Preface by David Morrill: Challenging JD Hall and the Pulpit & Pen / Protestia team to figure out the dirty details behind a sordid political affair is something only a fool would do. We stand for truth. We uncover the truth. And we tell you the truth. Many of the characters exposed herein have been called out for years as the false brothers/sisters they are, yet these warnings often went unheeded. JD (and others) paid a price in terms of personal reputation, strained and broken relationships, and being publicly denied by men who not long ago were happy to share a platform with him. Relegated to the “name that shall not be named,” P&P provided the investigatory and intellectual ammunition used in the weapons of other ministries, yet happily warred on in pursuit of the Gospel and the defense of God’s truth (Matt. 7:15, Rom. 16:17, Eph. 5:11, 1 Thess. 5:21-22). Now as JD takes a step back from polemical writing to redouble his efforts as a shepherd of his local flock, he leaves the evangelical world with the following parting gift. Godspeed, my friend.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:3).
Note: David Morrill reached out to Tom Buck to confirm some of these details. Tom confirmed what his elders had already released, as well as sent a redacted image of the referenced video call to confirm its authenticity.
Tom Buck has been a stalwart supporter of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has also been an outspoken opponent of the encroachment of liberalism in the convention – critical theory, ministerial egalitarianism, and (at the core of this article) the employment of the worldly political tactics of personal destruction. It is among these dangers to the church that his family finds themselves targeted by forces opposed to Tom on these issues and committed to stopping his public challenge of those who are in error. Likewise, they are determined to use attacks on him to smear Tom Ascol, Tom’s friend and current candidate for president of the SBC.
Unfortunately, this ungodly behavior has been engaged in by men and women Tom trusted and considered friends. Whether or not trusting these people was advisable is an issue for another article. I continue to believe in the value of organizational cooperation for the sake of the Gospel, that public engagement with those we disagree with is healthy, and that we must strive to maintain unity on the essentials of the faith. Yet, there comes a time when unity can no longer be maintained, and sin must be exposed to the light for the sake of the purity of the church. This is such a time.
What you are about to read has the potential to change the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are institutional powers, techniques, and alliances that remain hidden to many faithful SBC church members, and exposing what has happened here will give church members a glimpse into a corrupted political culture that threatens to destroy the Convention.
As you read this tale, you will see and hear with your own eyes and ears what is perhaps the most sinfully wicked, despicable, and morally destitute attempt by progressives in the Southern Baptist Convention to hold onto power at all costs. Although it has been clear for some time that progressives are engaging in a subversive campaign to shift the Convention away from inerrancy and sufficiency, this story is simply beyond the pale. As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.
WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE
It cannot be denied that SBC institutions – both official and para-convention – are populated by institutionalists. That is, those who depend on the SBC’s influence and resources for their livelihoods. While the Convention undoubtedly employs and supports many faithful ministers of the Gospel, there exists a cabal of pastors, writers, and influencers who promote the same unbiblical theological/ecclesiastical progressivism, embed themselves and their allies within the power structures of the Convention (seminaries, mission boards, NAMB-supported churches, etc.), and ally with their ideological brethren within the larger evangelical world. Often called “Big Eva,” “Big Tent Baptists,” or the “Evangelical Intelligentsia,” this group mirrors in many ways the “swamp” of secular political influencers that congregate in Washington D.C. One only needs to notice how these institutionalists are passed in and out of positions of influence like trading cards, gratuitously congratulate each other, and circle the proverbial wagons to protect one another to see who they are. One trip down a person’s social media feed will quickly identify whether they are in the Big Eva camp – or at least if they are trying to be.
Much like the loose alliances found in the identity politics of the secular left, this group loosely unites the special interest groups of SBC-flavored evangelicalism. Effeminate pastors, pulpit-seeking feminists, abuse grifters (RAB™), “Side B” gay “Christians,” and peddlers of racial identity all find seats at the Big Eva table, and the commonalities of doctrinal rejection disguised as ministerial innovation keep these groups united in their desire to fundamentally transform the last standing “conservative” denomination.
That there is a battle between conservatives and liberals in the SBC is undeniable, despite anesthetic promises from men like Danny Akin or Albert Mohler that insist there is “no liberal drift.” We recognize that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination is in a battle for its soul. Stakes are similar to those of the Conservative Resurgence of 1979. Yet, post-modernism has introduced several notable exceptions: Both sides claim to be complementarian (typically, so long as they stay in the Convention), both sides claim (laughably, despite all evidence) to be conservative, and both sides claim to be inerrantists (despite the views of modern liberals being fundamentally identical to the views held by the liberals during the prior Conservative Resurgence). While the previous battle over inerrancy remained largely honest and doctrinal, today’s battle is being waged within the post-modern information age. Rather than leave and form their own denominations (or retreat into theological hiding within evangelical institutions), today’s liberals promote their unbiblical ideas through confusion, obfuscation, epistemological distortion, and (in the case of the story you’re about to read) corruption.
