Home Christian News Willy Rice Says Tom Buck Didn’t Sabotage His SBC Candidacy, Admits Innocent...

Willy Rice Says Tom Buck Didn’t Sabotage His SBC Candidacy, Admits Innocent People ‘Were Badly Hurt’

Willy Rice Tom Buck

On Tuesday (Jan. 31), Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastor Willy Rice of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Florida, released a statement explaining that fellow SBC pastor Tom Buck of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, didn’t sabotage his candidacy for SBC president in 2022.

In March 2022, the Baptist Press reported that Rice had agreed to be nominated for SBC president, one day after SBC president Ed Litton revealed he would not seek a second term.

A month later on April 1, 2022, Rice disclosed in a video statement that a member of the Calvary Church deacon body had “committed a sexual sin that could also be described as abusive.” Rice’s video stemmed from a private conversation in which Buck confronted Rice regarding the deacon in question.

RELATED: SBC Presidential Candidate Willy Rice Reveals Deacon at His Church Previously Committed Sexual Abuse

Buck privately contacted Rice because, by installing the deacon, Calvary Church was in violation of a resolution passed by the SBC in 2021, titled “On Abuse And Pastoral Qualifications,” which states that “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor,” including “all positions of church leadership.”

Just a few days later on April 7, 2022, Rice, who was considered by many to be a front-runner to win the SBC presidential race, withdrew his name from consideration.

The confrontation between Buck and Rice resulted in Buck’s wife, Jennifer, having a private draft of her sexual abuse testimony leaked in an attempt to harm Buck and his family.

RELATED: Abuse Survivor Jennifer Buck Asks SBC President for Meeting; Barber Says Not His ‘Priority’

The Bucks are still seeking to identify the person who anonymously called Tom and threatened him with publicly releasing his wife’s story. According to the Bucks, current Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force member Todd Benkert has information that could help in the situation but refuses to divulge what he knows.

Rice admitted in his statement that, at first, he didn’t really like Tom, but he also said he didn’t really know him either—apart from Buck’s social media presence, which Rice described as “quite formidable” in light of “contentious and argumentative” posts.

“I didn’t have any personal animosity to Tom, I just knew he was on the opposite side of some denominational fence that somebody had built that certainly seemed real,” Rice said.

RELATED: Bart Barber Addresses Costs to SBC Sexual Abuse Hotline; SBC Pastor Calls President’s Words ‘Hypocritical’

Describing the call as “painful,” Rice nevertheless conceded it was “relevant” due to the past “egregious” sin the deacon had committed and the issue of sexual abuse being front and center in the SBC.

“There were many who accused Tom of deliberately sabotaging my SBC candidacy,” Rice said. “Others accused me of retaliating against Tom by supporting, either actively or passively, the release of hurtful information designed to injure Tom and his wife Jennifer. Many might assume we are enemies, or at least adversaries, and frankly, I might have made some of those assumptions as well at some point, but today that just isn’t true.”

Rice said that Buck isn’t his “enemy” nor his “adversary” and reiterated that Buck approached him in private.

“He did not ambush me. He did not threaten me. He did not attempt to blackmail me,” Rice said. “None of that is true, nor ever was true.”

“I believe Tom acted to address a legitimate concern and I do not believe it was his intent to cause public harm,” Rice said, further sharing a driving reason he withdrew from the SBC presidential race was that some people innocent of “any wrongdoing who were badly hurt as collateral damage,” pain that Rice called “unnecessary.”