A member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) has written a letter to his fellow committee members, urging them to investigate allegations that Bryan Loritts–a newly hired executive pastor at The Summit Church–participated in a cover-up of sex crimes.
In the letter, which was leaked to me, Pastor Dwight Easler of Corinth Baptist Church wrote that the allegations against Lorrits “put our credibility at stake as a committee” as well as “the credibility of last year’s actions.”
Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) created a Credentials Committee to address sex abuse issues and to determine if churches are in compliance with SBC beliefs on sexual abuse, racism, and other issues. (Earlier that year, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle found that sex abuse and cover-up was rampant in the SBC.)
Easler said he had listened to a podcast I broadcast last week, in which eyewitnesses accuse Summit, which is pastored by SBC President J.D. Greear, of conducting a “sham” investigation into Loritts’ past. Easler said he found the content “disturbing to me as an EC member and a Southern Baptist.”
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In the 4 years I have been on the EC I have watched us ‘deal gracefully’ with a person caught in immorality only to see them paid, moved quietly, and now serving in another ministry setting. I have heard nothing but a celebratory attitude from people regarding this. To be honest it has left me very jaded that there are some who are so quietly protected in our circles. The accounts of terrible leadership decisions hiding immoral activity seems to be an annual occurrence. And the accounts of these leaders then being quietly protected in order to save their legacy or the institution is just as common.
Though Easler said he was willing to “extend much grace in this scenario to Summit and its leadership,” he also called on the Credentials Committee to “do due diligence no matter who’s name is at the top.”
The EC is meeting today, but the EC will not be discussing Summit’s hiring of Bryan Loritts. According to Jonathan Howe, SBC Executive Committee VP for Communications, the committee’s agenda was set at the time that the meeting was called and can’t be changed.
I have contacted the chairman of the Credentials Committee, Dr. Mike Lawson of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas, and asked whether the Credentials Committee will investigate the allegations against Loritts. I have not heard back yet, but when I do, I will update this post.
Below is the full text of the letter Easley sent to the executive committee:
UPDATE: In an email, Mike Lawson wrote that churches reported to the Credentials Committee are not made public unless and until a final recommendation is made to disfellowship the church to the executive committee. However, The Summit Church has launched an independent investigation into allegations that Bryan Loritts covered up sex crimes.