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Southeastern Seminary Releases Statement on Leaked Draft of Tom Buck’s Wife’s Abuse Story; Clears Prior, Whitfield of Wrongdoing

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Left: SEBTS president Danny Akin (photo courtesy of Baptist Press); Right: Binkley Chapel at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina (Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday (June 8), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) president Danny Akin released a statement about a leaked article draft written by Jennifer Buck, wife of outspoken SBC pastor Tom Buck, explaining that following an internal investigation, no SEBTS faculty members were found to be involved in leveraging the draft against the couple.

Events surrounding an effort to use the draft as blackmail against Tom and Jennifer Buck have been unfolding for over two months.

On April 7, G3 Ministries, of which Tom Buck is Director of Expository Workshops, published an article written by Jennifer Buck, wherein she described struggles from the early days of the couple’s nearly 35-year marriage, as well as how they experienced restoration and healing. 

On April 11, Baptist News Global (BNG) published a report painting that article in a different light. Revealing that they had come into possession of a 2018 draft of the article wherein Jennifer Buck provided further details of abuse she endured prior to her marriage to Tom, BNG reported that the Bucks were living under the threat of that draft being publicly leaked

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Following the report, Tom Buck stated that the threatened leak was an act of retaliation against him for privately confronting fellow SBC pastor and then SBC presidential candidate Willy Rice about a member of his deacon board who had, in Rice’s words, “committed a sexual sin that could also be described as abusive.” While Rice knew about the deacon’s misconduct when the church installed him, he did not interpret that misconduct as predatory until after Buck confronted him. 

Rice withdrew his name from consideration for the SBC presidency shortly after publicly disclosing the situation and removing the deacon from the board in accordance with a 2021 SBC resolution that states those guilty of sexual abuse are permanently disqualified from pastoral leadership.

Though Rice and Buck are part of groups within the SBC that hold opposing visions for the denomination and Buck did not support Rice’s presidential bid for those reasons, Rice said that Buck had handled the situation with integrity and according to biblical standards of accountability.

On the same day Rice publicly disclosed the situation involving his church’s deacon (April 1), Buck was contacted regarding the possible leak of Jennifer’s draft in a clear act of retaliation. Since that time, Buck has been trying to ascertain the identity of the person threatening to leak it.

An April 19 statement published by Buck’s church further explained that Tom and Jennifer had given the draft to SEBTS professor Karen Swallow Prior—who was a professor at Liberty University at the time—so that she could help edit it in 2018. Due to injuries sustained in a freak accident shortly after receiving the draft, Prior was not able to offer editorial guidance. 

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Sometime prior to April 1 of this year, an unnamed party reached out to Prior via another SEBTS professor, Keith Whitfield, seeking to authenticate a leaked version of the draft. Prior refused to confirm the draft’s authorship, and Whitfield and Prior urged against a public release of the draft.