J.D. Greear Bryan Loritts

An Open Letter to J.D. Greear: Stop Misleading the Church about Bryan Loritts

By Julie Roys

This week, The Immigration Coalition removed Bryan Loritts from its upcoming conference after examining evidence that Loritts had covered up sex crimes at a previous church.

Earlier in the week, someone had written the conference organizers, expressing concern about Loritts.

The organizers responded that “with J.D. Greear and The Summit Church’s internal investigation . . . we felt it was okay to add (Loritts) to our speaker lineup.”

The organizers also forwarded a letter by you, Pastor Greear, indicating that Loritts had been cleared of wrongdoing.

Pastor Greear, that is the power you have. As not only the pastor of The Summit Church, but also the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, you are highly respected by many. But with that respect and power, comes responsibility.

The investigation The Summit Church conducted of Loritts was deeply flawed and you know it.

When I reached out to The Immigration Coalition and shared information that I and others had published months ago, the organizers were deeply concerned. They invited me to send more information, which I did. The same day, they removed Loritts from the conference lineup.

Why is it then, that you, who have certainly been aware of the serious problems concerning Loritts since early this summer, continue to endorse him?

These serious problems were highlighted by abuse advocate, Rachel Denhollander, in a series of tweets in June. Denhollander said she was “deeply disturbed by how things stand” with Summit and Loritts. And she noted that following Summit’s investigation, “there are serious questions that remain unanswered.”

Denhollander is absolutely right. There are extremely serious questions that remain unanswered.

Yet in your letter that was sent to The Immigration Coalition, you state that Summit “thoroughly familiarized themselves with Pastor Bryan’s past” to “ensure that his prior conduct aligns with our missional values.”

Similarly, Summit’s official statement on its investigation concerning Loritts states:

(I)t became abundantly clear to The Summit Church that Pastor 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. In fact, The Summit Church’s thorough background check, interviews, and examination revealed quite the opposite.

Yet nothing is “abundantly clear” about Loritts’ past actions except that they are gravely concerning.

For those reading this letter who are unfamiliar with the situation, Loritts’ concerning behavior stems from 2010 when he was pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a large church in Memphis, Tennessee.

What is undisputed is that a church employee found a hidden cell phone that was recording her in a church bathroom. This cell phone belonged to Rick Trotter, Loritts’ brother-in-law, who was a worship pastor at Fellowship Memphis at the time.

The employee gave the cell phone, with dozens of secret recordings on it, to Loritts. Loritts did not report the incident to police. He instead took the phone home with him overnight.

The phone has since vanished.

Loritts initially said he gave the phone to the elders at Fellowship Memphis. He later said he gave the phone to Fellowship Memphis Pastor Bill Garner and doesn’t know what happened to it afterwards.

I have reached out to Garner to confirm Loritts’ account, but Garner has not responded. To date, no one at Fellowship Memphis has taken responsibility for the vanishing phone.

Loritts also said he instructed a staff member the next day to report the incident to police. And according to Summit, a staff member confirmed Loritts’ account.

However, Memphis police say they have no report about Trotter from 2010. The first report they received about Trotter is from 2016, when Trotter repeated his crimes at another Memphis church—Downtown Church.

Loritts also said he instructed a staff member to report Trotter to Child Protective Services (CPS). However, CPS cannot confirm that any such report was ever filed. (According to a local newspaper, witnesses claim that some of Trotter’s victims were minors.)

By Loritts’ own admission, he did not notify his congregation that there was a sexual predator in their midst for six months. Loritts says he withheld the information not “to hide anything,” but on the “counsel of lawyers”—as if that makes it better.

Clearly, the way Loritts handled the situation in 2010 was grossly negligent at best. But at worst, his actions involve destruction of evidence and failure to report a sex crime involving minors, which are serious infractions.

Clearly, the way Loritts handled the situation in 2010 was grossly negligent at best. But at worst, his actions involve destruction of evidence and failure to report a sex crime involving minors, which are serious infractions.

Plus, Loritts hired Trotter to lead worship for his Kainos Conference in 2015. And there’s no evidence that Loritts warned conference-goers of the risk.  

Yet Pastor Greear, in your letter about Loritts, you state: “We grieve the situations at Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church, but we are grateful for the convictions that have guided Pastor Bryan throughout this process.”

What exactly are the convictions for which you are grateful? Loritts’ decision to put his own liability ahead of the safety of his congregation? His desire to re-platform a family member at the risk of those attending a conference? Loritts’ changing narrative, which indicates he may not be telling the truth?

Yet, as Denhollander noted in her tweets, there are even more issues than the ones already mentioned.

There are two witnesses who independently stated that Loritts told them early on that Trotter’s phone had been destroyed.

One, Greg Selby, a former insider at Fellowship Memphis, alleged that Loritts told him that an attorney had instructed the church to throw the phone in the Mississippi River.

Another witness—a victim of Trotter’s, Jennifer Baker—said she approached Loritts several weeks after the phone was discovered and was discouraged from reporting Trotter’s crime because it was “too late.” The phone was already gone.

