Pastors say Johnny Hunt, former SBC president accused of abuse, can return to ministry

"Disgraced former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt plans a return to ministry after completing a restoration process overseen by four pastors, according to a video released last week." - RNS

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dgszweda's picture

I struggle seeing how anyone can return to the ministry after this.  How do you meet the qualifications of being "above reproach"?  He is 70 anyway, maybe it is time to retire.

Bert Perry's picture

....but if you follow things back to the Guideposts report, it's described as sexual assault, and Guideposts notes that the accuser's story was credible, but Hunt's was not.  Report is linked by "Spiritual Sounding Board" here.   

I am not altogether closed to pastors being rehabilitated, but a few months after a pattern of dissimulation on his part about some really serious sins is way too soon.  And like David notes, at age 70, maybe it's time to fill that period of repentance and self-examination without the prospect of going back into vocational ministry.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

I am not altogether closed to pastors being rehabilitated, but a few months after a pattern of dissimulation on his part about some really serious sins is way too soon.   

I agree.  I am also struggling with the Scriptural basis that outlines a path on how an individual who commits this sin (as well as many others) can return as an elder?  The reconcilliation outlined in Scripture is about coming back into the fold and as a church member in good standard, but I miss where it says that all things are restored.  There just seems to be this model where, regardless of practically any sin, if the individual comes back remorseful and surrounds himself with counselors that somehow we must rush to restore him, and somehow that restoration is that this individual receives all things.  I just don't see any of this model being Biblical.

dgszweda's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Criticism of Johnny Hunt ‘restoration’ grows; preaching slot canceled   at Baptist Press

It is just so sad, that the church continues not to know how to handle these situations and we still have too much of a mentality of "circling the wagons" around people.  Many of the counseling models that we have setup for a church to leverage are very, very weak.  While there is no doubt that someone's recovery is rooted in a Spiritual problem, there are also significant physical and mental aspects of this.  Churches are very wary of using outside counsel and therapy.  I am not sure why.

T Howard's picture

I've experienced firsthand the devastation a fallen pastor brings to a church, a leadership team, and to the families involved. There are more sins involved than just adultery. Adultery is just the tip of the iceberg.

That said, in a situation of real abuse, the sins are compounded by issues of power, coercion, assault, etc.

Based on what I've seen and experienced, I've learned three important lessons. First, don't allow the fallen pastor to get up and speak to the congregation about the situation. Instead, he should write a short, concise statement that acknowledges and repents of his sin(s), acknowledges that he disqualified himself from pastoral ministry, and asks for forgiveness (not "I'm sorry") from the congregation. His statement should be read by one of the elders and followed by a joint statement from the elder team. Included in that joint statement should be something to the effect of "Scott (not "Pastor Scott") has disqualified himself from any future pastoral ministry at our church."

The second lesson I learned is that the elder team should never recommend this man be "restored" to a position of pastoral authority, no matter what counseling / restoration process this man completes. The counseling / restoration process is to restore him to God, to his family, to fellowship with the church, and to the family he sinned against. It is not to have him resume his pastoral responsibilities.

The third lesson I learned is that the elder team needs to be very clear with this man, his wife, and the church what his ministry limitations are go forward. If he chooses to remain in the church, he will not be permitted to preach, teach, or counsel for at least the next five (or more) years and after that it will be at the elders' discretion. He will not be considered for any future pastoral role (senior pastor, associate pastor, etc.), nor will the elders recommend him to serve in a pastoral role at any other church.

In our case, the fallen pastor appeared repentant and remorseful for about 6 months after his confession. After that, he got the itch again to preach, teach, and counsel. Several people in our church even asked him to do so. We, however, would not permit him to do so.

About a year in, he began evidencing a prideful attitude about the situation. His post-confession reading and counseling led him to believe he was now ready and better prepared for pastoral ministry. He was no longer concerned for those in our church who were still hurting because "their hurt was caused by their unwillingness to forgive him." And, he and his wife became angry with the elders because we were keeping him from using the gifts God had given him. We were told that "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable"; therefore, who were we to tell him he could no longer preach, teach, or counsel.

Long story short, his family left our church, he and his wife began their own online coaching / counseling ministry for couples recovering from affairs (it has since shut down), he started a preaching podcast (it has since gone offline), and last I heard he was serving as a chaplain somewhere.

So, what does this all mean for guys like Johnny Hunt? He and guys like him should not be restored to pastoral ministry. Period. He should spend his last days in quiet reflection. The only thing he should do in church is shut his mouth, sit in the pew, or quietly serve as an usher.

Jay's picture

Great post, THoward.  Completely agree with you. I don't think we can or should measure repentance by a DQ'd pastor in months or years.  Give it at least a full decade.  If they get the itch to pastor or preach again within a year or two, it's a warning sign.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

....if part of the trouble with prematurely "restoring" pastors is that a fair number of them, Hunt among these, really aren't qualified for much of a secular job.  And so what you have is a situation where a guy used to six figures has little retirement saved up, and then finds he's really not qualified to do much else.  Yes, there should be some resilience regarding this in deacon boards, but sometimes a "sob story" makes inroads that it should not.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.