Sexual abuse survivor and advocate Tiffany Thigpen was one of 10 names in the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) apology given in a resolution, titled “On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse,” passed at the annual meeting in June.
The resolution adopted by messengers denounced “in the strongest possible terms every instance of sexual abuse, those who perpetrate abuse, and those who seek to defend or protect these perpetrators.”
“We publicly lament the harm our actions and inactions have caused to survivors of sexual abuse,” the resolution reads, publicly asking forgiveness from abuse survivors whom the SBC had failed to care well for.
The SBC also apologized for the way its institutions had prioritized the reputation of the SBC over the protection of and justice for abuse survivors. America’s largest cooperation of churches publicly repented and admitted its need for “change in caring well for survivors of sexual abuse.”
Right before apologizing to the survivors mentioned in the Guidepost Solutions report, the SBC stated that they would “give of our time and resources to bind the wounds of the broken, hold accountable perpetrators of sexual abuse and those who seek to defend them, and care well for survivors of sexual abuse.”
Nevertheless, during Thanksgiving week, four pastors, three of which are part of the SBC, declared that former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who was named in the Guidepost report as having been credibly accused of sexual abuse, was cleared to return to ministry.
SBC pastors Steven Kyle (Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida), Mark Hoover (NewSpring Church in Wichita, Kansas), Mike Whitson (First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, North Carolina), and Methodist pastor Benny Tate (Rock Springs Church in Milner, Georgia) shared in a video that they have walked with Hunt through a season of “transparency, reflection and restoration” for the past seven months and had determined he could return to ministry.
Hunt’s current pastor, Kyle, said, “We believe the greatest days of ministry for Johnny Hunt are the days ahead. And I’m thankful that we have a God that that forgives, restores, and a God that works in powerful and mighty ways.”
Thigpen told ChurchLeaders, “The startling revelation is that there are friends of Johnny Hunt who have decided that because of their relationship with him, they deem he is now fit for ministry. A short 7 months of ‘work’ that is solely based on their interpretations and expectations, skewed by friendship and even debts of gratitude from these men.”
As a survivor and an advocate, Thigpen described the pastors’ judgement as “blind,” because of their “own partiality and narrow minded goals.”
Like others who have reacted to Hunt’s restoration news, including current SBC president Bart Barber, Thigpen pointed out red flags in the restoration process. For instance, Hunt’s former church, which he founded, had him step down as pastor emeritus after the allegations of sexual abuse were brought to light. However, the church was not involved in his restoration.