Did Bryan Loritts participate in a cover up of sex crimes at his former church? And given what he allegedly did, should he be hired by Summit Church—the megachurch where J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastors?
In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie interviews two eyewitnesses who had a front-row seat to a sex crimes case, involving Loritts’ brother-in-law and convicted voyeur, Rick Trotter. Loritts, who was just hired as an executive pastor at Greear’s church, says he had nothing to do with the mishandling of Trotter’s case. However, the eyewitnesses say Loritts participated in an extensive cover-up, which included destroying evidence, silencing victims and whistleblowers, and then allowing Trotter to repeat his crimes at another church.
This story has far reaching ramifications, given that Greear has pledged to make sweeping changes in the SBC, following a massive sex abuse scandal that has rocked the denomination.
Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
JULIE ROYS: Did nationally recognized author and Pastor Bryan Loritts participate in a cover up of sex crimes at his former church? And given what he did should he be hired by Summit Church—the mega church where J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention pastors?
Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with two eyewitnesses who had a front row seat to what happened at Bryan Loritts’ former church. One of them is a victim of Rick Trotter. Trotter was Bryan Loritts’ brother in law. And in 2010 Trotter was the worship pastor at Fellowship Memphis, the church where Loritts was the lead pastor.
In February of 2010, someone found Trotter’s camera secretly recording people in the bathroom of the offices at Fellowship Memphis. One of my guests today is one of the women recorded on Trotter’s camera, a woman by the name of Jennifer Baker. My other guest is Greg Selby, a former insider at fellowship Memphis who said he witnessed the cover up of Trotter’s crimes. By the way, Trotter’s camera containing those recordings was given to Bryan Loritts the day it was discovered. Today, that camera is nowhere to be found. And Trotter’s crimes were not reported to police. At least Memphis Police say they no record of anyone ever reporting Trotter in 2010. And sadly, after Trotter was fired from Fellowship Memphis, he went to another church where he did the same exact thing. And it wasn’t until 2016—six years after the first recordings were found—that Trotter’s crimes were finally reported to authorities.
In a recent statement, Loritts says he gave Trotter’s camera to the elders of Fellowships Memphis the day after it was given to him. And he says the elders then removed him from the Trotter case. So Loritts is claiming he’s not culpable for what happened. J.D. Greear and Summit Church say they believe Bryan Loritts’ version of events. And that’s why they’ve just hired Loritts as an executive pastor at Greear’s church.
But just a bit of context here. The Southern Baptist Convention that Greear heads is reeling from a major sex abuse scandal. And Greear, as the president of the SBC, has assured his denomination that he’s making major changes to insure that covering for sexual predators will not be tolerated. So if Loritts covered up sex crimes in 2010—and now is being hired by Summit—that’s a big deal.
And that’s exactly what my guests today say happened.
Well again, here to help shed light on this situation is Greg Selby. Greg was a part of the initial group of leaders that planted Fellowship Memphis. This is the church, again, where Rick Trotter was the worship pastor, where Bryan Loritts was a lead pastor. And Greg had a front-row seat to what happened in 2010 with Rick Trotter. So, Greg, welcome! And thank you so much for being willing talk about this.
GREG SELBY: Oh, thank you for having me. That’s a difficult subject to talk about.
JULIE ROYS: I know it is and it’s rehashing a lot of stuff that I know has been very painful for you and also painful for my next guest. Also joining me today is Jennifer Baker, one of Rick Trotter’s victims. Baker was Jennifer’s last name in 2010 when the events that we’re discussing today happened. Jennifer expressed a desire for me to use that last name for her for privacy purposes. So I am honoring that request. So, Jennifer, welcome. And thank you so much for being willing to talk about what I know is probably a very traumatic time for you.
JENNIFER BAKER: Thanks for having me. And thanks for addressing this really complicated, sensitive topic so thoroughly.
JULIE ROYS: We do want to cover it thoroughly. And there’s going to be a lot of moving parts. I want to start with you, Greg, because we almost need to back up to 2009 because there was something that happened in 2009 that I think establishes a bit of a pattern. And that is in 2009, you found out that Downline Ministries—at least you think it was Downline Ministries—hired someone named Pete Newman. Tell me what Downline Ministries, what their connection is to Fellowship Memphis and who this Pete Newman is.
GREG SELBY: Downline Ministries is a ministry in Memphis that actually was an outgrowth of a discipleship program I had done with some of the fellows that started Fellowship Memphis. This was Denton, Texas. Pete Newman was a fella who had gone to school with the founder of Downline. And Pete had admitted to molesting kids at Kanakuk Kamps. He was out on bail, and I was out to lunch with one of the elders at Fellowship and he was telling me how they had provided housing for him and were taking care of Pete Newman. So, whether it was Downline paying him or Fellowship paying is a bit unclear. And in fact, Fellowship has never denied that they were the ones who paid him. In fact, they tried to say he was just a contractor. So there’s a tight business relationship between Downline and Fellowship to where they become somewhat interchangeable. The staff members are somewhat the same and all that. In fact, after Rick Trotter had been fired, he went to live in a home that was owned by Downline that was provided by Downline donors, presumably to minister to the neighborhood not to put sexual predators in the neighborhood.
JULIE ROYS: So Pete Newman, here’s a man who’s on bail for sexually molesting children at a Christian camp. He eventually was convicted,
GREG SELBY: Correct.
