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Opinion: Bryan Loritts is not ‘Qualified for Ministry’ & Report Doesn’t Clear Him of Wrongdoing

By Julie Roys
Bryan Loritts Guidepost Report
Bryan Loritts, executive pastor of The Summit Church, where J.D. Greear, president of the SBC, is pastor.

Bryan Loritts, executive pastor of J.D. Greear’s Summit Church, is “qualified for ministry.” At least, that’s what Summit concluded following a report by Guidepost Solutions, finding “no convincing evidence” that Loritts participated in a cover-up of sex crimes at a previous church, Fellowship Memphis.

In an email to congregants on Friday, Summit further stated that the results of Guidepost’s two-month investigation “affirms our confidence in Bryan’s position here at the Summit . . .”

Yet anyone with knowledge of the 10-year-old debacle involving Loritts would conclude the exact opposite from reading the 20-page report.

Yes, the investigation failed to conclusively disprove Loritts’ razor-thin plausible deniability that he covered up sex crimes committed by his brother-in-law, Rick Trotter.

But at minimum, the report revealed that not only did Loritts fail to report Trotter’s crimes to police and exhibit shockingly bad judgment. It also shows that Loritts’ account of what happened doesn’t check out.

Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “I Didn’t Survive: Emerging Whole After Deception, Persecution, and Hidden Abuse” by Naghmeh Abedini Panahi. To donate, click here.

Loritts repeatedly has claimed that he directed a pastor on his staff at Fellowship Memphis to report Trotter to police. But police have no record of any report being filed by Fellowship Memphis. And the investigation found that Memphis Police didn’t receive a single call from Fellowship Memphis during the relevant time period either!

Plus, some of the claims by Loritts and two other pastors in the report are so far-fetched that they call into question the entire testimony of all three men. (Loritts has also lied about possessing a doctorate, revealing a pattern of deception.)

For example, the Guidepost report states:

No one we spoke to, including Loritts, could provide the name of the attorney, or even identify the law firm that was consulted or provided advice to Fellowship.

Several months ago, Loritts claimed in a videotaped interview with the Biblical Recorder that he withheld information from his congregation about Trotter’s crimes because he was following the advice of counsel.

Yet now, both Loritts and these other pastors want us to believe that they can’t even recall their attorney’s name or the name of his firm?

This is absurd. But it’s also predictable.

If there was a cover-up, then it’s not just Loritts who participated, but the other pastors around him. And interviewing “Pastor #1,” “Pastor #2,” and “Pastor #3” about Loritts’ involvement in the alleged cover-up is like interviewing H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman about Nixon’s involvement in Watergate. Not surprisingly, one of the pastors would speak to Guidepost only with his attorney present.

Another issue with the investigation is that only three victims of Trotter’s abuse spoke to Guidepost. (There reportedly are dozens of victims, several of whom were children at the time Trotter recorded them.)

One of the victims who spoke with Guideposts, “Victim #2,” is Loritts’ sister. Predictably, she supports Loritts’ claim that he encouraged victims to report to police.

Guideposts notes that “Victim #3” repeatedly said she was “certain” Loritts had advised her that she could press charges against Trotter. But the report adds: “We were struck by the strength of this recollection because she admitted her memory of other details of these events was ‘foggy.’”

This also is not surprising.

Having spent months researching the alleged cover-up, this is precisely what I would expect. Both the victim I interviewed months ago, Jennifer Baker (“Victim #1” in the report), and the former insider, Greg Selby (“Individual #1”), told me about a culture of fear and intimidation at Fellowship Memphis.

They said Fellowship elders were extremely well-connected in Memphis, adding that many witnesses were likely afraid to come forward and tell the truth.

It’s notable that all the men who were elders of Fellowship Memphis in 2010, other than those who were also pastors, refused to participate in the investigation.

