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Former SBC president accused of assaulting woman

Retired Georgia Pastor Johnny Hunt denies the allegations

Former Southern Baptist Pastor Johnny Hunt Baptist Press

Former SBC president accused of assaulting woman

Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual abuse.

An outside investigation into how denominational leaders handled allegations of sexual abuse revealed accusations against a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Johnny Hunt. A woman told Guidepost Solutions, the firm hired to conduct the investigation, that Hunt assaulted her in 2010 and then warned her never to mention it for fear it would harm the ministry of the more than 40,000 churches in the SBC.

As elected president of the SBC, Hunt led the denomination from 2008 to 2010 by presiding over the convention’s annual meeting of delegates, appointing people to SBC committees, and serving on denominational boards such as the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is charged with managing the SBC’s budget and overseeing interchurch ministries between annual meetings. While serving as president, Hunt remained senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga. He retired from the church in 2019 and took a job as senior vice president of the North American Missions Board of the SBC.

The allegations against Hunt are one of several explosive revelations contained in the just-released report from Guidepost Solutions. The SBC commissioned the investigation at last year’s annual meeting specifically to look at how the Executive Committee members and staff handled claims of sexual abuse brought to its attention in the past 20 years.

The report says the alleged abuse occurred not long after Hunt wrapped up his tenure as SBC president. Guidepost does not name Hunt’s accuser, but it interviewed several witnesses who it said corroborated parts of the woman’s story.

In the report and in a statement released Sunday, Hunt said he did not abuse the woman. “I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report,” he said in the statement. “I have never abused anybody.”

According to the report, Hunt invited the woman and her husband to visit him and his family in Panama City, Fla., soon after the June 2010 SBC annual meeting. Her husband, an SBC pastor, had worked with Hunt for many years, and she regarded him as a mentor. The couple took Hunt up on his offer and the two families met for a short vacation. Afterwards, the woman expressed interest in returning the next month to Panama City to hear a speaker at a local church. Her husband asked Hunt for rental recommendations and Hunt gave him the phone number for a condo owner in Panama City. The couple booked that owner’s unit.

Only when the woman texted her arrival to both Hunt and her husband did she realize her rental was right next door to Hunt’s condo. She was surprised but invited him over to chat in the shade on her balcony. Eventually, according to the report, the conversation moved indoors, where she claims he pulled down her shorts, touched her under her shirt, and violently kissed her. At the time, Hunt was nearly 60 years old; she was 24 years his junior.

WORLD confirmed that, according to Bay County public records, Hunt and his wife, Janet, owned a condo in Panama City between 2007 and 2015. Images of the condominium complex show that neighboring units have adjacent balconies.

Several days later, the report stated, Hunt called a meeting with the woman, her husband, and Roy Blankenship, then a counseling pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. There, the report said, Hunt confessed to a different version of the events: “a light kiss, touching [her] breasts over the clothes, and trying to pull her shorts down.”

According to the report, Blankenship said at the meeting that he’d concluded an inappropriate consensual relationship had developed. But the woman said afterwards she “was made to feel it was consensual because she did not fight back.”

The couple met a second time with Hunt and Blankenship to “forgive, forget and move on.” Blankenship said Hunt also forbade the couple from ever mentioning the event, saying “if this [story] got out, it could negatively impact 40,000 churches.”

When Guidepost Solutions interviewed Hunt, he acknowledged having known the couple for 20 years and seeing the woman on her balcony in Panama City. He said he never set foot in her unit and had no physical contact with her.

In his Sunday statement, Hunt also announced his resignation from his position with the North American Missions Board, saying “I will continue to dedicate my life to encouraging and instructing pastors.”

Juliana Chan Erikson

Juliana is a correspondent covering marriage, family, and sexuality as part of WORLD’s Relations beat. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Juliana resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area with her husband and three children.

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