Steven Flockhart resigned abruptly this past week as the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Florida after the local paper uncovered that the pastor had lied about several things in his past, including his educational achievements. You can read the Palm Beach Post's story here.
There were three statements in the newspaper story that struck me as very odd. First, when the chairman of the pulpit committee was asked why the committee did not thoroughly investigate the background of the man they were bringing in view of a call to be pastor of their very large church, he responded,
"(There was) a significant endorsement because Johnny Hunt is a leading pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention," Mahoney said. "He's respected in both religious and secular circles."
Second, after the newspaper called the registrar's office at Liberty University to ask about Mr. Flockhart's alleged enrollment for his second "doctorate," the registrar first said they had never heard of Mr. Flockhart, then called back and said,
"They (the registrar's office) discovered he paid his registration fees directly to seminary President Ergun Caner. The pastor is enrolled and has paid in advance, said Ron Godwin, executive vice president and CEO of Liberty University. "I love those kind of students." He further said, "Flockhart is good friend of our chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell."
The third statement that struck me as odd was this one:
"Flockhart said he was "licensed to preach" in 1986 by Rev. Hunt and ordained by Hunt in 1990.Hunt appeared via videotape at Flockhart's first service at First Baptist last month and gave a ringing endorsement of his protégé. Like Flockhart, he also lists a degree from Covington on his résumé. It says he holds an honorary doctorate from the school."
I am amazed that we have an environment in the SBC where popular circuit speakers such as Johnny Hunt, Ergun Caner, and Jerry Falwell have enough influence over professional laymen in a large, metropolitan church to cause them to call a man without ever checking his resume. Doing a Lexus Nexus internet search would have uncovered the lawsuits against Mr. Flockhart, or running a simple credit report would have identified his financial struggles, and might have saved the church a tremendous amount of embarrassment.
Could it be that we have developed in our beloved SBC a climate where personality has more of a hold on people than it should?
In His Grace,