Recently the problems inside the Southern Baptist Convention were on full display. As the SBC loses John Onwuchekwa a Neo-Calvinist African-American pastor in July of 2020; shortly beforehand J.D. Greear’s church hired Bryan Loritts in June of 2020. Loritts is an African-American pastor known for his alleged involvement in the cover-up of a voyeurism and child pornography scandal inside Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis in 2010. It is a tragedy and speaks to the corruption of the Southern Baptists when they lose individuals like Onwuchekwa while attracting people like Loritts who are involved in the alleged cover up of sex crimes.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
Martin Luther King
For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
2 Corinthians 2:4 NIV
Mark Dever, J.D. Greear and John Onwuchekwa
There is a sad tragedy unfolding in the Southern Baptist Convention. The way two stories unfolded revealed how sick the Southern Baptists are as an organization. It highlights how Southern Baptists struggle with racism as a result of Christian nationalism and are losing African-Americans. Meanwhile at the same time they are attracting unqualified and deviant individuals who have been involved in the alleged cover up of sex crimes.
John Onwuchekwa a Neo-Calvinist African-American Pastor Leaves the Southern Baptists Over Racism and Christian Nationalism
John Onwuchekwa originates from the Houston, Texas area. He attended and graduated from Baylor University and earned a MA from Dallas Theological Seminary. He became interested in urban ministry and picked up a Doctorate of Education from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. John became involved in the Southern Baptists and moved to Atlanta in 2009 to co-found Blueprint Church, where he served as a teaching pastor for five years. He then helped plant Cornerstone Church in 2015 which he leads to this day. John is a prolific author and speaker. Through 9 Marks he has published “Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church.” He has also contributed to “15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me.” In addition he has published quite a few articles about prayer at 9 Marks. He is a Council Member of The Gospel Coalition and has a lot of talks up at the website. He has published at Crossway.
On July 9, 2020 John Onwuchekwa published a post through the blog that Thabiti Anyabwile runs which explains why he left the Southern Baptist Convention. The name of the post is called, “4 Reasons We Left the SBC” and it is quite damning. His post starts out saying that he is not out to convince anyone and that he is speaking for himself and that the Southern Baptists were good to him. After that he lets loose in a moving blog post that points out the problems that exist with the Southern Baptists and their racism, history about slavery and also Christian nationalism with many embracing Donald Trump.
The Southern Baptists as he said were founded on the belief that slavery is Biblical. This is how he describes it. “In May of 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention began over the issue of slavery. The Southern Baptist convention was not merely a bystander of racism. Nor were they merely accomplices to this grave evil, as if they were merely “hanging around the wrong country against their parents’ wishes” and found themselves unduly influenced. Rather, this denomination was a leader in the persecution and humiliation of black people. They were architects, instructing its followers as to where and how to lay the bricks to build a wall of racial inequality that still plagues black and brown people to this day!” And then he gives example after example of how the Southern Baptists have failed to own their history of slavery. Then he goes into his next point where he states that Southern Baptists are not taking racial reconciliation as an obligation. Its not something they must do, they just have a passion instead. This is how he describes it. “The SBC undeniably had a systemic hand in perpetuating wickedness, and yet, its systemic efforts to restore and promote racial justice fall flat. Confession and repentance are not optional in the Christian life, and yet, on the topic of racial oppression in America, the SBC is not teaching its members to deal effectively with these issues. Its silence is deafening to those of us who feel the effects of this oppression every day. And those people are in my neighborhood. They are in my church. They are my brothers and sisters. They are me. Nevertheless, striving for racial equality and seeking to undo those evils isn’t seen as an obligation (something we must do), instead at best it’s seen as a passion project that one has the option to participate in. At worst, it’s seen as a distraction from true gospel work.”
