It isn’t the original scandal that gets people in the most trouble – it’s the attempted cover-up. Tom Petri
I bet some of our readers think that this will be the typical, horrific story of a pastor who allegedly assaulted a teen. This one runs far deeper and calls into question what the Southern Baptist Convention really means when they say that they are against abuse. This will not be a he said/she said, since the pastor perp has been arrested and charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors. I will use the word ‘allegedly’ during this post. Lawyers take note. However, I want to state in the strongest possible terms that I fully believe Anne. Also, I have 100% proof that the International Mission Board knew about this alleged assault and chose not to report it.
What would you say if I told you that I now believe that an SBC sex offender data base would be absolutely useless since they wouldn’t bother to put offenders on it because they cover up the offenses? Am I being a little harsh here? Let’s back up and tell you the story.
- Anne Marie Miller: As a teen she was allegedly molested, more than once, by an SWBTS pastoral student. The pain that she suffered at the hands of the student, Mark Aderholt, has caused her to seek emotional support and treatment. Here is the post we wrote about her seeking help. Did a Large SBC Entity Refuse to Report a Known Sex Offender to Authorities and to Other Churches? Law Enforcement Is Now Investigating. #sbctoo #metoo She is a well-known speaker and author.
- Mark Aderholt: He is a former pastor, missionary, and SBC official who allegedly molested Anne Miller. He has now been arrested and charged. His attorney claims he is innocent.
- Jules Woodson: Anne contacted Jules several months ago and shared her story. Most of the world knows Jules’ story. We will be updating her story next week.
- Amy Smith and Dee Parsons: Amy Smith of Watchkeep and Dee were contacted by Jules with Anne’s permission. We became a support team for Anne as well as *doing our thing* by keeping an eye on what was happening with this story. Amy accompanied Anne to her appointments with the Arlington PD.
- The Arlington Texas Police Department: After confirming that there was no statute of limitations for this sort of crime, the police began to conduct an investigation. They reportedly contacted the International Mission Board and asked them to turn over all records regarding Anne’s contact with them over the years.
- South Carolina SBC: Mark served as a strategist for this group for approximately 1-1/2 years.
- Columbia (SC) Baptist Church: Mark volunteered with teens in this church until sometime in May.
- Immanuel Baptist Church: Some people call this *Bill Clinton’s* former church. (Google it.) Aderholt served as a pastor in this church after being recalled as a missionary. We do not know if the church was informed of his *being let go* as a missionary for the International Mission Board.
- Hungary/Eastern Europe: Aderholt served as a missionary in this area for 10 years until he was recalled. We do not know if the missions team in this country or the authorities were informed of the allegations.
- David Platt: President of the International Mission Board this year when Anne approached the IMB, once again, to deal with the Mark Aderholt situation. The buck must stop there. He is part of the *new and improved* SBC. Is the what we can expect in the future?
- The International Mission Board: Arguably the most influential organization within the SBC.
- Derek Gaubatz: The Stanford Law School graduate and IMB attorney who oversaw this entire situation. He did NOT report this crime, and he suggested that Anne *let it go* and *forgive.*
An investigative report by Sarah Smith of the Fort Worth Star telegram
Today, Sarah Smith, an investigative reporter, released Southern Baptist officials knew of sexual abuse allegations 11 years before leader’s arrest. This article is chock full of facts about this case, including a video of Anne discussing Aderholt, whom she now describes as a pedophile.
The story through 2007
When Anne was 16, Aderholt began a physical relationship with her. She was looking for someone to help her with a *See You at the Pole* event. Aderholt, an SWBTS student, responded to her plea. The relationship quickly became physical. From Sarah Smith’s Star Telegram article:
As they were kissing, according to the affidavit, Aderholt asked Miller if she were a virgin. She was, she said. Aderholt told her that he lost his virginity at 13, according to the affidavit. He continued to kiss her.
“In my memory, it’s like I’m just watching it,” Miller said. “I’m not there. I’m just watching it from floating above.”
At that point, the contact moved beyond kissing and progressed to further sexual contact above and below the waist.
To Miller, who had been raised in a conservative church culture, Aderholt kissing her meant he loved her. They were exclusive, boyfriend and girlfriend.