Another person who refused to participate is “Pastor #2”—the person to whom Loritts claims he gave the phone containing all the evidence of Trotter’s crimes. This man is identified by Loritts in his interview with the Biblical Recorder as Bill Garner. (Initially, Loritts told Summit he gave the phone to Fellowship Memphis elders, but Loritts later changed his story and said he gave the phone to Garner.)

That phone with the evidence has since mysteriously vanished.

According to the report, “Pastor #2” (Garner) spoke with Summit Elder David Thompson months ago. Interestingly, there’s no mention in the report that Garner told Thompson that he ever possessed the phone. Instead, it says Garner told Thompson that he never viewed the videos on the phone and doesn’t know the number of victims.

One staff member reportedly told investigators that he saw the phone in Garner’s office. Several also said that they heard the phone was “locked up” in a “safe deposit box.” Others, including Loritts, reportedly said they heard that the unknown attorney told the church to throw the phone in the Mississippi River.

But to this day, no one has taken responsibility for destroying the phone.

So essentially, what Guidepost found was that everyone with a vested interest—Loritts, Pastors #1, #2, #3, and Victim #2—support Lorritts’ narrative. (So does Victim #3, but given her “fuzzy” recollection, her testimony is unreliable.)

The group also found that Loritts’ account contradicts police documentation. And Thompson’s interview with Garner failed to corroborate that Loritts gave Garner the phone, which isn’t what Loritts claimed initially anyway. And clearly, the phone didn’t disappear by itself from a safe.

So, what should we conclude?

What remains are the accounts from the two other major witnesses—”Victim #1” (Baker) and “Individual #1” (Selby). (The investigation included 21 sources, but it’s clear from the report that the main testimony regarding Loritts’ handling of the affair came from seven or eight major sources.)

Both these witnesses claim that Loritts and the pastors at Fellowship Memphis engaged in a cover-up, which Baker and Selby explained in two convincing podcasts with The Roys Report published last summer. According to the report, Baker and Selby essentially told investigators what they told me.

Yet, since investigators couldn’t prove—or negate—Baker’s and Selby’s claims, Guidepost concluded, there was “no convincing evidence Loritts was involved in a cover up.” And sadly, that one line has been headlined by Summit and numerous news organizations, including the Baptist Press, Houston Chronicle, and The Christian Post.

Adding to the confusion, well-respected abuse advocate Rachel Denhollander praised Summit’s decision to publish the review and urged other churches to follow Summit’s example.

“Summit’s decision to pursue an independent review of this situation was a healthy and needed step,” Denhollander told the Houston Chronicle. “The framework of bringing in a skilled, credible firm, fully waiving privilege and providing avenues for anonymous and confidential reporting is critical in making it possible to obtain all the information.”

Though I agree in part with Denhollander’s affirmation of Summit’s and Guidepost’s process, I don’t share her enthusiasm for Guidepost.

I reached out to Denhollander for public comment regarding my concerns, but she did not respond.

Guidepost should have stated in its executive summary that while there is no conclusive evidence showing Loritts engaged in a cover-up, there remains significant evidence suggesting he did. And while there is ample reason to question Loritts’ veracity, Guidepost found no reason to question the veracity of either Baker or Selby.

But Guideposts didn’t say that—and neither did the press.

And now, the report, which few will read, will be used as a basis to platform yet another shady pastor. And abusers will abuse. And pastors will enable. And J.D. Greear will host yet another conference on Caring Well.  



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38 thoughts on “Opinion: Bryan Loritts is not ‘Qualified for Ministry’ & Report Doesn’t Clear Him of Wrongdoing”

  1. Wow. Unless the attorney or law firm worked for free, it should not be difficult to find out who provided the advice. That’s not something you forget. Also, I would recommend filing a complaint against any attorney that would advise you to destroy evidence. The attorney said to throw it in the river. Really? That makes zero sense. The police should have been told and the phone turned over to them as evidence. Then it’s up to them to pursue charges. Loritts passed the buck and did nothing else. He didn’t follow up on the case at all. This isn’t the actions of a true leader.

