The Wondering Eagle would like to ask the question. Is the Acts 29 network exploiting racial reconciliation as they do church plants? From Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church to John Bryson’s Fellowship Memphis I believe yes, Acts 29 is exploiting racial reconciliation. In cities that have struggled with their past, Acts 29 only functions like a leach in profiting off the situation. They use racial reconciliation to launch a plant and profit off the pain of a community.
“The whites were afraid of the blacks!”
Travis Jones’ roommate at Virginia Union University in describing Acts 29 Remnant
“Religion is a means of exploitation employed by the strong against the weak; religion is a cloak of ambition, injustice and vice.”
“The roots of racism lie deep in man’s nature, wounded and bruised by original sin.”
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
Proverbs 26:11 NIV
This is a post that I thought about doing last year when I was writing about Fellowship Memphis. However, I was nervous about this topic at the time. When the story of Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church in Richmond came around, I realized that now is the time to pursue this topic. Racial posts tend to be sensitive, but this is something that needs to be examined. The question I would like to pose today is the following. Does Acts 29 exploit the African-American community when they do church plants?
Bryan Loritts, Church Planting in Memphis and the Issue of John Bryson’s House
Acts 29 launched Fellowship Memphis on November 2, 2003. Bryan Loritts was involved in the launch. I remember sitting in a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas conference in December of 2002 in Minneapolis and hearing Bryan talking about the upcoming church plant. Bryan, if I remember correctly, targeted Memphis because of its history of racial conflict. Memphis is a city that has struggled with segregation. Martin Luther King supported striking sanitation workers in 1968. On April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple he gave what some consider to be one of his finest speeches about being on the top of a mountaintop. The following day Martin Luther King was assassinated outside his motel. Bryan Loritts as I recall at the Minneapolis Christmas Conference talked about the history of Memphis and how a church plant was going to target the racial issues in the city.
When Fellowship Memphis started out in 2003 there was one location, that of midtown Memphis. The church as I understand it had a five year plan to do five church plants in five years. It was influenced by Tommy Nelson of Fellowship Bible/Denton Bible Fellowship. In the course of time while talking about racial reconciliation Fellowship Memphis planted churches in the affluent area of Memphis. The church moved to plant in East Memphis and Germantown. Then in 2016 they launched in Collierville. While speaking of racial reconciliation Fellowship Memphis has planted in affluent white areas. The church from my understanding is struggling and is losing people. In the last two months only East Memphis and Germantown added two or three members a week. Fellowship Memphis is in a long, slow decline. It is my hope that Fellowship Memphis will one day be closed. When Bryan Loritts was there, he played off the racial issue in how he spoke and engaged with whites. He often would speak down, say things like “you wouldn’t understand” to whites and then speak of racial reconciliation. Despite that Fellowship Memphis moved ahead under John Bryson’s leadership and went into affluent areas.
Under John Bryson’s leadership there was the issue of his house, and how he has been profiting of the racial reconciliation aspect. Memphis from my understanding is 63% black. The median income in the area is close to $37,000. The median property value is close to $100,000. Against all this you have John Bryson. John Bryson sold his house in October of 2013. You can see it on the internet here. This spacious 7,000 square feet house has five bedrooms and five bathrooms and is valued at close to $900,000. Far from the urban issues and decay that he speaks about.
Bryan Laughlin, Church Planting in Richmond, and the Issue of Laughlin’s House
Bryan Lauglins’ Remnant deals with a different set of racial issues. Richmond also has a dark history of racial conflict. Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy, and a few blocks from where Remnant meets is where slaves were auctioned off and sold. Its actually down the street from the train station where Buffalo Wild Wings is today. From my understanding of history Richmond had a very active slave trade, it was right up there with New Orleans. Acts 29 planted Remnant in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood. Today Shockoe Bottom has a population of whites that is 71% according to the research that I did. But Shockoe Bottom also has a history of African-American culture. When I was there and walked around and explored there were a number of restaurants and places that featured African-American culture. Remnant talks about racial healing and reconciliation but its just not there.
