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Karen Swallow Prior

The Karengate Conspiracy: Willy Rice, Tom Buck, and Karen Swallow Prior

The scandals of the Southern Baptist Convention continue to mount as Deacongate would get a sequel called Karengate, aptly coined by Dr. Bobby Lopez after Karen Swallow Prior. The “Notorious KSP” is at the center of a story involving lies, blackmail, and coverups.

Willy Rice Lied

On April 1st, Willy Rice came forward on video disclosing the fact that a deacon at his church committed sexual immorality many years ago. He made mention that a pastor from another church alerted him to this looming scandal to his presidency. That pastor was evidently Tom Buck (more on that below).

On video, Willy Rice claimed that the deacon at his church committed the sin of fornicating with a high school student while being married back in 2005, prior to a confession of faith. Evidently, Willy Rice lied about when the deacon made a profession of faith. Tom Buck so happened to be the pastor of the eventual deacon at Calvary Church, while he pastored in Florida. A recorded zoom video details that the deacon has multiple ministries involving children and that Willy Rice was aware of the deacon’s profession of faith. The zoom call has not been publicly released yet.

Thus in-between the time Willy Rice made the video and the time Willy Rice withdrew his nomination, things between Rice and Buck changed. On April 3rd, Willy Rice would malign the motivations of those who raised awareness to Rice as trying to “score some points.

Tom Buck’s Poor Judgement

Tom Buck has been publicly amiable towards Karen Swallow Prior for years. In 2018, Tom and Jennifer Buck approached Karen Swallow Prior for editing on an essay that Jennifer Buck wrote detailing the struggles of their early marriage. Karen Swallow Prior agreed to edit, but the project never came to fruition. An anonymous Twitter account began surfacing the 2018 draft on March 30th, which out of context was weaponized against Tom Buck calling him an abuser.

Tom Buck demonstrated poor judgement in trusting Karen Swallow Prior in 2018 when she was a known feminist at the time. Additionally, in the process of reaching out to Willy Rice, Tom Buck contacted Rachael Denhollender, a sex abuse grifter, for counsel on how to proceed with Willy Rice. The statement by the elders at FBC Lindale reports that:

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.

The odd move by Tom Buck to seek the assistance of Rachael Denhollander did not result in the discretion he sought.

Enter David Bumgardner

David Bumgardner penned an article in Baptist News Global titled, “Wife of vocal SBC pastor claims suffering emotional and verbal abuse was not grounds for divorce, but for ‘greater hope’ in God” which published excerpts of the 2018 draft on April 11th. This came after Jennifer Buck published her story on April 7th. David Bumgardner used this rough draft to attack Tom Buck’s views on masculinity, which Tom Buck acknowledges he did not have at the beginning of his marriage.

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.”

David Bumgardner would also attack the claim the Bucks made with regards to abuse not being a biblical ground for divorce in an incomplete sentence:

Contrary to the advice Jennifer Buck received from her mentor, Jared C. Wilson, assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Spurgeon College, recently argued that physical abuse is, in fact, grounds for divorce.

David Bumgardner was the man willing to publish quotes of a rough draft of a published article when no others would. The statement by FBC Lindale:

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.

So of all the outlets that received this scoop nearly two weeks before David Bumgardner’s article was published, only Baptist New Global lacked the integrity to publish excerpts rough draft without the consent of the author detailing abuse. David Bumgardner is a young and aspiring Big Eva type who complained about the air conditioning at SBC21.

The Karengate Conspiracy

At the heart of this scandal is not only the fact that Willy Rice deliberately lied about the deacon but that Karen Swallow Prior is in some capacity involved with the leaking of the rough draft in order to malign Tom Buck, one of the most established critics of SBC elites within the convention. Among the outlets that the rough draft was shopped at include the liberal SBC Voices, in which Todd Benkert had received the rough draft.

Todd Benkert initially claimed that it was received anonymously. But evidently he lied, in that he knew who had sent it but it was done in confidence.

After being caught in a lie, Todd Benkert deleted his Twitter. As Karen Swallow Prior was the one who received the initial draft in 2018, naturally she is the prime suspect for the leak. The FBC Lindale elder’s statement states:

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.

Evidently, Karen Swallow Prior and Danny Akin have not cooperated with the Buck’s investigation into the leak.

The only person with whom Jennifer shared the rough draft was Karen Prior.

Therefore, if there is a broken chain of custody, the responsibility would ultimately be on Karen Swallow Prior. However, her refusal to cooperate is tantamount to a conspiracy.

Conclusions

Tom Buck is a leading voice of dissent within the Southern Baptist Convention despite how he entrusted Rachael Denhollander, Karen Swallow Prior, Danny Akin, and Willy Rice to act honorably. The Karengate Conspiracy was mounted to create a mutually assured destruction for Tom Buck not to release the recorded call with Willy Rice, while he was still running for SBC president. When Tom Buck seemingly would not play along, and his wife published a finalized version of her story, the SBC elites had Willy Rice withdraw his nomination. This evidently did not stop excerpts from being leaked and is no guarantee for the full rough draft from being released (the full context likely would not suit the desired narrative). Otherwise Karengate is a wantonly wicked way that the SBC disparages dissidents.

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