A deeply disturbing scandal emerges out of Memphis, Tennessee involving the former announcer of the Memphis Grizzlies Rick Trotter. Two churches – Fellowship Memphis (of Acts 29) and Downtown Presbyterian Church are ensnared in a deviant sexual scandal where Rick Trotter allegedly recorded women in the restroom. John Bryson and Bryan Lorrits have a lot of questions to answer and their neglect led to a lot of people being hurt at another church. Today’s post at The Wondering Eagle is going to be exceptionally dark.
“The biggest thing is that I am them. I paid to see games last year and I just want to bring that fan enthusiasm. I’m not just a guy who’s there and has a job, I’m a guy who’s passionate about the game, passionate about the Grizzlies, and I want it to be infectious, I want to pass on that energy night in and night out and really cheer our guys on.”
Rick Trotter on being the Voice of Memphis
“I was really upset. I asked about pressing charges, but they discouraged us from doing that. They really didn’t give us any of the information,” she said, adding that church members “weren’t allowed to talk about it. I tried to find out additional information as to what I could do about it. They said the only person I could talk about it with was a counselor, and they wouldn’t give me any more information.”
One of the victims quotes given to the Memphis Commercial Appeal
“They said that no one would consider pressing charges because it would ruin his life and he had a family. They said they had already consulted with the police and they were told to destroy the evidence,”
Another statement to the Memphis Commercial Appeal on how Fellowship Memphis leadership covered up criminal allegations. Again do men do that?
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2 NKJV
My question to John Bryson…when does being a man mean you cover up allegations of criminal activity? I want an answer to that question.
I sometimes check my email nervously because as I have learned you never know what you are going to encounter. Some of it is good, and other parts are dark. I deeply fear that one day I will get something that will be horrific. Last Sunday morning on August 14, 2016 I got a partial taste of that and it leads to today’s post. There is a deeply disturbing story out of an Acts 29 church known as Fellowship Memphis. One of the pastors allegedly put a camera in the restroom and secretly recorded females and children. One of the victims contacted me and encouraged me to write about this situation. I read her email after I got up last Sunday and what I read stunned me. I felt sick, and I was so disturbed by what I contemplated that I got lost on the way to church. Why? My mind was pre-occupied with what I had read. And I grieved for what she endured. The purpose of this post is an attempt to fill in the gaps. It appears as if the Memphis Commercial Appeal may have left out some information probably due to their lawyers. So let me go on the record that I will use the word alleged quite frequently but I believe the victims. I dedicate this post to the brave person who contacted me. Please know I love and care for you. Its for you that I will go to war, and its for your name and reputation and pain that I will challenge the Acts 29 network. I hope you know that you have a friend in the Washington, D.C. area. We are all part of the fellowship of the wounded, a fellowship of those of us who have been hurt and wounded by the institutional Christian church. Spiritual abuse is a sin, and its long past time we acknowledge and discuss and deal with it. If you are a victim at Fellowship Memphis I am going to encourage you to contact the police. I would also be willing to contact the police on behalf of any victims. Plus I would also encourage you to contact Amy Smith of SNAP. This is going to be a dark story and for some of you this will be hard. It is hard for me to write about. It is hard to stomach.
What is Fellowship Memphis? Also an Overview of Bryan Loritts and John Bryson
Fellowship Memphis came about in the summer of 2003. From what I am reading in my research it was planned to be a multi-ethnic church. Memphis is a city that has struggled with racial strife, and it is the city where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. So the goal was to create a different church. Fellowship Memphis was launched on November 2, 2003. In the course of time the church would grow to 4 campuses. Those four campus are Downtown, East Memphis, Germantown and Collierville which is launching in October 2016. In addition this church is also an Acts 29 network church. In the course of time there were two personalities who would be known and tied to Fellowship Memphis. Those individuals are Bryan Loritts and John Bryson.