From how Remnant neglects the historic black college, Virginia Union University to how the church conducts itself, African-Americans have left Remnant. When I attended Remnant and observed the church I could probably count all the African-Americans on one hand. Those in nearby churches also have discussed this situation. After attending Remnant on that same Sunday I sat through a service of Don Coleman’s East End Fellowship. It was a very different experience. The congregation was incredibly diverse. If I were to take an educated guess I would say about 50% of the congregation was African-American. In reading, talking and researching this story I am not surprised that African-Americans leave Remnant and end up at East End Fellowship. After all if you were African-American wouldn’t you do something similar? Over at Virginia Union University the African-Americans there actively avoid Remnant. The feeling there is that “the whites were afraid of the blacks.” So Remnant will have no problem going into an area of the city with a deep African-American culture and history and instead of healing the city they will use it to advance themselves. Like the situation above with John Bryson in Fellowship Memphis, Bryan Laughlin lives in Carytown which is a trendy, affluent for whites and a comfortable place to live. He lives way above what is the median for Richmond and people that attend Remnant.
The Business Aspect of Racial Reconciliation in Acts 29
In Acts 29 the claim of racial reconciliation and reaching out to African-Americans is a part of their business model. In other words its how they do business. They will claim to want to bring about healing, or speak to the sin of racism. In the process they will neglect the inner city, plant churches in white affluent suburbs, and do a horrific job in reaching out to African-Americans. Bryan Loritts is smart and cunning and he exploited this issue well. He played off this issue well, and manipulated peoples emotions. After all Bryan used to speak to Campus Crusade for Christ about the same issues he spoke about with Fellowship Memphis. And all the while he still engaged in questionable activity, threatened people with church discipline and more. How bad was it that Bryan would ban Rick Trotter from his own house and yet send him to another church where he engaged in voyeurism. You can read about that in, “Why Would Bryan Loritts Allegedly Ban Rick Trotter from his House and yet Encourage him to go to Richard Rieves Downtown Church?“ He engaged in all this behavior on the side while pretending to be serious about racism and more. What would I consider to be serious by Fellowship Memphis when it comes to racial reconciliation efforts? Well the church would bypass the affluent suburbs and go into the run down areas of the city. If John Bryson downgraded his houses substantially and moved into the inner city and live there. When members of Fellowship Memphis see John Bryson’s old house I hope they will think twice before giving money to Fellowship.
In the case of Remnant in Richmond Bryan Laughlin is also exploiting the issue of racial reconciliation. He has done it so well that from what I have heard that Josh Soto is allegedly trying to deny his ethnic roots of being Spanish, and now acting white. Something is seriously wrong when you have developed a church model that has people at Virginia Union University afraid of you. There is also a problem when the African-Americans bolt for the doors at the first chance they get. This is a part of Acts 29 culture as this issue is not happening at places like East End Fellowship. What would I consider that would show that Remnant is serious about racial reconciliation and reaching out to African-Americans? Remnant would be more inclusive. Converting people does not also mean to deny their heritage or ethnicity. Another strong indicator is the following, instead of going to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, why didn’t Bryan attend Virginia Union University for a degree? Or is the perception that was explained to Travis Jones by his roommate correct? That Bryan is afraid of black people. In this culture you can better understand why Eric Mason up in Philadelphia is important, he gives a claim that Acts 29 is serious about racial reconciliation and facing like minded issues. The Wondering Eagle is unimpressed with Remnant and there is one question that I would like to ask. When is Bryan Laughlin going to Virginia Union University?
To Be Clear We Need Racial Reconciliation
In writing this post I also want to be clear that racial reconciliation is something that is deeply needed in the United States. We do have a problem with racism and recent events I believe only highlight the need of racial healing. From the situation in Baltimore with police planting evidence to the Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesvile, Virginia. We have a long way to go in this country in addressing racial issues. I write this post to point out issues in the Acts 29 network and raise some questions. In raising those questions I want to be crystal clear that I still believe we need racial healing. So I am not questioning that at all. I am questioning some of the activities of the Acts 29 network. In closing this post out I will leave you with Jessye Norman singing a classic Negro spiritual.