Former SCBC employee indicted in Texas on sexual assault charges

Mark Aderholt, former associate executive director and chief strategist for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, has been indicted on charges of sexually assaulting a teenager in Arlington, Texas, more than 20 years ago.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, citing court records in Tarrant County, Texas, reported Dec. 19 that Aderholt, 47, was indicted Dec. 18 on four counts related to sexual assault of a child under the age of 17. The alleged offense occurred in 1997 in Arlington, court records show.

Aderholt served with the South Carolina Baptist Convention for a year and a half until he resigned June 19, 2018. He was arrested July 3 in South Carolina on a warrant issued in Texas.

After Aderholt’s arrest, Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director-treasurer, said in a statement, “Our hearts are grieved and our prayers are with everyone involved.”

Aderholt graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 2000 with a master of divinity degree. He formerly served in Europe as a missionary with the International Mission Board. Aderholt served with IMB from 2000-2008.

On July 25, Baptist Press reported that two “thorough, outside, independent” investigations had been initiated by International Mission Board president David Platt into IMB’s handling of any past sexual abuse allegations and into its policies of zero tolerance for such abuse.

Platt also stated a public apology to Anne Marie Miller, who has alleged sexual abuse by Aderholt, who subsequently became an IMB missionary yet was not reported to authorities following a 2007 IMB inquiry into the matter. “[Many] facets of this situation are extremely disturbing,” Platt said.

Platt stated he was “commencing a thorough, outside, independent examination of IMB’s handling of past actions — including this case and any other similar situations. In addition, I am commencing a thorough, outside, independent examination of IMB’s present policies to ensure that our current commitment to zero tolerance for child abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment is completely and consistently enforced across IMB today.

“Further, I am presently in conversations with leaders of other churches and ministries, particularly within the SBC, to establish practical ways we can and must prevent situations like this in the future,” Platt stated. “Any attempts to minimize, ignore, cover up, or overlook child abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment are absolutely intolerable, and we must take action together now to ensure safety and support for every person employed or affected by a church or ministry.”

Platt, addressing Miller, stated, “I want to publicly apologize for the pain and hurt that Anne Miller has specifically suffered in this situation. I will not presume to know the variety of other emotions and challenges that she, those around her, and others who have walked through similar situations have experienced. Further, I want to apologize for various ways we in the IMB have contributed to such hurt and pain through our response to this point.”

Platt concluded his statement asserting that “we must do better. In the IMB. In the SBC. In any church and any ministry, we must do everything we can to protect children and adults from abuse and harassment, and we must do everything we can to hold anyone who is guilty of these things fully accountable.”

In September, Platt resigned as IMB president in order to return to the pastorate. Earlier in the year, on Feb. 12, he had announced his intentions and asked IMB trustees to begin searching for a successor.

Paul Chitwood, who was elected IMB president Nov. 15, promised to continue the independent study of “IMB’s handling of past allegations of abuse and sexual harassment and IMB’s present policies and practices.”

“This is tremendously important work,” Chitwood said in a statement Dec. 12. “Under my leadership, in partnership with our trustee board, IMB remains fully committed to following through on its promise of a thorough, independent examination.”

After Platt announced the examination in July 2018, IMB trustee officers selected the Minnesota-based law firm of Gray Plant Mooty to conduct the work. According to the IMB release, trustee officers are overseeing the study and will report to the full board when it is complete.

“It is clear to me, in being briefed on this sensitive issue, that the trustee officers are navigating this vitally important task with the highest integrity,” Chitwood said. “I, along with the trustees, am unwavering in my commitment to lead this entity in a way we can ensure provides a safe and healthy place for people to work and, in the case of our international missionaries, a safe place to live and grow as they, their families and their ministry partners work to share the gospel.”