This post about Fellowship Memphis highlights an email exchange between me and Bryan Loritts in 2013. One of the questions I have is this…in light of the extremely disturbing allegations against Rick Trotter is the reason why Bryan Loritts wouldn’t speak out about individuals like C.J. Mahaney allegedly covering up child sex abuse because Bryan Loritts was involved in an alleged cover up of Rick Trotter’s deviant allegations at Fellowship Memphis? Also a list of gaps and questions I hope I can get answers for in the course of time.
“They don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.”
“Accountability is essential to personal growth, as well as team growth. How can you improve if you’re never wrong? If you don’t admit a mistake and take responsibility for it, you’re bound to make the same one again.”
“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14-15 NLT
Pastor Bryan Loritts sermon Jesus Above Ministry
In the fall of 2000 I started graduate school at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I threw myself into planting a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter and was the only guy. In the beginning it was me and four girls. I became deeply involved in Crusade (today Cru) and did the retreats, Bible studies and all the events I could. But there was on event that was promoted above all others. It was the TCX Christmas Conference. The first year I could not attend TCX but instead I attended the San Diego conference. It was there at 2000 that I remembered a speaker known as Bryan Loritts. I can still recall sitting in the conference room that was dark. But I was taken back by Bryan Loritts preaching. At the time and even today I still think he is one of the best preachers I have heard. His delivery is good, his engagement of the audience is exceptional. I recall him speaking about young people being indecisive. I still recall him challenging the crowd on getting active and almost yelling “for God’s sake get off the fence!” In 2002 I was able to attend the TCX Christmas Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota and he gave the same sermon there which I enjoyed hearing. During TCX I spoke with Bryan briefly and found him to be pleasant, affable and I thanked him for preaching God’s word if I remember correctly. I picked up his talks and I listened to them frequently. At the time I would listen to a lot of people and get my hands on tapes, cd’s and more. Over the next few years I would listen to that sermon from Bryan about getting off the fence time to time on tape. I still loved listening to Bryan and I enjoyed his preaching. Those days are a distant memory today. It was before I realized that evangelical Christianity had a major problem with child sex abuse. It was a time before you found yourself in churches that were dealing with corruption. It was a time when people church planted and did so with genuine reasons. It was before churches started to roll out membership covenants which are just another form of slavery. And it was a time before John Piper taught that women submit to their domestic abuser. Those days are largely gone today especially if you have been through a church abuse situation. Picking up the pieces of your life can be exceptionally hard.
Great Christina speaking about a wide range of issues at the Reason Rally including corruption in Christianity, child sex abuse, and domestic abuse.
A Faith Crisis and some Background for an Email Exchange with Bryan Loritts
In 2009 I started to have a prolonged and massive faith crisis that was brutal, terrifying and unlike anything I had expected. No expository preacher could have prepared me for the hell that the faith crisis became. It felt like I was physically dying and the more I resisted the more painful it was. In addition I had to deal with the evangelical culture which didn’t understand what was happening to me. I’ve written about those experiences here and here and as I entered what some have called a “dark knight of the soul” I found myself exploring atheism and looking at things from different perspectives. That was how my life was from 2009 until 2013. I ranted and raved about how Christianity is a cancer and I noticed how much of Christianity is dealing with severe corruption. In 2012 I went and attended the Reason Rally here in Washington, D.C. which was the largest rally for atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers and skeptics. At that event I heard atheists talk about Christian corruption and issues such as domestic violence, child sex abuse, and so much more. It was during this time that I identified with that movement, after all in addition to dealing with doubts like the problem of evil at the time, I was also watching the Christian scene and noticing all the corruption that was hemorrhaging out of it. It was during this time that I saw and was reading about all the spiritual abuse pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle and I was baffled as to why Christians were so silent about it. I was baffled and stunned and it helped feed my view at the time that Christianity is corrupt. It was also during this time that I had a co-worker who was witnessing to me and was trying to get me involved in a Sovereign Grace church plant in the Washington, D.C. area called Redeemer Arlington led by Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin. I was stunned when I researched and found blogs like SGM Survivors and read story after story of allegations of child sex abuse cover up in Sovereign Grace or C.J. Mahaney’s alleged blackmail of Larry Tomczak, or the spiritual abuse. When I read blogs like SGM Survivors and read all the spiritual abuse I used to think to myself at times “what is the good news of Christianity especially if there is so much corruption?” As I slowly pulled out from my faith crisis I was still noticing all the problems and corruption in Christianity. I was noticing the Evangelical Free Church of America being theologically hijacked and going into a fundamentalist direction that I no longer recognized. I was noting more of a Neo-Calvinism that is in reality a fundamentalism 2.0. I was noticing all these problems and then a thought popped in my head at the time. I used to listen and respect Bryan Loritts he spoke passionately about getting off the fence. Surely he would get off the fence for people who are allegedly being abused, silenced and more. So one night I decided to send Bryan an email asking him about a number of things. One of the biggest on my mind was all the allegations of child sex abuse in Sovereign Grace especially since I was being invited into that denomination. So it was one of the many things I wanted to ask him. Keep in mind I still thought highly of Bryan at the time so on March 16, 2013 I sent Bryan the following email.
