SBC President’s Church Announces Review of Pastor Accused of Mishandling Sex Abuse Cases
By Robert Downen
January 21, 2021
|J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, becomes emotional while talking about sexual abuse within the SBC on the second day of the SBC's annual meeting on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Birmingham.|
The church pastored by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear announced Wednesday that an outside firm will review the recent hiring of a pastor accused of mishandling sex abuses a decade ago.
The review of Bryan Loritts comes six months after he was hired at Greaar’s Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C., and after months of criticism from sexual abuse survivors.
Among the critics were those with whom Greear and other Summit leaders have worked closely as the SBC continues to confront sexual abuses detailed in a 2019 Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News investigation, Abuse of Faith.
In 2010, the worship director at Loritts’ Memphis, Tenn., church was accused of recording at least one person as they used the restroom. The man, Rick Trotter, was at the time Loritts’ brother-in-law and the announcer for the NBA team Memphis Grizzlies. Trotter was terminated from that position soon after, but moved to another nearby church.
After he was charged with multiple counts of voyeurism in 2016, the churches released a joint statement in which they said they “openly discussed Trotter’s prior sexual misconduct and the counseling he attended for sexual addiction,” according to media reports.
Loritts has since said he regrets some of his actions, but that he only spoke to two victims — one of whom was a family member — and encouraged both to press charges.
“I didn’t cover anything up,” Loritts told the Biblical Recorder last year. “If I had to do it now, I would have risked being sued by my now ex-brother-in-law if it meant being vocal. I would have thrown caution to the wind.”
“What I should have done immediately was call the cops,” Loritts said. “I didn’t do that.”
In its Wednesday statement, Greear’s church said it conducted its “own investigation” of Loritts’ handling of the matter prior to hiring him.
“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.
The decision to hire an outside firm, the statement continued, came out of a desire “to do everything possible to foster a culture in churches that are safe from abuse and safe for survivors.”
In a separate, three-page document, Summit said they “fell short of the mark,” apologized for “any confusion and hurt caused,” and promised that the review “will culminate in a fully public report.”
The church also released two other, lengthy statements outlining the timeline of Loritts’ hiring, as well as its contract with Guidepost LLC, the independent firm that will conduct the review.
“Our hope is that as we continue to learn and implement the best practices for responding to abuse allegations that we can do so in a way that allows other churches to learn from our journey,” the church wrote.
The decision was applauded by Rachael Denhollander, an abuse survivor and lawyer who has been advising Greear and others on sex abuse protocols.
Denhollander, the first person to publicly accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser of abuse, has for years said churches should use third parties to review allegations of misconduct.
“I’m deeply encouraged to see steps being taken, and for the recognition of why this step needs to be taken,” Denhollander told the Chronicle, adding that Guidepost, who she said she recommended to Summit leaders, “is a highly qualified firm.”
“The pursuit of outside expertise in questions related to abuse or the handling of abuse can be a critical component for churches and ministries seeking to create a safe environment for survivors,” Denhollander said.