Six months after he was suspended as pastor emeritus by First Baptist Church Woodstock in Georgia following an investigation that concluded allegations he sexually assaulted a younger pastor's wife over a decade ago are credible, former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt returned to preaching on Sunday, declaring that God’s call on his life is “irrevocable.”
Hunt, who now lives with his wife, Janet, at a home they own in Panama City, Florida, made his return to the pulpit at Hiland Park Baptist Church on Sunday, where Senior Pastor Steven Kyle introduced him as “one of the greatest pulpiteers in our generation.” Kyle also revealed that last summer, around the time Hunt was suspended by First Baptist Church Woodstock, the former preacher and his wife had also joined the church as members.
“How many of you know that God’s callings are irrevocable? Sometimes you may think, ‘Well, you know, I made some bad choices in my life and oh, by the way, have you ever made a choice that you wish you could undo but you can’t undo it? What do you do with stuff that you can’t undo? You give it to Jesus and He washes us and he cleanses us in the blood as we repent and we return to Him,” Hunt said in his sermon titled, “A Wineskin in Smoke.”
“God is omniscient. When God calls you to do something and you begin to think you are no longer qualified to do it, you don’t think He knew your past, your present and your future when He called you? He already knew that. Yet He still placed His hand and His calling on you,” said Hunt, who has been preaching for 46 years.
Pastor Jeremy Morton and other members of the leadership team at First Baptist Church Woodstock suspended Hunt last summer after a May 22, 2022, report compiled by the outside firm Guidepost Solutions detailed results of an investigation into allegations that SBC leaders intimidated whistleblowers and exonerated churches with credible claims of negligence of sexual abuse victims.
"We have recommended to our former pastor, Johnny Hunt, a clear process of counseling, accountability, and restoration," Morton and other members of the leadership team at First Baptist Woodstock noted in a letter announcing Hunt’s suspension. "We also believe it is in the best interest of FBCW to suspend his role as Pastor Emeritus."
The wife of a younger pastor who considered Hunt to be a mentor told investigators that while she was on a beach vacation with his family in Panama City, Florida, Hunt sexually assaulted her and told her he wanted to have sex with her three times a day.
The woman and her husband, who are both 24 years younger than the 69-year-old Hunt, who served as SBC president from 2008 to 2010, told investigators that the assault took place after the June 2010 SBC annual meeting held in Orlando that year.
Hunt, in a May 27, 2022, statement addressed to the church on his Instagram account admitted that while he did have an encounter with the younger pastor's wife, the Guidepost Solutions report was "sensationalized" and the account included details that are not true.
"Our brief, but improper, encounter ended when — in response to an overwhelming feeling of conviction — I stopped it and I fled the situation. I remember saying just before leaving the condo, 'This is not right. I have no business being here. I love my wife.' I have never been in a room again privately with the woman involved," Hunt wrote.
The relationship between Hunt and First Baptist Church of Woodstock remained unclear on Thursday. A representative of the church acknowledged to The Christian Post on Thursday that Hunt and his wife had moved their church membership to Hiland Park Baptist Church but only Morton would be able to say what became of Hunt’s suspension.
Hunt, who confessed to the congregation on Sunday that he had not preached in eight months, mentioned the allegations against him during his message. He momentarily recalled how devastated he and his wife were when the news of the allegations broke.
“I’ve been trying to not overthink this message. I’ve been trying to not come in prepared to say this or that, there’s parts I’ve just [had] to say, God, wherever you lead. I don’t know why I’m consumed with the thought but I’m lying in bed at my home here in Panama City Beach,” he said.
“Some false allegations had broke against me. There were some allegations that weren’t false but the ones that were false were damaging. The others would have been easier to survive. I’m in bed and I’m awakened by the cry and my wife is weeping,” Hunt continued.
He said he asked his wife if she was OK and she replied: “They’ve ruined your life.”
“I felt consumed. I was overwhelmed. I needed to find intervention. I found it even hard to pray,” Hunt admitted, but he insisted that he still had hope in God.
“It’s not been easy for me to preach this morning,” he said. “If you can imagine since I haven’t preached in eight months — the longest I’ve gone without preaching in 46 years. I felt like I was going to the tomb this morning. I was excited that he arose but I was nervous at the same time.”