After resigning from a Southern Baptist Convention leadership position in June due to previous sexual impropriety, Johnny Hunt planned to return to his former church to lead a conference on biblical living for men.
Whether First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was in on the news that they would host a men’s conference led by the disgraced former pastor is not clear. But one day after Hunt’s announcement was questioned on Thursday, the church said Hunt had made a mistake in his promotion of the event.
“The information on the Johnny Hunt men’s conference website yesterday was incorrect. That website does not belong to First Baptist Woodstock. There will not be a Johnny Hunt men’s conference at First Baptist Woodstock,” Executive Pastor of Ministry Matt Lawson said via email to Julie Roys of the Roys Report, who broke the story.
Hunt had posted a social media graphic inviting people to participate in the 2023 version of his annual men’s conference, called “Hunted,” which he said would be Feb. 3-4 at First Baptist, where he was the longtime pastor before taking a vice president’s role with the SBC North American Mission Board.
It was while Hunt was pastor at Woodstock, and immediately after he completed two years as SBC president, that he allegedly made unwanted sexual advances on a pastor’s wife at a seaside retreat. Details of the episode were reported in the Guidepost Solutions investigations into mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the SBC Executive Committee. Hunt at first denied the allegations, then admitted the encounter had happened but said it was not abusive. He immediately resigned his post at NAMB.
Now, it appears he was not planning to simply go away.
That revelation did not sit well with SBC leadership, who are working overtime to respond to the Guidepost report and institute new safeguards against sexual abuse in the denomination.
Matthew Manchester, whose Twitter profile describes himself as a “survivor” — language typically used by those who are survivors of sexual abuse — called out to SBC leaders via Twitter last Thursday: He publicly asked SBC Executive Committee Chairman Jared Wellman and SBC President Bart Barber if they were OK with the upcoming conference and included Hunt’s graphic.
“Nothing to see here, just sexual abuser ex-SBC president and ex-NAMB leader @johnnymhunt doing another men’s conference at the church he was suspended from. @JaredcWellman @bartbarber You okay with this? . . .”
After this summer’s revelations, the Woodstock, Ga., church broke all ties with Hunt, an enormous step because Hunt served there three decades and the church grew immenseluy under his leadership.
Julie Roys took up the task of asking the church directly about what Matthews had tweeted. She didn’t get a reply for a day, but then the dates and location for the conference disappeared from Hunt’s conference page, and she reached out to First Baptist Church again.
That’s when she got the reply from Lawson saying Hunt had been “incorrect.” Roys said she asked Hunt for comment but got no reply.
In light of what has been learned about Hunt’s past behavior, other abuse reform advocates have called for full-scale investigations not only of First Baptist Church of Woodstock but also the City of Refuge ministry it ran for about 20 years to help “fallen” pastors. Critics want to know if any of those pastors were sexual abusers who were recycled into other churches.
The website for the “Hunted” conference remains active and sells products from previous conferences.