Monday, August 22, 2016

Fellowship Memphis Church hires crisis management firm after Rick Trotter's arrest

Former Memphis Grizzlies announcer Rick Trotter was arrested on August 9, accused of filming "upskirt" videos while women were kneeling at worship services at Downtown Church earlier this year. Stotter reportedly recorded women and minors at another church, Fellowship Memphis, in 2010, where he was on staff as a worship leader from 2005-2010. After the camera was discovered at Fellowship, Stotter was fired, but church officials did not report this incident to law enforcement, according to Memphis Police Department's Lt. Karen Rudolph. Two of Trotter's alleged victims that he recorded are minors. Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter under state law.  

Fellowship Church lead pastor John Bryson and Downtown Church lead pastor Richard Rieves issued a joint statement after Trotter's arrest. The full statement is here.
To ensure our congregations are fully informed, Fellowship Memphis (Fellowship) and Downtown Church (Downtown) have come together to provide a joint narrative with the facts as we understand them regarding Rick Trotter and his employment with our institutions.
Let us first say we are here for the victims. Trotter’s actions are contrary to our values, and we are deeply sorry for the suffering of the victims.
 Though Fellowship Church states that they are "here for the victims," their recent communications suggest otherwise.

The "independent outside firm" that Fellowhip Memphis has hired "to investigate any and all facts surrounding this matter" of Rick Trotter's alleged crimes is the crisis management firm Caissa Public Strategy based in Memphis and Washington, D.C..
Every organization is vulnerable to a crisis. From accidents or rogue bloggers, to product recalls or community relation challenges, crises can occur in many forms. Quick, well-thought out action, is necessary to protect your reputation and your bottom line.
It is disturbing that Fellowship Memphis has hired a PR firm to investigate information regarding allegations of criminal behavior during Rick Trotter's employment. Church members with information are instructed to contact Jessica Muntz at Caissa Public Strategy.
Her background in customer service and both television and radio news ensures that you and your project will always come first and get the visibility it needs. She's your eyes and ears on the ground.

Anyone with information about possible crimes by Rick Trotter should contact the Memphis police department, not church officials. Fellowship Memphis is directly soliciting information from members about alleged criminal activity at the church to be handled by a firm hired to help the church protect their brand in a crisis. Fellowship Memphis Church is placing their image and reputation management above all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear Watch Keep, Stay in Your Lane

Thursday, July 21, 2016

For Davey Blackburn, nothing is wasted, and the best yet to come seems to have arrived, only 8 months after wife's murder

I've written about Davey Blackburn here, here and here.

Davey is in the news again this week. He's writing a book. This comes as a surprise to no one, fans and critics alike.

The day after Amanda's murder, and while she was still on life support, Davey issued a statement that "the best truly is yet to come." The day after she was beaten up and shot, Davey started a fundraising campaign for himself (archived here). He live tweeted during Amanda's funeral that #nothingiswasted and 3 days after Amanda's murder that domain was registered by someone at Newspring for Davey. 

Today, Davey spoke live on stage at Gateway Church youth conference, a megachurch in Southlake, Texas. It was broadcast live on Daystar TV

Davey is not listed as a speaker and was not listed on the schedule of speakers. In the video below, a marketing video "Davey's story" begins to play at about the 14:20 mark. Take note that it is no longer "Amanda's story," it's "Davey's story" now.  He lies about his house being "broken into," failing to mention that he told police that he left the front door unlocked the morning Amanda was murdered.

At about the 38:00 mark, Davey begins a prayer time and discusses the need to forgive. Disturbingly, he mentions child molestation as one of the hurts that needs forgiveness. He does not mention victims coming forward and reporting sex abuse to law enforcement, seeking justice to heal and protect others. This is horrendous handling of child sex crimes. This is enabling and promoting a culture of abuse in churches.

Why does Davey Blackburn pick child molestation as the sins (crimes actually) that need forgiveness? This has significance for him. How?

