In most crises, there’s a hero, a victim, and a villain. But these roles are often purposefully confused by the leader caught in the crisis, as is stunningly apparent in a videotaped interview by prominent pastor and author, Bryan Loritts.
So says image repair analyst Dr. Julia Dahl in Part 2 of The Roys Report podcast between Dr. Dahl and Julie Roys. In this episode, Dr. Dahl analyzes a video Pastor Loritts recorded after numerous eyewitnesses alleged that Loritts covered up sex crimes at a previous church.
In the video, Loritts admits he failed to report the sexual predator and the predator went on to abuse more victims. Yet as Dr. Dahl explains, Loritts masterfully paints himself not as the villain in this story—but as the victim and hero of a tragedy.
If you want to be equipped to discern truth from error when it comes to these kinds of crises and public statements, you’re not going to want to miss this podcast!
JULIE ROYS, BRYAN LORITTS, DR JULIA DAHL M.D.
JULIE ROYS 00:03
Christian leaders and megachurch pastors are usually bright and charismatic. They also can be cunning and masters of manipulation. Welcome to The Roys Report a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m excited to present part two of a podcast recorded with Dr. Julia Dahl. Julia is a medical school professor of pathology at the University of Michigan but she’s also an analyst who studied the image repair tactics that leaders and PR professionals use when they’re caught in a crisis. In part one of my interview with Julia, Julia analyzed a public apology offered by Dr. Thomas White, the president of Cedarville University and she did a masterful job of explaining how Dr. White was able to spin a crisis situation to his own benefit. Well today, Julia is going to analyze another video but a very different one. In this podcast, Julia will analyze an interview with Bryan Loritts that was recorded after I began publishing some damaging information about Bryan. About 10 years ago, Bryan was pastoring a mega church in Memphis when he discovered that his brother in law, who was the worship pastor at his church, had been secretly videotaping people in the church bathroom. But Bryan never reported his brother in law and his brother in law, Rick Trotter, went on to lead worship at another church and then to repeat his crimes. And he actually wasn’t brought to justice ’till six years later. Now, you may think that this would be a career ending mistake for Bryan Loritts, especially if Loritts knowingly covered up his brother in law’s crimes. But Loritts recorded a video explaining himself and apparently it was very effective, because Loritts remains an executive pastor at The Summit Church, a very influential church pastored by J.D. Greear. J.D. Greear is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. So I’m really looking forward to talking with Julia and analyzing this video by Bryan Loritts. But before we begin, I want to just take a minute to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a car I encourage you to visit my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. I bought my last car from Marquardt and I had a great experience and I believe you will too. To shop their entire showroom online just go to BuyACar123.com. Also, I want to let you know that Judson University is planning to resume in-person classes this fall for traditional, transfer and adult students. And they’re still taking applications. You can choose from more than 60 majors and learn in a Christian environment known for its spiritual values, leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. For more information, just go to JudsonU.edu. Well, again, Joining me today is Dr. Julia Dahl, a professor at the University of Michigan medical school and an image repair analyst So Julia, welcome. I’m so glad you could join me again for this podcast.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 03:05
Thank you so much, Julie, looking forward to diving into this video that has a lot of information in it.
JULIE ROYS 03:12
And you said to me after listening to this, it was a little disturbing for you, would that be a fair analysis?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 03:20
I think that’s a great analysis. When I do image repair analysis with some of the most carefully worded releases, it’s become pretty straightforward to do the analysis. They all seem to use the same playbook and the same terms. And Brian Loritts, he’s operating a little differently. So I found this to be more challenging to do an evaluation of.