Below you will see evidence proving that liberals aiming to shore up control of the SBC at the 2022 convention in Anaheim – including those at the very top – have conspired (possibly criminally), to permanently silence a cooperating, loving, giving, and vocal conservative Baptist pastor using the same or similar tactics they successfully employed against others in recent years.
Yet, those involved have made mistakes. In their hubris, they have failed to cover up their involvement. Why God allowed them to target Tom and Jennifer Buck may remain a mystery. Like all believers, they have no shortage of sin that necessitates the blood of Christ. By God’s sovereign plan, perhaps they picked on them not because of Tom’s voice, his reach, or his gravitas, but because he is completely and provably innocent of their accusations and characterizations.
WHAT WE ASK OF YOU
What we ask of you is simply to look at the facts presented, and make a judgment in the Biblical admonition to judge all things rightly (John 7:24). The future of the SBC – once a powerful instrument in the hand of God – is at stake. What you do with this information will determine whether the SBC returns to being the staff holding up the serpent to heal the nation of God (Exodus 4:2) or if it will be shattered into pieces (as the staff eventually was) that it might not be held in the wrong hands for the wrong purposes (2 Kings 18:4).
Furthermore, we write this not asking you to make the right decisions in Anaheim. We write that you might make the right decision now. Then share that decision with others, send this article to others, and ask them where they stand.
Finally, we ask that you fall for no feigned sympathy for Tom Buck, especially from those in conspiracy with the people complicit in this attack. They will certainly express outrage. These very men are responsible for the gratuitous, intentional sins against him. It is too late to play games, as if those expressing outrage are not themselves in league with the guilty. And, let God’s Word be true though every man a liar. As David wrote by power of the Spirit:
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely. Psalm 141:10
WINNING AT ALL COSTS
The Conservative Resurgence – like any war – was not a completely righteous battle. Wrong was done on both sides, despite one side being devilish. Many have crossed the line of decency, or made swipes or swings, or hit below the belt in the heat of battle. Neither are we so naive to believe the entire Resurgence was about Inerrancy, and not about control, money, and power. The same can be said here.
We’ve heard men on both sides speak of “what is at stake” in Anaheim, in terms of monetary value in control, and view it with contempt. Our God already has all control, and certainly has all the money in the world and heavens in his coffers. But, what concerns us most is the heart of men, and this being the case we offer the following heart-wrenching tale.
These facts have been independently verified. We have the receipts.
On March 26, Tom Buck and two fellow elders met with Willy Rice to confront him about a deacon serving at his church, Jeff Ford. Tom knows Ford, who previously attended his church in Florida and coached a ball team with Tom.
Rice said he did not believe the claim of Ford’s sexual misconduct to be credible. Tom then reached out to Rachael Denhollander (who already knew of this situation) and recommended the information be made available to the SBC Sex Abuse Task Force.
On Monday – before Rice made any announcement of candidacy (around March 29) – Rice called Buck and claimed that he was right and commended Tom for bringing it to his attention – an opinion he came to after speaking to the Sex Abuse Task Force. He also sent an email (below). The next day, Willy Rice contacted Tom via text to ask for advice on how to deal with the issue, after which all communication between the two ceased.
On March 30, an anonymous person created an account on Twitter, accusing Tom of “abusing his wife.” It was presumed by Tom to be Jeff Ford (or his wife Liza) based on the details of the tweets, who would have known about the testimony the Bucks had openly shared with their church. They had never hidden their story. Certainly, Tom did not think that anyone in the upper echelons of the SBC would be involved in such a troll account, or stoop so low as to make such unfounded accusations. Several accounts were created with similar lines of attack.
The story is a simple one and one that the Bucks had been open about in every church they had served. The first few years of their marriage were less-than-blissful at times, and God had remedied their marital trouble by His grace. The extent of any abuse was a reflexive, physical reaction of slapping Jennifer’s wrist when she placed a cold beverage on his neck jokingly. Tom has taken full blame for that act of physicality. Tom shared, “As a newlywed, I had much to learn about how to learn to love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). We have shared this story, many, many times. I am not proud of those first few years of marriage, but I am proud – as is Jennifer – of God’s redemptive work.”
