Whenever I find myself in an exceptionally beautiful environment, I can't help asking myself – what lies beneath? I'm fascinated by the idea of a perfect surface concealing a rotten core. Sharon Bolton link
*Warning: Graphic detail on a form of deviant sexual behavior necessary to understand a church situation*
Note to lawyers: All incidents attributed to the characters in this story are alleged
If anyone would have told the Deebs that they would be spending time researching articles in order to understand the issues surrounding voyeurism and paraphilia before they started this blog, we may have joined a tennis team instead!
The next couple of posts will deal with what appears to be one of the most mishandled church situations we have discussed since Karen Hinckley and The Village Church. Of course, nothing will ever quite live up to the Sovereign Grace Ministries scandals but this one sure made a good run at it.
The cast of characters
He is the brother in law of Bryan Loritts and a former employee of Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church. He is also the former announcer for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association. On 8/9/2016 he was arrested on four counts of charges that he photographed someone without their consent at the Downtown Church. He has a previous history of doing the same thing at Fellowship Memphis in 2010 but was not arrested.
From what I can tell, Rick Trotter does not hold any college or seminary degrees. He apparently graduated from high school and had some interest in the performing arts as a teen. if anyone knows of other degrees, please let us know.
- Graduate of Tri-Cities High School of Visual and Performing Arts.
- Trotter worked as a restaurant manager at Chick-Fil-A.
This background apparently qualified him to be the worship leader at both Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church. It probably didn't hurt that he was the brother-in-law to Bryan Loritts.
He is the co-founder and former lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis.he then served a few months as a pastor at Trinity Grace Church in New York City. After that stint, he now serves as the pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in California. He is the President of the Kainos Movement, an organization aimed at establishing the multi-ethnic church in America as the new normal. He is the devoted brother-in-law of Rick Trotter who worked with him at Fellowship Memphis. he is a popular speaker. He recently spoke at Summit Chruch here is Raleigh and is currently speaking at Russell Moore's 2016 ERLC conference along with Matt Chandler.
He is the current lead pastor at Fellowship Memphis which he helped found with Bryan Loritts. He recently became a former board member of Acts 29 (he claims he just rotated off.)
This is a church which started in 2003 with the admirable goal of being a multicultural church in the heart of Memphis. Rick Trotter worked for this church for a period of time before being terminated in 2010 due to making a voyeuristic video of women utilizing the church's restroom.
This is a multicultural church in Memphis which started in 2010. According to the website:
Rick Trotter came on as Interim Worship Leader in August 2011.
He was terminated in May 2016 when he got caught kneeling behind a woman during the service taking a picture with his a cell phone.
Not involved but important to the story.
He is the senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. He holds an earned Bachelor of Science degree in Bible with an emphasis on pastoral studies. He claims multiple doctorates but they appear to be honorary. Please correct me if I am wrong. He is on the board of CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) and is a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. More importantly, he is a council member of The Gospel Coalition and is heavily involved in conferences, speaking, etc.
He is the father of Bryan Loritts and the father in law to Rick Trotter.
I could not resist this one. He is much beloved by The Gospel Coalition. Lecrae has also recorded some music videos with Rick Trotter. I feature one of them at the end of this post.
(He is) an American Christian hip hop artist, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is the president, co-owner and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records, and the co-founder and president of the non-profit organization ReachLife Ministries.
Theologically, Lecrae follows the Reformed tradition of theology and is considered an influential figure in the New Calvinist movement. He cites Tommy Nelson, John MacArthur, and John Piper, among others, as early influences on his Christian faith, and Lecrae even titled one of his hit songs, "Don't Waste Your Life", after the book of the same name by Piper. Lecrae explains that through Nelson, MacArthur, and Piper, he subsequently discovered Spurgeon, Calvin, and Francis Schaeffer, the last of whom Lecrae calls his "personal hero". Other theologians cited by Lecrae include Tim Keller, Andy Crouch, Randy Alcorn, and Abraham Kuyper. He also looks to Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiration on working out faith in social issues.
Some introductory thoughts on naive and dangerous church leaders
It is important to understand that this story has been reported extensively in the media in Memphis. Trotter was a public figure, serving as the announcer for the Grizzlies for the last ten years as well as working for churches and Chick-Fil-A.
What I am about to write is an overview of the allegations and the information that I have gleaned from reading multiple reports and talking with one anonymous, yet well placed individual. I plan to cover these allegations in excruciating detail on Monday and even Wednesday. It is deeply disturbing to the Deebs that this sort of response continues to exist after 7 years of reporting on sex abuse in churches.
We understand that people with obsessive sexual proclivities (pedophiles, voyeurs, etc.) are found everywhere, including in churches. What we do not understand why church continue to attempt to cover up these incidents and continue to hire folks who have been convicted of sexual crimes, believing , of course, that they have repented and have been cured. This is naive, dangerous and just plain stupid but I will leave further rants up to the readers who we think will have much to say.
This overview contains the allegation in this story. On Monday we will discuss them in detail while at the same time throwing in an interesting side story or two which may give some deeper insight into the situation.
In 2010, a video camera was found in a women's restroom at Fellowship Memphis. After some investigation on the part of Bryan Loritts and others, it was discovered that Rick Trotter was the one who placed the recorder. It allegedly showed a number of women taking care of their personal business in the bathroom, obviously expecting privacy.
Rick Trotter confessed to this and shared the videos which he had stored on his phone. At this point the story gets downright weird and upsetting. According to the Commercial Appeal, the church claimed that they reported this to the police.The police have denied receiving such a report. One victim claimed to have been told by church leaders that the evidence had been destroyed because the police told them to do it. (Ed. comment: Good night!)
They said they had already consulted with the police and they were told to destroy the evidence," she said.
