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2 Churches Promoting Disgraced Pastor Johnny Hunt Face Prospect of Removal From SBC

Johnny Hunt
Screengrab via YouTube @Hiland Park Baptist Church of Panama City, FL

Two Southern Baptist churches are the subject of an inquiry by the denomination’s Credentials Committee into whether they should be removed from friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. 

The inquiry of the two churches—Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, and New Season Church in Hiram, Georgia—centers on their affiliation with and promotion of disgraced pastor and former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse. 

The credible accusations against Hunt came to light in the Guidepost Solutions report commissioned by the SBC Executive Committee, which was released in May 2022. 

Along with revelations of systemic failure by the Executive Committee to properly respond to sexual abuse allegations over the course of two decades, the report also found that Hunt allegedly sexually assaulted the wife of a pastor he was mentoring toward the end of his term as SBC president in 2010. 

Investigators found the testimony of the survivor and supporting witnesses to be credible. Hunt, who changed his retelling of the account throughout the course of the investigation, was not found credible. 

In the wake of this revelation, Hunt resigned his position as Vice President of Evangelism and Leadership at the SBC’s North American Mission Board. He also forfeited his title of pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, a congregation he had pastored for three decades. Hunt was later removed from membership at the church, and he now attends Hiland Park Baptist Church in Florida. 

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, of which Hunt was a graduate, also removed his name from an academic chair and degree program that were previously titled in his honor. 

To the understanding of most Southern Baptists, the credible allegations against Hunt constitute a permanent disqualification from pastoral leadership, in accordance with a resolution passed by the Convention in 2021. 

Nevertheless, in November 2022, just six months after the allegations against Hunt became public, a team of four pastors, two of whom lead churches currently affiliated with the SBC, declared that Hunt had completed a restoration process and was ready to return to pastoral ministry.

Steven Kyle, pastor of Hiland Park Baptist Church, characterized his part in the process as a “sacred duty.”

First Baptist Church Woodstock was not involved in the process.

In response to the bombshell announcement, SBC president Bart Barber said that he “would permanently ‘defrock’ Johnny Hunt” if he had the power to do so, declaring that the four pastors who cleared Hunt’s return to ministry “do not speak for the Southern Baptist Convention.”