JULIE ROYS: but he’s working at Fellowship/Downline. In 2009, you find out about it. Did you take your concerns—you mentioned one individual you took your concerns too—but did take your concerns to Bryan Loritts?
GREG SELBY: I ultimately had those concerns addressed with Bryan Loritts at the point his brother in law was fired. The elder tried to tell me that everything was under control. And I didn’t know the extent of the problem with Pete Newman. I started researching that and became pretty dismayed. And about that time, they made an announcement that Rick Trotter, Bryan’s brother in law had been fired, for reasons unknown. They wouldn’t admit it. They wouldn’t say why he was fired–this sort of thing. And I had actually done some counseling, just helping with some of their finances and this sort of thing—for Rick and his wife. I’d called Rick to try and find what the problem was. And I sat with him and talked to him. And he said he was under direct orders. He was not allowed to tell anyone why he’d been fired.
JULIE ROYS: This would be February 2010 now.
GREG SELBY: He was fired on February 4th I believe.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. And at this point, February 2010, he’s fired. You don’t know what’s going on. Jennifer, at this point, do you have any idea what’s going on with Rick Trotter?
JENNIFER BAKER: Absolutely not. We had no idea why he was let go from the church. We were not told.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So you’re both in the dark about this. But for you, Greg, the situation’s a little bit stickier because Rick is asking to live in your home. Is that right?
GREG SELBY: Right. So for some of the issues that you might imagine he was having in his own home, he said, “Well, you know, could I stay in your house for a little while?” He knew my wife and child well, had been over at our house before, but something that frankly, my “Spidey sense” was tingling, that something was wrong here that under normal circumstances, I’d say, “yes.” If he’d said, “I’d had an affair,” that would have been something we might have discussed. But given that he was not telling me and said he was under orders not to tell what had happened, I had concerns about that. So I went to the elders and said, hey, you know, here’s what’s going on. He’s saying he’d like to come stay at my house. I’m not gonna let him unless I know what was going on. At that point, elder they had there, Randy Odom, told me what the story was. I had concerns with that. The long and the short being, I let people know whose kids were baby sitting in his house because Rick had made it clear to me once Rick was able to openly talk to me, he had been cleared by the elders, he admitted that he’d been taking videos not only in the church bathrooms of women and potentially children, that he knew that they were children on his videos, that he’d been taking videos in his own home and setting up the cameras in his own home, where I knew that there were children of people in the congregation who had babysat over his house.
JULIE ROYS: And how long did it go on that nobody knew what had actually happened, that there’s all these potential victims throughout the church. And they don’t know that Rick Trotter had videotaped people, maybe them, maybe their children. How long did that go on that they didn’t know? And they’re still going over potentially could go over to babysit the children of the Trotters?
GREG SELBY: For months.
JULIE ROYS: Months.
GREG SELBY: Months. Yeah, not, “Hey, we need a couple of weeks to sort this out and figure out what we’re going to do.” This went on for months. And in fact, they had no intention of telling the church what happened. And it wasn’t until I told them that if they didn’t tell the church, I was going to. And in fact, I had warned, as I said, people whose kids were babysitting over there and that sort of thing to which I was threatened with church discipline.
JULIE ROYS: Yes. You were threatened with church discipline. And actually, Jennifer, you said in your story, and we’ll get to that in a minute. That church discipline was brought up with you too, that if you talked about this, it was considered gossip, and you would be subject to church discipline. And you sent me, Jen, the membership covenant that people would sign who became members. And I think this is really interesting. On one of the last points, it says, “I will seek to maintain the unity of the church body by acting in love toward other members,” that sounds good, “seeking open and honest communication when I have concerns,” that’s good, “dealing biblically with conflict and refusing to gossip.” That sounds good. But how that’s used in this situation was to keep people from knowing about a sexual predator in the church according to what you’re saying. And the last one, “following the leadership of the church, and submitting to the principles of church restoration.” And that one, again, it sounds good, but it can be twisted in a spiritually abusive environment to keep things quiet. So, Greg, in your case, when they threatened church discipline, if you talked more about this, they didn’t realize you hadn’t signed this covenant. Is that right?
GREG SELBY: Right. I’ve worked in ministry for quite some time, and I know enough to be skeptical of folks and how they like to proceed with that power. My wife and I never signed it.
JULIE ROYS: Mm hmm.
GREG SELBY: And so, the threat was empty to me. They didn’t realize I hadn’t signed it. They hadn’t checked their paperwork. But I don’t ever sign membership covenants. So, they could not do anything to me. But they were threatening nonetheless, thinking that they could.
JULIE ROYS: So this whole time this is going on, at what point did you go and talk to Bryan Loritts in person?
GREG SELBY: When I was told I was being threatened with church discipline, I showed up the next day. I showed up at Bryan’s office, unannounced, to have a conversation with him about this. And very enlightening and tragically enlightening conversation to have with him. Led early on with the fact that, you know, I said, “Why haven’t you gone to the police?” He tried to claim that they had gone to the police, and that the police found nothing interesting there, which I found hard to believe. And it made me believe that they probably had a connection in with the police, if that were true at all, that they got to the police. Because again, I can’t imagine that you’d hand over videos like that and not have some knowledge about what’s going on. Also, Rick had told me the day after when I’d called him to see what was going on. He had said that he had to go to the computer repair shop and take his computer to the repair shop, I believe it was probably to wipe his hard drive clean and that the church gave him time to do that. I said, “The police didn’t do anything with this. Where’s the evidence?” He said, “Our attorney told us to throw it in the Mississippi River.”