Bryan Loritts is the son of Crawford Loritts and the two are not to be confused. Crawford Loritts leads Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. Crawford also spoke at Mark Driscoll’s Resurgence conference before Mars Hill imploded due to Mark Driscoll’s corruption and abuse. Bryan Loritts attended Philadelphia Biblical University, which was once known as Philadelphia College of Bible and today Cairn University. There he earned a Bachelors of Science in Bible and Pastoral Studies. Bryan is ordained but into what denomination I do not know and could not find that out in my research. Bryan’s first church after graduating was the Pastor of New Members at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California. He also obtained an M.A. in Theology from the Talbot School of Theology where he attended from 1996 until 1998 and in 2009 started working on his Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford Graduate School. After Talbot he went to Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California and subsequently moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and served as a Pastor at Calvary Church. He then was involved in the launch of Fellowship Memphis in 2003 and served at Fellowship for 11 years. There is much more to Bryan in regards to where he went to after Fellowship and I will get into that later in this post. Bryan sits on the Board of Trustees of BIOLA University. He is also involved in the Kainos movement which seeks to help with racial integration by creating multi-ethnic churches. Bryan, along with his father Crawford have been regular speakers on the circuit for Cru, which is formerly Campus Crusade for Christ. As one who helped plant Cru at Marquette University in Milwaukee that is how I know of Bryan. In addition he has also published several books to include, “Saving the Saved: How Jesus Saves Us From Try-Harder Christianity into Performance-Free Love“,”Right Color, Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Your Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic“,”Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King“,”A Cross-Shaped Gospel: Reconciling Heaven and Earth” and “God on Paper: The Wildest Story of Passion and Pursuit You’ll Ever Read.” Bryan also has a blog which you can read here. Finally Bryan has a wife Korie and three sons Quentin, Myles and Jaden. In today’s story its important to remember that Bryan Loritts is the brother-in-law of Rick Trotter, as Bryan’s sister Heather is married to Rick Trotter.
John Bryson is another pastor who helped establish Fellowship Memphis back in 2003 I believe. At Fellowship Memphis John Bryson preaches about the roles of women and how they have persecuted men. He has also taught classes on how to stand up to women, mothers and wives. On Mother’s Day John Bryson made sure that dish rags were passed out to all women who came to church. But who is this Acts 29 pastor? John Bryson comes from Harlan, Kentucky, and spent 11 years in Denton, Texas before moving to help plant Fellowship Memphis. His doctorate is in Leadership from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and he has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Seminary which I believe is Dallas Theological Seminary along with a Masters in Business from the University of North Texas. John Bryson has written “College Ready Student Guide” and writes “The Authentic Manhood Series.” In this page you can read of some of the locations that use “Authentic Manhood” from businesses, to churches to Ft. Leavenworth’s military prison. John also sits on the Board of Acts 29. When Acts 29 had removed Mars Hill Seattle and Mark Driscoll from the network John Bryson was one of the board members who signed his name to the letter. If you recall the final tipping point for Acts 29 was when it came forward that Mark Driscoll had taught that women are penis homes. He is a partner in Fellowship Associates. In last years review of all the Cru Christmas Conferences I refused to recommend the Denver Christmas Conference because of what appears to be a growing relationship between Denver’s Cru and Fellowship Associates and that it is taking a Neo-Calvinist slant. In addition he has a blog, which as of August 21, 2016 appears to be taken down. Finally he married his wife Beth, in 1994, and he is the father of Brooke, Beck, Bo, Boss, Blair, and Bayne.
Rick Trotter Introducing the Memphis Grizzlies
Who is Rick Trotter?
Rick Trotter was the former announcer for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Memphis Grizzles are an NBA expansion basketball team, and originally come from Vancouver, British Columbia. They moved to Memphis after the 2001 basketball season. Rick Trotter comes from the Atlanta, Georgia area and graduated from Tri-Cities High School. Rick Trotter apparently has been the worship leader for differing churches. He was worship leader of Fellowship Bible Church (Is this another church in the area or is this affiliated with Fellowship Memphis?) when he tried out for the PA announcer job of Memphis’s basketball team. You can read how he became the Memphis sports announcer right here in this NBA article. Also there is this interview with Rick Trotter about him being an NBA announcer. In addition Rick Trotter also was a manager of the Chic Fil A in Union Avenue these past couple of years. Rick Trotter was the worship pastor for Fellowship Memphis for a number of years. In this interview he explained how he got involved with Downtown Church formerly Downtown Presbyterian Church:
“I got connected with Downtown Church through a couple of friends who are the pastors and now my co-workers,” Trotter said on how he ended up at Downtown Church Memphis. “Richard Rieves is a life long Memphian who felt called to plant a church in his hometown that would represent the unifying power of Jesus between blacks and whites. That divide is one of many but in Memphis, historically and currently; the separation is prevalent and apparent. Richard is white and he knew he’d need black people to see him sharing the balance of power and influence in our church with minorities. The beginning of that step was asking Chris Davis, our assistant pastor, to join the ministry.
