(RNS) — Disgraced former Southern Baptist Conference President Johnny Hunt plans a return to ministry after finishing a restoration course of overseen by 4 pastors, in response to a video released final week.
Hunt, a longtime megachurch pastor in Georgia, was named earlier this 12 months within the Guidepost Options report on sexual abuse within the SBC, which alleged that Hunt had sexually assaulted one other pastor’s spouse in 2010. Guidepost, a third-party investigation agency, discovered the claims credible.
“We imagine the best days of ministry for Johnny Hunt are the times forward,” stated Rev. Steven Kyle, pastor of Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama Metropolis, Florida, within the video.
Kyle, together with pastors Mark Hoover of NewSpring Church in Wichita, Kansas; Benny Tate of Rock Springs Church in Milner, Georgia; and Mike Whitson of First Baptist Church in Indian Path, North Carolina, stated that they had labored with Hunt and his spouse on an “intentional and an intense season of transparency, reflection and restoration” in current months.
In that course of, Kyle stated he and different pastors had noticed Hunt’s “real brokenness and humility earlier than God” and deemed him match for ministry sooner or later.
The allegations in opposition to Hunt caught his many admirers abruptly. On the time of the Guidepost report, Hunt was a preferred speaker and a vp on the SBC’s North American Mission Board and was beloved by many SBC leaders.
“I’m heartbroken and grieving,” Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, instructed Faith Information Service in Could, after information of the allegations in opposition to Hunt was made public.
Hunt denied the allegations at first, then claimed the incident, which was stated to have taken place at a trip apartment, was a consensual encounter.
“I confess that I sinned,” Hunt stated in a letter in Could to First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, the place he was the pastor for 3 a long time. “I crossed a line.”
Neither Hunt nor Kyle responded to a request for remark.
As a part of a collection of actions meant to take care of sexual abuse, Southern Baptist passed a decision in 2021 saying that any pastors responsible of abuse needs to be banned from the ministry.
Within the current video, the pastors paid tribute to Hunt, saying he had achieved extra to assist pastors than anybody they knew. Serving on his non secular care workforce, they stated, was a approach of repaying Hunt for all he had achieved previously, noting that for years Hunt had run a program that restored greater than 400 fallen pastors to ministry.
Tate cited the well-known New Testomony parable of the great Samaritan, during which a person touring from Jerusalem to Jericho is beset by robbers and left injured by the aspect of the highway. Within the parable, non secular leaders cross the person by, however a superb Samaritan rescues him.
“After I heard about this case with Johnny Hunt, what rolled in my thoughts is, I wish to be a superb Samaritan,” he stated. “I certain don’t wish to run away from him. I wish to run to him. I wish to assist him.”
The video made no point out of the sufferer of Hunt’s assault or any efforts he had made to make amends for his actions. The pastors did point out that Hunt had gone via the same means of counseling in 2010 after the alleged assault occurred, which concerned “confession to these concerned.”
After serving as SBC president from 2008 to 2010, Hunt took a leave of absence on account of well being issues. The alleged assault and his preliminary counseling course of are stated to have occurred throughout that depart however no particulars have been made public.
First Baptist Church in Woodstock, the place Hunt is now not a member, had no involvement within the restoration course of, present pastor Jeremy Morton instructed RNS.
Previously, First Baptist had hosted an annual males’s convention led by Hunt, however the church is not going to host that convention in 2023.
Hunt, who now attends Hiland Baptist, was lately featured on the church’s “Unchangeable Fact” podcast, the place Hunt, Kyle and one other pastor talked in regards to the classes Hunt had realized.
Within the video, Hunt talked about his work in restoring pastors who had made “horrible errors” and thanked different Kyle and the opposite pastors for being sort to his household.
“We’re all damaged folks,” he stated. “All of us want Jesus.”
Hunt additionally stated he would stay accountable to Kyle and different pastors sooner or later however didn’t particularly deal with the alleged assault or make any apologies. Hunt did say that there have been “many issues I’d have achieved otherwise.”
“I can’t change the previous,” he stated. “If I might, imagine me, I’d. However I can solely study from it and transfer into the longer term higher for it, because of the hope of the gospel.”