Former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt and his friend Tony Nolan are consistently featured speakers at the annual Winter Xtreme Conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This December, both men were scheduled to speak alongside Nolan’s (former) mentee Clayton Jennings. This did not happen. As frequent readers of the Pulpit and Pen are by now aware, Clayton Jennings cancelled numerous speaking appearances after being accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. After consulting with a team of attorneys and public relations specialists, Jennings returned to the evangelical speaking circuit in January 2017; only three months after the Polemics Report first published its account of his sinful sexual escapades. His quick return did not sit well with Tony Nolan, who severed their mentor/mentee relationship. Apparently, it did not sit well with Johnny Hunt either.
Johnny Hunt’s church, First Baptist of Woodstock (FBCW), features a ministry for morally embattled ministers called “City of Refuge“. According to FBCW’s website:
Our goal is to provide critical care for wounded and fallen ministers, giving them a safe and loving environment in which to rest and heal. The City of Refuge is a long-term residential program that attempts to meet the needs of the minister and his family by providing housing, childcare, counseling and small group support at no cost to the family. We offer assistance in helping the men find secular work while they are involved in the City of Refuge so that they can help support their families financially while they are healing and dealing with personal issues…Since we believe relationships are so vital, our ministry’s main focus is the restoring of key relationships in the life of the minister – a right relationship with God, self, family and the Body of Christ.
A credible source has informed Pulpit & Pen that, after news of his misconduct broke, Clayton Jennings inquired about the City of Refuge program. He choose not to participate in it.
On February 3, 2017, Johnny Hunt told the attendees of his annual men’s conference the story of a young man who had inquired about the City of Refuge program but decline to participate. Hunt’s commentary was provided to the Pulpit & Pen by a conference simulcast attendee as follows:
“One of the stories that Johnny told was about a young, twenty-something, good-looking preacher who had fallen into great sin. He contacted Johnny about Woodstock’s restoration program. Johnny said that he was only worried about how long it would take. Johnny told him, ‘Until you finish, but it will be at least one year.’ He refused. Johnny said that his social media shows that he is traveling and preaching again. Johnny said, ‘he might be preaching about Jesus, but he’s not preaching with Jesus.'”
Hunt is no stranger to associating and partnering with preachers who have troubled pasts. Disgraced former North American Mission Board President Bob Reccord is a frequent speaker at Hunt’s Conference. Disgraced apologist Ergun Caner filled the pulpit for Hunt after returning from scandal. Hunt even advertised a “missions cruise” that was to feature prosperity preacher Eddie Long. Yet, he apparently has no tolerance for someone in Jennings situation.
Whether or not one believes that the type of “restoration” that Hunt and FBCW offer through City of Refuge is biblical, it is easy to see that Clayton Jennings was not interested in taking at least a year off from being a famous preacher to receive FBCW’s counsel and support his family through secular work. Whether Hunt was specifically talking about Jennings or not, his words do apply to him.
Clayton Jennings may be preaching about Jesus, but he is not preaching with Jesus.
UPDATE: Since initial publication, Pulpit & Pen has received a video clip of Johnny Hunt’s statement. His exact words can be heard in the clip below.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.