JULIE ROYS 03:46
So it might be a little more freewheeling in this analysis than the last one. But I’m really looking forward to hearing what you’re hearing that I think a lot of us who are just lay people and we don’t do this every day, it’s easy for this to kind of blow past us. So, really looking forward to doing that, but let me just set up our first clip that we’re going to listen to. Now again, this is an interview that Bryan Loritts had, it was actually with Seth Brown. He’s of The Biblical Recorder, which is a media outlet that is owned by the Baptist Church, and some at the church where Bryan is a pastor is part of this same Baptist denomination. And so it’s it’s a friendly interview. But in this interview, he’s trying to explain what happened and why we should be sympathetic towards him. And what happened 10 years ago, even though it seems like a really bad error. So again, here he is, in clip one, what we’re going to hear him talking about is the day that he found out that his brother in law had actually been recording with his phone, people in the bathroom. So you’ll hear that whole story. And then again, we’ll come back and I’ll give Julia a chance to give her analysis
BRYAN LORITTS 05:00
Seth, that was the most painful day of my life. And it would prove to be the most painful day for our church. It’s about four o’clock in the afternoon. I’m in my office. I get a call from a young lady who was an intern with us. And she said, “Pastor Bryan, I need to talk to you.” I said, “Come on up.” She walks in and immediately looking at her body language, I knew something was really wrong. She’s shaking, at the point of tears. She’s got this phone in her hand. I said, “What’s going on?” She says, “I’m sitting on the toilet,” and said, “I was using the bathroom. And there was a bookshelf. I can see it now facing the toilet.” And she said, “I saw this phone recording it. It’s devastating. Like, there’s a sexual predator among us.” Well, now that leads me to the next question. “Whose phone is it?” “It’s your brother in law’s.” I’m going from devastation to numb. So as the shepherd, I’m now thinking about our church, and all of this stuff, all the victims, but at the same time–and there’s no levels of victimization here–my mind immediately goes to my sister. My assumption is, they’re going to get divorced. Like, how’s that conversation going to happen? She’s gonna have to do a massive reset on her life. And so, we have that conversation and I comfort her. She leaves and there’s a pound on my door. It’s my brother in law. I opened the door. There’s a wildness in his eyes. He’s frantic. First words out of his mouth, of course, are, “Have you seen my phone?” And I said, “I’ve got your phone. And you are officially done.” Terminated on the spot. This was not, “Let’s put him on paid administrative leave.” This wasn’t a, “Let’s pray about it.” He’s done. So now the question, Seth, is, “What do I do with this phone?” And here’s what I got to own, Seth. What I should have done immediately was call the cops. I didn’t do that. My thought process was, “This phone’s gonna, like if I leave it here, I’m looking at the wildness of my brother in law’s eyes. I don’t want to leave it at the church and go home. Because what if he breaks in? He’s desperate, and that phone’s gone. So I take it home with me.
JULIE ROYS 07:38
Okay, again, that’s Bryan Loritts, explaining about the day that this phone–he discovered a phone–and that his brother in law, Rick Trotter, had been recording people in the bathroom. Julia, there’s several things that stuck out to me. Even beginning with the very first line, “This was the most painful day of my life.” It reminded me a little bit of what you said about Dr. White. He kind of started his video with, “I was motivated by love for Anthony Moore.” And in this case, what Bryan Loritts does is he says it was the most painful day of my life. At that point, I’m not thinking about the victims who might be victimized by Rick Trotter. I’m thinking of Brian Loritts. He’s having the most painful day of his life. Am I right? This is kind of a purposeful thing?
BRYAN LORITTS 08:30
Oh, absolutely. So I have actually been in the audience when Brian Loritts gives a sermon. He’s a really effective and powerful speaker. And he’s using that truly to his advantage. And I would invite all of the listeners to kind of do a gut check on, “What were you feeling when you listened to that clip?” Was your heart rate elevated? Did you start to feel anxious? Did you feel anxious for Brian? Did you feel anxious for the woman in the room? Did you feel anxious about Rick Trotter? So just do a gut check and see, “Was he effective?’ Because the way that Mr. Loritts is portraying this scenario is incredibly intentional. He wants to make sure that you see this from his perspective, and that he’s setting up a pretty effective triangulation. There’s a hero, there’s a victim, and there’s a villain. So notice the words that he uses to describe himself, and he calls himself a shepherd. He acts as if he’s immediately available to this young woman. He’s shocked but then he only has concern for these other people as he tells the story. Check that though. “This was the most painful day of my life.” Really. Mr. Loritts telling the story from his perspective, asking you to sympathize with him and to be compassionate towards him. That’s going to be the way that you view the whole rest of what he says. He’ll portray that he’s a shepherd, and he portrays the victim. But he says very little about the victim. He does also make a very distinct characterization of the villain. So setting up a story like this is intended to give you high drama, and it’s intended to pull you to Mr. Loritts’s side so that he can be the hero and you’re rooting for him.