JULIE ROYS: And was Bryan claiming that they had given the phone to police and police didn’t find anything interesting on it?
GREG SELBY: Yes.
JULIE ROYS: Or was he saying they just had a conversation with police?
GREG SELBY: He said that they’d given it to him and that there was nothing, the police would not pursue charges.
JULIE ROYS: So according to Bryan Loritts, they gave the phone to police. Police looked at the phone, said “There’s nothing interesting,” gave it back to him or to the elders?
GREG SELBY: That I’m not clear as to which person took possession, except that later Bryan would claim that he had possession of it.
JULIE ROYS: Okay,
GREG SELBY: So maybe it was just straining credulity that the police would not find anything on there unless you had an inside person with a police department somehow that was doing your bidding.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and it is interesting when it comes to that issue. There are a number of different accounts about what happened with police, the most recent being that David Thompson, an elder at Summit, sent an email. And I got a hold of this email. And first he says, “A Fellowship Memphis staff member from 2010 confirmed to us that they did contact appropriate authorities, based on Bryan’s instructions, to do so. Our legal counsel contacted the Memphis Police Department and their central records office to inquire if a police report or any documentation on this matter existed. They advised that no such report or documentation existed regarding this matter, in part because they no longer retain such records due to the passage of time.” So currently Summit the church that J.D. Greear pastors. that just hired Bryan Loritts, is claiming that there was a police report made by somebody but for some reason there’s no record of it. But the Commercial Appeal, who reported on this repeatedly—2016—they said, “According to the Memphis Police Department, no one ever contacted police to report the incident or file a complaint.” The church’s statement makes no mention of contacting police after the camera was discovered at Fellowship. So, again, no, there is no police report anywhere from the Memphis police department showing that this was reported.
GREG SELBY: Right. The plausible deniability Summit would like to have is that they only keep those records for seven years and they said, “Well, they say there’s no records.” Well, sure. The year is now 2020. This happened in 2010. Ten years have passed. Conversely, the Commercial Appeal report happened in 2016, which would have been before the seven-year statute. And in fact, when the Commercial Appeal reported it, they found that there was no evidence ever. And in fact, the police said that there was no report filed as did Child Protective Services. So, there was no report filed, which also would indicate that there were children on there because you wouldn’t contact Child Protective Services [CPS] were there not.
JULIE ROYS: Yes,
GREG SELBY: But that was part of the conversation I had with Bryan Loritts that day in his office was that Rick is concerned because Rick knows there were the kids on there. Now, do I think that kids were the object that Rick was going after? I don’t think so. But I have no idea what goes on in someone’s twisted mind. I can’t imagine somebody was taking the kind of videos that they were, that he was in the first place.
JULIE ROYS: Let me just say something right there. If there were children, if there are minors on there, that takes it to a different level. The crime goes to a felony.
GREG SELBY: Sure.
JULIE ROYS: Then Bryan Loritts and everybody on that church staff is a mandated reporter. You have to report this. That’s the law.
GREG SELBY: Correct.
JULIE ROYS: You can’t not report what happened. And yet in this statement from Fellowship Memphis in 2016, it was a joint statement between them and another church. We’ll get into that. But neither one of them said that they reported this to the police. In fact, they said that the victims were offered independent professional counseling paid for by the church. “It is our understanding that none of the victims at that time chose to press charges.” So even then, in 2016, nobody was claiming that this was reported to police. Yet in the latest statement just made by Summit and by Bryan Loritts, they’re saying that somebody had reported it to police. But that’s news. That had never happened before.
GREG SELBY: Well, the Commercial Appeal acknowledges that there were children involved on this as well. The other thing that you have to keep in mind, particularly with this parsing statement that Summit’s issuing is they’re wanting to act as if every victim was contacted. Well, then who watched all those videos? Because those were hours and hours and hours of video. Who watched them all? They were people saying, “Well, we can’t watch all the videos, that wouldn’t be fair.” So, but at a different point Bryan would claim to someone at a seminary here in town, “There were 100, there were 100 people on that video.” You mean all 100 get contacted and not a single one of them wanted to press charges? I find that hard to believe.
JULIE ROYS: It is an amazing story. There’s something else that you told me earlier when I talked to you about this, that in that conversation, you brought up something about this hitting the newspapers. Tell me what happened when you said that.
GREG SELBY: He had already said that the police found nothing interesting in the videos. So [I said,] “If you guys don’t handle this, right, this is going to hit the newspapers, and I’ll make sure that it does.” And he said, “The newspapers already know and they don’t find anything interesting about this either.” Which again, in the power structure of things and because I knew who some of his friends were in context, was it plausible to me he could have it buried in the newspaper? Sure. I’ve seen it happen with other churches in town. Unfortunately, I’ve seen actual video reports that were on the news suddenly disappear off the websites and that sort of thing. So this is not unusual. And so it sounded to me like it was just people calling all their power brokers to cover this up. You know, again, this was showing a pattern. I talked to him about Newman being there. He said, “Well, I thought he’d just been caught skinny dipping with little boys. I didn’t know he’s the most prolific child molester in Missouri history.” Well, if he’d been caught skinny dipping with little boys at his last job that should have raised some concerns for you. And you shouldn’t have hired him. And you shouldn’t have brought him on. And he shouldn’t have been writing curriculum for your church. Given the timing of things it may turn out to have been John Bryson’s Authentic Manhood manual, ironically.
JULIE ROYS: And John Bryson for those who don’t know,
GREG SELBY: John Bryson was the co-pastor,
JULIE ROYS: co lead pastor with Bryan Loritts at Fellowship, Memphis. And that name will be coming up, I’m sure some more in our discussion. There’s one other thing. Was there some talk with Bryan about paying Heather and Rick Trotter and you being involved with that in some way?
GREG SELBY: They’d asked me to do some financial counseling and provide help for them. And he said, “As a businessman, Greg,” he said, “maybe you can help me with this. We need to pay Rick but not make it look like we’re paying Rick.” And I said, “You can’t do that ethically. Because,” I said, “as you well know, he has wage garnishments against him,” tax issues, they had not paid their school loans back at that point. So you’re basically, Bill Garner, who was in charge of finances there, should know that there are wage garnishments. “And so if you try and pay your sister to circumvent paying, Rick, you’re trying to avoid a wage garnishment. That’s illegal.”
JULIE ROYS: So Bryan Loritts was suggesting that you somehow pay his brother in law and sister in a way that couldn’t be traced somehow to the church. That’s what you’re saying?
GREG SELBY: Right.
JULIE ROYS: Wow.
GREG SELBY: Oh, absolutely. Doesn’t deny this. Again, within the whole Summit’s “investigation.” “I would do some things differently.” Well, yeah. Pete Newman would do some things differently too now that he’s been in prison for 10 years. But I wouldn’t hire him.
JULIE ROYS: You gave me a letter that you sent to church leaders on March 5th, 2010. I’m guessing this letter was after talking with Bryan Loritts. Is that correct?
GREG SELBY: That was actually I believe, before I talked to Bryan.
JULIE ROYS: Oh, that was before. So you talked to him in March.
GREG SELBY: Yep.
JULIE ROYS: But this is going through all the things that you just said. That, “We sat on this matter too long.” “We have not told church membership the basic facts of what happened with Rick’s sin.” “We enabled sin.” “People have known about this for a while.” “We put people at risk . . . denied members of the body the opportunity to come forward with any other damage that may have been done by Rick and denied them the ability to make their own decisions.” I mean, it’s interesting. At the point you had this discussion with Bryan Loritts and he said, “the police found nothing interesting,” the victims hadn’t even been talked to. They didn’t even know.
GREG SELBY: No.
JULIE ROYS: So Jen, you didn’t know at this point what had happened. From, I’d like to hear your perspective, how did you find out that Rick Trotter had made these videotapes and you were actually on at least one of those videotapes?
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, I got a call from Ben Parkinson and he had asked me,
JULIE ROYS: Who is Ben Parkinson?
JENNIFER BAKER: Ben Parkinson was one of the pastors at Fellowship Memphis during that time. And he had told me that it was discovered that Rick Trotter had propped up a cell phone camera in the bathroom that was shared by all of the staff, visitors and volunteers. There was one common bathroom, it didn’t have any stalls in it. It was just a one-room bathroom. And on a bookcase hidden behind some other items, he had propped up a cellphone camera and had been videotaping and that I was recorded on that video. I basically was hysterical. I asked, “Who was on the video?” How they knew who was on the video. “Who watched the video? Where were the videos now? Who had them? Had they been uploaded to the internet?” I had so many questions and couldn’t get any answers whatsoever. Couldn’t get any answers. When I asked who was on the video, he said that he wasn’t allowed to talk about that. When I asked if it was uploaded to the internet, he said they had checked and it had not been, which, you know, seems ridiculous in hindsight. I don’t know how they would have checked to see how these videos were or were not uploaded to the internet. But I asked, “Who had watched the videos?” And he said, “Ricky Jenkins,” who was a resident or an intern or associate pastor or something at the church, I don’t know what his exact title was. But Ricky Jenkins and Bryan Loritts were the only ones that had watched the video. And his answer to where it was; he said, “The video was put in a safety deposit box,” and that they had consulted with an attorney and the attorney had told them to, “destroy it and throw it in the Mississippi River.” But that they wanted to ask if I wanted to press charges. And I said, “Yeah, what would I have to do to do that?” And he said that I would have to file a police report. And that if I did decide to press charges that my videos would be shown in court, that they would be made public, that no one else was pressing charges, they did not want to see Rick and Heather’s life destroyed. You know, that would devastate their family and the church. No one wanted to see that happen. And more concerning to me was these videos, these private videos from these bathroom recordings, would be made public. It just was paralyzing. And so I told him that I needed to think about it. I said I wanted to talk to some of those people that he said were recorded. He said that he couldn’t give me their names. And in fact, I was not allowed to speak about it with anyone or it would be gossip. And that if I did that, you know, they were going to exercise church discipline on anyone that was talking about it. This was, “very sensitive.” “It could be damaging to the church.” “It could be damaging to the other victims.” That we were just not allowed to talk about it whatsoever.
JULIE ROYS: And when they say, “exercise, church discipline,” what does that look like?
JENNIFER BAKER: At that time I didn’t realize that I had signed the covenant, the membership covenant that they call it was in effect binding me to their authority in some way. But I had seen them exercise church discipline before, which meant they gathered the church together, told them that a member was sinning against the church or a member of the church and that they would be basically disfellowshipped. No one in the church was allowed to have any contact with them or talk to them until the church deemed that they were restored.