Then he goes into his third point. He talks about how the Southern Baptists are too affiliated with the Republican Party and that many are supportive of Donald Trump despite all the racial issues that exist with the Republican President. This is how John writes about the situation. “Although the SBC represents a diverse array of churches across the political spectrum, the denomination conducts itself in a manner that is extremely partisan. (i.e. Influential churches vocal about pulling funding from the SBC when Russell Moore spoke out against basic human decency issues regarding President Trump in 2016; Pence’s invitation and subsequent address at the SBC in one of the most polarizing political cycles of my lifetime; Al Mohler, the President of the largest SBC Seminary and apparent incumbent President of the SBC, using his public platform at T4G to endorse President Trump and reaffirm his personal lifelong allegiance to the Republican Party…and the list goes on and on). Hear this, the only people that don’t believe the SBC has a partisan problem are those who have some allegiance to the favored party. Everyone in the world looks and associates the SBC with the Republican Party. The minorities among you believe it to be true.” The last point he makes is that the Southern Baptists are shallow in dealing with racial issues. Too many people are unified to prevent progress being made. “Allow me to clarify. In looking at where the Southern Baptist Convention is throwing collective resources to deal with issues of race, they are aiming where a lot of predominantly white institutions aim—racial reconciliation. Let’s fight for unity. While I’m grateful for series like the UNDIVIDED curriculum, I fear it’s addressing surface level issues instead of deep diving into the problem of race in America. Efforts like this focus on relational obstacles to unity instead of systemic injustice and inequality. Understand, unity is a goal, but unity in and of itself is not a vice or a virtue. Unity is a vehicle. The most important thing about a vehicle is who or what’s driving. Bad guys are unified—but their unity doesn’t do much good! To solely emphasize unity without addressing the sources of disunity (i.e., racial injustice and inequality) is to confuse the goal with the pathway. If unity is the goal, then fighting for racial equality is a pathway to achieving it.“
And then John Onwuchekwa drops what the United States military would call a bunker buster. What he says is that the Southern Baptist Convention is not a place for African-Americans like himself. This is how he writes about it. “WHO IS MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE DENOMINATION: A closet racist or a black man who openly cares about seeing racism attacked with the full force of the gospel? From personal experience, when talking about issues that are near and dear to my heart, I’ve heard the former leader of church planting for the Georgia Baptist Convention tell other people that we (Cornerstone Church) are not one of them (presumably Southern Baptists). I’ve never heard people of color have the audacity to say the same thing in return. I really pose this rhetorical question for you to consider. I know my answer and that’s why I’m leaving. I imagine others will come up with their answer. I’m not interested in debating answers. I am just at a place where I realize the SBC is not a home for me.”
And with that one of the most up and coming African-American Neo-Calvinist pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention walks away from the organization. His church is leaving the Southern Baptists. This garnered a lot of attention in religious media and you can read more in the Religion News Service, “Why John Onwuchekwa, a Black pastor and rising star, gave up on Southern Baptists.”
It was one of the darkest emails I received at this blog. In August of 2016 a victim of a deviant sex crime at Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis contacted me. She proceeded to tell me of a dark scandal. The Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis main newspaper also covered part of it. Bryan Loritts co-pastored Fellowship Memphis with John Bryson. Bryan Loritts brother-in-law was Rick Trotter who also led worship at one of the locations of Fellowship Memphis. Rick Trotter was also into voyeurism and recorded people including underage children and in the process manufactured child pornography inside a church restroom in 2010. Bryan Loritts knew about the history of his brother-in-laws voyeurism and sex crimes. Loritts own children were recorded and Bryan did not take the issue to the Memphis Police. Bryan banned his brother-in-law from his home but did not report him to the police or tell his church community. Bryan, out of his greed put his career and book publishing ahead of his own family. This blog considers him an abject failure of a man and a father. When Rick Trotter was caught one of those in the know wanted to tip off the Memphis Police to the sex crime. Bryan Loritts attempted to use a membership covenant to invoke church discipline on a person only to realize that the person did not sign a membership covenant. What happened under the leadership of Bryan Loritts and then John Bryson is that Fellowship Memphis covered up the sex crimes of worship leader Rick Trotter. The church went through the illicit recordings and contacted the women who were recorded and made them forgive Rick Trotter. Fellowship discouraged the females from going to the police. The crime was put on them and the church communicated that they didn’t want Rick Trotter’s life destroyed. And then they let him go where he supposedly went into sex addiction counseling in Georgia.
The scandal hung over Bryan Loritts and followed him around the country. Like Jonah Bryan Loritts fled the situation. Rick Trotter then went onto another church in Memphis in 2011 as a part time contractor and then went full time in 2015. He was hired knowing the situation that took place at Fellowship Memphis. He resumed his voyeurism for about three years inside a Presbyterian Church plant before he was caught. He was abruptly fired and the police were contacted. This blog told the story of Bryan Loritts, Rick Trotter and Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church. The Memphis Commercial Appeal wrote about it and this blog also has kept up with the story as Bryan Loritts has fled. Bryan Loritts has never owned his role in the cover up. Loritts continues to bully the victims in Memphis as he scans social media and has tried to silence them. The question that needs to be asked is does Bryan Loritts still have the child pornography from the situation? For a deep dive into Fellowship Memphis you can read the following post in, “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church” And you can read the Memphis Commercial Appeal article in, “Former Grizzlies announcer Rick Trotter reportedly recorded women at another church in 2010.” When I learned of what Bryan Loritts did in the Fellowship Memphis scandal I destroyed all the sermons from Bryan that I hung on to.