JULIE ROYS 10:38
And we’re dealing with a megachurch pastor. He tells stories for a living, right? I mean, he gives sermons, they’re full of stories. He’s used to emotionally connecting with an audience in conveying something. And I know from being a reporter, when there’s a story that’s told, whoever tells that story from first, and gets to frame the narrative, that person has the leg up. Right? So it seems to me in this scenario, Bryan Loritts is framing a narrative. And like you said, it’s from his perspective. The one person I’m not thinking about during this time, are all the women who have been videotaped.
BRYAN LORITTS 11:22
I think that’s a really essential point, Julie, that he does have the opportunity to frame this narrative. He knows how to emotionally engage with an audience. I don’t find him to be a articulate speaker. I don’t find him to be someone who I feel that his words are trustworthy, but he does know how to get people emotionally engaged and roped in. With regards to the victims. I think it was very interesting what he did. He pulled the people who were closest to him into this elevated victim category, while saying, “there’s no levels of victimization.” So he says one thing, “no levels of victimization,” but by focusing his words on his wife and his sister, those things elevate his sister, who is married to Rick Trotter, as being absolutely victimized, talks about how she’s going to have to go through a divorce. And it gives you a sense of where Mr. Loritts’ priorities are, though he’ll say, “There’s no levels of victimization.” And his actions speak something completely differently. He moves to protect himself, he moves to show himself as a hero, he moves to protect his sister, and then he throws this word out there, “divorce,” to actually get you to connect more with he and his family as a way of justifying what he’s doing because now you’re rooting for him and you’re rooting for his sister and you’re much more willing step to his side and see this through his eyes.
JULIE ROYS 13:04
And let’s talk about who the villain is in this. I’m guessing that’s Rick Trotter. He says, you know, his brother in law comes to the door. “There’s a wildness in his eyes. He’s frantic. Have you seen my phone?” What is the importance of setting Rick Trotter up as–and he is the villain. I mean, this all started because he was sexually preying on women. But what’s the importance of making sure that we understand Rick Trotter is the villain
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 13:36
I think the most important thing about really characterizing Rick Trotter as a very powerful, wild-eyed villain in this instance, is that it allows the listener or the reader if you’re reading a transcript to forget that the reason that Mr. Loritts is being interviewed is because of his own actions to cover up the abuse that Rick Trotter did, to suppress information that could have been turned over to the police about this particular conduct. By portraying Rick Trotter in such an impassioned way, the listener and the reader forgets that the reason this man is being interviewed is because he actually has some significant explaining to do about why he did not do the right thing and protect all of the victims of Rick Trotter’s actions. So you’ve no longer got Mr. Loritts in the category of villain. He has appropriated the term hero for himself. He’s behaving heroically. He’s defined some victims. And now he’s really painted this larger than life Villian in Rick Trotter.
JULIE ROYS 14:33
And then he says something I found very interesting when he’s there with Rick Trotter, and he says, “You’re officially done. You’re terminated on the spot.” I’m gonna just step out on a limb here. I’ve been listening to you long enough. I’m wondering if I can actually put a term on that. But is he kind of bolstering himself showing himself like, again, like Dr. White did in that previous video, that he’s a man of action? Like, okay, “you’re fired. I’ve got the power and we’re not having a discussion. You’re done.” You know, like, that’s the big, the big move, and he did the right thing.
BRYAN LORITTS 15:32
It’s as if you’re reading the notes that I have in in the margin.
JULIE ROYS 15:35
Yes, I did it.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 15:38
I have in my notes, “bolster self as man of action.” So yes, absolutely. That maneuver right there. It does give that portrayal of, “no ifs, ands, or buts. I’m a man of action, I’m doing the right thing.” And it also compels the reader or the listener to forget that although he may have done that one right thing, there’s a laundry list of things that he didn’t do well. So you’re left with that most powerful feeling, which is the one that grabs you and you’re going to remember the most. And it compels the reader or the listener to forget that he didn’t go to the police. He didn’t make sure that the phone was secure. He didn’t make sure that Rick Trotter couldn’t get hired at another church. There’s all of these other things that he’s actually inviting you to forget about. Because he continues to bolster himself as this heroic man of action.