JULIE ROYS: Hmm.
GREG SELBY: So this church discipline is something that if you saw somebody in the grocery store that was under church discipline that was a member of your church, you’re not supposed to talk to them. I mean, it’s very Scientology-ish.
JULIE ROYS: So you had seen this before as well, other people
GREG SELBY: Yep. Yes, I had.
JULIE ROYS: excommunicated or under church discipline.
GREG SELBY: I knew when they were threatening me. I knew what they were threatening me with.
JULIE ROYS: Hmm. And Jennifer, from my understanding, you have a daughter who had babysat in the Trotter’s home. And again, he took videos in the bathroom in his home. Your daughter also used the bathroom at the church office. And she was a minor. Did you have concerns? And did you ask Parkinson about your daughter specifically?
JENNIFER BAKER: I did. I asked specifically if she had been videotaped at that time. It was not told me. I was only given very limited information and kept in the dark about what was going on other than my specific recording. So, I did not know that there was recordings in his home. I was not told any of that information. But I knew that my daughter had been volunteering at the church office and had been around during some of those events and had to ask, and was told, “No.” That she was “not on the videos,” which in hindsight, if they’re saying she was not on the video, then someone would have had to watch all of those videos on the phone. When I specifically asked him how they knew that I was on the videos if they had not watched all the videos, I said, “How did you know that I was on there?” And they said that Bryan had scrolled through all of the thumbnails that were on the video, the paused videos that were there and seeing me on a still video. And that’s how he knew I was on there. And I asked him if he had watched that video. And he said, that he couldn’t tell me that.
JULIE ROYS: Wow, I can only imagine the emotions there. But basically, you’re told that one, you’re on the video, which is traumatizing enough. Two, that your pastor may have looked at them. Three, that if you press charges, it’s going to mean that an entire courtroom’s gonna look at them and this is going to be public. And that nobody else is pressing charges, but they won’t give you the names of any of the other victims. So, you can’t even talk to them. Correct?
JENNIFER BAKER: That’s correct.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. After that, I’m not sure how you knew this, but you knew who had discovered the phone, a person by the name of Rosanne Elmore, who was on staff. How did you find out that she had discovered the phone? Was that something that Parkinson told you?
JENNIFER BAKER: No. Much later, Roseanne told me herself that she was the one that had found the phone. And she had taken it to Ricky Jenkins and Bryan Loritts immediately after deleting her video off of the phone and gave it to them because they were the ones in the office at the time. And she told me that Bryan took the phone, instructed her to go home, and that he would take care of it. And I believe that’s the last anyone’s seen the videos or the phones since. She had told me that at that same time that she had also kind of scrolled through to look to see if there was anything else that she saw on there. And she said there were multiple videos, tons of videos, and that she, in some of the stills, she saw Bryan Loritts’ sister on—not Heather Loritts Trotter, but another sister—getting out of the shower in Rick Trotter’s home. And that there were also children on the video, some of the videos, that she had seen.
JULIE ROYS: And there was something she told you about how the phone was set up in the bathroom. Can you tell me about that?
JENNIFER BAKER: She had said that it was mounted in the bathroom, which just struck me as odd because before when Ben Parkinson had said, “It was propped up in the bathroom on a bookcase,” and I don’t know why that struck me. I think at that point it clicked how this wasn’t a casual one-time mistake. That this was well thought-out, well planned. It spoke volumes to me, I think about how Ben Parkinson had kind of framed it as, “well, this just happened.” I guess that conversation with Roseanne solidified how many potential victims there were, how long this had been going on, and just how pervasive it was.
JULIE ROYS: And how premeditated.
JENNIFER BAKER: Absolutely.
JULIE ROYS: You don’t just do this by mistake. It’s very premeditated.
JENNIFER BAKER: Yes. I think that was the first time all of that clicked and was just, yeah, even more devastating.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, so sometime after that the church was told what had happened, at least to some point, because Rick Trotter got up and confessed. How did that finally come out, Greg? How did the church finally decide to tell people?
GREG SELBY: They had told me and I had discussions with other elders, including Hamp Holcomb
JULIE ROYS: Hamp Holcomb is an elder at the church.
GREG SELBY: And was the senior most elder at that time, and others had told me they had no intention of having Rick confess to what he’s done and letting people know. In fact, when I talked to Ben Parkinson about it, he said they weren’t notifying all of the victims, he said, “Because we don’t have the counseling capacity to counsel all these people.” To which I said, “You won’t have to worry about it. Because if you tell people that you’ve been covering this up for a few months, half the church will leave. And you won’t have to worry about having too many people to counsel anymore. You guys will be overstaffed at that point.” But anyway, I told them if they didn’t let the church know I was going to. Period. Writ large one way or another on that. So, they finally had him issue a statement that was very watered down, the equivalent being, “Hey, we’re all sinners. I’ve been a sinner. I’ve jaywalked. I’ve sped. One time I stole a candy bar. I may have taken some pictures in the bathroom. I have gossiped.” I mean, it was in a litany of things. In fact, if you look at it, the statement he read is 870 words, of which 15 of them admitted to anything. So that’s 1.7% of his words, was admitting to anything. And the admission on his part was, “I used a video camera to invade the privacy of several women in a restroom.”
JULIE ROYS: Okay.