Aderholt eventually ended the relationship in April 1997 because he became engaged to the woman to whom he is now married. Over a period of years, Anne mentioned to friends that she had a bad relationship with a pastor. One day, when watching an Oprah show which dealt with spotting predators, she began to realize that she had been the victim of a pedophile.
In 2007, Anne approached the International Mission Board, which decided to do an investigation. Along with the investigative reporter, Sarah Smith, Amy, Jules and I have copies of the 300 page documented investigation. Due to the difficult descriptions of Anne’ assault, as presented in these pages, we will not release the transcript. However, if the IMB would like proof that we have it, we would be happy to provide them with pictures of the document.
This investigation was led by the IMB attorney Derek Gaubatz, and the proceedings were documented by a certified court reporter. This took place over the course of two days in October 2007. The IMB is refusing to answer questions about this investigation, according to Sarah Smith. However, Smith found an ex-boyfriend who was asked questions during this investigation.
The ex-boyfriend, now 47 and a teacher with his own family who had asked for anonymity, said they asked him how long he’d known her, what their relationship was and what she told him about Aderholt.
“They also asked me how she dressed,” he said. “I thought they were almost insinuating she asked for it, or she could have been more complicit in the interaction than what she claimed.”
The IMB decided not to report this crime since Anne, at that time, did not want to report it herself. It is perplexing to me that a well-educated man like Gaubatz did not think to involve the police. Aderholt was recalled from Hungary, where he had served as a missionary for 10 years. Aderholt himself did not dispute the findings of the IMB.
According to the Star Telegram:
Aderholt, the assessment team determined, had “more likely than not” engaged in an “inappropriate sexual relationship” with Miller from 1996 to 1997. As for Aderholt, the the team found he was “not truthful” about the “full extent of the relationship.”
Aderholt did not dispute the findings; instead, he resigned in January 2008.
So, in 2008, we are left with a guy who was *not truthful* and *more likely than not* had engaged in an inappropriate conduct. Is that how the IMB left it? In fact, that is precisely what they did.
Questions for the IMB/SBC/David Platt
- Did any of these *investigators* check to see if Aderholt had molested any teen in Hungary while he was there for 10 years?
- Did the IMB notify the police in Hungary with their concerns?
- Did anyone on that team show any concern for the teens under his care while he was a missionary?
- Did anyone think to report it to the US authorities since there was an admission to the events by Aderholt.
The story from 2008 – July 2018, which proves the IMB did nothing about Aderholt.
One would think that the IMB would have kicked Aderholt to the curb and keep him out of Christian ministry. After all, he abused his pastoral/missionary privilege, and most people would agree that he shouldn’t be anywhere near a pulpit or a missions trip.
Not so. In 2009, he headed to Arkansas, where he became a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church. He stayed until sometime in 2016. He, along with a lead pastor of Immanuel, Gary Hollingsworth, lead pastor of Immanuel, headed to the South Carolina SBC where Aderholt became the *chief strategist.”
These were hard years for Anne, who suffered from depression. It is our experience that most victims of sexual assault suffer greatly until their abuser is brought to justice. Anne told us that she had written a number of emails to Attorney Gaubatz through the years. One of these letters is posted at Sarah Smith’s article. It is obvious to us that she was asking for help to bring justice to this situation. Gaubatz’s response to one of these emails is astonishing.
Gaubatz’s *professional* advice for Anne?
- Let it go
- Case closed
Gaubatz never once told her that a crime may have been committed by Aderholt. He never offered to help her report the crime. He didn’t ask her if she is getting the support she needs. The coldness in his response to Anne may have caused her to struggle in the years that followed.
In 2011, Anne again wrote Gaubatz, asking why Aderholt was allowed to be a pastor. This time Gaubatz did not respond. Did Gaubatz ever consider that he was retraumatizing Anne by his silence?
In 2018, Anne became aware of the #metoo #churchtoo movement. She told me that she didn’t want her daughter growing up in a world in which children and teens were being assaulted in church by pastors. That is why she reached out to Jules.
Over a period of a few months, she bravely came to the decision that she needed some help to deal with the issues that began with her assault. She was no longer content to *let it go*. She wanted to take action, so she reported her story to the police, who began an investigation. She also contacted Atty Gaubatz one more time.