JULIE ROYS 16:35
And there is some owning of wrong. You kind of can miss it. But he did say, “This is what I’ve got to own. I should have immediately called the cops. I didn’t do that.” Is this an apology? Is this ownership?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 16:49
It’s not. So a lot of the time when people are in crisis, what they’ll do is they will confess to the thing that can be proven while leaving a whole lot of lies of omission kind of way back behind them. It’s similar to when Andy Savage who had abused Jules Woodson said, “I did a partial confession.” And that’s pretty characteristic of religious leaders in crisis is that they will tell you as much as they need to to continue to get you on their side and can to reinforce their believability. But they’re not going to tell you the whole story. So he is getting the buy-in from the listener or the reader that, “Look, yeah, I made a mistake. I should have done is immediately was called the cops and I didn’t do that.” So again, that’s said very specifically to get you on his side, but it’s only a partial admission of wrongdoing. It is not complete “mortification.” It isn’t admitting responsibility for absolutely everything. It’s giving you just enough that you think, “Ooh, okay, I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.”
JULIE ROYS 18:05
And then we get to what to me is the most shocking part of this, but it almost sounds like when he’s talking about it like, this is something he had to do. He takes the phone. Not only does he not call police and I just want to remind people on that phone, this was a phone that was left in a church bathroom. That means you’ve got–and it was a unisex church bathroom. So you’ve got women, you’ve got men, you’ve likely got children. Bryan Lorittsis a mandated reporter. He doesn’t report to police. That is huge. That’s the law. You have to report it to police. But more than that, now he’s taking the evidence home with him–the phone–for the evening. And he says, “You know, I don’t want to leave it at the church because what if Rick Trotter breaks in? He’s desperate and that phone’s gone. So I take it home with me.” He’s taking it home to protect it. Right? I mean, that’s the impression he’s leaving the listener with. Would you say that’s correct?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 19:08
I think that’s definitely the impression that he wants to give. I wonder if he’s in tune with Holy Spirit at all. Because that really clearly is irrational thinking. And what that can open Fellowship Memphis up to and the damage that can be done to further victims, until that telephone was secured, and until there was the ability to do forensic evaluations on that telephone, everyone on that phone is placed further at risk. We don’t know what Mr. Loritts did with that phone. We don’t know if he downloaded all of the images off of that phone as a way of holding something over Mr. Trotter’s head, not saying that he did that. But it just leaves so much open to suspicion when there’s an opportunity to get it locked down and put it in the hands of the people who can protect victims.
JULIE ROYS 20:15
And we’ll hear what happens to that phone in our next clip. So, again, Bryan goes home and he opens up the phone and he sees some thumbnails of videos, and notices that one’s very different. Instead of being shot in the church bathroom, it was shot in the bathroom of Rick Trotter’s home. And the person in the video that Bryan says he sees is his baby sister, not the one married direct Trotter, but another sister. And so what we hear In this clip, he describes his emotions and what he’s going through when he again opens this phone and finds that his baby sister is one of the victims. So take a listen.
BRYAN LORITTS 21:00
What particularly struck me about that, Seth, was you put it in a unisex bathroom, whosoever will let him come and you don’t know. But that one he specifically targeted. I go from devastated to numb. Now I’m enraged. And I’m headed out the door. And my wife’s like, “Where are you going?” I know this isn’t very pastoral, “I’m going to knock this guy out.” And she, my wife literally jumps on my back, restrains me. Next day, I bring the phone in. I give it to my executive pastor, Bill Garner. I give him these directives. “Bill. This is the phone.” I explained to him what happened. “I need you,” and we’ve got several staff members who verified this, “to call Memphis Police Department.” And I said, “I want you to call Child Protective Services.” Here’s why I said that. My brother in law had praise team rehearsal at the office. And I knew during rehearsals, a lot of times, those on the praise team were bringing their kids. And I wanted to go overboard because now I’m in shepherding. Like, I’m always a shepherd, but I’m like, I got to take the extra, like, I don’t want to leave anything to chance. And then–this is Friday, February 5–I hand him the phone. And I never see it again. What happened to the device? On February 5 in the morning, I walked into the office, and I gave Bill Garner the clear directive to call Memphis Police, Child Protective Services. I then handed him the phone. Never saw it again. Still, to this day, just don’t know what happened.
