J. D. Greear, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, has led the charge against sexual abuse in SBC churches and its coverup. Greear has been accused of hiring a staff member alleged to have mishandled a sex abuse case, and a church policy that allows registered sex offenders to attend church services.
Greear’s church recently hired Bryan Loritts as a teaching pastor. Loritts and his brother-in-law Rick Trotter served on the same church staff about ten years ago when Trotter was accused of sexual misconduct. As a church leader Loritts initially interviewed two of the victims one was a family member.
Loritts was removed from the investigation because of concern over the appearance of nepotism, but it is well documented that he advised both victims to report and prosecute the abuse. It seems Loritts did the very thing Greear has called for as president of the SBC, reporting and prosecuting sexual abuse. I do not see the issue in hiring Loritts as a teaching pastor; his integrity is intact.
Greear’s church also adopted a policy that allows sex abusers to attend church services. Christians have a responsibility to restore the penitent, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1.
At the same time the church needs to protect the innocent from any attempted abuse. The church, and not just Summit Church, needs a common sense policy that provides the hope of restoration for the sinner and protection for innocent children.
Per Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling at Summit Church, “our policy is still to require perpetual supervision and full awareness by the campus security team, elders, and children/student ministry leaders for an individual under RSO
[registered sex offense]
status to attend a weekend service. All involvement or attendance in children or student ministry is prohibited, even if the RSO’s children are involved. Any involvement in an adult discipleship setting (i.e., a small group) requires the full awareness of their offense and consent of the adults in that setting.”
This policy seems to accommodate Paul’s injunction to the church to restore the fallen and to protect minors while in the church setting. Nevertheless, Rev. Ashley Easter, a spokeswoman for a group of abuse survivor advocates, said, “Abusers should NOT be allowed on church property during services and certainly not in serving/leadership positions.”
The Summit Church policy honors Easter’s perspective with the exception of excluding registered sex offenders from church attendance. While a heinous sin from the human perspective, sex abuse is not the unpardonable sin; it can be forgiven.
Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions,” Matthew 6:14-15. It is incumbent of the forgiven to forgive.