This past March 17, Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and former pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, filed a lawsuit against the SBC, the SBC Executive Committee, and Guidepost Solutions for defamation and invasion of privacy.
In its annual meeting in 2021 SBC messengers representing the 50,000 churches of the SBC voted for a third party investigation into the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse complaints by the denomination”Executive Committee dating back to January 1, 2000. Guidepost Solutions was hired to conduct the investigation.
Guidepost’s 288 page report was released prior to the SBC’s annual meeting in 2022. The report claimed there were “credible allegations that Hunt sexually assaulted the wife of a fellow pastor during Hunt’s tenure as SBC president in 2010.”
In the filing Hunt’s attorneys’ with the Cole Law Group said, “After his term as SBC President had ended—Pastor Johnny [as many know him by] had a brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman. Some of the precise details are disputed, but at most, the encounter lasted only a few minutes, and it involved only kissing and some awkward fondling.” Trying to mitigate his culpability, Hunt’s attorneys said the encounter was “consensual and that it was a private matter” that should not have been made public in the Guidepost report.
Hunt’s attorneys seem to be saying he did something “inappropriate” and “extramarital” with another pastor’s wife, but he did not do something such as “sexual assault.” When Guidepost investigators first interviewed him he denied knowing the pastor whose wife he is said to have sexually assaulted. But when he was interviewed a second time he admitted to knowing this couple for at least 20 years and to having a “strong influence on said pastor’s life and ministry.”
The suit claims he “never entered the room” with the woman and had “no contact whatsoever” with her nor did he initiate the encounter, but admitted to having “some type of interaction” with the woman. It is difficult to know what did or did not happen.
Whatever the legalities and the truth about what happened aside, Hunt at first denied the allegations and later admitted to having a “consensual … brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman.” Hunt is claiming in his suit that a private matter became public and he has according to his attorneys lost his reputation and “substantial economic and other damages.”
There are other questions that linger in my mind. If the encounter was consensual, why did the woman file a complaint? Did he have the husband’s consent to kiss and fondle his wife? Did Hunt have his wife’s consent to fondle and kiss another woman? And most telling of all, did he have Christ’s consent?
A group of pastors said Hunt went though a “restoration process” and was fit to return to public ministry. I would think that restoration would include some humility and contrition, not a lawsuit against the denomination that helped make him the luminary he was. His lawsuit is an egregious betrayal.
In a January sermon Hunt said when, “God calls someone to do something, that calling can’t be undone-and God called that person, knowing that person might sin and fail.” Judas was called by Jesus to be His disciple, knowing he would betray Him.
Indeed, God does know what each of us will do, but that is never an excuse to sin.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise,” Psalm 51:17.