  2. Phyllis Lankford

    Is it your goal to totally discredit and destroy the church? Who appointed you the arbiter of truth? We all are sinners and no one is above scrutiny. I wonder if someone investigated you or your family or ministry that you could still stand. Be careful of the stones you throw they may come back and hit you. We face ridicule from unbelievers now we have to deal with your constant fault finding. God have mercy on you and your minions.

    1. Julie is a professional who is doing what a Christian journalist should do; report the truth to expose evil that needs to be dealt with so the church can be restored. When individual churches don’t do the necessary work of holding their leaders accountable, it affects us all. This is as important to the church as upholding justice is to the strength of society.

      1. Isn’t Guidepost a professional organization? Looks like they are the ones who were appointed to investigate. So does Julie now feel she needs to investigate the investigators. This is exactly what I feared would happen-Ms. Roys’ crusade has now morphed from investigating wrongdoings to finding wrongdoings, which may not be wrongdoings at all. And now JD Greer’s reputation is being maligned? I asked before in another post, when will Ms. Roys start looking for dirt on Billy Graham, Charles Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley. Some of those men are dead, but I’m sure she can find something on them to destroy their reputations. This is drive-by journalism that is hurting people, churches, and the Church. And it reeks of sexism. Ms. Roys has done some excellent work in exposing real wrongs. But sometimes it seems like she is inventing dirt or twisting information to make it look worse than it is. And then it becomes “Not the Nature of the Evidence; It’s the Seriousness of the Charge.” And then real people get hurt.

        1. Martin, If something I have reported is false, then please name it and be specific. You accuse me of “twisting information.” Can you give an example of this?

          It sounds like you’re upset because I’m reporting “dirt” on people you like, but failing to expose people you don’t like. I investigate cases according to their newsworthiness and the availability of the evidence. What I have found is that people often like me until I get too close to their sacred cow. And I will not abstain from reporting simply because the focus of an article is “a professional organization.” Instead, I will expect that these professionals live up to the high standards they purport.

    2. Ridicule from unbelievers? Well then as our Lord advised “count it all joy”. And if the pews are filled with folk like yourself, it’s no wonder the wolves are ravaging the sheep. For goodness sake let’s all be quiet….nothing to see here.

      1. Is it too much to ask for pastors to simply not lie???? What’s up with all the lying???? Good grief! Can’t they just admit they did wrong????

    3. Phyllis,

      Why do you defend such an obvious predator? Did YOU download peeping-tom footage from a phone onto your computer? Unless you did, you’ve no reason to defend the indefensible.

    4. I have to imagine that neither you nor anyone you are close with has been the victim of sexual abuse. Have you ever wondered why offenders typically offend more than once? Have you ever wondered how these abusers leave such a wide path of destruction? It’s because they aren’t reported and their crimes are not taken as seriously as they should be. When a LEADER contributes to repeat abuse b/c they don’t have the stones to do what is right they do not deserve that place in leadership. Perhaps you should think about the flip side. What does it say to the non believer when they see these patterns of cover up. What does it say about us as believers when sexual abuse runs rampant in our churches? God have mercy on those who can not see the importance of bringing darkness to light and exposing truth.

      1. Thank you for this reply. Obviously many of the above have not followed the patterns of sexual abusers whom we now know have run rampant in God’s houses for centuries. Heads in the sand …..we will all suffer because of it.

    5. You really need to do the work of reading all the info that you can on this story. Roys has been doing her job to bring these church horrors to light -a work that is needed even more than ever. Kudos to Roys for her excellent work.

    6. No empathy = no Jesus Phyllis. I find your attitude deeply disturbing and it is the reason so much evil persists. I suppose you would condemn Jesus and John the Baptist for calling such men as you would defend a brood of vipers? And so it is written that, “As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” The demand that all evil be swept under the rug by people like you is what is giving God a bad name, and not what you proclaim. You are the one in need of repentance before God.