Baker added that Loritts threatened her with church discipline if she told anyone at the church about Trotter’s crime.

Both Baker and Selby told their stories in detail in a podcast I published in early June.

They also recounted that they informed leaders at Summit about their concerns in a second podcast I published.

According to Selby, the investigation Summit conducted was a “sham.” He said Summit leaders were not on a “research mission” to discover the truth, but “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.

Selby and Baker’s call with Summit took place on May 28. On June 1, Summit published its statement, saying it was “abundantly clear” that Loritts was innocent of wrongdoing.  

“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,” Baker remarked to me afterwards.

“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.”

Pastor Greear, why did your church’s statement include none of the information Baker and Selby gave your leaders?

Also, why does your letter, which continues to circulate, obscure the facts?

In the letter you sent to The Immigration Coalition, you state that after learning of Trotter’s crime, Loritts “immediately reported this information to church elders and terminated (Trotter) less than two hours later.” But you conveniently omit that Loritts failed to report Trotter’s crimes to police.

You also state that the elders at Fellowship Memphis removed Loritts from the handling of Trotter’s case about two weeks after the phone was discovered. Yet this directly contradicts Selby and Baker’s testimony that Loritts was intimately involved with Trotter’s case throughout.

You also continue to overlook other concerning facts about Loritts—like his claims that he has a doctorate, which he doesn’t.

Bryan Loritts
Bryan Loritts in a doctoral gown with his wife–a picture he posted online.

A sketchy school in Florida gave Loritts an honorary doctorate. But as I reported in May, this school has an F-rating by the Better Business Bureau. And the school’s chancellor, “Dr. Zamekio Jackson,” says he was educated at Texas Christian University (TCU), but TCU told me Jackson has never attended TCU. So the school’s own chancellor is lying about his doctorate!

Despite this, Loritts continues to go by “Dr. Loritts” on his website and social media. And you, sir, continue to look the other way. Meanwhile, Loritts continues to expand his influence.

Just last Sunday, Hope Church Las Vegas, a megachurch with a congregation of about 4,000, announced that Loritts will be a visiting teaching pastor at the church.  

Also, just recently, Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church and president of Acts 29, recorded a five-part series with Loritts on Race and Gospel. And this past summer, Moody Publishers released Loritts’ most recent book, The Dad Difference.

This is grievous.

Until these serious issues regarding Bryan Loritts are resolved, Loritts shouldn’t be pastoring, preaching, or publishing anywhere. And you, Pastor Greear, should insist that Loritts step down from his position at your church.

You also need to be honest about the outstanding issues regarding Loritts, rather than circulating statements that deceptively omit Loritts’ most glaring and grievous past actions.

The investigation Summit conducted did not clear Loritts of wrongdoing; it only raised more questions. And Loritts’ ongoing deception concerning his credentials do not show him to be someone whose testimony is trustworthy. It reveals him to be someone who plays fast and loose with the truth.

Please Pastor Greear, for the sake of the church, stop covering for this man and tell the truth.

 

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19 thoughts on “An Open Letter to J.D. Greear: Stop Misleading the Church about Bryan Loritts”

  1. I guess the actions of JD Greear help to explain why there are widespread sexual abuse issues with Southern Baptist Churches..

  2. A year ago this month, JD Greear was a keynote speaker at the ERLC’s yearly major conference and in 2019 it was “Caring Well.” It was based on sexual abuse within the church on so many levels. JD, one year ago this month, spoke before thousands about this issue and his concern and has pushed the curriculum “Caring Well” within the SBC – and rightly so. His decisions to ignore what has gone on with Loritts is a sad sad sham! I can not even imagine what Dr. Russell Moore must be saying to JD as the ERLC is his area. Rachel Denhollander was interviewed by Dr. Moore at that conference. She was incredible.

  3. (1.) The Immigration Coalition is to be commended in the removal of Bryan Loritts (BL) as one of their conference speakers. I am sure his celebrity status would attract many virtual attendees yet would taint the message, credibility and integrity of the organization. Thus it was very wise to delete him prior to the start of the conference. (2.) I trust that Dr. Greear as both Senior Pastor and SBC President will heed your request to dismiss BL from Summit Church and all other subsequent and future. His sinful behavior should not be allowed, tolerated or accepted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (3.) Looks like Moody Press is not “The Name You Can Trust” in publishing and promoting BL’s latest book. Turmoil at Moody Radio, MBI and now Moody Press. Hope the sin floodgates there will stop.

  4. This is so interesting, considering I wrote RightNow Media in September asking them the very same question: how can you have Bryan Loritts as one of your conference speakers in light of the accusations against him (referring to the FOCUS conference on November 5). I got the very same response, complete with Pastor Loritts’s personal statement and the statement from Pastor Greear and The Summit Church. I forwarded some of Julie Roys’ articles for them to further consider and heard nothing back. I will be forwarding this article to them now.

    1. Thank you for your diligence. RightNow Media is selling the 5-part series on Race and the Gospel that Chandler and Loritts produced. They clearly have a big financial interest in promoting Loritts and selling the series and cashing in on conferences. I see both Greear and Chandler are speaking at the conference too. They’re clearly all profiting off each other’s platforms. I hope more people follow your lead and call this out.

