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Key Leaders Named in Guidepost Report Respond

In the report, a pastor and his wife accused Hunt of sexually assaulting the wife in Panama City a month after he finished his second term as SBC president. Guidepost investigators found that the survivor, a counselor who spoke with the parties involved and three other corroborating witnesses were credible. Hunt’s testimony, investigators said, was not credible. Hunt resigned from his NAMB post on May 13.

In a Twitter post May 22, Hunt “vigorously [denied] the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report. I have never abused anybody.”

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Steve Gaines. The report stated that the election of Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, to the SBC presidency in 2016 “conveyed the message that a clergy sex abuse cover-up was considered ‘no big deal’ in the SBC.”

In 2006 Gaines went months before reporting a staff minister’s prior sexual assault of a child, the report says. He admitted to Guidepost investigators that he delayed action out of “heartfelt concern and compassion” for the minister.

“I am grateful for [the Task Force’s] diligence and depend on their expertise as we move forward. We grieve and lament the findings,” he said. The staff member approached Gaines in 2006 to confess to the abuse he had committed 17 years prior.

“When I was informed, I believed that it was being properly taken care of and did not know my obligation to report it to the authorities,” Gaines said. “I now know that I did not handle the situation properly. A thorough investigation was done at the time and there were no other incidents of abuse reported.”

Bellevue has since implemented annual training related to identifying and reporting suspected abuse.

“My desire is to lead and shepherd our congregation with grace and biblical integrity. We do not and will not tolerate abuse of any kind and desire complete transparency and accountability,” Gaines said.

Jack Graham. Served as SBC president from 2002-2004. The report states that Graham, as pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, where he still serves, allowed a staff member to be dismissed quietly after sexual abuse allegations were made. That staff member was eventually charged with molesting several boys at his former church in Mississippi.

Graham declined to speak to Guidepost investigators directly but referred them to the public archives from his presidency.

“Prestonwood categorically denies the way the report characterizes the incident 33 years ago,” said Mike Buster, Prestonwood executive pastor. “Prestonwood has never protected or supported abusers, in 1989 or since.”

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Paige Patterson. Alongside Paul Pressler, Patterson is considered the architect of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence. Patterson later served as president of both Southeastern and Southwestern seminaries. While he was SBC president in June 2000, he advised a pastor seeking information on sexual abuse programs from a position of defending against lawsuits, not preventing abuse.

That stance of protecting the institution would reappear, the report stated, through mishandling rape accusations in 2003 at Southeastern and in 2015 at Southwestern. Patterson was fired by Southwestern trustees in 2018. BP’s attempts for a comment from Patterson were unsuccessful.

Paul Pressler. A former SBC vice president and co-architect of the Conservative Resurgence, Pressler is currently the defendant in a lawsuit alleging he repeatedly sexually abused the plaintiff from the time the latter was 14 years old. Two other men submitted affidavits accusing Pressler of sexual misconduct. Attempts to reach Pressler for comment were unsuccessful.

Mike Stone. In 2019 when Stone was EC chairman, Guidepost states he helped draft the apology for a fellow pastor and former college classmate who had an inappropriate relationship with a single mother in the pastor’s south Georgia congregation. Witnesses said the apology was inaccurate and they felt intimidated by Stone for their bringing the pastor’s behavior to the attention of the church.

“As an abuse survivor, I grieve with all Southern Baptists over every incident of sexual abuse,” Stone said. “At the same time, it is disappointed to see real concerns mingled with false accusations. Further, it is sad these erroneous charges warrant clarification at a time when Southern Baptists should have been allowed time to prayerfully consider the weighty matters before us.”

Russell Moore. Moore corresponded via letters with SBC President J.D. Greear during the former’s tenure as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission about his frustrations with sexual abuse reform in the SBC. At times, he said, his opponents wanted him “to live in psychological terror.”

In 2017 and 2020, the Executive Committee formed task forces to study the impact on Cooperative Program giving due to controversy connected to the ERLC. Moore contended those studies were the consequences of riling those opposed to his advocacy on the part of sexual abuse survivors. He resigned from his ERLC position shortly before the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting.

“Indeed, the very ones who rebuked me and others for using the word crisis in reference to Southern Baptist sexual abuse not only knew that there was such a crisis but were quietly documenting it, even as they told those fighting for reform that such crimes rarely happened among ‘people like us’,” Moore wrote in a column for Christianity Today.

J.D. Greear. As SBC president, Greear responded to the Houston Chronicle’s report of abuse in Southern Baptist churches by calling out 10 churches named in the report. The announcement, made in Greear’s address to EC trustees in February 2019, drew fire from Southern Baptist leaders and led to Boto’s calling one pastor to apologize.

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Sexual abuse reform remained a consistent topic during Greear’s tenure as SBC president, which received a third year due to the COVID-19 pandemic-related cancellation of the 2020 annual meeting.