So, this church is lead by a middle class, white Memphian, empty-nester and a single, black, recent seminary graduate from Saint Louis. They needed a person with experience to lead the music and arts and I fit the profile and they fit mine. I love being a part of bringing others together. This felt like the right place for my family and me to lock arms with brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the color of our skin and other dividing factors.”
His favorite expression as an announcer was “Shot Clock Violated!” But as we will see there is a lot more that was allegedly violated to include safety, security and the lives of multiple women who were allegedly secretly video-taped in the Fellowship Memphis restroom.
Alleged Voyeurism and was Child Pornography Manufactured in an Acts 29 Church? Plus how it was Handled?
In 2010 Rick Trotter allegedly took a smart phone and mounted it on a bathroom wall in the coed bathroom at Fellowship Memphis. He then arranged the items on the book case to conceal the camera. One day, however, a church intern was in the restroom and noticed the bookcase was not level and they went to move it. In the process they found the camera – which was still recording – and then reported the incident to another church official. Rick Trotter allegedly recorded women in his home as well where he had a camera installed. The Senior Pastor John Bryson who sits on the Acts 29 Board allegedly reviewed and watched all the footage from Rick Trotter’s iPhone and claimed to have destroyed the evidence. Fellowship Memphis did not contact nor consult with the police as I have been told, plus that is backed up in this Memphis Commercial Appeal story. John Bryson claimed to have allegedly consulted an officer and an attorney. While I have no doubt that John Bryson contacted an attorney the part about consulting an officer appears not to be true. Bryan Loritts is allegedly involved in the destruction of evidence.
The next part is eerily reminiscent of how Sovereign Grace Ministries operated. John Bryson, and Bryan Loritts allegedly set up meetings between Rick Trotter, his wife Heather and the victims who were secretly recorded in the Fellowship Memphis restroom. Over and over Rick Trotter in these meetings allegedly apologized for the recordings. For the women involved the forced apologies were quite distressing, and one person refused to participate in it. Allegedly John Bryson and Bryan Loritts spoke with the woman and encouraged them not to press charges or to report Rick Trotter to the Memphis Police. John Bryson and Bryan Loritts allegedly claimed that if the women went to the police they would be responsible for destroying Rick Trotter’s life. This was especially true if the video that was allegedly recorded was played out in court. After all this happened Fellowship Memphis fired Rick Trotter as their worship pastor from the Downtown Church location (Don’t confuse this location with Downtown Presbyterian Church that figures next) . Despite Trotter’s termination the Memphis Grizzlies kept him on staff. As a sex addict Rick Trotter supposedly went back to Atlanta and went into “counseling.” The counseling lasted for three months and was paid for by Fellowship Memphis. I do not know which counselor or organization Rick Trotter used, and if anyone out there knows, please email me as I will correct and update this post. With all that Fellowship Memphis under the leadership of John Bryson covered up the deviant sexual behavior of Rick Trotter. While I am not certain if I were to take an educated guess I would assume that Fellowship Memphis did not notify the congregation of Rick Trotter’s behavior. Plus I would also suspect that when he was let go, it was spun for another reason, and not for the allegations of the deviant and illegal conduct. If I am wrong on any of this please correct me and I will update this section of the post.