  5. I wondered why Bryan Loritts was suddenly removed from the Immigration Coalition conference…I am glad they listened and took immediate action once they realized they didn’t have all the facts when they invited him to speak! It’s been a great conference!

  6. Grievous to say the least! I pray this open letter will make JD Greear wake up along with the SBC! If others can see the wrong and sinful behavior why are their eyes still closed? What happened to the Truth and following through on reporting sex abuse behaviors to the civil authorities as well as the Church? I pray your reporting will make it imperative for this man with much power and maybe too much power wake up and take all the appropriate action needed. The Church has been overtaken with sinful people that needs to be addressed immediately! We are not to live like the world but apart from the world. This is indicative of what money and high salaries and large congregations and prideful pastors get you! Thank you for your reporting Julie! I pray your reporting will wake up Churches with leadership that is wallowing in their sins and not living for Christ. May God Bless you and keep you!

  7. When we see a pastor misrepresent their credentials, that is a big, red flag. In the real world, you would be fired for that offense. Why do these celebrity pastors and their churches think they can get away with promoting someone who has obvious ethical lapses. It seems JD undid all his good intentions by not making wise decisions based on evidence. Obviously, he has an agenda. I hope this letter will wake up those individuals who have the power to make changes.

  8. The President of the SBC hires a liar and then defends the liar again and again. The President misleads and lies as he does this. Birds of a feather flock together. The President of the SBC needs to resign his office and reusing from his church. Good grief, the corruption is deep.

  9. That “Dr.” Lying Loritts is disqualified from ministry has been undeniably evident for a long time, and the longer Greear keeps covering for him and lying about the “thorough investigation” preposterously clearing Loritts, the more likely J. Dishonorable Greear will find his neck on the chopping block like Paige Patterson’s was. Loritts and his chum Greear and anyone else promoting them, like the SBC, Right Now Media, Moody Publishing, and Biola University, where Loritts is on the Board, are all culpable in allowing this ugly blight on the Church to persist.

  10. JD is a hypocrite. He supports Bryan Loritts blindly because his agenda is promoting a false social justice gospel instead of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His teachings nowadays align perfectly with a political rather than a gospel message.

    1. Kevin, I tend to agree with you. Part of his decision has to be due to political ans social justice issues. Aren’t there any others in the SBC that could have been a far better choice? As I am from California, I do not understand an entity that has so many “celebrity” pastors and what they are able to get away with.

  11. It looks, from the outside, like JD Greear and the SBC are proving to us, again and again, what they really stand for. And that’s protecting their own friends, and not listening to victims or caring about victims. I suppose it should not surprise us anymore (and it really doesn’t surprise me). What does surprise me is how many people are still willing to tolerate it. If you are in a denomination where the upper leadership repeatedly and unashamedly ignores victims and elevates perpetrators, that denomination is not safe. There are so many healthy, Bible-believing churches that truly put Jesus at the centre. Find them. The more people leave the unsafe denominations and cause the others to swell, the less power these unsafe ones will have.

    I know it’s hard when you’ve invested so much, but at some point we have to ask–are my tithes, volunteer time, and efforts going to protect a corrupt system? That is what it looks like the SBC has become. And when the vast, vast majority of those who attend the churches are nothing like this–well, the pew sitters actually do have the power, because they have the power of the purse and the power to leave.

    1. my general observation is the the vast, vast majority of those who attend the churches are are under a spell of drousy apathy that snuffs out any inclination to stand up for what is ethical, let alone even care about it.

  12. The SBC leaders IMO will never address this issue. People need to vote by leaving. I spent 44 years of my life attending Southern Baptist churches. Prior to 1979 the SBC had a different spirit about it, but when the FUNDAMENTALIST completely took over, the SBC has been on a downward trend.
    Much of this downward trend has been the views and treatment by the SBC leaders of women.

  13. A little more info on the school that gave the honorary doctorate; according to the BBB, the school sends out emails offering to honor people with a doctorate. It comes with a price, though.

    It would be easy to conclude that this school is in the business of selling these honorary doctorates.

    And it would be easy to conclude the pastor paid for it.

  14. Without commenting on the sex issue, I am really surprised that Bryan allowed a Diploma Mill to “confer” upon him a fake honorary “Doctorate” degree. I happen to know Bryan, and know that he is more than intelligent and smart enough to earn a Doctorate degree if that’s what he really wants to do. As a very gifted speaker, I’m really sorry that he has gotten caught up with a few bad situations, but in my opinion, one of the worse mistakes he made was to sit under Pastor Kenneth Ulmer in Inglewood, California. Mr. Ulmer is not a good example for any young Minister as he has been married at least three times, possibly four. His Church has had sex scandals involving his Youth department and the scandal was Homosexual in nature as many believe that Ulmer himself has lived in that lifestyle before. I don’t think that Bryan did himself any favors by sitting under him, and now James Macdonald’s Son is sitting under Ulmer.

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