In late May 2020 J.D. Greear’s The Summit hired Bryan Loritts and white washed the sex scandal of Fellowship Memphis. You can read the letter that The Summit sent out in, “Bryan Loritts is Joining J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church on June 1, 2020. So Much For Caring About Sexual Misconduct and Sex Abuse Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.” This blog did some brief analysis of the scandal of hiring Bryan Loritts in the context of Caring Well in, “Bryan Loritts is Joining J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church on June 1, 2020. So Much For Caring About Sexual Misconduct and Sex Abuse Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.” Then I did a more in-depth analysis of the situation with Bryan Loritts in, “Due to His Narcissism Bryan Loritts Over-Extended Himself with The Summit in Raleigh-Durham. And How Loritts Hiring is The Most Important Issue Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.” In response one of this blogs’ sources wrote a response to J.D. Greear’s letter pointing out the problems and as a person affected by the scandal pointed out how Greear was whitewashing the scandal. You can read that in, “Wondering Eagle Exclusive: Fellowship Memphis Source Responds to J.D. Greear’s Letter About Bryan Loritts Allegedly Covering Up Illegal Activity of Rick Trotter.” Julie Roys did a podcast about the Fellowship Memphis scandal which you can listen to in, “Julie Roys Does a Deep Dive into Bryan Loritts and the Alleged Cover-Up of Sex Crimes at Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis in Her PODCAST.” The Religion News Service also wrote about The Summit hiring Bryan Loritts and the problems that came about. Then in mid June Bryan Loritts continued to lie his was through the Fellowship Memphis scandal.
How The Hiring of Bryan Loritts is Sadly Going to Reinforce Racism Against African-Americans
Here is the tragedy in Bryan Loritts being in ministry both at J.D. Greear’s The Summit in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Racism is a scourge in our society. Its existence goes back to the founding of the United States. Many of the racial attitudes that exist allowed slavery to establish itself and sadly prosper. We have never really had an honest and adequate discussion on slavery and racial problems. I realized and learned this when I studied history in graduate school. As a white man we also need to acknowledge and discuss that white privilege exists. I wrote about my own journey on the very topic in the following blog post called, “Reflecting on the Los Angeles Riots in 1992 and How I Came to Accept White Privilege Exists.”
I write all that above to lay the foundation for what I am going to say next. I felt that much of that needed to be discussed beforehand as what I will say is not spoken of lightly. When it comes to racism one of the issues that exists is the stereotype -which is both sad and tragic – of the African-American being involved in crime. It leads to racial profiling that is often unjust. And there are many whites who connect African-Americans and crime in their thought process. To do so is a travesty, and its something that I condemn as a white man. However the hiring of Bryan Loritts by J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church give him a platform which are only going to play to that racial stereotype when people learn that Bryan Loritts was involved in the cover-up of sex crimes at Fellowship Memphis. Its both troubling and an abject tragedy that a man would be given a platform who would then tragically confirm a stereotype that exists. Quite honestly George Floyd’s memory deserves a lot better and someone of higher integrity who could honor it.
Kudos to J.D. Greear of The Summit in Raleigh-Durham
This blog is impressed with J.D. Greear and the Southern Baptists. In the last few weeks you did some impressive work. You hired an African-American man who is embroiled in scandal and covering up allegations of sex crimes. Apparently its the “Gospel” for the Southern Baptists to hire someone who covers up the manufacture of child pornography and also voyeurism. The Summit did that because it believes they need to hire someone who can reach African-Americans in the George Floyd era. And while this unfolds with J.D. Greear one of the most up and coming African-American pastors inside the Southern Baptist who is also Neo-Calvinist decides to leave having enough with the racism culture and problems of the organization. Hire the corrupt pastor who covers up sex crimes while your culture drives away the African-American pastor committed to urban planting and who has a heart for connecting with African-Americans. Good job J.D. Greear, that takes a lot of talent. Keep up your efforts to reach the lost. After all you become more impressive by the day.