I am deeply thankful for the public statement that Willy Rice made regarding our reconciliation. Up until this year, I did not personally know Willy, but everything I heard about him was how kind and gracious he was. In all my direct dealings with him, even this past year, I found that to be true. Willy is one of the kindest and most humble men that I know. I’m thankful he is my brother in Christ and hope we will have a growing friendship.
I know this past year has been hard on his family and his church. It was never my intention to bring any harm to either of them. I believe if it weren’t for the current political climate in the SBC, none of what happened this past year would have transpired.
When I and two of my elders called Willy back in March to address the situation with a leader in his church, the intention was not for any of the details to ever be made public. Although the conversation was difficult, it was respectful and gracious. As Willy’s statement clearly indicates, there was no overt or implied threats made by me and I think he now believes I was not acting politically. Those closest to this situation have all attested I had no political motivations.
In that initial call, Willy demonstrated a desire to be forthright. I have found him to be a man in whom there is no guile. In addition, we both truly desired to move forward in a righteous way. We also both agreed to do everything we could to keep the details of the situation from becoming public. There was no need to cause more hurt and pain to the family in his church.
A few days later, everything began to unravel as I began to receive phone calls from various people who heard that I called Willy and said they were told I was acting politically to take Willy down. (I had not personally spoken to anyone about the situation other than Rachael Denhollander, who I had sought for advice to be certain that I wasn’t acting politically. She promised to speak up and defend me if anyone made such an accusation.)
Since I hadn’t spoken to anyone, I wrongly assumed Willy was intentionally driving this accusation. After Willy and I recently shared our individual experiences and perspectives from everything that transpired, I’m convinced that individuals in the SBC who had their own political agendas were feeding us both information that gave us reason to distrust one another.
I have asked Willy to forgive me for the assumptions I made and anything I said publicly that was an assault upon his character. And I’m thankful he made it clear to me that he had nothing to do with those who used my wife to retaliate against me. I fully believe him. Since this began, he is the first person who has truly sought to make right what happened. Jennifer and I are still praying that justice will be done and those responsible will be held accountable.
Although I wish I had come to know him under different circumstances, I am thankful to have gotten to know Willy. He is right that we don’t agree on everything, but that isn’t necessary for us to love one another as brothers in Christ. I think we have both come to learn through this that the SBC needs to be a place where the gospel drives everything we do and that we are not defined by our past but by who we are as new creations in Christ. I love Willy Rice and will be praying for him and Calvary Baptist Church. They are blessed to have him as their pastor.