Pastor Benny Tate and Modern Day Simony

Benny Tate is the pastor of Rock Spring Church, a four-campus Congregational Methodist Church based in Milner, Georgia. In addition to pastoring that 8,000 member megachurch, he has also served as the President of the Congregational Methodist Denomination. He most recently made news for being a part of a group of four prominent pastors who declared disgraced former pastor Johnny Hunt to be “restored” and once again fit for Christian ministry. In May of 2022, Hunt, a former Southern Baptist Convention President and the long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, was suspended from his role as Pastor Emeritus of FBC Woodstock and forced to resign from his Vice President of Evangelism position at the North American Mission Board. Hunt’s alma mater, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, took measures to remove his name “from any association with programs, facilities, and other items” connected with the seminary. Hunt’s downfall was a result of a Guidepost Solutions investigation into the SBC’s handling of sexual abuse. That investigation concluded that Hunt had engaged in extramarital sexual activity in July of 2010 (controversially deemed “sexual assault” in Guidepost’s report). This activity was not reported to his church at large. When his past actions finally caught up to him, Hunt’s reputation in Baptist life was ruined. Nevertheless, Benny Tate has chosen to try and help Hunt rebuild it. Tate describes his motivations for doing so as pure, wanting to be a “good Samaritan” and come along side a man, Hunt, “who has done more to help preachers” than anybody. However, when the professional relationship between Tate and Hunt is examined more closely, it appears that Tate is engaging in little more than modern day simony.

The Men who “Restored” Johnny Hunt

Simony is the act of selling church offices and roles or sacred things. During the Middle Ages especially it was a widespread problem in the Catholic Church. Rather than granting church offices and privileges to the most spiritually gifted and qualified individual, corrupt church officials sold them to the highest bidder. Outrage over such corrupt practices help to ignite and sustain the Protestant Reformation. Simony itself is named after Simon the Sorcerer, who was condemned in the eighth chapter of the books of Acts, for attempting to purchase Apostolic power from Peter and John. The Apostle Peter, disgusted with Simon’s attempt to buy God’s gifts, famously responded to Simon’s offer by saying, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” Tate acts like his heart is right before God in the matter of Johnny Hunt’s restoration. However, evidence has emerged that he stands to profit from it. In April 2023, Benny Tate is scheduled to preach with Johnny Hunt at the “Springtime Jubilee” conference in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. This conference is one of three Springtime Jubilee conferences set to take place in the popular vacation destinations of Myrtle Beach and Branson, Missouri. The Jubilee Conferences are enterprise of “It’s a New Day Ministries, Inc”, a company based in Hunt’s hometown of Woodstock, Georgia and operated by Hunt’s family. Its corporate officers include Hunt’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law. Hunt’s Jubilee conferences are nothing new; a Facebook page for the events indicates that seasonal Jubilee conferences were taking place as early as 2016. Each conference has featured a lineup of Christian entertainers, Christian celebrities, and mega preachers. Hunt and his preaching have been at the center of it all. This spring a freshly “restored” Hunt is preaching again, but was their ever a doubt his conferences would continue?

Conferences like the Springtime Jubilee take months to plan. Speakers must be booked and accommodations for conference guests must be reserved well in advance. Is anyone to believe that Johnny Hunt’s conference business was ever going to cease? Benny Tate saw fit to “restore” Johnny Hunt. Benny Tate is preaching with Johnny Hunt. It strains credulity to think that Benny Tate was scheduled to preach with Hunt only after Hunt was restored to ministry (by Tate himself and other friends of Hunt!). Tate was clearly scheduled to preach with Hunt before Hunt’s so-called restoration was ever announced (by Tate himself and other friends of Hunt!). One thing Tate said about Hunt is certainly true; Hunt does a lot for his fellow preachers. He gets them thousands in speaking fees! This spring, Hunt’s family business will be paying Tate to preach with him at the Springtime Jubilee. For Tate’s bank account, it sure is a good thing that he first retored Hunt.

May their money perish with them.

*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