I want to discuss with you a heartfelt issue that I believe needs
attention. You will not remember me but I sure remember you. I heard
you preach in Campus Crusade for Christ’s Christmas conference in San
Diego in 2000 and Minneapolis a couple of years later. When I was in
Crusade I was introduced to John Piper and became influenced by modern
reformed theology. But I very well remember you teaching how important
it was “to get off the fence” and make a decision for the Lord, and
not be lukewarm.
A lot has changed in the following years and after going through a
faith crisis I’m slowly putting together another faith in the Lord.
However this faith is separate from modern reformed theology. One of
the things that contributed to my crisis was following the teaching of
John Piper. It led me to make some career decisions I would not have
After being away from the faith for a few years and outside it I
became astounded by what I was seeing take place in reformed theology.
This is but a sampling…
1. Teaching by John Piper that women in marriage submit to physical
abuse and “being smacked around for the night” followed by a clumsy attempt to
re-explain it that really made the situation worse.
2. The ugly affair of how Mark Driscoll treated his Elders at Mars
Hill – Paul Petry and Bent Meyer which Jonna Petry wrote about at her
website Joyful Exiles.
3. The ugly affair at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where despite Mark
Dever teaching about the “9 Marks” to include discipline, membership,
Biblical teaching, etc…you had Mark Dever practice hypocrisy in
letting CJ Mahaney flee Covenant Life Church and take refuge at
Capitol Baptist Church. Mahaney thereby avoided the discipline,
violated membership, etc… and showed that that “Biblical theology”
really depends upon who you are, and that you can get a pass by being
in the inner circle.
4. Then you have the Sovereign Grace lawsuit. You have documented
cases of domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and child
molestation having occurred. You have a theology system that
protected pedophiles and refused to cooperate with local law
enforcement while hammering the families of those who were sexually
abused. You also have “cases” where a child – a three year old – was
forced to forgive her molester, and dragged out from her chair against
her will. I say “cases” because in this type of culture I refuse to
believe that this was an isolated incident, and with the class action
lawsuit still growing; I believe we’ll hear more.
5. Against the backdrop of the Sovereign Grace lawsuit you have many
people who have embraced CJ Mahaney and encouraged him onward. John Piper recently spoke at Sovereign Grace Louisville and The Gospel Coalition is having
Mahaney scheduled to speak at their upcoming conferences. No one is
questioning if he is even fit to led or teach with a growing class action
lawsuit hovering in the background. The only person who has spoken out about
his concerns on this situation is Matt Redmond at his blog. The rest of the
community has responded in silence.
As I move back into faith I must ask you…what happened to a
Christianity that stood up for the helpless, and the powerless against
the powerful? What happened to a Christianity that was concerned for
the marginalized and the hurting? I write this because I stumbled
across your blog and was encouraged by what you wrote about Doug
Wilson’s “Black and Tan”. Correct me if I am wrong but to my
recollection no one has really called to account what Doug Wilson has
I write this because I want to remind you of what you taught me. 13
years ago in a darkened ballroom in San Diego, California you
challenged a 25 year old kid to “get off the fence” and make a stand.
With all the hypocrisy going on with Sovereign Grace, Mark Driscoll,
John Piper, CJ Mahaney and The Gospel Coalition can I challenge you to
take a stand? Will you “get off the fence” and not be lukewarm when it
comes to child abuse, child molestation, domestic battery and physical
abuse? Really Bryan…for many Christians this should be a no brainer,
people should recognize this as being evil. It’s like slavery…Christians
should be outraged about slavery as much as they should be outraged
about child abuse.I hope you’ll respond to my challenge.