JULIE ROYS 23:00
All right. So now, to this day, we don’t know what happened to this phone. The last known person to have it is Bryan Loritts. Now the phone’s gone. There’s nothing. You can’t bring a case without the evidence. The evidence has vanished. But apparently, Bryan, you know, had nothing to do with that. So let’s back this up. He again talks about when he first finds out that his baby sister is on this phone. He says, “I go from devastated to numb. Now I’m enraged,” and he has to be restrained by his wife who jumps on his back to keep them from doing damage to Rick Trotter. When you hear that, Julia, what does that make you think?
BRYAN LORITTS 23:45
Again, that Mr. Loritts is characterizing himself in a hero position, and attempting again, to rally the listener or the reader to his side. He is intensely self-focused, which I want to bring that to the forefront again, because when you read or you listen to this and you recognize that this person is self-focused, it’s very important to connect to what is in this person’s self-interest. They are very self-focused. So they are going to do and say things that are in their own self-interest. If someone is speaking largely in a self-focused way, and acting as if they are really focused on the needs of other people, that creates a cognitive dissonance, because he’s displaying that he’s really actually about Mr. Loritts, but he’s saying I’m really about all these other people. I’m about my baby sister, and he’s engaging and describing his emotions: “I was devastated, numb and I became enraged,” to really find common ground with the listener or the reader, because most of us if we saw someone who was our loved one being violated by a sexual predator in this way, we would go through those normal emotions. I’m not saying Mr. Loritts didn’t, I’m saying that he is using that to have something in common with the people who are listening to him or or reading what he’s written, so that he, again can be agreed with.
JULIE ROYS 25:33
And you know, what gets me? if I’m that enraged, which I would be in that situation, I’d be calling the cops and making sure that this person is brought to justice. Instead he comes in, allegedly gives the phone to, interestingly enough, Bill Garner, who was an executive pastor. Before the narrative was that Brian Loritts had given the phone to his elders. Bill Garner was not an elder. So now that the story’s changed, and I wonder how many people even notice that the story has changed. But again, he says he gives it to his executive pastor and then he delegates out, supposedly, calling Memphis Police Department, calling Child Protective Services. Now let me just mention, the Memphis Police Department has no record of any call, of any report. Child Protective Services, they won’t comment on it. They say either it’s too old, or that only the people who are victims can request it. So there’s no evidence that he called them or that anybody else call them but again, he’s saying that they call them and apparently the staff are backing them up and saying Yeah, he delegated us to call them we’re going to call them but in that situation truly, who delegates this calling police and CPS in a situation like this where you’re enraged and you have to be held back to keep from actually doing damage to to your brother in law? Does it make sense that you would be in that condition and you’re not making that call?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 27:04
It depends on what your self-interest is. If you look at the totality of what he’s saying, what he’s building for himself is plausible deniability. I’m a mandated reporter. As a physician, if I become aware of sexual abuse of a minor, of inappropriate abuse of power and relationships, if one of my colleagues was having a sexual, was sexually assaulting a patient, I am a mandated reporter. And the role of a mandated reporter suppresses self-interest and moves ahead with reporting. So for instance, if one of my colleagues who I am friendly with was sexually assaulting another colleague or a child, I would have to put aside my care about relationship with that person–my own self-interest of relationship with that person–to do the right thing and report. And that Mr. Loritts elects to delegate demonstrates that he’s not actually that heroic, after all. And I know I’m being fairly brutal in saying these things about Mr. Loritts, but it is not in shepherding mode to delegate mandated reporting. It is not in shepherding mode to deflect potential blame to other people. He’s putting Bill Garner in the crosshairs and he’s really building plausible deniability. “I didn’t have the phone. I don’t know what happened to it.” The reality is, is that if he’s being dishonest, that says quite a bit about his capacity to shepherd a flock.
