This May, the Southern Baptist Convention released the results of a comprehensive, independent investigation into claims that its Executive Committee had mishandled decades of sexual abuse allegations. The report was shocking. Russell Moore, the former head of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (and a friend of mine), called it a “Southern Baptist apocalypse.” Writing in The Atlantic, I described it as a “horror.”
The report not only provided new information about old allegations, it also uncovered new claims of misconduct. Most notably, a pastor and his wife came forward and told investigators that “SBC President Johnny Hunt (2008–2010) had sexually assaulted the wife on July 25, 2010.” Investigators included the allegation in the report because the allegation was corroborated by multiple witnesses, and because investigators “did not find Dr. Hunt’s statements related to the sexual assault allegation to be credible.”
Hunt put out a statement on Twitter denying the abuse allegation. Five days later, Hunt put out a second statement, admitting to a “brief, but improper, encounter” with the pastor’s wife that he says he stopped “in response to an overwhelming feeling of conviction.” He did not confess his actions to his church at the time of the admitted “improper encounter,” relying primarily on Psalm 51:4, which states, “against You and You only have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight.”
Remember, these revelations emerged only in May. Yet in November a group of four pastors released a video declaring that Hunt was ready to return to ministry and that “the greatest days of ministry for Johnny Hunt are the days ahead.” The pastors were not part of any ecclesiastical authority, but according to them, Hunt sought their counsel and agreed to be and remain “accountable” to the group going forward.