Bryan Loritts’ Response
This is the response Bryan sent me. I put it in here as sent on March 18, 2013.
thanks for your note..i found parts of it to be deeply encouraging to me personally! thanks again
you mentioned some very troubling things about leaders in the Christian community…i’m careful, very careful to comment on these things because for the most part I don’t know about them….and the bible also is clear to not receive an accusation against an elder except for the testimony of 2-3 witnesses- those who were actually there to witness what happened…in no way am i saying that you are not telling the truth, i just don’t know about the 2-3 witnesses part…
to be honest, david, much of your note felt “gossipy” to me…i want to encourage you to be very careful how you talk about these men, and who you share what information you have with whom…i don’t have a “dog in this fight”…i’m not trying to defend them…how could i, especially with what you shared was brand new to me. so i think the Christ=exalting thing for me to do in this moment is to not comment.
grace to your spirit,
Why Would Bryan Loritts be Silent on Allegations of C.J. Mahaney Allegedly Covering Up Spiritual Abuse?
When I got that note I was crushed. I used to respect Bryan and I was baffled as to why he would be silent about issues like child sex abuse, domestic abuse and more. After that experience I decided to throw away and get rid of all the sermons I had from Bryan Loritts. What I did do is I decided to give them to Dee Parsons who writes The Wartburg Watch. For those of you who do not know Dee Parsons and her writing partner write a blog that has been credited by Seattle media I believe in helping to expose the problems at Mars Hill Seattle and Mark Driscoll. It has also been a platform for issues in Sovereign Grace Ministries. So instead of trashing them I gave all of Bryan Loritts stuff to Dee hoping that she would write about issues in Campus Crusade and more. She still has those sermons and material and they are in her pile of stuff she uses for research. And I thought that was the end of it with me and Bryan Loritts until about 8 days ago.
When I was contacted by one of the victims in the Fellowship Memphis situation I was stunned by what I read and I felt sick. Then a few days later that email exchange between me and Bryan popped back in my mind and a new perspective dawned on me. It took four years to get an answer but this is the other thought I had. Is the reason why Bryan Loritts wouldn’t speak out about C.J. Mahaney allegedly covering up child sex abuse because he was allegedly involved in covering up allegations of sexual abuse and other issues at Fellowship Memphis? Is the reason why so many in the Reformed Industrial Complex stay silent on allegations of abuse because they too have been involved in covering up allegations of abuse and other illegal activity? Do pastors and ministry leaders engage in such activity and there is a code of silence to enable and protect them?
What about a Christianity that Speaks up for the Helpless and the Powerless Against the Powerful?
Today as a former agnostic (more likely an atheist) I have a challenge for the City of Memphis, Tennessee. Your spiritual house is in disorder and the corruption in the church needs to be dealt with. A pastor cannot preach the Gospel and allegedly cover up Rick Trotter’s deviant sexual crimes. I feel sick and numb, I approved two comments on the other thread today and I am learning things about voyeurism that are dark. I have sadly been learning things that I didn’t know people can and do do. But today I also want to say the following. To the people who have contacted me who were victims at Fellowship Memphis I want you to know I believe in you. The Gospel Coalition has their network, Acts 29 has their dominance, and I don’t care about the celebrity circuit or the latest book that is being published by Bryan Loritts. To all that I say I don’t give a damn. Here is what I care about and what bothers me deeply. The fact that a female used a restroom and in her most private moments someone was recording her for his own personal deviant pleasure. I swear I can just about vomit when I think about such behavior. But here is the other thing that troubles me. While Rick Trotter was allegedly live streaming at the Downtown Church my question is this…did he also disseminate material online or file share when he was at Fellowship Memphis? Two females in Fellowship Memphis were underage when Rick Trotter allegedly recorded them. Does Bryan Loritts or John Bryson realize that such images of people of that age which can be traded on the internet is not only the alleged dissemination of child pornography but that it leads some people to commit suicide? It so shames them.