GREG SELBY: Which is pretty vague. And this is while, you can imagine, “Cue the music. Cue the sobbing in the background.” Everybody liked Rick. Nobody wanted to see this happen within their church. And so people were filled with tears and deeply moved and saddened by this. If you’d ask people afterwards, “What did he just confess to?” They have no idea.
JULIE ROYS: And Jennifer as someone who was a victim, when you heard him give this confession, and I understand, was there some sort of greeting or reception line for him after this?
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, just kudos to Greg for none of this would have ever come to light if he hadn’t been so brave to stand up against all of these men trying to cover this up. I don’t actually remember the words of the statement. I was absolutely mortified. Why was Rick there? Why was, what was he gonna say? Were there other people there that had seen the videos? Who else there knew what was really going on? I was angry. Embarrassed. I could not, yeah, I don’t even remember the statement. But afterwards, they had an event in fellowship hall where you could go and you know, say goodbye to Rick and Heather and there was lots of hugging and crying and you know, “We hate that you have to leave. It’s terrible that you’ve been going through all this. Thanks for your confession.” It was just absolutely insulting.
JULIE ROYS: Hmm. And there you are a victim and who knows however many other victims that knew they were victims, how many didn’t know they were victims hard to say. Nobody’s offering you comfort, but they’re offering the perpetrator a lot of comfort in this whole process.
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, that’s how the whole thing was framed and focused and, you know, even after Rick went away to sex camp or rehab or wherever it was he went, we were not told. In fact, I asked specifically where he was sent, who was paying for it, how long he would be there, and I was told that it was out of town, I couldn’t know the place that, you know, money had been raised to cover the cost, and that when he returned, I was told that Rick and his wife Heather wanted to meet with me and it was part of the process that the church had laid out to complete his treatment for the restoration. And so each person was asked to go meet with Rick and Heather and another pastor so that that Rick could talk to the victims and offer some explanation and apology. And again, it was one of the most traumatizing events and I don’t remember what was said and how long it went on. I just can’t fathom why anyone in their right mind and especially these guys who profess to have training in counseling and conflict management and conflict resolution, and then for them to say, in unity that this was the next step was, it’s just mind blowing.
JULIE ROYS: And there you are being asked to meet with someone who has made a video of you naked or partially naked, and you’re asked to talk with him. I mean, that in and of itself is incredibly traumatizing.
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah. beyond words.
JULIE ROYS: Did you feel like you had a choice in this? Or that you had to do it, the church was telling you to do it and this is something you had to do?
JENNIFER BAKER: It was an expectation that everyone was to meet with them individually. That was part of the process. That was part of the next steps, that was part of the plan, part of the restoration, part of his, to complete his treatment.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, so Greg, during this whole thing, according to Bryan’s most recent statement that he gave to Summit Church, and J.D. Greear, he was kept out of the process again. Did you get any sense from anyone that Bryan was a part of this whole process or that he was, indeed kept out of the process and pretty much in the dark as to what was going on?
GREG SELBY: To me the discussion that he and I had even that day in his office is he was part of the process. So he knows about this “throw the evidence in the Mississippi River” stuff. Part of the process and trying to pay off Rick and make it look like he’s not paying Rick and pay a sister and circumvent the wage garnishments and that sort of thing, he knew about there being minors on there, he’s trying to convince me that the media would have no interest in this whatsoever. So to me that’s being part of the process. Later, he was asked about it by some very kind members of the church body who actually had their girls babysit over there, too, and said, “What happened to the video?” And he said he was the last one to have it. But then he said, “I have no idea what happened to it after that.” So, one of those two things is false.
JULIE ROYS: So he never, according to them, he never gave it to the elders
GREG SELBY: Did to give it back to the elders at the end. I mean, nobody’s admitting where this video is. Partially—and when people say, “Well, wait, why would all the elders and why would all the church leadership say the same thing?” Because it was a crime. If there was a felony on there, which church leader is going to stand up and say, “You know what? Looking back on it, I should have gone to jail for that.”
JULIE ROYS: Jennifer, you did go directly to Bryan Loritts at one point and talk to him. This was after you’d had this meeting with Rick and Heather after the whole rehab thing. But it sounds like at this point, after several months of thinking about this, you wanted to go forward. You wanted to go to police. And so, you went to Bryan had a discussion. Tell me what happened in that discussion.
JENNIFER BAKER: When I initially met with Ben Parkinson, I had told him that I needed time to think about it. This was very complicated. I had very little information about what was going on and when. So I went back to Loritts and told him that I didn’t feel like it was being handled, I did feel like something had to have been done and asked where the recordings are. And he said that the videos had been destroyed. And I said that I felt like authorities should be notified and that I did want to follow report. And he said that there wasn’t much that could be done because the videos had been destroyed and that there wasn’t anything to do at that point. And I was so upset, I was absolutely distraught that I guess that I hadn’t been notified that they were going to destroy these recordings, that I didn’t have a say in what was going to happen. Next I asked him who destroyed it. And he said he couldn’t tell me that. And it was at that time, he said that I had signed the membership covenant and that I was not allowed to talk to anyone about it. And I was not allowed to bring this up to anyone else. And that they were exercising church discipline on anybody that chose to gossip about this.
JULIE ROYS: Hmm. So do you think knowing just who Bryan is the role he played and your discussions and then everything else, do you think there’s any possibility that he was kept out of this process? Or was there any indication in anything that he said to you that indicated, you know, “This is out of my hands, the elders are controlling it?”