JULIE ROYS 28:59
And he says in here that the directive to call Child Protective Services is because, “I wanted to go overboard because now I’m in shepherding. I’m always a shepherd, but I gotta take the extra like I don’t want to leave anything to chance,” He’s like being overboard thorough here. But actually what we’re seeing is not overboard thorough. He never followed up. There was no report officially made.
BRYAN LORITTS 29:28
Rick Trotter wasn’t actually charged with a crime for a number of years. And so if, if I diagnose someone with cancer, I don’t just write it in a report and hope the doctor that sent me a biopsy reads my report. When it’s something significant–because as a physician, I have a role in people’s health–when I diagnose a cancer or something that immediately needs to be treated, I issue my report, I may, delegate X, Y or Z, but that’s I pick up the phone and I call the physician and say, you know, “I wanted to confirm that the lesion that you saw in the colon, that’s a cancer.” And I make sure that I’ve connected with that person. What I find very suspect about this is how is it that there isn’t a paper chain or a any type of record that anyone did call child protective services within Fellowship Memphis. Wouldn’t you think that if someone in Fellowship Memphis called Child Protective Services, that the elder meeting notes, even if they’re confidential that people would be able to say, “Yes, Child Protective Services now came to fellowship, Memphis. And the police came to Fellowship Memphis?” How is it that there’s this very concentrated period of activity, and then crickets?
JULIE ROYS 30:51
Yeah, yeah, completely crickets. And from your perspective, as a doctor, what happens to you If it would come out that you knew about there being some sort of sexual abuse, and six years goes by, and that person is functioning in a new job where they have access to children, where they have access to prey on people again? What happens to you if it comes out that you knew about it, and there was never a report ever made? Can you get off by saying, “Well, you know, I told my secretary to do it. And I guess it didn’t happen.” But I mean, what would happen to you if you were in these shoes?
BRYAN LORITTS 31:31
For medical licensure purposes, I would likely in most states, in states that have mandated reporting laws, my failure to report, I can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. So I would, that’s a criminal activity. And additionally, as far as my medical license is concerned, in many of the states with mandated reporting laws, I could either have my license suspended, I could have a period of disciplinary action, I would possibly be fined by the state licensing boards or I could have my entire license revoked permanently. I’d never be able to practice medicine again.
JULIE ROYS 32:12
And we’ve talked about this before in a previous show that we recorded about this whole issue of disqualification or of disciplinary actions, something for pastors, and there’s just nothing–this is a profession where you can do things like this–make a video, get people on your side, and now he’s an executive pastor at this very prominent church–nothing as far as repercussions ever happened to him. And, again, that’s one of the shocking things to me about this whole thing. Just before we move on to the third clip, what do you make of his denial that he had anything to do with this missing phone and basically, the destruction of evidence?
BRYAN LORITTS 32:55
I think that he’s very specifically not using the term, “destruction of evidence.” I think that he is making sure that he has created distance between himself and the phone. So that he is not suspected of doing anything with the phone either to protect himself or to protect others, including, you know, “I just wanted to destroy the phone so that no one could see the images of the, you know, 5, 10, hundred people who are on Rick Trotter’s phone. And this is just my opinion, I doubt the veracity of what he is saying, because the story has changed. In a shepherding role, you stand in the hot seat. You are that point person who has to be able to withstand the scrutiny. And you have to be able to demonstrate that you’ve done the right thing over and over and over again. And so it’s difficult for me to say yeah, that’s probably What happened? I think he’s telling the truth. But I think there’s enough in there to doubt that he’s telling the whole truth.
JULIE ROYS 34:07
There’s a very small circle of people that could have had this phone, the elders and the senior leadership. That’s it. None of them have come forward and saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m the one that got rid of the phone.” It just somehow disappeared. And we know that Bryan Loritts was the last known person to be seen with it. Besides, apparently, he’s saying Bill Garner. It’s shocking to me that this has been allowed to just stay out there with nobody owning it to this day. I mean, to me, somebody needs to own it.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 34:35
It falls within the circle of when people are intently protecting their own self interest. They’re not necessarily that concerned with the damage that it causes for anyone else. And so it’s this mentality of, “anybody but me.” And I don’t think that the anybody-but-me mentality is consistent with being a shepherd. So by saying Bill Garner’s name or the group of the elders names, unfortunately, Mr. Loritts is very willing for other people to be scrutinized and to pay consequences for what occurred with that phone so that Mr. Loritts doesn’t have to.