Here is the other fact that needs to be pushed in this story. From my understanding two of the victims who were allegedly recorded in the bathroom were underage. One was 15 and the other 16 at the time of the recording. It would be safe to say that Rick Trotter allegedly manufactured child pornography by recording those underage girls. If this is true then John Bryson and Bryan Loritts allegedly destroyed child pornography as well. In regards to the illicit recordings there allegedly was a falling out between Bryan Loritts and Rick Trotter.
Bryan Loritts Brief Relationship with Trinity Grace Church in New York City, and Abundant Life Christian Fellowship
While John Bryson stayed at Fellowship Memphis Bryan Loritts was allegedly let go. He then went on staff at Trinity Grace Church in New York City as the Pastor of Preaching and Mission in early 2015. Before I get into Trinity Grace Church I need to fill you in on some background. Trinity Grace is the brainchild of Jon Tyson, an Australian who moved to the United States in 1997. Jon is well known for urban church planting and today speaks in a lot of conferences about the topic. As the pastor of Trinity Grace Church he was involved in planning five smaller missional communities which he calls the “city parish” model. In this format life is done locally and about once every six weeks the individual parishes assemble for a large event. It is modeled after Redeemer Presbyterian Church which is led by Tim Keller. Today Trinity Grace Church has eleven parishes. Those parishes are Chelsea, Crown Heights, East Village, Midtown, Park Slope, Queens, Tribeca, Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Washington Heights, and Williamsburg. You can read more about Trinity Grace Church in this article from Christianity Today and the New York Times.
According to what I have learned Bryan Loritts was at Trinity Grace Church for a year and he was allegedly let go. The circumstances of how and why he was let go are not known. Did Trinity Grace’s leadership become aware of what happened at Fellowship Memphis? Or was there an incident at Trinity Grace Church that was handled very poorly? I honestly do not know, and if I can get more information on that I will beef up this section. After Trinity Grace Church Bryan went to the West Coast and found himself back in Mountain View, California. Mountain View is in Santa Clara county. It is south of the San Francisco Bay area. Bryan Loritts first gave a sermon at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship on October 11, 2015. I wonder if that sermon was part of the hiring process or job searching that could have been going on, especially if Bryan saw the writing on the wall in regards to Trinity Grace Church. He was hired on as Elder and Lead Pastor and started preaching regularly on January 24, 2016. The title of Bryan’s sermon? The Church You’ve Always Longed For. (No you can’t make this stuff up…) I have a number of questions that I am quite curious about. Does Abundant Life Fellowship know about the situation at Fellowship Memphis? Are they aware of the serious allegations that continue to dog Bryan Loritts? These questions and more deserve to be answered.
Rick Trotter and Downtown Presbyterian Church in Memphis and More Criminal Allegations of Voyeurism
In 2014 he requested to become a full time employee at Downtown Church. Downtown Church is claiming that as part of his re-hiring he read a statement of full disclosure in which he admitted to his past sexual misconduct in regards to the alleged voyeurism. He worked in this position for some time. Meanwhile John Bryson continued to allegedly advocate for Rick Trotter’s employment in Downtown Church. In the fall of 2015 John Bryson allegedly posed with a selfie with Rick Trotter in which he said he was “proud of him.” Then in May 2016 some more allegations came forward and Rick Trotter was terminated.
According to what I heard, right before Rick Trotter went on staff as a full time employee he allegedly resumed his voyeurism. However, this time it happened Rick Trotter allegedly perfected his tradecraft. This time Trotter allegedly posted a number of cameras in the restroom where they were strategically hidden in the air vent, above the stall, hidden in the wall and more. These cameras were allegedly installed in differing angles. These recordings at Downtown Church allegedly went on for three years. Rick Trotter was also the general manger at the Chic Fil A at Union Avenue these past couple of years, and these allegations of filming women and children in the restroom also happened in the restaurant as well. This time Downtown Presbyterian Church fired Trotter for the upskirt videos and turned over his computer to the Memphis Police Department. The Memphis Police are allegedly going through three years of camera footage in trying to identify victims.
Is Fellowship Memphis Doing Damage Control? The Police Get Involved
After Rick Trotter was fired from Downtown Presbyterian Church the Memphis Grizzlies also fired him as well. Meanwhile the police also got involved and issued a warrant for Trotter’s arrest on August 9. He faced 8 counts for recording someone against their consent. His total bond was set for $370,000.