On March 31 (Thursday), Tom received a call from someone within the SBC (who asked not to be named) stating that Tom was out to “destroy Willy Rice” – an accusation he had heard from a text message from a phone number he did not recognize. Tom explained the story and real account. Out of genuine concern for abuse, Tom contacted Willy privately with the information Tom had but presumed Willy did not know. Tom wanted to destroy no one – he wanted to protect women.
What Tom was told in no uncertain terms is that if he did not effectively drop out of Southern Baptist Life, stop tweeting, and stop opposing the liberal takeover of the convention, a story would be released that he beat his wife.
On April 1, Tom received messages asking if his wife had written a blog chronicling her abuse. He asked Jennifer if she was aware of anything like this. A PDF of such an article was sent and did not seem familiar, with one exception – a line about Paige Patterson in relation to the #MeToo Movement. They realized it was a rough draft of a book project they had worked on together to highlight God’s redemption in marriage as a counterbalance to the #MeToo movement. The book had not gone forward, and in the hustle and bustle of ministry, they had practically forgotten about it.
To provide some background on the book and their desire to share their story, in 2018 the Bucks had grown concerned about the #MeToo movement and reached out to Rachael Denhollander, who was one of its most visible figureheads. Their primary concern was how the movement viewed reconciliation within marriage in the aftermath of sin – even potentially abusive sin – between husband and wife. They were transparent with Denhollander, even recounting the “the wrist-slap” incident. They revealed they were considering writing a book about the power of God’s redemption in marriage. Denhollander agreed that what happened with Tom and Jennifer was a story of God’s redemption, although she indicated she believed God’s redemption in such situations was an “anomaly.”
Again in 2018, Tom and Jennifer decided to have an article about their story written for public consumption, feeling led to share their story of God’s redemptive power. In doing so, they prepared a rough draft and sent it to Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor, and asked for her to go over both of their thoughts. Shortly after, Prior was hit by a bus and unable to help. Prior did reach out to Jacki King of SBC Voices for her thoughts. It was suggested at the time that Jennifer could write part of an article – or perhaps the first article with Tom writing a second. Again, the goal was to speak of God’s redemption. They had no evidence that Jacki King ever had the rough draft of the article they gave to Karen.
This leaves – so far as we know – Karen Prior as the only one in possession of this unseen, unprinted, unfinished article.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and the Bucks called Rachel Denhollander immediately after threats were made that the story of spousal abuse would be revealed, considering Denhollander was already aware of their redemption story and their desire to share it. Denhollander told them that it just so happened Karen Prior came to her on March 31 of this year to say that someone had contacted her to verify Jennifer’s article. This was bizarre considering Prior was the only one with the article. How was someone else aware of its existence? Was it possible that Prior began to spread the story, as though it were gossip, and then someone wanted to know from Prior that it was true? It also seems, from conversations and texts, that Prior knew ahead of time that Jennifer’s rough-draft article would be leaked (obviously by someone seeking Tom and Jen harm).
In that conversation with Denhollander, Jennifer and Tom asked if she believed the wrist-slap incident was comparable to the abuse engaged in by Jeff Ford that was brought to Willy Rice. Denhollander unequivocally answered that it did not compare.
This last Saturday, Jennifer and Tom called Karen Prior to confront her about ‘shopping’ the story for publication or if there was an alternative explanation. They also wanted to know one important piece of information – who had asked her to authenticate the story for publication?
They were aware this was a political attack – likely due to the information Tom had on Willy Rice and Jeff Ford. They knew this was being shopped as a political hatchet job by James Merritt, Keith Whitfield, Ed Litton, and Josh Wester – who were all advising Rice over the matter (Whitfield has been confirmed as the person who asked KSP to confirm the authenticity of the draft). It is well known that Wester and Prior are very close, and it would seem most plausible that Prior gave the story to Wester to vindictively hurt Tom for going to Rice with an account of abuse. Karen would not say who asked her to authenticate the story for publication, or who was planning on publishing it.
Tom texted Danny Akin (president of Prior’s employer SEBTS) on Saturday night. Akin was vocally upset at Prior and stated that she needed to say who the third party was and promised to have it within 48 hours. Jennifer then began working on her own story to contradict whatever spun version of the story would likely soon be released as a hit piece.
At 9:38 AM on Thursday (soon after Jennifer’s article went up at G3), Tom Buck heard back from Akin. Instead of keeping his word to find out who had asked Prior to validate the article, Akin said that neither Karen nor anyone else would reveal who was shopping the story for publication and that it settled the matter. Tom assured him it did not settle the matter.
