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Tom Buck Releases Clips of Meeting With Southeastern Seminary Leaders, Counter Statement Regarding Leaked Draft

Expressing that Tom and Jennifer Buck never suspected Whitfield or Prior of attempting to leverage the draft against them, the statement said, “The blackmail attempts came from other people in SBC circles, but those attempts never would have been possible were it not for the original leak of the rough draft. That is why it is the identity of the leaker that the Bucks seek.”

The statement further countered SEBTS’s claim that Prior had given the draft to one publication, revealed in Buck’s statement to be Christianity Today, with Jennifer Buck’s consent. Buck’s statement indicated that a misunderstanding took place, but that the Bucks did not want the draft sent to any publication prior to its editing.

Arguing for an independent investigation, the Bucks indicated their belief that such an investigation is required to confirm whether the editor at Christianity Today shared the draft with anyone inside or outside the organization. If she did not, then the “only person remaining who possessed the rough draft with Jennifer’s permission is the person who admittedly furnished it to Christianity Today: Dr. Prior.”

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The statement also claimed that David Bumgardner, who originally broke the story of the draft’s circulation in a Baptist News Global article on April 11, had told Buck that one of his main sources in the story was a SEBTS graduate student. In an audio clip of a phone conversation between Buck and Bumgardner released on Friday by Mefferd on the Bucks’ behalf, that student was revealed to be Erin Harding. 

“We know Erin Harding has [the draft],” Buck said to Bumgardner, to which Bumgarner answered in the affirmative, going on to say that Harding was his source in confirming the identity of the person behind an anonymous Twitter account that had been harassing Buck online following Bumgardner’s initial report.

That person was Liza Ford, the wife of Jeff Ford, who was asked to step down as a deacon from Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Florida, after Buck confronted pastor Willy Rice about Ford’s past sexual misconduct.

Bumgardner told ChurchLeaders that he did not know he was being recorded during the call and that Buck had assured him that their conversation was confidential. Further, he indicated that he misspoke in agreeing with Buck’s accusation rather than correcting him. Bumgardner had called Buck to apologize for not reaching out to him for comment on the original April 11 report regarding Jennifer’s draft.

“Despite my confusion, the fact I misspoke, and the fact that Tom lied about confidentiality and deliberately laid out a trap for me, my remark to Tom was unacceptable and unprofessional,” Bumgardner said in a statement on Friday.

Also on Friday, Harding was accused by Mefferd and others online of being in the possession of the draft and of perhaps even being one-half of the “anonymous couple” that had confessed to Denhollander in an anonymous email.

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Harding unequivocally denied those rumors to ChurchLeaders. Speaking about her correspondence with Bumgardner, Harding said, “I never alluded to the fact that I had a draft. I never had it. I never saw it.”