An Open Letter to S.C. Baptists from SCBC Executive Board chair Tommy Kelly and SCBC president Marshall Blalock
We are writing this letter to express our appreciation for the effective leadership Dr. Gary Hollingsworth, the executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, has demonstrated during the recent events that resulted in Mark Aderholt’s resignation. From May 17 when Dr. Hollingsworth first learned of the claims via social media, he has acted wisely and decisively. He has included the elected leadership of the convention throughout this process. He informed the twelve members of the Executive Advisory Board and the full Executive Board of this situation, and with the full support of the Board, pledged to take whatever action was necessary.
Since Dr. Hollingsworth released his statement on behalf of the convention on June 19, we have received many questions and comments from pastors and leaders throughout South Carolina. In an effort to dispel unwarranted speculation and to be as transparent as possible, we are issuing this statement to give clear and accurate information to our South Carolina Baptist family.
First of all, our hearts are broken by this situation, and that extends to everyone involved.
The timeline for Mark Aderholt’s tenure at the SCBC began July 16, 2016, when he was called to serve as our senior strategist, and ended with his resignation effective June 15, 2018. In Dr. Hollingsworth’s job interviews with him, Mark Aderholt never mentioned any abuse claim against him. The hiring process involved a comprehensive background investigation, including a criminal history check, a credit check, and employment references, all of which were impeccable. No sources gave any indication of any negative information about Mr. Aderholt. He served well in his position here and there was absolutely no indication of any claim of abuse in his past.
On May 17, 2018, Dr. Hollingsworth for the first time became aware of a claim on social media which associated Mark Aderholt with an abusive sexual relationship 22 years ago.
Dr. Hollingsworth immediately addressed the issue with Mark Aderholt and asked about the veracity of the underlying claims. Mr. Aderholt denied them then, and according to news accounts, continues through his legal counsel in Texas, to state he is innocent. Mr. Aderholt was placed on leave on May 18, and agreed to provide information necessary for Dr. Hollingsworth to determine the next steps. Mr. Aderholt, who was represented by legal counsel, decided not to provide access to the information requested and tendered his resignation effective June 15, 2018.
At the time of his arrest on criminal charges from Texas, the SCBC through the media learned along with the general public of the nature and seriousness of the formal charges. The SCBC trusts officials in Texas will properly and fully investigate this matter and that justice will be served.
We encourage our Baptist family to pray for all those who have been hurt by this situation. We also ask that you understand that this statement is the full extent of what we can share about this matter at this time. Our prayer is that the mission of our convention will not be further harmed and that Christ may be glorified as we serve His kingdom in days to come.
Yours for Christ,