Davey Blackburn Crashes Gateway Student Conference by LizzyJack

Earlier this month, Davey Blackburn's mentor and investor, Perry Noble, founder of Newspring Church, was fired as lead pastor due to "his posture toward marriage, increased reliance on alcohol, and other behaviors that were of continual concern." He is reportedly entering a psychiatric treatment facility.

In 2007, Newspring started a website and publicity campaign intended to attract people to a six-week series on parenting.
If you dare to visit the associated Web site, the picture gets even worse. NewSpring offers parents and kids a chance to publish anonymous confessions, which from the outset turned the site into a cesspool of rebellious threats and taunts. Children angrily accuse their fathers of being perverts. Young kids brag about sexual misadventures that their parents don't know about. The content on the site is bad, but don't blame rogue Internet writers for the voyeuristic dirt on display there. Instructions on the site make clear that church staff approve everything before it's posted.
A source tells me that Newspring Church approved these comments before they were posted on the website and made no effort to reach out to these kids or alert police. These abused kids were only used to market a "dumb sermon series."

Friday, July 8, 2016

Kansas City Southern Baptist megachurch -Westside Family Church- trying to “out” young sex abuse victims

KS-- Big KC church denies trying to "out" young victims; SNAP responds

For immediate release: Friday, July 8, 2016
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Officials at a Kansas City church are bullying two girls – ages 11 year old and a 13 year old and their mom. Now, the church’s lawyer is trying to deny the bullying.
A mother and her daughters are suing Westside Family Church in Lenexa. The mom wants to continue protecting the privacy and recovery of her daughters who were sexually violated by a serial predator who helped with Vacation Bible School.
But Westside wants a judge to “out” them and prevent them from moving forward as “Jane Does.” For decades, however, judges in the US have let crime victims seek justice while safeguarding their anonymity. This is especially true when kids are involved.
The church’s motion, filed in Johnson County Court, starts with this phrase: “Westside requests that this Court deny the plaintiffs’ motion (for) a pseudonym.”
It ends with this phrase: “Westside requests that this court deny the plaintiffs’ motion (for) a pseudonym.”
In between, the church’s motion says the alleged victims “should not be able to hide behind pseudonyms.”
Pretty clear, right?
But now Westside’s lawyer claims – in today’s KC Star - that church officials do NOT want to force these girls and their mom to put their names out there in public.
“We’re not looking to out these girls,” said Brad Russell, a lawyer for Westside.
Here’s what we said last week about this disturbing case, and why this hardball tactic
-- hurts this already wounded and still suffering family,
-- intimidates other victims from reporting child molesters who are still hurting children, and
-- deters witnesses, whistleblowers and others who suspect child sex crimes from calling police and other authorities.
There are really two options here: Let the girls and their mom seek justice while protecting their privacy, like courts have done for decades. Or force them to reveal their identities to the public. If Westside Family Church wins their motion, this already wounded family will have to decide – comply with the court order and the church’s wishes by disclosing their names or stop their effort to expose and deter wrongdoing.
For the sake of these girls, their mom, and others who see, suspect or suffer child sex crimes, we beg Westside to withdraw their hostile, intimidating motion.
We ask the public to consider this: What do you believe? What church officials put on paper in a written court document? Or what the church lawyer says later when facing criticism?
And we ask every single person with information or suspicions about child sex crimes and cover ups in churches or institutions – especially at mega-churches where there’s little or no oversight – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
Here’s what others are saying about this troubling case:
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Has Perry Noble been fired from Newspring Church?

I've heard that Perry Noble, Newspring Church lead pastor, was fired today and that it will be announced on Sunday.  Newspring is one of the largest churches in the country. It's a Southern Baptist megachurch. If confirmed, this is a huge development.

stay tuned...

I've written about Perry Noble herehere and here.


This morning I emailed Suzanne Swift, Chief Public Relations and Marketing Officer at Newspring Church, asking if Perry Noble has been fired. I received this reply this evening:

Hey Amy,

I would love to invite you to join us at church this Sunday to learn more from Perry and NewSpring Church. We will have services on Sunday at 9:15am, 11:15am, 4pm or 6pm at our Anderson Campus, located at 2940 Concord Road.