    7. Hey Phyllis, got a scripture for you.

      “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

      Matthew 18:6

      I would beware if I were you to be sure that by speaking out against those who attempt to bring out truth that you do not strengthen the hand of those who may be guilty of covering up for these horrifying acts against children.

      And by the way Phyllis, NOBODY appointed YOU to be the “arbiter of truth” that you so zealously accuse others of being. Why is it permissible for you to accuse Julie and her “minions” of throwing stones when you yourself are doing the exact same thing?

    8. Phyllis, why is it considered destroying the church when corruption is exposed? If one were to agree with your logic, then the Bible should be ashamed for revealing to us those like King David who took another man’s wife and then had him killed to cover up his sin. That’s just one example among many. Maybe you are in a church that is above reproach with good, God honoring leadership. If so, is it possible that you cannot fully comprehend the reality that there are churches and leadership that fail to protect victims of abuse for fear that their “brand” might be negatively affected? It happens more than any of us want to admit.

    9. Phyllis, you are sugar coating crimes by calling it fault finding. Buy a good dictionary so you can look up terms and tell the difference.

    10. Throwing stones versus shining a light on darkness. Oh and I am quite sure that everyone that has been brought up in The Roys Report has had their minions trying to uncover anything. Many years ago my father voiced concern about the beloved parish priest that everyone just loved. He was such a blessing to the altar boys —- took them camping and on special retreat weekends. My father was called a heretic because he voiced concerns. He was going to be reported to the Bishop and my parents ended up changing churches because of it. He did not run from it but said many times “I hope I am wrong but what comes of this may not come about in my lifetime but something will come of this.” Need I say more. My father has long passed but if he were here today I would ask,”Dad, you were an altar boy, Is that how you knew?” Now we call it predatory grooming.

  3. Wow, this is a very confusing chain of events. The big question is where is the phone and why is it missing. I keep praying the Lord will bring this to light FOR THE SAKE OF THE MANY VICTIMS FOR WHOM THIS IS DEEPLY PAINFUL and for the integrity of Christianity and the name of Christ.

  4. It’s OBVIOUS that Julie Roys is reporting TRUTH by reading some of these “responses.”

    This is CONFIRMATION that “The TRUTH is being told”.

    In Scripture, the Pharisees HATED Truth when My Saviour spoke…

    They retorted in the similar manner…

    Just don’t rip your clothes folks.

  5. Summit Church and J.D. Greear’s lame, disgraceful decision to look the other way and give lying, phony “Dr.” Loritts a pass is unconscionable but sadly not unexpected. What we do know about the actions and words of Lying Loritts is more than enough to bar him from ministry leadership.

    Saying they found “no convincing evidence” against Loritts is the unfounded opinion of a severely flawed, limited report that let voluntary witnesses who had an interest in protecting Loritts and themselves regurgitate their contradictory stories without holding them accountable. Loritts says he quickly withdrew himself from involvement in Trotter’s case, yet he clearly was involved in discussions about severance pay for Trotter. Loritts did not volunteer info about a relevant recording and old emails, the vast majority of which had been deleted anyway. Loritts and others say the police were notified, but no police records of that. And as the report admits, “Many individuals, including Fellowship leaders, were unwilling to cooperate with our investigation.”(p.20) Reasonable, comprehensive avenues to uncover all the evidence were not pursued in the report.

    Loritts is on public record as giving contradictory accounts about who he gave the phone to, with the latest iteration placing it in Bill Garner’s possession. Not surprisingly, Garner refused to participate in the report, but did talk to Summit elder David Thompson. Did Thompson ask Garner about the phone? Does Summit care about the destruction of evidence of sex crimes and lies to cover it up? Ask Garner directly what happened to the phone. Follow the trail where it leads. Does anyone actually believe Loritts doesn’t know? He, Thompson, and others are clearly in cahoots to bury the evidence, as they’ve tired to do for years.

    The result of Loritts’ failed actions was continued abuse by Trotter, with Loritts’ lies on multiple fronts following him to this day.

