The church of Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear today announced it is hiring a third party to investigate Executive Pastor Bryan Loritts’ handling of sex abuse at a previous church.
As The Roys Report first reported in June, eyewitnesses at Fellowship Memphis, where Loritts served as a senior pastor, alleged that Loritts covered up sex crimes at the church 10 years ago.
Aware of these allegations, Greear’s Summit Church hired Loritts as an executive pastor on June 1.
At the time, Summit claimed that it had conducted its own investigation into the allegations and concluded that though Loritts had made mistakes, he had not participated in a cover-up.
The eyewitnesses, however, told The Roys Report that Summit had conducted a sham investigation and had failed to take their allegations seriously.
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Today, the elders at Summit acknowledged in a public statement that their investigation was flawed.
“(W)e 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,” the elders said.
As a result, the church said it has hired a firm called Guidepost Solutions to conduct a new investigation. Summit also published its contract with Guidepost Solutions.
The church said the new investigation will allow potential victims to report confidentially. It also will be conducted “independent of any input or control of Summit or anyone affiliated with the Summit.”
The allegations against Loritts stem from 2010 when an employee at Loritts’ church, Fellowship Memphis, found a hidden cell phone recording her in a church bathroom. The phone belonged to Loritts’ brother-in-law, Rick Trotter, who was a worship pastor at the church.
By Loritts’ own account, the employee gave the phone, which had dozens of other secret recordings on it, to Loritts. Loritts admits he did not report the crime to police, but instead took the phone home with him.
Loritts says that the next day, he gave Trotter’s phone to a pastor at the church and instructed staff to report the crime to police.
According to Memphis Police, no one from the church ever reported the crime and the phone somehow disappeared.
A former leader at Fellowship Memphis and one of Trotter’s victims say Loritts and other church leaders pressured them not to report Trotter’s crime to police.
Trotter was fired by Fellowship Memphis in 2010. He then went to another Memphis Church where he repeated his crimes. In 2016, Trotter was convicted of multiple counts of voyeurism.
Following news about Loritts published by The Roys Report, a member of the SBC Executive Committee urged committee members to investigate the allegations concerning Loritts. The matter was forwarded to the SBC Credentials Committee where it appears to have died.
However, in late October and November, some concerned members of The Summit Church contacted The Roys Report, requesting information about our investigation into Loritts, which we supplied.
In their statement today, the elders at Summit said they “regret” where they “fell short of the mark and for any confusion and hurt caused” by their process of hiring Loritts.
The elders added that they hope to “continue to learn” and to “implement best practices for responding to abuse allegations” that other churches can emulate.