JENNIFER BAKER: No way. There is no way he was hands off of anything. Anyone that knows him knows he’s a raging egomaniac. And he and John Bryson had a mission coming into this. And no one was going to step in their way. Absolutely no one was going to stop them. And Bryson’s on the record as saying that he himself was not involved in the investigation. And now that’s what Loritts is saying is that he was also not involved in the investigation. So who was left in charge? The two lead pastors, Bryan Loritts was the head pastor, John Bryson was the founder and another teaching pastor. And both of them are saying that they were not involved in this, you know, investigation whatsoever. So who was left in charge? Who was left in charge? Was it their secretary, who incidentally was also a victim? Like, this is ridiculous for them to claim that.
JULIE ROYS: And you told me about a friend of yours, Cindy Rogers, who was at the church, she’s no longer at Fellowship Memphis. And you said at one point she posted on Facebook about what was going on, that she was a little bit frustrated by this. But in 2016, it finally did hit the press that he had taken videos of women at Downtown Church. And there were articles. And apparently she posted one of these articles. And she said again, it’s been a while so I reached out to her. She texted to me, “I honestly do not remember what I commented on that post, but I am sure it was a comment made out of frustration, anger and grieving.” Then she said, “I got a call from Bryan very shortly after I posted it. Sadly, I don’t remember all that was said. I know I got more frustrated as the conversation went on. Where’s the video? Why wasn’t it turned over to police? And why wasn’t every person contacted who could have been on the video? If I remember correctly, I posted again on Facebook, that Bryan or maybe I said someone in leadership called me. And Bryan texted me and told me he didn’t expect me to post that on Facebook. I don’t remember what exactly I posted, but I was confused why it would be upsetting to him and explained to him. Our conversation ended cordially.” 2016. At that point, Bryan Loritts was off staff. He wasn’t even a part of staff.
GREG SELBY: Correct. He was he was living in California at that point.
JULIE ROYS: But yet, he’s monitoring what’s happening on social media and calling former members that he’s unhappy with what they posted on social media about this situation. Interesting to put that together with this narrative that he wasn’t involved at all.
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, and Cindy actually called me as soon as they got off the phone and had told me that it was in that conversation that Bryan Loritts had told her that he had taken the videos to his house and he didn’t know what had happened to them after that. That, you know, there was no accounting for them after that. So, yeah, there was no way that he was out of the loop on what happened.
GREG SELBY: And I believe that probably had to be after 2016 because I do know he was in California by the time he called.
JULIE ROYS: So, you went to John Bryson as well, one-on-one to talk to him about this situation? Is that right, Jennifer? And if so, what happened in that discussion?
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, after I talked to Loritts, I went to John Bryson and was concerned about the way that it was handled. And I felt like something needed to be done. And he just confirmed that the evidence had been destroyed and that he had confirmed that with Beau Garner. And that continuing to talk about it at this point was gossip.
JULIE ROYS: Again, that threat and the no talk rule. At one point you did call police Jennifer, is that right? What happened in that conversation?
JENNIFER BAKER: I called police just to ask if I could file charges and what that would entail. And they said that, because there was, the evidence had been destroyed, and there was no evidence available, that that would be very difficult to press charges at that time. Months had passed. And I asked them what had happened to the original report, and why nothing ever came of that. And I was speaking to the head of the sex crimes division at the Memphis Police Department. And they said that no call had ever been made on that. So this was the first they had heard of it. They did some research into the records to see what they could find. They called me back and said that absolutely no one had ever called them about it. That it had never been reported.
JULIE ROYS: So let me ask you this. How can it be that so many people knew about Trotter’s crimes in 2010 and we’re talking multiple victims, we’re talking church staff, we’re talking church leaders. This is pretty extensive as far as how many people were involved. You have him making a statement from up front at the church. How can it be that no one reported this to police? I know Greg, when I talked to you earlier, you talked about fear and the way that Fellowship Memphis, and the City of Memphis and the businesses and everything is connected. Explain that.
GREG SELBY: When John Bryson came to Memphis to establish Fellowship Memphis, they had a big white board in their office that said, basically, here are all the power players in the city, and here’s how we’re going to infiltrate all that and make sure that we’ve got our hands on everything that makes this city tick. And they developed ancillary ministries, city leadership, some things that ostensibly didn’t look like they were church organization. They wanted me to lead up one that there were going to call “Engagement,” so that it wouldn’t look like it was Fellowship. Instead of, “Hey, this is Fellowship Church,” they wanted to have ancillary entities. They’ve got an adoption agency here in town. And they’ve got all these sorts of things that are fully related, much like Downline is, but in very complicated ways. And the monies are fungible between them. Well when they have control of these major power players in town, including politicians who are very, very powerful, those kind of things are threatened. When I had the conversation with Hamp and Randy, Hamp started throwing out all the names, all these big time names. “Don’t you know who our attorney is?” “Don’t you know who this person is? This is a powerful political figure.” And it’s clearly meant to intimidate. And I think most people are. Right? I mean, it’s natural. In fact, a rational person should be intimidated by that sort of thing. And so, particularly, because you had a very young church at the time, I mean the average age was in the 20’s to be sure. Hamp at the time was the most senior person and he was probably in his early 50’s. So you had a very young church. So if you were to go tell a 24-year old that some major politician was involved with this, that 24-year old would shut down completely. And in fact, most 44-year olds would shut down. And combined with an element that they can exercise church discipline, which is ugly, combined with an element that you’ve got very powerful people at the church—these guys are all connected—Bryson claimed he didn’t know any of this was going on because he was busy pitching his Authentic Manhood series on Focus on the Family, and Bryan’s father is Crawford Loritts—that’s a very powerful and popular pastor in the country—that they’re so well connected, the people are afraid at that point. And, quite honestly, it changes your worldview to have to admit that these guys are creeps and that they are profiteers. Because if you start to admit that they are covering up pedophiles, that they’re covering up sexual predators and this sort of thing, it turns your worldview upside down. And you have to say that the church is not what I thought it was.
