Two days after filing a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Baptist Convention and Guidepost Solutions, Johnny Hunt was in the pulpit Sunday, March 19, preaching an hour-long sermon at one of the congregations that has stood by him amid allegations of sexual abuse.
Hunt, former executive vice president of the SBC North American Mission Board, filled the pulpit at New Season Church in Hiram, Ga., a community nestled about 40 miles outside Atlanta. Pastor Steve Flockhart led the congregation to give Hunt a standing ovation.
Flockhart is among a small number of pastor friends who have defied the official SBC line that Hunt ought to be barred from preaching ever again due to the allegations of impropriety between Hunt and another pastor’s wife leveled in the Guidepost Solutions investigation.
After the service, Hunt gave a brief statement to Baptist News Global.
“My attorney has asked me to allow the case to play out,” he said. “However, if I had done what that report says I’ve done, there is no way I could have preached today.”
“If I had done what that report says I’ve done, there is no way I could have preached today.”
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville, Tenn., alleges the SBC and Guidepost conspired to make Hunt a scapegoat for the bad publicity the SBC was enduring due to the SBC Executive Committee’s mishandling of reports of sexual abuse in churches and denominational entities.
Hunt contends that while he did have a moment of inappropriate contact with the woman who accused him, it was not initiated by him and was neither abusive nor criminal in nature. Like others before him, he has called into question the veracity of the multi-million-dollar investigation done by Guidepost Solutions.
New Season Church and Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., both have been reported to the SBC Credentials Committee for review because of platforming Hunt. Both churches risk being disfellowshipped from the SBC.
In addition to preaching on Sunday, Hunt led a two-day men’s conference at New Season Church last weekend, with 600 men in attendance. That’s a far cry from the 6,000 men who attended Hunt’s men’s conference when he was pastor at First Baptist Woodstock, Ga.
“Pastor Johnny,” as the lawsuit identifies him, still has a host of products for sale on his website, including recordings of previous conferences and his books. The lawsuit says the SBC’s alleged defamation of his character has hurt his income and royalties.
Flockhart urged his congregation to purchase Hunt’s books. “Instead of giving a love offering, will you please pick up every one of Johnny’s books at his table in the foyer?” he urged. “I’ve read all his 38 books, and some twice.”
Hunt’s Sunday message was a part of a spiritual warfare series at New Season Church called “Battle Ready.”
“The last time I spoke here, I focused on finances. This time I’m talking about the devil,” Hunt said. He warned the devil is out to get and destroy Christ followers. He also said “we all will fall” but the question is: “Will you know how to return and know your way home once you fall?”