  6. And the good old boys at the top wash their hands once again of clear evil. What a brood of vipers! JD is quite the white-washed septic tank spinning his own bad decisions into things that are not really an issue. We love our celebrity snakes who cover up crimes and make excuses for doing so, but in the end we will all witness the full truth come out eventually at the Judgment seat of Jesus Christ. To him alone be the glory for He is the righteous one whom never lies and never spins anything for his own pride and profit unlike these false leaders in the world’s biggest “Christian” org.

  7. Thank you Julie Roys for your high quality reporting on this and many other issues. These actions on the part of church leaders must be brought to light even though it is so heartbreaking… heartbreaking for the victims, the families of the perpetrators and heartbreaking to see the church of Jesus Christ so tarnished. It is also very sad to see the tone and character of many of the comments here. As a member of Summit Church I am disappointed that our leadership hired Loritts. I might think differently if there was real transparency and repentance. There are simply no answers forthcoming to important questions that clearly ARE answerable. There is too much still hidden. I believe in grace, because so much grace has been extended to me. Jesus rightfully did not condemn the woman caught in adultery (who was likely abused and victimized herself), but neither did he condemn the criminal next to him on the cross who could have perpetrated unknown crimes deserving death (by his own admission). Both received grace… but that does not mean that either of them were qualified to be pastors or teachers or leaders in the Church.

  8. Once again, a thousand thanks Ms. Roys for your steadfastness in following through with work that must be a constant source of heartache and frustration to you. It is bewildering and infuriating to see one Christian leader after another – and one Christian institution after another – manifest characters so deeply twisted, corrupted and hardened that no amount of exposure or faithful rebuke ever seems to humble them or has any effect in setting them right. Back in July of last year you asked if the sham procedure that exonerated and re-installed Thomas White as president of Cedarville University was evangelicalism’s “Chernobyl moment.” You wrote, “Like Chernobyl, the Cedarville meltdown has revealed a major ‘design flaw’ that’s rampant in evangelicalism. And if it’s not corrected, these disasters will continue with regularity.” I’m afraid they have continued. That which you feared has come upon us. But in the midst of these disheartening sorrows I thank God for people like you and Karen Swallow Prior, who, though shaken free from corrupt Christian institutions nonetheless testify, “I’m still a Christian, and an evangelical one at that.” God’s peace to you.

  9. Piling on with the thanks for this reporting. All I can think about is “confirmation bias” and how it is strong with those who want to move on.

  10. Julie,

    Please hear me out. I must respectfully say that the root of this insidious problem here with Loritts is Greear’s “woke”, CRT ideology that has become the mainstream of SBC philosophy within just a few years. His vision of constant racial struggle, in which everyone is a racist, is the heart of this despicable decision. This is not a Gospel-honoring man but one who practices and preaches a false gospel:

    1. I think the problem with Loritts is Loritts, and that makes CRT and wokeness acceptable to him. As an adult, you know that Trotter’s behavior was a crime and ought to be reported. His stories don’t make sense and are just tap dancing trying to stay out of trouble. I think he either kept the phone or gave it back to Trotter. I pray for the people of Summit church.

    2. This is tragic! Bryan has some serious soul searching to do, and I hope he will. He loves notoriety and clout, so that will take humility.

  11. If you read this report on abuse, cover up, and lies then read the report from Gallup on the decline of the church it all makes sense! We are living Romans 1, and there may no longer hope for the nation or the church. God help us all.

  12. We have left the Summit Church and the CRT preaching of JD Greear. This is likely just the first of many stones to crumble under its weight. For it is a church built not on the true cornerstone and will fail. As will the woke SBC.

    To those still attending Summit we beg of you to get “woke” to what is happening there before it’s too late.

  13. Greg Selby, Individual #1 in the report, previously gave his perspective about Loritts, etc., on Julie’s excellent podcast from 6/4/20. On 4/1/21 he made the following comment on another blog:

    “Because I am “Individual #1” in the report, I can say definitively that this investigation was a complete sham!!!!