Meanwhile, Tom contacted Jay Adkins (a prominent SBC Voices author) on April 2nd (Lewis Richardson was on the phone as well) and asked if SBC Voices had the original rough draft, perhaps given them by Prior. Adkins adamantly denied anyone at SBC Voices had the article. Yet, Todd Benkert (also of SBC Voices) confirmed to Tom that it indeed had been sent to SBC Voices. Tom called Jay Adkins again – with Todd Benkert on the phone – and tried to flesh out what he strongly believed was a lie.
SBC Voices was clearly conspiring with someone (Tom believed Karen Prior) to attack him for “abusing his wife.” Through the course of the conversation – released below – it was revealed that their point of contact was indeed Karen Swallow Prior.
Yes, sadly Karen Prior was the source according to an audio recording posted below. It was a phone call between Tom Buck, Todd Benkert, and Jay Adkins. Note: This audio was reportedly sent to SEBTS trustees by Tom Buck according to our source.
Notice the repeated lies told, and later conceded. Notice that Prior was the one revealed as the source. Notice how quickly Jay Adkins got off the phone once Tom got the truth out that it was Prior.
Danny Akin, in not keeping his word, was defending KSP’s attempt to blackmail Tom Buck, no doubt to hurt Tom Ascol’s chances in Anaheim.
THE BIG PICTURE
Last year, Mike Stone’s presidential candidacy was scuttled by the unsubstantiated, unsupported, and wildly untrue claims that he was an abuser or – at the very least – took abuse lightly. Since then, those who brought that young woman into the SBC meeting to play Potiphar’s wife and those lauding her story right before the SBC vote have thrown her under the bus, calling her crazy or untrustworthy. These were the same men calling her credible in their pursuit to elect Ed Litton and torpedo Mike Stone.
Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler were successfully taken out by the #MeToo Movement, under dubious evidence we care not to discuss here.
It is true that real and tragic abuse within the SBC has too often been swept under the rug. Our concern (of equal consideration) remains that the #MeToo or #ChurchToo Movement doesn’t leave room for God’s miraculous redemption nor does it differentiate between legitimate, inexcusable abuse and marriages that can (and should) be redeemed by the reparative and gracious power of the God who ordained them. For many years, Jennifer and Tom Buck have told the story of how their marriage is just such a story of God’s grace.
They gave that information directly to Rachael Denhollander. They joyfully wrote about it in a rough draft and sent it to Karen Swallow Prior for the purpose of editing and feedback. Years later, Tom was warned that if he didn’t stop his pastoral activism in the SBC that the rough draft – a draft only in the hands of Karen Swallow Prior – would be sent to press outlets to destroy him, his family, and his ministry.
One outlet – a blog on the far left of the SBC spectrum – had that rough draft. Seminary president Danny Akin gave Tom his firm word that he would ensure Prior would tell him who was shopping that article to blacklist, blackball, and blackmail Tom out of the SBC. Akin did precisely the opposite. After Willy Rice resigned from his candidacy for SBC President, the SBC machine uncoincidentally selected prominent contributor and acolyte of SBC Voices – Bart Barber. We preemptively denounce any statements of sympathy from Barber in this scandal; he is complicit in it.
Neither Tom nor Jennifer has anything to hide. They have always been an open book. However, Prior, Akin, and SBC Voices (and their presidential hopefuls) have used the problem of real abused and victimized women to accomplish their political purposes. All the while, Tom’s only offense (except sins pled under the blood of Christ and forgiven by God and Jennifer many, many years ago) was to try to save women from abuse under the ministry of the liberal elite’s top pick for SBC President. It is our contention that they simply do not care about the plight of abused women except for those plights that advance their political agenda.
It is with total conviction that we rebuke those who are complicit in this blackmail scandal and urge SBC Messengers to remember that this is not a battle of liberals versus conservatives, but God vs Satan. Take note of who supports these men and women, and who these men and women support. They do not work for Christ, but for their own wicked agenda. Ironically, their actions are not primarily about hurting Tom and Jennifer Buck, but perversely about hurting pastor Tom Ascol in Anaheim because of his association with Tom Buck. Their goals are as sickening as their tactics.
Given the clear evidence presented, it is our contention that SBC Voices should be blacklisted by all Southern Baptists and issue an immediate contrite apology, and both Karen Swallow Prior and Danny Akin should be terminated in their employment from SEBTS immediately. Blackmail is criminal, sinful, and wicked – and they are complicit in it. If Tom’s (or our) voice(s) are silenced, they will be silenced by God alone. We stand firmly on Romans 8:1.
Might God vindicate and chasten as He wishes.
A CALL TO ACTION
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