One of Southern Baptists’ popular preachers, Johnny Hunt, has found himself in a “he said, she said” situation but resigned from his executive vice president role at the North American Mission Board before the news broke.
(This article was originally posted May 22 and remains intact as first written, but see the end of the article for a link to the May 27 letter to FBC Woodstock from Hunt clarifying his initial response and a link to the June 3 letter to church members noting Hunt’s pastor emeritus title being suspended.)
“To put it bluntly: I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report. I have never abused anybody,” Hunt shared today (May 22). His statement follows the release of the findings by Guidepost Solutions’ investigation into the handling of sexual abuse allegations within the SBC, results that included accusations against him. For more on the investigation, the Sexual Abuse Task Force and access to the full report, follow articles posted in the Latest News category at thebaptistpaper.org.
Hunt, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Georgia, and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (2008–2010), resigned as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at NAMB on May 13, a NAMB spokesperson confirmed after the Guidepost report was made public May 22.
The spokesperson also shared a statement by NAMB president Kevin Ezell, “On Friday, May 13, prior to my knowledge of the report’s detailed allegations, Johnny Hunt resigned. … His resignation was effective immediately. Out of respect for the investigation of the SBC Executive Committee, we chose not to speak publicly about this resignation until after the task force report was released.
“Prior to May 13, I was not aware of any alleged misconduct on the part of Johnny Hunt,” Ezell said in the statement. “I learned the details of the report today (May 22) along with the rest of our Southern Baptist family.
“The work of the task force is important for our convention and for the healing of survivors. The details in the report, which we are just now beginning to process, are egregious and deeply disturbing,” Ezell stated. “We honor the courage of the survivors who came forward. We are praying for survivors and their families, for our churches, for wisdom, for discernment and for the humility to use this report for God’s glory.”
Allegations against Hunt
The Guidepost report notes, in detail, that Hunt was accused of sexually assaulting a woman soon after his SBC presidential tenure ended in 2010. The allegations include grooming of the unnamed woman during Hunt’s terms as SBC president.
Guidepost investigators deemed the woman’s account credible. It was corroborated by at least four other people, including testimony from the couple’s counseling minister. The investigators further stated Hunt’s account did not seem credible.
The assault allegedly occurred in a Panama City Beach, Florida, condo on July 25, 2010, after Hunt helped the woman’s husband, a Southern Baptist pastor for 25 years (at the time), secure a condo for his wife to travel to Florida by herself to hear a message by Bobby Bowden and to visit her childhood home, school and the first church her husband served as pastor. The report states the husband had a professional relationship with Hunt and considered him a “mentor” and “spiritual father figure.”
The condo where the woman stayed was located next door to a condo where Hunt and his wife were staying during Hunt’s July sabbatical following his term as SBC president.
The woman, approximately 20 years younger than Hunt, went into extensive detail with Guidepost investigators regarding the alleged sexual assault. Hunt told Guidepost investigators he had “no contact whatsoever” with the woman, although, after further questioning, he acknowledged he had interactions with her on the balcony of the Florida condo.
However, in August 2010 Hunt admitted in a session with Roy Blankenship, a counselor at FBC Woodstock, that he had initiated physical contact of a sexual nature with the woman during the July Florida trip.
The woman said she felt “very shocked, confused and violated” by Hunt’s alleged assault, and the couple stated that, after the alleged assault, they were “silenced” by Hunt and Blankenship who convinced them they should not talk about it.
Hunt extended his July sabbatical to mid-September after the alleged incident. Hunt also remained in contact with the couple occasionally through the years, most recently in October 2021, according to the Guidepost report.
The couple told Guidepost investigators they have undergone counseling and experienced emotional and spiritual trauma, as well as financial struggles, as a result of the alleged incident.
Hunt’s May 22 statement reads: “During my fifty years of ministry, I’ve always had a singular goal: to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a broken world. It has been the joy of my life to minister alongside so many selfless men and women at the North American Mission Board to spread the hope, love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“While I have resigned from my position at NAMB, I will continue to dedicate my life to encouraging and instructing pastors. Of course, I am aware that Guidepost Solutions issued a report earlier today (May 22). I did not see a copy of the report before today, and I have not had an opportunity to read the entire report,” he said.
“I want to be clear: my heart breaks for all victims of abuse. I support the rights of abuse victims to be heard and respected and made whole. I also support transparency and accountability for abusers. But transparency and accountability must be founded on truth and accuracy,” Hunt stated.
“To put it bluntly: I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report. I have never abused anybody. Southern Baptists’ navigating this challenging season must remember, ‘It is the truth that will set us free.’”
May 27 update to the story — Johnny Hunt clarifies his initial response to the allegations by addressing FBC Woodstock members and others via a May 27 video plea on Twitter around 3 p.m. CT. He implored viewers to read the attached letter, which shares a more detailed account of the situation in 2010 from his perspective.
June 10 update to the story — FBC Woodstock pastor Jeremy Morton and other church leaders shared an update with church members June 3 following a May 29 sermon addressing the issue. “We have recommended to our former pastor, Johnny Hunt, a clear process of counseling, accountability and restoration,” the letter reads. “We also believe it is in the best interest of FBCW to suspend his role as Pastor Emeritus. While we are forever grateful for the supernatural work of God over the last 30+ years at FBCW, we believe this decision aligns with our biblical theology as a church regarding spiritual leaders being above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2).”