Two churches ‘under inquiry’ by SBC Credentials Committee for platforming Johnny Hunt

Baptist News Global [Jacksonville FL]

February 3, 2023

By Mark Wingfield

There could be a consequence for creating a self-appointed committee to “restore” a sexually abusive pastor to ministry and then inviting him to preach at your church. You and your church could get kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

At least that’s what some Southern Baptists hope will happen at next June’s SBC annual meeting in New Orleans. The denomination’s Credentials Committee has placed two churches “under inquiry” for their support of Johnny Hunt, former executive vice president of the SBC North American Mission Board.

Hunt was named in last summer’s Guidepost Solutions investigation of mishandled sexual abuse cases in the SBC, resulting in his admission that he once had inappropriate contact with the wife of another pastor but his denial that it was abusive. The evidence against Hunt was compelling enough that he was forced from his role at NAMB and was disowned by the church where he served as pastor for 30 years before that.

But as previously reported by BNG, Hunt convened a group of four male pastor friends to “counsel” him, which led to their recent declaration that he should be “restored” to ministry. Current SBC President Bart Barber disagreed, saying publicly that if it were up to him Hunt would be “defrocked.”

Steven Kile, pastor of Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., chaired the four-person group and was the first to invite Hunt to preach at his church. Hunt is scheduled to lead a men’s retreat and preach at New Season Church in Hiram, Ga.

Those two churches are now “under inquiry” with the Credentials Committee, according to Todd Benkert, lead pastor of Oak Creek Community Church in Mishawaka, Ind., and a member of the SBC Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. Benkert told the Nashville Tennessean he had reported the two churches to the committee.

“The SBC messengers made clear statements about how we expect churches to respond to abuse,” Benkert said.

Hunt also is scheduled to lead a men’s retreat this Saturday, Feb. 4, at Church at WindMark Beach, a mission congregation of Hiland Park Baptist Church. As of Friday morning, Feb. 3, an announcement of that retreat with Hunt’s photo was still posted to the Facebook account of the mission’s pastor, Scott Craig White.