Cornerstone Lodi is an Evangelical Free Church in Lodi, California. This church is actually using the Authentic Manhood program in its Men’s Accountability Group. This blog told the story of John Bryson and the voyeurism and child pornography scandal at Fellowship Memphis. I am still baffled why churches like Cornerstone would use the teachings of a man who played a role in covering up an abuse situation at an Acts 29 church in Tennessee.
“To have done no man a wrong to walk and live, unseduced, within arm’s length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude this is to be a man. “
Orison Swett Marden
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
Psalm 103:17-18 NIV
Yosemite at dusk
One aspect that I find profoundly discouraging about evangelicalism is the inability of many evangelicals to think critically and look deep into the material they use. Honestly I can’t tell you how many times I find churches using questionable material from ministries plagued in scandal, or illegal activities. In looking at the website for Cornerstone Lodi, an Evangelical Free Church in Lodi, California I came across another situation. The Men’s Accountability Program is using the Authentic Manhood series which is taught by John Bryson from Fellowship Memphis. It should be documented that Cornerstone is led by Mark Miller who has been at the church since 2003.
What is Authentic Manhood?
Authentic Manhood is led by Steve Snider who is the president and the ministry is based out of Little Rock, Arkansas. The Authentic Manhood program is popular with a lot of Acts 29 churches who use this material. Acts 29, which has a hyper masculine view of what it means to be a man, has a very patriarchal system in place. Men claim their kingdoms, are the head of the households and their wives submit to what they say. They model what it means to be a man. Inside the Authentic Manhood program one of the main teachers is John Bryson. John Bryson is the lead pastor at Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. It was under the leadership of both Bryan Loritts and John Bryson that a dark scandal took place. It remains one of the most troubling incidents that this blog reported on.
John Bryson is proud of Rick Trotter
Remembering a Dark Scandal at John Bryson’s Fellowship Memphis
In 2010 the worship pastor at Fellowship Memphis was Rick Trotter. Rick was into voyeurism and he put his smart phone in the church restroom and started to record people in their most private moments. In time the camera was found and it was brought to the leadership of Fellowship Memphis. It was learned that a large number of females and two underage children were recorded. What had happened is that the worship pastor had allegedly made child pornography inside a church. The leadership of Fellowship which included John Bryson did not contact the Memphis Police about the sex crimes allegations. Instead this church went into damage control to conceal the alleged crime. John Bryson and Bryan Loritts allegedly took the women and had them met with the worship pastor. They made them forgive him, and they were discouraged from going to the police. The victims were told that they would be responsible for destroying Rick Trotter’s life. The worship pastor was let go quietly, he did read a statement before leaving but the alleged crime was concealed and Rick Trotter moved on. In 2011 Rick Trotter subcontracted with a church plant in Memphis called Downtown Church. Fellowship Memphis encouraged Downtown Church to bring on Rick Trotter. Downtown knew about some of the alleged sex crimes if my memory is correct. In 2014 he became a full time employee and he resumed voyeurism in this church. From 2014 until 2016 he engaged in voyeurism and perfected his tradecraft. He was caught when he made an upskirt video during a worship. He was fired, the Memphis Police were contacted and he was processed and served a minor amount of time. You can read more about the scandal in, “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” You can find the newspaper articles embedded by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Plus you can read what one of the victims who was recorded in the restroom wrote about John Bryson in, “Is Covering Up Abuse Authentic Manhood?” You can read about Rick Trotter being sentenced in, “Rick Trotter is Sentenced for Illegally Recording “UpSkirt” Videos at Richard Rieves Downtown Church and Goes on the Tennessee Sex Offender List; Plus Bryan Loritts Speaking Commitments Including my Former Church in California, The Bridge Fresno.” The Memphis Commercial Appela dragged out part of the story, while this blog, The Wondering Eagle dragged out the rest.
What Does it Mean to be a Man?
So here is the question I would like to ask Mark Miller and Matt Springer who leads the Men’s Accountability Group at Cornerstone. Why is Cornerstone using material from a pastor like John Bryson, in their church? Why is John Bryson even qualified to preach after what happened in Memphis? And the criminal allegations that went down. As Jennifer Martinez asked, is covering up abuse what Authentic Manhood is about?
Inside evangelicalism I think its a movement that is deeply insecure about being a man. They feel like they have to pound their chest, be aggressive, be assertive and more. When in reality those who are men don’t boast about it. They do things in silence and they are responsible for their actions. Men aren’t proud to where they are conceited. They care, have compassion and look out for other people. Their actions speak louder than words and encourage people at all times. That is what it means to be a man. If Cornerstone Lodi is going to be using material from a man who was involved in covering up abuse then I would suggest that they do not know what it means to be a man either. This is a brief post but given the time and energy I put into covering Fellowship Memphis I still feel a responsibility to raise this issue when I see churches like Cornerstone use the Authentic Manhood program.