JULIE ROYS: And Jen, this had to have been very, very difficult for you. You described as well almost like a systemic abuse. We talked about membership being a tool of control. But also, you talked about counseling even being a tool that the church was using. And one that it used against you. Is that right?
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah. It’s brilliant. They have their own counseling systems set up. And you’re encouraged to go through their counseling program. So I’d previously gone through and did some marriage counseling through their marriage counseling ministry. And one of the scariest things was when I did start speaking up about it, a friend had contacted John Bryson about my allegation saying, “What happened?” “Was this ever reported?” “Was this covered up?” And their response, not just from John Bryson, but their response was that I had been in counseling there—they failed to mention that I’d gone through marriage counseling with my spouse—and that I was “known to be a liar.” That I was “known to have issues and that nothing I said could be believed or trusted.” And then they had, they actually had people on staff at Downline and Fellowship reach out to others and tell them that I was lying, that I couldn’t be trusted, that I had been in counseling with the church before and that there were grave concerns, which felt like another complete violation. And they were bullying me into silence and trying to discredit me just because I was outraged by this. And felt like justice had not been served. And that there were countless victims. By this time, I’d found out that there were children involved, it had never been reported, and that they were aggressively going after me, who was a victim standing up for other victims. They were going after me to protect themselves and the interests of the other leaders involved.
JULIE ROYS: And you said to me at one point, and we don’t really have time to go into this, but just speaking of the counseling and how that’s used, that maybe 75 to 80% of the church is in counseling?
JENNIFER BAKER: Yeah, there’s a large number of members in counseling. One of their goals was to develop their counseling program and put it in other, actual other church denominations so that they would also have a feeder of information. And so it is a very, very systematic funnel of information and power over other people.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and that’s the thing. There is maybe a power if you’ve been in counseling. And Greg, would you say that’s correct? That a large proportion, maybe as many as 70 or 80% of the church was a part of the counseling?
GREG SELBY: I couldn’t speak to that exactly because I wasn’t privy to any of that. I’d never participated in that direction, so that wasn’t something I knew at the time. I’ve come to see what they’ve done. And again, sort of when you combine it with the restrictive covenants, that you sort of have blackmail that J. Edgar Hoover would have been proud to see them pull off. And isolation. That they tried to keep things separate and keep people siloed. I had no idea Jennifer was a part of this because Jennifer and I had known each other. We would have been able to stand up together and would have been stronger and probably could have fought this at the time had we known. But they wanted us separated. They didn’t want her to know that anybody was on her side.
JENNIFER BAKER: Greg and I knew each other. And not once were either one of us allowed to bring this up, to talk about it. I felt like I was the only one standing up against the church. When I first found out Greg knew what was going on, I said, “I was the only one fighting against this.” And he said, “Nope, I was the only one fighting against this.” And so definitely, there is power in keeping everyone silenced and separate. And you know, two pieces of advice that, and I’ll defer to Greg to see if he agrees, two pieces of advice that I could give every member of every church is never, ever, sign a membership contract. And never ever ever attend counseling in the church where they are able to collect information and use that over you or against you.
JULIE ROYS: Do you know, or did anybody tell you that Bryan Loritts was a part of that?
JENNIFER BAKER: I don’t know. I know that the members that were instructed to make calls to discredit me on behalf of the church were actually in Bryan Loritts discipleship group. It was never told to me who instructed them to do that. But I know that the men that participated in that were the few that were in his discipleship group.
JULIE ROYS: So you would find it a little bit incredulous that he didn’t know that was happening.
JENNIFER BAKER: Ah yes, that’s ridiculous.
GREG SELBY: To say the least.
JULIE ROYS: Well, there’s much more to cover in this story. Rick Trotter went on from Fellowship Memphis to be hired by another church. And this story gets even messier as top figures from Acts 29 church planting group are involved. Two members of The Gospel Coalition Council are involved. But of course, most recently this story is connected to J.D. Greear and
Summit Church. Again, Summit is the megachurch where J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the lead pastor. It’s also the church that just hired Bryan Loritts as an executive pastor. Greg and Jennifer recently spoke on a conference call with Summit and shared their concerns about Loritts. But according to Greg and Jennifer, that discussion
did not go well—and Summit was not interested in hearing Greg and Jennifer’s perspective. Again, this is a critically important discussion because the Southern Baptist Convention reportedly is turning a corner when it comes to sexual abuse. And Greear says that no longer will the SBC tolerate those who cover for sexual
predators. But is that precisely what J.D. Greear’s church is doing right now? Stay tuned. Part Two will be releasing shortly. And if you want to make sure you get a notice as soon as it’s published, go to JulieRoys.com. You’ve been listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. Thanks so much for joining me and for caring about the purity of Christ’s Bride. Have a great day and God bless.