The church informed the victims of what had transpired and asked them not to report this to the police because it would harm Rick Trotter's career.
The adult victim said they were discouraged from filing charges to avoid affecting Trotter's life and career.
"They said that no one would consider pressing charges because it would ruin his life and he had a family.
The women were told to meet with Trotter and his wife to discuss this.
After that, Trotter and his wife met with some of the alleged victims at their house, three of the alleged victims said, a process that at least one of the women refused to take part in. The church statement doesn't mention those sessions.
"They made us meet with him, with Rick Trotter. Sit down with him and his wife. That's terrible. I couldn't handle that at the time," said the adult woman, who left the church almost immediately after this happened.
Bryson denied the above accounts. He even claimed that no minors were involved.
In the statement, Bryson denied that any minors were recorded, and said the church "asked whether (the victims) wanted to press charges. The victims were also offered independent professional counseling paid for by the church. It is our understanding that none of the victims at that time chose to press charges."
However, the Commercial Appeal reported that at least two minors have come forward. I have also been told by an individual that there were minors involved.
At this point, Trotter was terminated from Fellowship Memphis and sent to sex addiction rehab, which was allegedly paid for by the church according to the Commercial Appeal.
After Fellowship Memphis leaders fired him for "inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature" in 2010, they supported his wife and children while they paid for him to get three months of counseling.
However, it is alleged that the church community was not told of Trotter's problem. One individual attempted to get the word out and was allegedly threatened with church discipline.
Shortly after this treatment, Trotter applied for a job as a worship leader at Downtown Church. According to the Commercial Appeal, Fellowship Memphis told them there had only been one incident (although that one incident involved in a number of women.) Showing a profound lack of common sense on the part of both church, Trotter was hired.
After Trotter applied for a job at Downtown Church in 2011, pastors and elders of both churches met and discussed his past transgressions.
They got his permission to speak openly about how he used his smartphone to secretly record women in Fellowship's restroom.
Downtown Church leaders spoke to his counselors "to determine the effectiveness of the treatment as well as his readiness to re-enter the ministry."
They met with Trotter and his wife "to assess his readiness to re-enter the ministry as well as overall health."
They gave him "an accountability plan" and hired him part-time. They hired him full-time in 2014, but only after he made "a statement of full-disclosure" to the congregation.
Their naive trust was misplaced. They eventually discovered Trotter taking pictures up women's skirts in church. Who knows how long he had been doing this? He has been terminated by both the Downtown Church and the Grizzlies.
Voyeurism is a paraphilia
I wonder if anyone at either church took some time to read about voyeurism. Was it blown off as just locker room behavior? Was Rick thrown a bone because of his brother-in-law and father-in-law?
The following discussion involves voyeurism which is practiced by a person who is over the age of 18 and has had this problem for greater than 6 months. Trotter's behavior is one sort of paraphilia that is concerning.
Definition of a paraphilia
Voyeurism is a paraphilia.
A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. A paraphilia can revolve around a particular object (children, animals, underwear) or around a particular act (inflicting pain, exposing oneself). Most paraphilias are far more common in men than in women. The focus of a paraphilia is usually very specific and unchanging.
A paraphilia is distinguished by a preoccupation with the object or behavior to the point of being dependent on that object or behavior for sexual gratification.
Paraphilias include sexual behaviors that society may view as distasteful, unusual or abnormal.
One type of paraphilia is voyeurism.
…voyeurism (observing private activities of unaware victims)
Criteria needed in order to consider this a disorder
To be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder, DSM-5 requires that people with these interests:
-feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval;
-have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.
From this definition we can see that Trotter was involved in activity that involved unwilling persons who had not given consent to this behavior.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for many paraphilias is not great.
Paraphilias have been found to be quite chronic such that a minimum of two years of treatment is recommended for even the mildest paraphilia
As was noted, Trotter received treatment for only a couple of months. Had both churches done their homework, they would have realized that Trotter was highly likely to re-offend, apology or not. However, they apparently gave little thought to the victims and instead thought it was way cooler to hire a potential criminal because he said he was sorry.
Voyeurism as a crime.
Here are some of the legal aspects of this crime.
Expectation of Privacy
One legal issue that often comes up in these types of cases is the expectation of privacy. This legal concept has been fleshed out repeatedly in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Generally, in order for the prosecutor to successfully prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect committed every element of the crime, he or she must show that the victim both subjectively and objectively had a reasonable belief in the expectation of privacy where he or she was seen or recorded. Locations where there may be a reasonable expectation of privacy may include in private offices where there is a door that can be locked, in locker rooms and in bathrooms. However, videos or photographs taken while in common areas in a workplace may not meet this definition.
On the criminal level, a person convicted of a crime related to voyeurism may face the conviction of a misdemeanor or felony, based on state law. The circumstances determine the degree of criminal conduct, such as the age of the victims, the number of victims and how the victims were recorded. A conviction may result in a jail sentence, requirement to pay a fine, probation and court-ordered counseling. Additionally, the offender may be required to register as a sex offender due to mandatory registration requirements.
In addition to any criminal consequences, an offender may also be sued for invading the victim’s privacy or causing harm to his or her reputation. Due to the serious nature of the consequences that an offender faces, it is in his or her best interest to consult with a lawyer familiar with sex crimes in his or her jurisdiction.
I, along with Deb and many readers, am sick and tired of celebrity pastors trying to tell us that they care for our souls when they blow off sexual predation in their midst. Even Al Mohler has been known to joke about such matters. Until I see churches within The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29 getting serious about this sin, their protestations of authority, etc. will be met by me with a vehement shake of the head and by my telling future church attendees to refrain from trusting their church leaders.
More on this story on Monday.