To be honest I believe Bryan Loritts thinks he is a celebrity and to be honest I think he needs to dial it down a significant notch. The faith is suffering because of corruption like that in Fellowship Memphis. Such behavior is one of the many, many driving forces for skeptics and atheists today. If I were a pastor in Memphis and I cared about the Gospel I would be challenging this situation and pressing hard against it. Money, and networks be damned. The faith you claim to love is taking a major hit and your Lord is weeping over people turning a blind eye to all this behavior. Jesus cared about the broken, the least of these, and he was most concerned with the powerless and those that were helpless. Each of those women and children who were allegedly recorded at Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church are precious and valuable in the eyes of the Lord and both Bryan Loritts, Richard Rieves, and John Bryson need to realize the enormity of what they have done. When the reputation of the church goes before the people those pastors were supposed to serve then that institution failed. Richard Rieves, Bryan Loritts and John Bryson failed as pastors. They failed as shepherds, and they failed as men. The church in Memphis needs to challenge these men and ask hard questions. Its time, its overdue. The negligence by Fellowship Memphis has scarred many for possibly a lifetime. For many people the hardest thing is going to be going into a restroom or doing simple ordinary things that they once took for granted before their innocence was stolen. But here is the other thing that troubles me deeply…did John Rieves and Bryan Loritts not only put their congregations at risk did they put their families at risk because they were more concerned about the church’s image and publishing books and speaking at conferences than what Rick Trotter was doing? If they in their negligence are going to allegedly even put their families at risk it begs the question…why are they pastors? Many parts of evangelical Christianity have gone off the rails. Its become a business, an industry and Bryan represents that in that he was concerned more with his publishing books and hitting the circuit then what happened to a number of females who were hurt. That is garbage.
Its my understanding that Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch is going to begin to write about Fellowship Memphis, Acts 29, and Downtown Church this week. I have a number of questions to get into below that I hope former members can help me fill the blanks but I also want to say this. I think Second Presbyterian Church also deserves some scrutiny and posts. Given the relationship between Downtown Church and Memphis Second Presbyterian Church the question I have is what did Senior Pastor Sandy Willson know? Did Sandy Willson or the other leaders in Second Presbyterian know that a sexual predator came on staff at Downtown Church and choose to overlook this behavior? Is Sandy Willson and other leaders knowingly putting sexual predators in positions of authority where they should not be? This is me just doing analysis, the important thing about analysis is not the information you know but asking the right questions. I am going to wind down this post and say that I love you guys. The video at the end is a song I remember in Cru’s Christmas conference years ago. The questions I have below I am hoping people can help me fill in the gasp on.
Questions in the Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church Situation
- Did John Bryson and Bryan Loritts allegedly destroy evidence of alleged child pornography, either directly or by order?
- Was Rick Trotter allegedly videotaping kids in situations of baby sitting, sports activities or other situations?
- What role did Rick’s wife Heather play? Did she know about Rick’s alleged sexual problems and did she enable them? Did she ever discover footage and not go to the police when she should have?
- Did Bryan Loritts or John Bryson use Fellowship Memberships’ church covenant to help keep the women who were allegedly filmed in the restroom silent?
- Did Bryan Loritts or John Bryson allegedly threaten to use church discipline on the women who were allegedly videotaped?
- Did John Bryson or Bryan Loritts allegedly threaten members with church discipline?
- Were there other alleged sexual predators, or sexual offenders on staff or working at Fellowship Memphis or Downtown Church?
- Did Rick Trotter have other people who enabled his activities? Given what I am hearing on the behavior I keep asking myself did other people on staff or ministry choose to ignore the red flags and deep concerns?
- John Bryson was on the Board of Acts 29 along with people like Darrin Patrick. Did the Board of Acts 29 or Matt Chandler know about these allegations of criminal activity being covered up?
- What revenue streams or income is coming in that validates these ministries? I learned in the story of Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania that churches can have a key player or family that has deep roots that can hold sway over the congregation. Who is that for Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian?
- Where did Rick Trotter go for counseling? Who was his counselor? What was his 90 day program? Was it something that was highly questionable like David Powlison’s Christian Counseling & Education Foundation?
- What was Rick Trotter’s accountability at Downtown Church? Was it people asking questions or a filter? What was it?
- Were there underage females recorded at Downtown Church?
- What are the connections between Richard Rieves and John Bryson and Bryan Loritts?
- What role did Crawford Loritts allegedly play in all this? Did Crawford enable his son-in-law?
- Are there alleged connections between Memphis Police and Fellowship Memphis or Downtown Church which can affect or influence an objective investigation?
- If the total number of alleged victims at Fellowship Memphis is 100 what is the grand total of alleged victims at the Downtown Church after 3 years? 1,000 or 1,500?
- What role did the Elder Board play in both situations and governance? Is this a plurality of elders situation as well?
- Did anyone from either church try and interfere or prevent the Memphis Commercial Appeal from running their articles on Rick Trotter?