A former Southern Baptist missionary has been indicted for sexual assault over allegations that denominational leaders knew about 11 years ago but did not report to the police.
Mark Edwin Aderholt, 47, stands formally charged with four felony counts of indecency with a child under 17 and sexual assault after a grand jury in Fort Worth, Texas, decided Dec. 19 there is enough evidence against him to send the case to trial.
Authorities say Aderholt had a sexual relationship with a girl in a church youth group he led while a 25-year-old student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1997. The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board investigated the allegations internally in 2007 and concluded that they probably were true but did not notify civil authorities.
Aderholt resigned as a missionary to avoid being fired. He went on to serve on the staff of churches that were none the wiser before landing the job of associate executive director with the South Carolina Baptist State Convention.
After finding out he was still in the ministry, his accuser, a mother, nursing student and former author named Anne Marie Miller, went to legal authorities. After investigation, Texas officials issued a warrant for Aderholt’s arrest. He was taken into custody in South Carolina July 3 and released on bond.
Media attention prompted former International Mission Board President David Platt to order a review of the organization’s policies and practices involving allegations of sexual assault and/or harassment. Current IMB President Paul Chitwood said Dec. 12 he is “fully committed” to following through with the independent outside investigation being done by a Minnesota law firm.
According to a press release, results of the investigation will be presented to the full board of trustees, who in turn will “update” the public “in a manner respectful of the highly confidential nature of the information involved following the conclusion of the examination.”
Miller said on social media she is “relieved” by Aderholt’s indictment but equally “grieved for what has been lost both in my life and in the fallout of this situation.”
A separate study by SBC President J.D. Greear and the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is looking into “how Southern Baptists at every level can take discernable action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions.”