    The investigators told demonstrable lies about what I told them and twisted the words intentionally to provide plausible deniability in the report. Rachel Denhollander is aware they lied (she and I had a conversation about it), but asked me not to focus on the lies and misstatements that Guidepost made, because she wants this “process” to work and for others to have faith in it (?!?!?) Seriously (?!?!?) Rachel is a stooge in this case being used by Summit and the SBC to whitewash a B.S. report. When I asked her if she would put her children in any church Bryan Loritts was leading, she said “No.” (‘Nuff said!)

    I can go into more detail, but suffice to say that the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have done far better investigations! Moreover, they don’t draw asinine conclusions about the obvious evidence.

    The important thing that most people won’t realize is that the scope of this “investigation” was very intentionally limited. They weren’t interested in details about Loritts’ fake doctorate, the fact that Fellowship (while Loritts was head pastor and not “recused” from anything) had brought Kanakuk child molester Pete Newman to town and provided for him WHILE HE WAS OUT ON BAIL, passed along Loritts’ predator brother-in-law to another church and hired him, himself, to lead worship at a conference. And, importantly, they said the interview that Summit did with me, a victim of Trotter who had been coerced to not press charges, and 2 witnesses was “beyond the scope of their investigation.”

    This was a set-up from the beginning and should be acknowledged for the travesty it is! “Best practices” my arse!! Bryan Loritts is not morally qualified to lead a kazoo band!

    The church does not need better “processes”–it needs better men and women!!”

  14. Lissette ROMAN

    Julie Roys, thank you for your boldness and obedience to Jesus in seeking out the truth and exposing evil within the church. I know the victims are grateful. I pray those still following Loritts and Greear see the light and stop worshipping them.

  15. Steve the Engineer

    The second oldest Bible conference in the country, “Cedar Falls Bible Conference”, has slated Crawford Loritts and Bryan Loritts as featured speakers for its 100th anniversary this summer. The timing seems unfortunate.

  16. I am not sure what the purpose of this is. I read some of the report and it was clear that the pastor made errors. In fact the report stated, “Loritts has repeatedly acknowledged, to us and to others, that he should have acted differently when he learned what had been found on his brother-in-law’s phone. He recognizes now that he should have reported Trotter to police himself on the day that Trotter’s phone was discovered in Fellowship’s bathroom.” I believe that all of us make bad choice and mistakes. While it is easy to do, standing in judgment on someone who actually confessed to error seems wrong to me.

    1. Please read the letter The Summit Church first published about Bryan Loritts:

      There is no mention of the fact that Loritts didn’t report the matter to police. Instead, both Summit and Loritts leave a false impression, stating only: “Pastor Bryan instructed his team to contact the authorities.” Loritts admitted that he didn’t report the crime to police only after I reported that fact. And there is zero evidence that he instructed his team to report the crime to authorities. The fact of the matter is that Memphis Police have no record of anyone reporting the crime.

      Beyond that, the phone with evidence, which we know Loritts had possession of, is gone. Loritts has changed his story from saying that he gave the phone to the elders to saying he gave it to a pastor. That pastor would not talk to investigators. And there is once again, zero evidence Loritts’ story is true.

      Beyond that, Loritts admitted he invited his sexually deviant brother to lead worship at a conference in 2015–five years after discovering his sex crimes–once again, only after I reported that fact.

      Add to that, Loritts touted a fake doctorate for more than a year.

      Given these serious red flags, and proven issues with truth and integrity, why would anyone believe anything Bryan Loritts says? Beyond that, why would anyone hire him to pastor?

      1. Thanks for your response and I appreciate your perspective. I agree there are red flags, however, I believe that most people would not publicly share their failings if they didn’t have to. I certainly wouldn’t. Did he display poor judgment and lack of wisdom? Definitely. Should he continue to be demonized years after the fact? I don’t think the Bible supports that. We are all sinners saved by grace. Best to you.

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