Suzanne Swift
Chief Public Relations and Marketing Officer
NewSpring Church


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Baylor, Baptist Churches and Change

As a Baylor graduate myself, my first thoughts are with the victims. I hope they are healing and know that they are not to blame and that they are not alone. How incredibly brave they are to speak out and now hopefully are heard. The institution that they should have been able to count on for support towards healing failed them terribly, causing unspeakable pain. Baylor chose to support and protect itself and image over the precious lives of these students. 

While this is certainly newsworthy, sadly, this skewed priority is an all-too-familiar guiding, operational structure among Baptist churches as well. Allegations of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults within churches, like the sexual assault allegations at Baylor, are all too often handled in-house and not reported to police. This is revictimization. Victims are blamed, perpetrators enabled, and more lives placed at risk. Sexual assault must be rightly viewed as a crime and reported to law enforcement, not just as sin or "inappropriate behavior" to be handled as a spiritual and behavioral matter by the church or managed by a football coach or university administration. 

There are churches who need to turn the spotlight on themselves and expose the truth, wherever that may lead. And then, like Baylor finally did, make the necessary changes that will hopefully lead to authentic change. Only then can churches begin operating as the Christian institutions that they proclaim to be, marked by the love and care of Christ for people, instead of the love of image of the institution as corrupt corporations.  

Baylor University Board of Regents Findings of Fact can be read here.

ESPN: Outside the Lines

Monday, May 9, 2016

SNAP statement on arrest of Newspring Church volunteer for child sex abuse

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Statement by Amy Smith, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests leader
Florence church youth volunteer kissed and fondled teen boy, police say
By Eric Walters, April 29, 2016, WBTW News 13
FLORENCE, SC – A youth group volunteer at a Florence church has been arrested for sexually assaulting a minor.
According to Florence Police Major Carlos Raines, a 15-year-old boy claimed Leo LaSalle Comissiong, 20, of Florence kissed and fondled him through his clothes.
The incident happened in February at the NewSpring Church on North Cashua Drive, Raines said.
Comissiong is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, 3rd degree.
A spokesperson for NewSpring Church, Suzanne Swift, released the following statement regarding the case:
On Sunday, April 24, 2016, a NewSpring Church staff member saw Leo La Salle Comissiong III enter an unoccupied room with a 15 year old. The staff member immediately entered the room and questioned Comissiong. Comissiong denied    any wrongdoing at that time. Because we take the safety of minors very seriously, we never allow adults to be alone with children or teens while on a NewSpring Campus. NewSpring Church questioned Comissiong again, and at that time removed him from volunteering in any capacity at NewSpring. After a separate conversation with the student, NewSpring staff contacted law enforcement. Since that time, NewSpring has fully cooperated with authorities and in this investigation.

NewSpring Church will continue to corporate with this investigation and we are praying for everyone impacted.

Perry Noble is the lead pastor of Newspring Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch headquartered in Anderson, South Carolina.

We are glad that law enforcement was contacted. Now, Perry Noble and Newspring Church have a moral and civic duty to aggressively seek out others who may have suspicions or knowledge of Leo Comissiong’s crimes and beg them to call law enforcement. With Newspring’s vast resources, we hope they will will spread this news and use church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and church websites to aggressively seek out others who Leo may have hurt.

This is how kids will be safer, other victims could be found and assisted in healing, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Youth volunteer at S.C. megachurch charged with abuse

A 20-year-old youth group volunteer at the nation’s largest Southern Baptist church has been arrested on a charge of sexually assaulting a minor.
Leo LaSalle Comissiong III is accused of kissing and fondling a 15-year-old boy in February at the Florence, S.C., location of NewSpring Church, a multi-site congregation based in Anderson, S.C. The church is ranked No. 1 on a LifeWay Christian Resources list compiled by LifeWay head Thom Rainer of the 500 largest Southern Baptist churches with an average attendance of 31,215 in 2014.