DURHAM, N.C (BP) – There is no evidence that Bryan Loritts discouraged anyone from reporting sexual abuse when he was pastor at a Memphis church, according to an independent review launched by his current employer, The Summit Church.
According to the report, which was released today (March 26), on more than one occasion Loritts encouraged reporting the allegations to authorities.
“Through our interviews, reviews of documents and reviews of communications, we found no convincing evidence that Loritts was involved in a cover up,” the report stated.
The Summit Church said in a statement that the independent review solidified its support for Loritts: “We trust Bryan, believe he is qualified for ministry, and have the confidence in him to lead at the highest levels.”
SBC President J.D. Greear is senior pastor at The Summit Church. When Loritts was hired as a teaching pastor in June 2020, the church said elders had completed an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations focused on Loritts’ then-brother-in-law, Rick Trotter, in 2010 while both were employed at Fellowship Memphis Church. On Jan. 20, however, the church announced it had hired Guidepost Solutions LLC to conduct a new investigation.
“The Elders were convinced that Bryan had not attempted in any way to cover up the incidents of abuse, to protect the abusers, or discourage victims from seeking justice for their abuses,” the church said in announcing the independent review. “After talking with the Caring Well team and desiring to do everything possible to foster a culture in churches that are safe from abuse and safe for survivors, the Summit decided it would be helpful to get an independent firm to review this matter.”
In a separate, earlier document, Summit leaders outlined their reasons for inviting an independent review after the church’s own investigation, including the goal to create “an open and confidential channel for victims to report and an independent investigative firm to evaluate that evidence.”
In its statement today, the church said Guidepost Solutions came at the recommendation of trusted advocates and has “expertise in investigations and assessing institutional processes and dynamics specifically related to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.”
Furthermore, the organization is “independent from any geographic location, entity, or denominational affiliation.” The 20-page report, which The Summit Church made public, addresses “the scope of engagement, sources of information, investigative findings and unresolved factual questions.” Guidepost conducted 21 interviews and reviewed police records from Memphis police, as well as Loritts’ emails. The firm spoke with three victims, who indicated Loritts encouraged them to consider pressing criminal charges.
Loritts served as pastor of Fellowship Memphis from 2003 to 2015. Trotter was fired from the church, where he was a music minister, in 2010 following allegations that he had secretly recorded women with a camera hidden in a restroom. The allegations became public in 2016, when Trotter was arrested on charges that he had taken inappropriate video of women during worship services while he was on the music staff at Downtown Church in Memphis.
According to The Biblical Recorder, victims alleged that Fellowship Memphis co-founder John Bryson discouraged them from going to the police. A Memphis Police officer told the Commercial Appeal in 2016 that a police report had not been filed in 2010 related to the accusations against Trotter.
“It was solely my choice not to press charges,” one victim said, according to the report by Guidepost. “I was not coerced nor persuaded not to press charges.” Another said Loritts appeared “shocked, angry and broken-hearted” and that he “handled the matter the way he should have” before he was recused because of his relationship with his then-brother-in-law. According to the report, the victim said “she would be ‘absolutely okay’ to be a member of a church that hired Loritts.”
The Summit’s statement today reflected confidence in Loritts while acknowledging “questions that remain unanswered in regards to what took place at Fellowship Memphis.” Among those questions are what ultimately happened to Trotter’s phone that was used to make the recordings and advice that Fellowship pastors received about the handling of the phone.
Reiterating the benefits of submitting to an independent review, The Summit and Loritts pledged their “full cooperation” should Fellowship Memphis decide to take similar steps.
“We are grateful for the level of clarity this report yielded,” The Summit statement said. “We also realized that learning to care for the wounded will be a continual journey. As a church and a leadership staff, we are committed to continuing to grow in understanding abuse, trauma, and abusive dynamics.”
This article was written by Scott Barkley, national correspondent for Baptist Press. It was originally published at baptistpress.com.