This is a listing of all he Memphis Commercial Appeal articles so far that exist.
- “Former Grizzlies announcer arrested, accused of taking illicit pictures”
- “Former Grizzlies announcer Rick Trotter reportedly recorded women at another church in 2010”
- “Former Grizzlies announcer Trotter waives arraignment”
- “Trotter arrest causes sickening day for Griz fans”
- “Geoff Calkins’ Take 5: Quick thoughts on Rick Trotter, the Grizzlies schedule and the MLK Day game“
- “Churches Tried to Help Trotter What About the Victims?”
Downtown Church issued a joint statement but then apparently took it down. They do have this other statement up, which as of August 21, is still posted. Fellowship Memphis’s statement is still up, and I snagged it and threw it into a post here so it will be preserved. It appears as if Fellowship Memphis is doing damage control and that their statement has deception in it. As it was explained to me the joint statement does not mention that Trotter and his wife Heather met with some of the alleged victims at their house. The Fellowship Memphis statement is trying to white wash what happened. Both John Bryson and Brian Lorritts need to be challenged on this aspect in my view, but I will have more to say in the analysis below.
Some Analysis and Fellowship Memphis on The Wondering Eagle This Week
The best point of view was written by Geoff Calkins by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. It amazes me that many secular organizations have higher standards and ethics than many churches. This is what Geoff wrote on the Appeal of August 10, 2016:
You go to the police. If you know or suspect someone has committed a sex crime, you go to the police. You do not try to handle it as an organization, internally. You do not try to persuade yourself it wasn’t that bad. You do not try and spare the perpetrator from the shame of discovery, and you do not try and convince yourself it won’t happen again. You go to the police. You report what you found. You do not confuse mercy with irresponsibility. You do not put future victims at risk. That’s a lesson we have been taught too many times over the last decade, and it’s the lesson of the Trotter case as well. If Fellowship Memphis had gone to the police when they caught Trotter taping women in a bathroom in 2010, would we be where we are today? Doubtful. So once again, we learn it. Go to the police.
Writing about Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania was hard. This story has been equally hard to write about. It boggles my mind that here it is August of 2016 and you still have to remind people to go to the police. Bryan Loritts and John Bryson have a lot of questions to answer. Years ago in a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas conference both in San Diego and Minneapolis I remember Bryan teaching about getting off the fence and choosing to do hard stuff for the Lord. My question to Bryan is when does a pastor try and silence victims of such sexual deviant behavior? When are victims pressured to be silent? Lets be clear here the victims didn’t destroy Rick Trotter’s life, he did – when he chose to install a camera in the restroom. Bryan Lorrits and John Bryson have a lot to answer for and I honestly hope that some of the victims from Downtown Presbyterian Church obtain a “Gospel Centered” lawyer and file a “Gospel Centered” lawsuit against Fellowship Memphis. This behavior is reckless and irresponsible. Bryan I would suggest is being like Jonah in his efforts at running from the mess. Fellowship Memphis’ behavior amount to gross negligence when you consider what eventually happened at Downtown Presbyterian Church. This week at The Wondering Eagle we are going to talk about Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church. The point of these posts is to flush out this story and drag it out into the light. As a part of this story I will be doing the following. In regards to John Bryson I am going to seek statements from regional Acts 29 leadership, as well as the Acts 29 board and Matt Chandler. In regards to Bryan Loritts I am going to seek statements from BIOLA, Trinity Grace Church in New York City, and Abundant Life Christian Fellowship.
Quite simply guys this crap needs to stop. It amazes me that evangelicals are so quick to talk about the gospel and cover up allegations of criminal activity. For those of you who claim I am going to be “gossiping” this week I will refer you to this post. And for those that say corruption should be ignored and this activity not written about I will refer you to this post. Again this post is dedicated to one of the brave souls caught up in this mess who contacted me. I want them to know they are loved and supported. I am going to have a hard time sleeping tonight after reading all the sordid details, but please know that I love you.