WOODSTOCK, Ga. — A popular church pastor has been suspended from his role following abuse allegations.
On Friday, in a letter to the First Baptist Church of Woodstock congregation, Pastor Jeremy Morton formally suspended Johnny Hunt’s role within the church and outlined proactive steps FBCW is taking to fight against abuse.
These steps start with employee and staff training on “social awareness” and training related to abuse prevention and reporting.
In addition, Morton wrote that FBCW will also be consulting with an outside legal firm to review and revise its current policies related to sexual abuse and mandatory reporting.
“Our goal is for our people to have assurance and trust that we are doing everything we reasonably can in every facet of every policy,” the letter stated.
In the second part of the letter, Morton said that it is within the FBCW’s best interest to suspend Johnny Hunt’s role as Pastor Emeritus in the church.
“While we are forever grateful for the supernatural work of God over the last 30+ years at FBCW, we believe this decision aligns with our biblical theology as a church regarding spiritual leaders being above reproach,” Morton wrote.
This title is given to those who retire as an honor for their years of service. It can frequently include advisory and leadership duties.
This suspension comes a week after Hunt sent a letter to his former church denying the abuse allegations against him, but apologizing for the “brief, but improper encounter” he had with his accuser. He maintains the encounter was consensual.
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee held a virtual meeting to approve the Sexual Abuse Task Force's recommendations for the megachurch to better address sexual abuse allegations. They include hiring trained staff or independent contractors to receive reports of abuse, allocating $3 million from the budget to pay for reforms and creating a "Ministry Check" website to maintain a "record of pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse."
Next week, the SBC is expected to address Guidepost Solutions' full report at their 2022 annual meeting and pastors’ conference. At this time, messengers will vote on whether to start implementing these recommendations over the next three years.
However, they have started taking steps to mitigate issues of reporting when it comes to sexual abuse and assault within the church.
After the investigation, the company published its report last month. SBC established a permanent hotline where members of the church can report cases of abuse to Guidepost Solutions. Survivors will then be put in touch with an advocate and notified of options of care.
People can reach the hotline at 202-864-5578 or email SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com.