“You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like the defense on a football field, putting all focus on evading only one defender is asking to be blindsided.” Criss Jami link
In August 2016, TWW posted How Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church Mishandled Rick Trotter’s Alleged Voyeurism. Today, I am thinking about how the following statement, which ended that post, applies to Matt Chandler and the leadership of The Village Church.
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.
What did Matt Chandler and the leadership really learn from the Karen Hinkley mess?
You can read a synopsis on this situation here or you can read the many posts we wrote on the situation. Here is the bottom line. Matt Chandler apologized to Karen for saying that her child porn loving husband was walking in repentance and that she was sinning by having her marriage annulled. He seemed to indicate that he got sexual molestation and voyeurism through his experience in this situation.
Due to the following situation, I am not convinced that he understands the pain of victims.
Bryan Loritts addressed racial reconciliation for The Village Church
Bryan Loritts is now featured as a resource on racial reconciliation for The Village Church on a podcast for The Village Church posted on March 23, 2017. Loritts addresses this difficult matter in a talk titled How the Gospel is Our Only Hope for Racial Reconciliation. I am sure that his thoughts are helpful. However, the Bible appears to indicate that a man's life is to bear witness to his character. More on that momentarily.
In this talk, Loritts talks about love. He says that love doesn't ignore but calls out and that love has hard conversations. I am going to take his advice and do just what he suggests. I am going take him up on his teaching and call out The Village Church leadership.
The history of Bryan Loritts
Once again, I refer to our post How Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Church Mishandled Rick Trotter’s Alleged Voyeurism. The following is a direct quote from that post. Please pay attention to these folks. There are significant family ties between Crawford and Bryan Loritts and Rick Trotter.
Pay particular attention to the Acts 29 connection. Matt Chandler is the head of that organization. Also, Crawford Loritts is on The Gospel Coalition Council. Matt Chandler has close ties to that group as well.
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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 Church 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.
End of long quote
What happened to Rick Trotter and how does Bryan Loritts figure in?
From that same post, we now give an overview with what happened. If you do not understand the serious problems with voyeurism, a difficult paraphilia to overcome, read the rest of that post in which we give a short overview and links to understand the situation. Folks, it is far more difficult that you can imagine.
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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.
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Let's review the concerns in this situation.
- Rick Trotter confessed to Lorrits and Bryson that he allegedly was using a camera to film women in the women's restroom.
- Loritts and Bryson allegedly told the victims not to go to the police and even allegedly told them that the police said to throw the tape away.
- Trotter was terminated from his position, was sent to rehab and was rehired by another church.
- No one alerted the new church of this situation. Trotter allegedly offended again.
Bryan Loritts seems to have had no trouble hiring Peter Newman even after his arraignment.
TWW wrote, in August 2016, Peter Newman, Serving 35 Years for Molestations at Kamp Kanakuk, Was Allegedly Hired by Fellowship Memphis While Awaiting Trial. For those of you who do not know the history of Pete Newman, please read the entire post. This horrific pedophile who molested boys for years at Kamp Kanakuk, is serving 35 years in prison. More is coming in this situation in the future and we will keep you up to date.
In that post, we wrote about Bryan Loritts involvement with the hiring of Newman.
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In 2009, Fellowship Memphis apparently decided that Peter Newman would be a wonderful person to hire!!!!!
I want to thank the former attendee of this church for revealing the following information. Unfortunately, it seems to indicate that Fellowship Memphis does not take either child sex abuse or voyeurism seriously.
Due to previous friendships and employment, there was supposedly a connection between Fellowship Memphis and some of the folks at Kanakuk. For example, David Newman, Peter Newman's twin, who spoke out on his behalf, is a pastor at Antioch Church of the Y which is part of Fellowship Associates as is Fellowship Memphis. (We will be discussing this group in the near future.)
The following is the alleged timeline as best as our informant can remember.
- Spring 2009: Peter Newman leaves Kanakuk.
- Summer 2009: Newman is hired by Fellowship Memphis as a curriculum writer and is given a place to live.
- June 2009: Newman produces a written confession of his crimes.
- September 2009: Newman is arrested & then released on $50,000 bond along with a court order not to be around children but he continues working at the church.
- January 2010: Newman finally leaves the church to stand trial.
Our informant, having heard about the Newman situation, questioned Bryan Loritts about Peter Newman's position at the church. Loritts allegedly responded "It was just some skinny dipping thing." As far as our informant knows, the church attendees were not informed of Peter Newman's serious issues. Newman allegedly had full access to the church which, of course, has children.
Fellowship Memphis appears to have no problem exposing their congregation to a child sex abuser.
Peter Newman was hired by Fellowship Memphis. They had connections at Kamp Kanakuk and could have easily made a call to learn the issues surrounding Newman. Since they are supposedly intelligent men, I will assume that they checked this out. That leads me to believe that the church leaders at the time, including John Bryson and Bryan Loritts, did not take crimes of a sexual nature seriously, especially if the person involved has friends and family connections.
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To this outsider, it appears that Bryan Loritts went to bat for his brother in law. He seemed to bounce around a bit after he left Fellowship Memphis heading to New York for a few months and then out to California.
It also appears that groups like TGC and Acts 29 go to bat for their boys. In fact, if you read the quotes posts as well as here and here, you can read of the incredible ties between these churches, Acts 29, The Gospel™ Coalition, and some other groups such as Fellowship Associates and Authentic Manhood. It is really quite stunning to me. Never forget that a couple of leading members of TGC were staunch supporters of CJ Mahaney.
Rick Trotter Update
In November 2016, The Commercial Appeal posted Rick Trotter case heads to grand jury. He is currently out on $70,000 bond. ding his case to a grand jury to decide about an indictment.
Former Memphis Grizzlies announcer Rick Trotter waived a preliminary hearing Monday, binding his case to a grand jury to decide about an indictment.
Fellowship Church update
From WMC5 News, Fellowship Church hires crisis management team following Rick Trotter's arrest. Amy Smith gave a public comment on behalf of SNAP.(Yay Amy!)
Representatives with the firm confirm they are looking into the Rick Trotter investigation, but said it is not a public relations firm, but instead, a law firm that handles public strategy. Their website, though, displays services like reputation protection and crisis management.
Amy Smith, a volunteer leader with a national group called Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, was contacted by members of the church.
"It feels like a use of intimidation and, also, a loss of trust," Smith said.
More focus should be on building the case against Trotter, not building a better image for the church, Smith added.
"I've seen this play out before," she said. "What happens when the church is prioritizing its reputation and brand management over victims."
I am weary of the number of allegations about the covering up of sex abuse, paraphilias, etc. in churches. There is one way, and one way only, to deal with this problem. Churches must call the police and let them investigate. Stop covering up for tribal dudebros. It is not the fault of a church that a person with this predilection shows up. It is the fault of the church for not dealing with it in a straight forward matter.
It is possible that Chandler did not know of this situation with Loritts. That would make me concerned. He is the head of Acts 29. This is a related church. If he cannot keep up with all of his irons in the fire, he should delegate things like this to those who do have the time.
When there is an ongoing investigation, churches and Christian organizations should refrain from featuring men who have allegedly not taken this sort of situation seriously. Did Matt Chandler ever imagine how the victims of Rick Trotter's activities might feel when he featured a man who allegedly covered up his brother in law's activities? Think first about the victims for a change!
As far as I am concerned, The Village Church, along with many other churches, have a long way to go before they *get it.*