JULIE ROYS 35:18
Well lastly, we’re going to look at a third clip. And, again, Bryan Loritts apparently fails to file a police report concerning his brother in law, Rick Trotter. The church also though failed to notify the congregation about what Rick Trotter done for six months. So for six months, the church has a sexual predator, who’s friends with tons of people in the church, there are teenagers who have babysit Rick’s kids at Rick Totter’s house. No one is warned–no one–for six months and Bryan Loritts doesn’t deny that he knew about it and stayed quiet about it for six months. Instead, he explained his failure to tell anyone that whole time in the video, so let me play that and you can hear his explanation.
BRYAN LORITTS 36:07
I think a part of that narrative comes from, and I’ll speak to this, is is the level of secrecy. And let me tell you where that comes from. And here’s another thing. I’ve got to own. One of our first elders’ meetings, and I’ll never forget it, we brought in legal counsel. And somewhere Friday or Saturday, you’ll forgive me, I know there was a meeting between when it happened and Sunday. My question is, “Man, I got a great opportunity to, it’s a heart wrenching opportunity, but to pull the people into this, to shepherd them.” Okay. So legal counsel–I forget if they’re on the phone or if they’re, they’re physically–legal counsel is clear. “You cannot say anything. You cannot say what this individual did.” Now, here’s what I’ve learned since then. Here’s what I would do differently. I don’t want to villainize lawyers. Lawyers exist to minimize liability, Right? And in in that moment, I’m not thinking that. I’m just, okay, the lawyer said, “I can’t say anything.” If I had to do it now, I would have risked being sued by my now ex-brother-in-law. If it meant if it meant being vocal, I would have thrown caution to the wind. But this idea of secrecy, it wasn’t us trying to hide anything, Seth. I can speak for myself. It was following the counsel of the lawyers.
JULIE ROYS 37:54
Okay. “It was following the counsel of the lawyers.” “I wasn’t trying to protect my brother in law. I was simply following the lawyers.” Wow, this is one of the ones where I had to pick my chin up off my chest the first time I heard it. This is a valid explanation? You were following lawyers and because of that you didn’t protect your own sheep? That’s somehow excusable? I mean, I don’t I honestly in my way of thinking, I can’t fathom how he’s getting away with this. I can’t fathom it, but maybe I’m missing something. So Julia, how is he able to sell this?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 38:35
I think that Bryan Loritts is quite skilled at formulating narratives that make him a believable, sympathetic hero. And what you can see in this portion of this clip are a couple of things that are incongruent. But he’s continuing to ensure that there’s this triangulation of the hero, the victim and the villain. So he’s got that through-line of the story. He’s still got you really kind of coaxed into his point of view. Some things that are incongruent that I wanted to point out about this, he uses drama very effectively, and to the point that it can distract you from what he’s really saying. So then, “One of our first elder meetings, and I’ll never forget it, is we brought in legal counsel. And the big question is Sunday’s coming. So this happens on Thursday, February 4, and somewhere Friday or Saturday, you’ll forgive me.” Okay. Didn’t he just say two sentences ago, that it was so poignant for him that he would never forget it? So he’s giving you this impression that he’s got this detailed memory of what happens, but then he’s buying himself an out by you know, saying, “okay, I don’t remember all of the specifics.” He does this again when he says, “I don’t want to villainize lawyers,”
JULIE ROYS 40:05
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 40:05
but then goes on to villainize lawyers.
JULIE ROYS 40:09
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 40:10
Realistically, the lawyers are there to protect the interests, the financial interests and the liability of the church. That also those lawyers, if he’s a mandated reporter, those lawyers would have been required–or they could face disbarment–to remind Bryan Loritts that he’s a mandated reporter, and that he has to tell the police and that he does have to disclose risk within his church. Now, I will also remind you that in 2009, Bryan Loritts had a different sexual predator in their church, a man by the name of Peter Newman. So it’s quite possible that lawyers that they had engaged previously to vet that particular person were the same lawyers that they called. I don’t know. But what I do know is that this isn’t the first time Fellowship Memphis has come up against this issue. And deflecting the blame to another party is a simple way of creating that triangle of the hero, the victim and the villain. And it reminds you that Mr. Loritts is the hero because there’s someone else that’s a villain. It sidesteps that his own conduct was really not pastoral. It did not meet the qualifications of I Timothy 3, and it didn’t even meet the legal secular bar for mandated reporting in the state of Tennessee.
