An Open Letter to the Members of Hiland Park Baptist Church

To the Members of Hiland Park Baptist Church,

It has come to my attention that a group of four pastors, including your own pastor, Steven Kyle, has declared that Johnny Marshall Hunt is “restored” and is once again fit for vocational Christian ministry.  To that end, they produced a 14-minute video explaining their decision.  Being familiar with the details of Hunt’s situation and having seen this video, I must frankly say to you:

You should be ashamed.

A pastor should, according to scripture, be above reproach, be a “one woman man”, be a good manager of his household, and have a good reputation with outsiders.  Let me ask you this: Do you think a married pastor who invited himself over to a woman’s condo when she was all alone and then went to second base with her is above reproach?  Do you think that a pastor who told that same woman, another man’s wife, that he would have sex with her “three times a day” is fit to be a leader in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ?  I sure don’t.  I further believe that a God who can raise up rocks to cry out and worship him if people refuse to do so can raise up new leaders for His church if its old ones disqualify themselves.  Why in the world did your pastor find it necessary to restore Johnny Hunt?  Why do you allow the name of your church and, ultimately, the name of Christ to be besmirched by the deliberations of a kangaroo court of Johnny Hunt’s friends who have, without biblical warrant or authority, declared Johnny Hunt “restored”.

Johnny Hunt was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock for over a quarter century.  He was the “pastor emeritus” and still a member there when news of his trip to second base on another’s man’s wife came out; why do you think he wasn’t restored there?  I have to think it was because the supposedly repentant Hunt didn’t inform the church at large of his disqualifying sin when he first committed it.  Where other pastoral staff were fired from Woodstock for similar behavior, Hunt was merely counseled by his staff subordinate Roy Blankenship (who has since left the faith and entered into a homosexual “marriage” with another man) and given a sabbatical.  Hunt kept his six-figure salary where other men would have been fired.  Hunt got a rest period where other men would have been looking for new employment.  What does God’s word say about such partiality in the church?  The people of FBC Woodstock were told that Hunt needed a sabbatical because he was exhausted (ostensibly from doing the Lord’s work of leading his church and the Southern Baptist Convention).  But was this the truth? 

Single Adult Pastor Bill Kelly – fired. Senior Adult Pastor Ken Smith – fired. Youth Pastor Eric Fuller – fired. Johnny Hunt – Sabbatical. Seems fair.

After comfortably retiring from Woodstock years later, Hunt went on to take another six-figure job with the North American Mission Board.  He was, of course, forced to resign from that job when news of his adulterous actions came to light.  

So what are the consequences for Johnny Hunt?  He leaves his church of three decades to be restored in his favorite vacation spot, Panama City.  Boy, I bet that was hard on him.  If any of you think this “restoration” business has anything to do with grace and forgiveness, you’re dreaming.  It’s about money.  Johnny Hunt has been a ministry gold mine over the years for his friends and family.  Entire publishing companies and travel companies have been built around his ministry activities.  His cabal of megapastor friends are, of course, all too ready to restore him and get him back on the preaching circuit.  There are men’s conference speaking fees for them to share.

And it’s the reputation of your church which suffers for it.

Rarely do I agree with top Southern Baptist leadership and rarely does top Southern Baptist leadership speak out against millionaire celebrity pastors like Johnny Hunt.  However, today I find myself in agreement with these words from SBC President Bart Barber:

“I would permanently “defrock” Johnny Hunt if I had the authority to do so. In a fellowship of autonomous churches, I do not have the authority to do so. Yet it must be said that neither do these four pastors have the authority to declare Johnny Hunt to be “restored.” They do not speak for the Southern Baptist Convention. Indeed, it is not clear that they even speak for their own churches. For those Southern Baptist churches who practice ordination to ministry, the authority to ordain is generally considered to arise from the congregation, but no indication has been given that any of these four congregations have consented to or given their authority to this process.”

Bart Barber

I’ve never considered Bart Barber to be a particularly intelligent man but even he isn’t fooled by the crocodile tears and twisting of the story of Good Samaritan that Johnny Hunt’s big-time friends put in this video.

Here’s the truth about Johnny Hunt. He’s made a career out of “restoring” disqualified pastors (Google Ergun Caner) to the ministry.  He called it “City of Refuge”.  These men were restored on the back of Hunt’s sterling reputation, one hindsight tells us he never deserved.  So, not only has Johnny Hunt endorsed other men who needed only to find Christ’s forgiveness and secular jobs back into the pastorate, he has used a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours culture to “restore” himself.  

God isn’t fooled.  Are you?

All the Best,

Seth Dunn

*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, or any church which I attend. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant