Here is the Beginning and the End of the Tom Buck/Jennifer Buck/Willy Rice/Southern Baptist Convention Investigation Saga With a Final Response From Tom Buck’s Church Family First Baptist Church of Lindale Who Stands Behind Him 100% As He Seeks the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention: Wife of Outspoken Southern Baptist Pastor Tom Buck Claims Suffering Emotional and Verbal Abuse Was Not Grounds for Divorce, but for ‘Greater Hope’ in God – First Baptist Church of Lindale Releases Response

Jennifer Buck, wife of outspoken Texas Southern Baptist pastor Tom Buck, has published her story of being mistreated and misunderstood — perhaps even abused — early in her marriage to communicate to other couples “God’s ability to bring about repentance, restoration and reconciliation.”

In an article published by the conservative, Calvinistic network known as G3 Ministries, she tells of being slapped on the wrist and enduring her husband’s “bitterness, anger and shouting” in the difficult first five years of marriage.

The article was shared by Buck in an April 7 tweet. It garnered nearly 600 likes and 120 retweets. Current SBC presidential candidates Bart Barber and Tom Ascol called the article “courageous” and “a wonderful story of God’s powerful grace,” respectively.

In the article, Buck relays the story of suffering a miscarriage amid the difficult early years of marriage. “This led to despair as I wondered if I would survive emotionally or if our marriage could remain intact,” Buck wrote. “I had convinced myself that I was the issue in our marriage. If I could just respond right, I believed he wouldn’t get so angry.”

Later, Buck found a confidant in an older woman named Dottie, whom Buck claims began to disciple her and help her navigate issues in her marriage. Earlier in the article, Buck claimed her husband’s conduct was “certainly abusive.” However, Buck claims that Dottie “never suggested divorce as an option,” although she clarified that Dottie made sure she was not being physically harmed.

Buck claims that, eventually “things finally came to a head” when her husband slapped her on the wrist “in a quick flash of anger” after she playfully placed a cold Coke can on his neck. “This scared me,” Buck wrote. “I knew if something was not done, this had the potential for further escalation, and I would not be able to stay. I learned later that it had scared him, too.”

The article concludes with Buck sharing that her husband eventually found a mentor who helped him “repent of his anger.” While “restoration did not happen overnight,” Buck claims that “none of those ugly days have been repeated” since their reconciliation. Citing Romans 8:28, Buck declares that the abuse and subsequent reconciliation “testify” of God’s working of all things together for good.

An earlier version circulated

Buck’s article was published by G3 Ministries 11 days after an anonymous source close to the Bucks contacted Baptist News Global and other media outlets with an earlier draft of Buck’s article that was slated to be published pseudonymously in 2018 in the wake of Paige Patterson’s firing from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for mishandling abuse cases. BNG was able to confirm that the draft was authentic and written by Jennifer Buck in 2018.

That earlier draft reportedly was shown to only a few people, one of whom apparently leaked it to media in an attempt to discredit Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas, and a supporter of Ascol in the upcoming SBC presidential election. About the same time, an unnamed “pastor from another state” launched a chain of events that caused Florida pastor Willy Rice to drop out of the presidential race because his congregation some years ago ordained as a deacon a man who had a past history of abuse.

The accounts in the 2018 draft and the article published by G3 differ vastly in content, detail, scope and length.

The source who contacted BNG via an untraceable email appears also to have created an anonymous Twitter account on Thursday, March 31. In a reply to Tom Buck, the source tweeted the following: “Did your wife fear she was ‘not going to survive’ because of your abuse? Shouldn’t you be disqualified from ministry?”

The source may have been alluding to the 2021 resolution adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting titled “On Abuse and Pastoral Qualifications.” The resolution reads, in part, “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15-16, 2021, believe that any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.” Other forms of abuse, such as physical or emotional abuse, are not mentioned in the resolution.

Neither the original version nor the published version of Jennifer Buck’s article mentions sexual abuse. Her stories center on emotional and verbal abuse.

Five days after the anonymous tweet, controversial right-wing blogger Jordan Hall tagged the source, whose username was @abusedspouse14, and issued the following threat in a tweet: “Dear @abusedspouse14, I am coming for you. When it is over, you will be exposed, humiliated, and prosecuted. Good luck.”

The threat seemed to deter the source from attacking Tom Buck further, as both the source’s Twitter account and email address used to contact BNG have been deactivated.

The Buck stops here?

For his part, Tom Buck has been outspoken about the issue of abuse in the SBC. He has asserted that “soft effeminate men” are at the “heart” of the abuse of women and children in churches.

“Real men don’t stand by silent as women or children are abused and wait until it becomes politically expedient to do something about it,” he has tweeted. “I’ve spoken out and fought against abuse for 25 years as a pastor.”

Buck also has claimed that “effeminate men” are the “biggest problem right now in the SBC.”

Last month, Buck said he wondered “if Grant Gaines has any regrets of opening Pandora’s Box upon the SBC.” Grant Gaines made the motion for an independent investigation of the SBC Executive Committee’s alleged mishandling of abuse at last year’s annual meeting in Nashville.

Buck also provided a statement to BNG last month when a private conversation between an abuse survivor, an Executive Committee member and SBC President Ed Litton’s assistant pastor was leaked in an attempt to corroborate claims that the survivor had been mistreated.

Buck provided the following statement to BNG when asked for comment on that story: “When Mike Stone was accused of mistreating a survivor at the SBC 2021 annual meeting, these men and their friends either joined the attacks on Stone or remained silent. Now that they are being accused of mistreating a survivor, they want to be extended grace and consideration that they were unwilling to give to Mike Stone. I wonder if they are now sympathetic for what happened to Mike Stone.”

Stone was last year’s candidate for SBC president backed by Tom Buck and other SBC Calvinists and far-right pastors.

A Statement Regarding Tom and Jennifer Buck

April 19, 2022

On April 7, 2022, our pastor’s wife, Jennifer Buck, published an article at G3 Ministries that told the story of God’s redemptive grace in her marriage to our senior pastor, Tom Buck. On April 11, Baptist News Global (BNG) published a piece which attempted to redirect attention away from this theme of redemption, instead seeking to discredit Tom and his ministry. BNG’s publication misconstrued details which were taken out of context from Jennifer’s private 2018 rough draft of the article, as they were quoted in a screenshot of an anonymous tweet. Due to some political machinations within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that have been working behind the scenes to tarnish our pastor’s name and discredit his ministry, we as the elders and other leadership of First Baptist Church in Lindale, TX, feel it necessary to provide the following details surrounding these events.

Our pastor and his wife have never been afraid of telling the story of the troubled early years of their marriage. They have been open their entire ministry about their struggles so that they might help other couples find hope in their own troubled circumstances. Jennifer’s rough draft was not the first time specific details about these years had been told. The 2018 rough draft represents Tom’s and Jennifer’s preliminary work as they prepared to share their story to a broader audience. This draft contained details from their marriage as well as additional details that happened prior to Tom and Jennifer meeting each other. That same year, in 2018, Jennifer, along with Tom, took her story to Karen Swallow Prior to seek help editing Jennifer’s lengthy rough draft. The hope was that Karen would help Jennifer make edits so a final draft could be published as a blog post. In addition, they hoped this would lead to publishing a book to tell their story in full.

Shortly after Jennifer sent her the rough draft, Karen had a tragic accident that hindered her from giving Jennifer the help she needed. With the busyness of life and no one to help her edit, the project had been placed on the back burner for Jennifer and Tom.

Just a few weeks ago on March 30, Tom was asked on Twitter by a newly created anonymous account if it was true that he was “an abuser” and whether he had “emotionally and physically abused his wife.” Several survivor activists were tagged in this tweet to draw their attention to the accusation (this was the screenshot tweet that was included in the BNG article).

Tom received a phone call on March 31 asking him if he was “trying to destroy Willy Rice,” who had accepted a nomination for president of the SBC. On April 1, just hours after Willy Rice made a public announcement about removing a deacon in his church after he was contacted by “a pastor in another state,” Tom received a phone call asking him if Jennifer had written a blog post about him having abused her. He was told that what Jennifer had written had been sent to several news outlets. It became apparent that Jennifer’s 2018 rough draft had been leaked. What follows is a brief account as to the apparent reason for these phone calls.

A few days earlier, on March 26, Tom and two of our elders had called Willy Rice regarding a deacon in Willy’s church who had committed a predatorial act in December 2005. Tom knew this man well from the years Tom served as a pastor in Florida. As a mentor and friend, Tom led the man, a teacher, to report to his school that he was engaged in a sexual relationship with one of his students. Tom went with him to make this report. This man was a professing and devout Christian, and his willingness to go with Tom to the school to confess his sin appeared to be the fruit of repentance. In addition, he agreed with Tom’s counsel that he should be forthright about what had happened with any church he attended or joined from that day forward.

When Tom saw a video from Willy Rice’s church and heard Willy introduce this same man as a deacon at Calvary Baptist, Tom was concerned that neither Willy nor the church knew this man’s history, or that they were acting inconsistently with SBC resolutions on matters of this nature. A few days later, Tom called the deacon directly, who reported that the church – and Willy himself – were aware of his history. Since the SBC Credentials Committee and a 2021 SBC Resolution resolved not to allow individuals with a history of sexual abuse serve in church leadership, Tom sought counsel from Rachael Denhollander about how to handle this in a way that was not political, but principled. He believed he had a fiduciary and biblical responsibility to go privately to Willy with the information.

Tom’s desire was to keep this situation private so Willy and his church could address it. Rachael agreed with Tom’s assessment and offered to give him counsel through the process. Though some may assume Tom’s motives here were political, we the undersigned who have had knowledge of this situation affirm that Tom hoped to keep this a private matter. This desire was also clearly stated in the conversations with Willy Rice that followed.

After receiving counsel, Tom and two of our elders met with Willy and one of his staff on a video call to discuss the situation. Both parties agreed to have it recorded. In the conversation, Willy confirmed that he was aware of this deacon’s past actions prior to ordaining him to that office, but had never thought of it as being predatorial. Nevertheless, Willy indicated that certain limitations were placed on his service in the church. Willy was also aware that the deacon led a parachurch ministry that worked with underprivileged children, that he was working in foster care and adoption ministries, and that he had been appointed by Governor DeSantis as an advisor in these areas. Willy said, “They don’t see him as predatorial.” In addition, Willy gave clear indication that he believed the deacon was a believer before committing the act of sexual abuse. All these things heightened the concern of Tom and our elders who made the call.

In the call’s conclusion, Willy informed our elders that he would seek advice from his church leaders as well as “some people I value in convention leadership about it and figure out what to do from there.” The difficult conference call was cordial from beginning to end. Willy expressed gratitude to Tom for handling the situation in the way he did.

After that call, Willy commended Tom multiple times (in an email on March 26, pictured below, and a phone call on March 28) for how Tom had done a “stand-up thing” and how he had “helped his church” in the way he came to him. On the March 28 phone call, Willy communicated that he had come to understand that what the deacon had done in the past was truly predatorial and that the church had removed him from his leadership position.

We believe Tom initiated these conversations in the spirit of Matthew 18, keeping the group of those “in the know” as small as possible. He consistently communicated a desire to keep this matter private and never make it public unless there was evidence of a cover-up or if the spirit of these conversations were misrepresented. Willy himself acknowledged this desire. All of this took a very different turn just a few days later when Willy began to claim publicly that the motives of those who came to him with the information about the deacon were less than pure and seeking “to score points.” From there, the details of Willy’s account began to change as he shared more information with the public.

After receiving the phone call about Jennifer’s rough draft on April 1, Tom and Jennifer were informed that Karen Prior had been approached by someone who had a copy of Jennifer’s rough draft and wanted Karen to verify that she had received it from Jennifer. The person who came to Karen told her that someone was seeking to publish it to cast disparagement against Tom.

Tom and Jennifer contacted Karen, who said that she had refused to verify the rough draft and that she didn’t think it was right to publish. Jennifer pleaded with Karen to tell them who came to her, citing how wicked it was to twist a wife’s words to weaponize them against her husband. Karen refused to give the name of the one who came to her. In the end, she laid the blame at Jennifer’s feet by saying, “They were your words, Jennifer. And my mom said you should never put in writing what you don’t want the whole world to read.”

Tom and Jennifer reached out that same night (April 1) to Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Karen’s boss. They pleaded for his help. Jennifer shared with Dr. Akin that the rough draft contained information that she had since decided not to release to the public. This information had nothing to do with her husband, but were painful experiences she had endured prior to her ever meeting Tom. She explained to Dr. Akin that it wasn’t the details of her and Tom’s marriage struggle that she feared to be known, but she was mortified that private details of sin committed against her before she ever met Tom were being circulated that she had decided not to publicly disclose (Jen still does not give anyone permission to publish those private details or distribute her rough draft). He agreed that the situation was awful and promised to have Karen give them the information within 48 hours. He has yet to provide that information.

Jennifer decided that the sinful actions of a few people, and the ensuing turmoil, must not eclipse her past desire to share a completed, beautiful story of God’s redemptive grace in her marriage with Tom. Others of us gave her counsel that it would be wise to publish the article she intended to publish, which would bring some clarity and perspective to the rough draft, were it to be published elsewhere. Jennifer posted her completed story on the G3 Ministries website, and many people were blessed by it. In Jennifer’s attempt to help people see the redemptive hope of the gospel, sadly, others weaponized it against them.

Jennifer’s rough draft was subsequently released to news outlets and Tom was told never to release the videos of the Zoom call with Willy Rice. We were also shocked to learn that Jennifer’s rough draft has been passed around various SBC circles “for several years,” even within various SBC institutions. All of this took place after the “Caring Well Initiative,” which called for SBC churches to be a “refuge for those who have experienced abuse.”

These actions go well beyond gossip. They indicate an intentional desire to discredit our pastor and harm his wife, all the while harming and distracting the church they serve from her mission. Yet more tragically, the messaging of the accusers has served to undermine the gospel hope that Jennifer’s article communicates. This wicked behavior involves an ever-increasing number of people in the SBC.

In recent days, Tom and Jennifer have gone to multiple individuals in the SBC who have either passed around or received her rough draft. Some lied about having it at all, but eventually admitted their participation in its proliferation. All of them chose to protect the identity of the person who gave it to them rather than help track down the source to bring an end to Jennifer’s nightmare. Because of the intimate nature of some of the details in her rough draft, Jennifer feels shamefully exposed before those who read it, and personally violated by every person who circulated it. The only person with whom Jennifer shared the rough draft was Karen Prior.

Even as we make final edits to this statement, we are receiving word that SBC entity heads are contacting pastors within the SBC to discredit Tom and prevent him from releasing the information referred to in this statement.

Jennifer was betrayed while gathering her thoughts to tell her story. It was Jennifer’s right and no one else’s to tell that story. Her rough draft was held over her husband’s head as a threat to discredit him if he should ever release the video and correspondence with Willy Rice. We believe that Tom handled this in a godly way by going to Willy privately and by desiring to maintain confidentiality regarding his deacon.

Our senior pastor has been very vocal about many troubling issues in the SBC, like ERLC’s endorsement of Living Out, the SBC’s adoption of Resolution 9, and NAMB planting churches with women pastors, to name a few. Tom has developed a “tough reputation,” as Willy said in his e-mail above. But nothing our pastor has said gives SBC leaders the right to seek to destroy our pastor and his wife.

We have no desire to entangle ourselves in a public battle with the SBC. The things we have written here are not speculation, but are based on text messages, emails, video, and witnesses according to Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:15-17. We believe the SBC Credentials Committee or the Sex Abuse Task Force, who have committed themselves to protect survivors of abuse, should hold the people accountable who spread Jennifer’s private rough draft without her permission. In addition, we believe the trustee board of SEBTS should look further into the involvement of Karen Prior and Dr. Akin.

To that end, we have sent this statement to the groups mentioned above, and if they would like to review the documented evidence we reference, they are welcome to reach out to us and collect these files. We have chosen not to release them publicly due to the inclusion of private information regarding Willy Rice’s former deacon. We do, however, trust that the Credentials Committee and the Sex Abuse Task Force would respect the need for that confidentiality. We also pray that those who are covering for the people that spread Jennifer’s rough draft would come forward to reveal their sources so justice can be served.

We have all decided that our focus and energy must return to our local church. Gospel partnerships are built on mutual trust, and these events have caused us to lose heart in our partnership with the SBC. SBC churches and individuals within those churches should feel free to raise concerns with one another as they arise. Events like those outlined here destroy this essential element of partnership, and are a danger to churches and individuals who seek to have their concerns addressed. We pray these things will be corrected.

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