JULIE ROYS 41:51
By the way, Peter Newman, you brought that name up for those of you don’t know who that is, Peter Newman is one of the most infamous sexual predators the state of isn’t Missouri where the camp was Kanakuk or whatever, where he abused children at that camp, and while he’s actually awaiting trial is when he gets hired over there at Fellowship Memphis and does some things for them. And again, shocking that that happened under Bryan Loritts’s watch. And then again, this. And we’re supposed to believe it’s the lawyers’ fault, essentially. It kind of makes me think I mean, like, if you’re a shepherd, and there’s a wolf among the sheep, but you let that wolf stay in the sheep pen, because you’re concerned about the financial liability of the sheep farm.
BRYAN LORITTS 42:38
I think according to John 10, that makes someone a hired hand,
JULIE ROYS 42:42
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 42:43
and not a shepherd. And so I would invite Bryan Loritts to consider, given the series of events in your life, given your choices, is the pastorate the best place for you, as a vocation? Because these are very difficult circumstances that, Bryan, I think that you have navigated in a way that does not shepherd Christ’s flock. But I’m just an individual person. And that’s just my opinion.
JULIE ROYS 43:17
So we have him doing this same kind of bolstering at the end as well, where he says, you know, “If I had it to do again, I would have risked it all. I would have thrown caution to the wind.” Well, yeah, it would have been nice if you had been heroic and courageous at that point. But you weren’t. You acted very cowardly. That’s what you did. So don’t start talking about throwing caution to the wind. That’s not what you did.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 43:40
I think one of the things that he’s really trying to produce in this portion of his statement is that he’s denying that it was intentional secrecy, that he wants us to believe that he wasn’t intentionally suppressing evidence, he wasn’t intentionally suppressing information and that the information was suppressed because It was wasn’t his fault. So that’s really the take home from this is, “I don’t want you to think that I’m keeping secrets.” But there were secrets that were kept. And secrets that were kept, “It wasn’t my fault. It was the lawyers fault.”
JULIE ROYS 44:14
Exactly. I know our time is coming to an end. But I just last question for you. After seeing sort of this body of evidence with Bryan Loritts, knowing that he’s in a pastoral role, and he’s also being it seems groomed for a position of leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention, doing a lot of talk on racial reconciliation within the Southern Baptist Convention, how serious of an issue do you see in Bryan Loritts, given the way he’s behaved?
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 44:49
I think that Bryan Loritts is a talented orator. And I think that the decision of J.D. Greear and his church to hire Bryan Loritts and to have a media campaign that minimizes the sexual abuse that occurred in a former Church of Bryan Loritts’s, really endangers their, “Caring Well” manifesto. The SBC has had hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of pastors revealed to commit clergy sex abuse. And while Bryan Loritts isn’t being accused of committing clergy sex abuse, he was very related to the suppression of that information with a family member. And J.D. Greear, as the president of the SBC, speaking to people who’ve been abused by clergy, saying that we want to do better, we will do better. We don’t need a national registry or maybe we do need a national registry of pastors who have behaved poorly. When he says that and gives the Caring Well conference, and then turns away and pivots and hire someone with such a really challenging background, it does portray that J.D. Greear and his group of men will say one thing but do another. And so I think that’s the actual danger for the SBC is that it really limits the veracity and the authenticity of what they’ve expressed as concern about clergy sex abuse.
JULIE ROYS 46:37
Well, Dr. Julia Dahl, thank you so much for taking the time, not just in this podcast, but our previous podcast to analyze these statements. And really, I mean, I feel like you have armed us and equipped us to be much more discerning as consumers of these statements. So thank you. So appreciate it.
DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 46:56
Thanks for having me back, Julie.
JULIE ROYS 46:57
Really appreciate the time and Thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review and then if you would share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this fantastic content. Again, thanks for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.