BLAMELESS,*
          the husband of one wife,
          having faithful children
          NOT accused of riot or unruly.
          1 – For a bishop “Must Be” *BLAMELESS,*
          as the steward of God;
          NOT self willed,
          NOT soon angry,
          NOT given to wine,
          NO striker,
          NOT given to filthy lucre;
          a lover of hospitality,
          a lover of good men,
          sober,
          2 – *JUST,*
          3 – *HOLY,*
          temperate;

          1 – *Must Be*
          Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
          Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.
          This *must be* is the same Greek word…
          You *must be* born again. Jn 3:7
          Seems to be a small word but very important. Yes?

          1 – BLAMELESS
          Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
          Thayers – cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
          Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

          How many, pastor/leader/reverends, who honestly examine themselves, seriously considering this one qualification,
          can see themselves as BLAMELESS, without fault, innocent, and thus qualify to be an overseer?

          And if you can see yourself as BLAMELESS?
          Is that pride? And NO longer without fault? :-)

          The Bible talks about elders who desire to be overseers.
          And qualifications for elders who desire to be overseers.
          Can you have one without the other?

          If a pastor/elder/overseer does NOT Qualify???

          Will they remove themselves?
          And be a good example to His Flock?

        3. DANIEL

          Here are two more “Qualifications” found in Titus…
          That most pastor/elder/overseers, “Ignore,”or “Twist.”

          2 – JUST
          Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
          Thayers – 1) righteous, observing divine laws
          1a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous,
          keeping the commands of God
          1a2) innocent, faultless, guiltless
          1a3) used of him whose way of thinking,
          feeling, and acting
          is wholly conformed to the will of God,

          3 – HOLY
          Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
          Thayers – 1) undefiled by sin, free from wickedness,
          religiously observing every moral obligation, pure holy, pious.
          ——-

          Now that’s three tough Qualifications for
          “pastor/leader/elder/overseer” – Yes?
          1 – Must Be BLAMELESS.
          2 – JUST. 3 – HOLY.
          ——-

          Do you know many? any? pastor/elder/overseers?
          Who meet just these three qualifications?
          ——-

          What should a pastor/elder/overseer do?

          When they do NOT Qualify?
          ——-

          Ps 138:6
          Though the LORD be high,
          yet hath he respect unto the lowly:
          but the proud he knoweth afar off.

          Ps 40:4
          Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust,
          and respecteth not the proud,
          nor such as turn aside to lies.

  3. Good points, A Amos…and Paul…
    Our “Christian” or “Church” culture in the US/British Empire/Evangelical World has become syncretistic with big business, secular practice, man’s wisdom (higher ed) on all levels.
    God has allowed some of us to be terribly hurt, perhaps so we can get back to what the church is meant to be.
    I know the grief of family ripped apart. My first 50 years was spent in a top of the line, cutting edge, non-denominational mission organization. We were thrown out after long time service because their “well trained” child safety sector deemed the false allegations of child sexual abuse launched against us to be true. Since that happened there has been major “cover up” by the organization, and an inability to back track and make things right. Today is the 5th anniversary of the FBI interrogating my husband and letting him go as we entered the country. Tomorrow will be the 5th anniversary of my husband being fired by our ex-mission. It is tragic.
    I would caution judging the brothers and sisters within sectors of the “organized church” to be false. We don’t know their hearts. And I know that many have simply deferred to Christian lawyers to for “guidance” through these waters.
    I personally trusted child safety, member care, personnel, and lawyers for the mission to back my innocent family. To really look into things.
    They didn’t. But I know that the vast majority involved really truly believed they had the best system possible to protect children, and falsely accused adults, and the organization itself. God was gracious to us and allowed the civil authorities to come to the correct conclusion. But passing “members” of a church over directly to civil authorities when you simply hear an allegation could be deadly, in fact, it could be a literal death sentence for a wonderful, godly member of Christ’s body.
    Pamela and Sams…beware! I know of MANY cases in the United States in which innocent falsely accused people (especially men) have been judged guilty of “criminal acts” by “experts” in child safety and sexual abuse, had their families torn apart, children ripped from their loving arms, and even been thrown into jail as dangerous “criminals” never having been given a fair hearing or trail. But for God’s grace that could have been us. My own cousin’s adopted son has been sentenced to 65 years in prison because someone alleged that he had touched the private parts of a young boy. He literally fears for his life if others in jail find out what he is in there for supposedly having done.
    We are treading in very dangerous territory.
    Look at Scripture and history and you will find one of Satan’s favorite modes of operating and destroying relationships, families, believers who are living out the gospel, is by telling lies, especially of “sexual abuse”.
    The truth is that the US today is not a Christian country, but a thoroughly pagan one. Our systems have removed God from the picture. We are back to the Roman Empire. So don’t be too quick to dump a brother into the hands of this government.
    I think God is bringing down the scaffolding He allowed to spread the gospel around the world. That scaffolding is no longer necessary, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see wholesale disintegration of the institutional church and mission organizations.
    The best thing we as believers can do is have fellowship and communion with others, in our homes and neighborhoods. And love our literal neighbors, not someone far off. I’m glad that many are rediscovering that in this country.

    1. ELIZABETH

      I’m so sorry for the pain, and grief, and false allegations, the FBI interrogating your husband. How horrible to have to go through that darkness. I’ve experienced darkness and false allegations, but nothing like your description. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted… And sometimes that takes many years and many tears.

      Praying: for you and with you.
      Mercy Lord… Peace Lord…

      Much agreement when you write…
      “Our “Christian” or “Church” culture in the US/British Empire/Evangelical World has become syncretistic with BIG BUSINESS, secular practice, man’s wisdom (higher ed) on all levels.”

      “God has allowed some of us to be terribly hurt, perhaps so we can get back to what the church is meant to be.”

      Yes, eventually there is a benefit to all the darkness…
      The Pain, The Grief, becomes so bad…
      You have NO place to GO…
      But to GO to JESUS…
      One day, One minute…
      One moment, at a time…

      Only JESUS understands…

      And JESUS is the best… Yes?

      John 6:45
      It is written in the prophets,
      And they shall be ALL taught of God.

      John 14:26
      But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,
      whom the Father will send in my name,
      he shall teach you ALL things…
      ——-

      Thank you for those 50 years with the mission organization.

      Be Blessed…
      And continue to be a Blessing…

  4. From the Roys Report’s, it has been credibly established that Trotter sexually predated at least two children in Memphis. Greear knows this from the lengthy confessions of Loritts, Greear’s subordinate at Greear’s church.

    To what extent does Greear have an affirmative obligation under North Carolina law to formally report this to prosecutorial authorities? If Greear has no legal obligation to do so, does he have a moral obligation to do so? Is Greear exempt from all Christian duties to sexual abuse victims?

    How can Greear lead the SBC to confront sexual abuse while declining to meaningfully act against sexual abuse confirmed to Greear by one of Greear’s own senior pastors?

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