New SBC Leader’s Dubious Credentials

The newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention has a credibility problem. His Web site has the subheading “The … Continued

The newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention has a credibility problem.

His Web site has the subheading “The internet home of the preaching ministry of Dr. Johnny Hunt.”

Hunt, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., lists educational credentials from Gardner-Webb College and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. No reference is made to the terminal or honorary degree which affords him the title of “Dr. Johnny Hunt.” Yet Hunt is often identified as having degrees from schools other than those on his Web site.

The February 2008 annual pastors’ conference of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville program said Hunt “has received a Doctorate of Divinity from Immanual [sic] Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Sacred Laws and Letters from Covington Theological Seminary.”

Writing about Hunt’s nomination, Georgia Baptist Convention editor Gerald Harris wrote, “Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary in Sharpsburg, south of Atlanta, awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree and Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville honored him with a Doctor of Sacred Laws and Letters degree.”

While both schools have question marks over them, consider only Covington Theological Seminary, which offers night classes, “allowing the students an opportunity to have daytime jobs while earning a Bible education.”

The school’s president holds “the B.R.E., Th.B, M.Div., D.Min, D.R.E., and Th.D. degrees from Covington Theological Seminary.” The school’s vice president for academic affairs has a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies, a degree that the school does not appear to offer.

Covington is not accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, as are all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

Covington fits into a category known as a “diploma mill,” an entity that demands little academic training, enables students to bypass rigorous education, has no legitimate accreditation and awards impressive sounding degrees.

One of Hunt’s own “sons in the ministry” was forced to resign from the prominent First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., in part because of his diploma mill degrees from Covington.

Recommended by Hunt, Steven Flockhart was forced out “over a controversy involving fabricated education credentials,” reported Baptist Press, which noted that Covington “claims its accreditation through an agency that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and is an outgrowth of a company that was once charged with fraud.”

Hunt is not the only SBC elected official to claim Covington. Others include former president Jim Henry and former vice presidents Bob Pitman and Junior Hill.

When denominational leaders bear titles from dubious institutions, they legitimize diploma mills and encourage younger ministers to seek educational shortcuts, which deceive churches about the quality of the training of their clergy.

The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary warned clergy two years ago: “Do not pad your resume or reputation with false or inflated accomplishments.”

Advice that goes unheeded too often.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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  • Paganplace

    Ok, so… with this leader or in revolt….What would you like to do now?

  • BGone

    Oops! Those “hoax-buster.org” Hunts have infiltrated the Southern Baptists. Ambitious.You don’t suppose they’ve figured out that the truth is worthless while the right lie is a gold mine? No money for those serving God so they’re siding with Lucifer. Is that web site with proof the Bible is a hoax still there?

  • Athena

    Oooh… a Fundie fight! * Athena pops some popcornLet’s get ready to RUMMMMMBLLLLLEEEE!

  • Anonymous

    Time to discuss the ethics of Scientology and develop a good deprogramming course. Christian churches outside the US are offering help to those who would like to leave the CoS.

  • Anonymous

    Time to discuss the ethics of Baptists and develop a good deprogramming course. Governments outside the US and in particular China’s are offering help to those who would like to leave the Baptists.

  • Anonymous

    The Anonymous who wrote about help for Baptists should have identified himself/herself as Anonymous2 to avoid confusion.

  • Anonymous

    Lack of Christian ethics in Christians drive people away from Christianity and into the arms of dangerous cults.

  • Anonymous

    Islam is an extremely competitive religion and is doing much to offer a holistic lifestyle – wisdom which it also borrows from other religions and science – to its believers and converts. Islam now defines itself as knowledge. First we heard Islam meant submission, then we heard it meant peace, and now it is also termed knowledge. That is how they are encouraging followers to be fit for competition from other religions.Christians must take note and not leave any area of human life neglected.

  • Kristen

    Wow, nobody seems to have relevant comments on this article. I do!I initially read a slightly different version of this article by the same person here.This comment is not to imply that I agree with the idea of bearing the title “Dr.” when your doctorates are only honorary. That being said, this article implies that Hunt’s only honorary doctorates are from questionable institutions. That isn’t true; the fuller version of the article at Ethics Daily admits that he also has an honorary doctorate from Tennessee Temple University, a reputable Baptist school. Hunt’s bearing the title “Dr.” does not necessarily mean he approves of schools with shoddy accreditation.The other primary problem with this article is that it implies that Hunt’s recommendation of Steven Flockhart, a “graduate” of Covington, indicates his approval of a Covington education. However, the fact is that Flockhart told the Florida church he had graduated from Columbia International University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, when he did not (Source: Baptist Press). Parham did no research to determine whether Flockhart lied to Hunt about his credentials as well. If he did, the whole bit is irrelevant. If not, then this isn’t an issue of accepting or displaying inadequate educational credentials, it’s an issue of deliberately lying to a church.Considering that Parham hasn’t even brought this point up, I’m guessing that he has zero evidence proving that Hunt was involved in the lies. In all likelihood, this isn’t a big deal. It’s still possible that Hunt doesn’t even know the schools have poor reputations (Parham hasn’t exactly proven that they’re diploma mills). Like I said earlier, I don’t agree with putting “Dr.” in front of your name if you haven’t earned it the standard way, but Parham’s article goes way beyond making that point.Oh, and BTW, I’m not even Baptist, so no fair accusing me of being one of Hunt’s minions or something.

  • Kristen

    Gee, none of my links showed up.Original article: Baptist Press coverage of Steven Flockhart:

  • Don Johnson

    The only nationally recognized accredited religious school I know of is Harvard Devinity.Don A. Johnson

  • Dean

    Mr. Parham,

  • Steve Robinson

    What is the big deal with education accredited or non-accredited? Look at one of the most wonderful Presidents in history, Abraham Lincoln. He was self educated and held this country together when no one else could.