Johnny Hunt, a former president of the powerful Southern Baptist Convention and prominent evangelical leader, took to Instagram on Friday afternoon to apologize for what he calls “a brief, but improper encounter” with the wife of a fellow pastor.
Hunt, who spent three decades as senior pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, was one of the most prominent figures named in a independent investigation by Guidepost Solutions released Sunday that examined hundreds of cases of allegations of sexual abuse within the largest Protestant denomination..
The allegations against Hunt for the incident in 2010 sent shockwaves through Southern Baptist pulpits and pews. Neither the woman or the pastor were identified in the report.
In his Instagram post, addressed to First Baptist Woodstock, Hunt said he wanted people “hear the truth from me.”
He claimed the act, which he referred to as a “personal sin,” was consensual.
It was not abuse nor was it assault,” he wrote in the post.
The woman said she and her husband considered Hunt a mentor and spiritual father. In the Guidepost report, the woman and her husband said Hunt groomed them with flattery and offers to help with their ministry. In the report the woman said Hunt touched her inappropriately and later, “She locked the door after he left, and felt very shocked, confused, and violated.”
Hunt’s Instagram post said “Twelve years ago, right after my service began as SBC president, and in the aftermath of my battle with cancer, I entered into a season of deep despair and probably clinical depression. I remember Janet (his wife) asking me then how I felt and I said to her, ‘I feel like something inside of me has died’.”
It was during that summer, Hunt wrote, that he “got too close to a compromising situation with a woman who was not my wife.” Hunt alleges the woman, who is not identified, invited him to her vacation condo to talk and he went.
The report, though, contradicts what he says. In the report, the woman said he invited himself into the condo before allegedly forcing himself on her.
Hunt called what happened next a “brief, but improper encounter.”
The Southern Baptist denomination and its leadership have come under fire for the mishandling of reported cases of abuse and the mistreatment of victims, some of whom were vilified or ignored.
Hunt later served as as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board until May 13 when he resigned.
He said he was not excusing his actions.
The denomination and its leadership have come under fire for the mishandling of cases and the mistreatment of victims, some of whom were vilified or ignored.
Hunt’s inclusion in the investigative report both stunned and saddened those who have known him for years.
“We are submitting all of this to the Lord,” First Baptist Church Woodstock Lead Pastor Jeremy Morton wrote on the church website. “We truly need the Lord’s guidance. We desire for truth and righteousness to fully prevail (Psalm 27:13). Thank you for praying for God’s wisdom, grace, and leadership to be poured upon us.”
The fallout, however, is already being felt.
Recently, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin said he had started the process to disassociate the North Carolina campus from Hunt, whom he has known for three decades and who is also a graduate of the seminary school.
The Akin and Hunt families are close, he said.
“This is heartbreaking and more grievous than I can put into words,” said Akin.
In a letter on the school’s website, Akin said Hunt’s involvement with the school has led to his name being associated with an academic chair, a five-year bachelor’s degree and master of divinity program and a variety of other things. He is taking steps to remove or suspend his name on those programs.
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Credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office