At this point, Gaubatz should have realized that Anne meant business. His thoughtless response only made the situation worse. He merely repeated what he said back in 2011.
He told her not only to forgive but to reconcile with her abuser! This is 2018. The #metoo movement is well known. How could a bright, Stanford Law School graduate respond in such an insensitive fashion? He said she should reconcile with Aderholt, even though his crime hadn’t been reported to the police?
I am left with several impressions.
- Is Gaubatz ignorant when it comes to responding thoughtfully to a sex abuse victim? Why is he in this position?
- Maybe he is not ignorant, and this is how the IMB covers up potential crimes? Maybe that is why he is in this position?
- He does not express any concern that there may be other victims.
- He appears to be discouraging Anne from going to the police since it was such an old crime and it probably would not be pursued by the police. Remember, this is a Stanford Law School graduate. Surely he knows how to look that up. It took me about 5 minutes on Google, and I’m no lawyer.
Aderholt was teaching teens at late as May 2018.
As the investigation commenced, Amy and I became concerned that Aderholt was still involved with children. We discovered that Aderholt was indeed teaching 9th and 10th grade students at Columbia Baptist Church, which had recently experienced their own sex abuse scandal. Remember, Anne was 16 when this assault allegedly took place. Aren’t 10th grade student around that age?
Amy and I decided that we had a moral obligation to report this to the police, which we did. Unbeknownst to us, Anne had reported this as well. At the time this tweet was sent, Aderholt was working for the SCSBC and attending that CBC.
Statement to the IMB/David Platt
We believer that the churches that Aderholt attended or served should have been warned by the IMB. We know that Columbia Baptist Church had absolutely no idea about Aderholt’s background. This failure to reach out to other churches BY THE IMB is unconscionable. But, I guess that is how the IMB rolls…
The curious case of Mark A and mission trips.
During the period of 2008-2018, Aderholt was involved in a number of mission trips with various churches. We were contacted by several people who served with him on these trips. Some of these trips were reportedly taken for or with the IMB. I have not been able to confirm this because the IMB is not talking.
Mark Aderholt always posted his name as Mark A. Unfortunately, his name was removed from the SCSBC website before we could snag a shot of him listing himself as *Mark A*. According to some of the people who went on mission trips with him, Aderholt claimed he did this to protect himself and his family since he went into *closed* countries. If anyone else knows any other reason why he always wrote his name *Mark A,* we would love to hear about it.
UPDATE: Thank you for Amy Smith and the Wayback Machine. Here is an example of how Mark officially listed his name, and no one thought to call him on it. Did they buy the *covert* missionary line?
According to the Star Telegram, in another article written by Sarah Smith and Deanna Boyd: He quit in June. Now Southern Baptist leader is charged in teen’s 1997 sexual assault, Aderholt was involved in many missional efforts.
Aderholt is prolific as an international missionary. He formerly served as the missionary to Eastern Europe for the International Mission Board, an organization affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s cited as having also served in Bulgaria and Slovakia, among others.
What does the SBC/IMB/David Platt have to say about this arrest?
IMB spokesperson says they investigate charges of sexual assault internally and, If warranted, take action to report it to police.
The Christian Post reported on the IMB statement in SC Baptist Convention Leader Resigns, Charged With Sexual Assault From 20 Years Ago.
This statement is a real problem. They claim to be investigating internally, and then they make decisions about whether or not to report. Instead, the IMB should have immediately reported this to the police and allowed them to investigate. They would have been told back in 2007 that Aderholt could be charged. But, the Standford Law School graduate did NOT allow that to happen. This statement by the IMB raises multiple red flags. Is the SBC/IMB involved in not reporting potential crimes?
International Mission Board spokesperson Julie McGowan, who confirmed that Aderholt served with the organization from 2000–2008, said the organization has a “zero-tolerance policy” on sexual misconduct.
“IMB has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct that is shared with all personnel. If anyone has knowledge of a case involving sexual misconduct, we strongly encourage them to come forward, and we provide multiple avenues for them to report. When we are informed of possible cases of sexual misconduct of any kind, we investigate those situations immediately and, if warranted, take the appropriate action to report it to local authorities and remove individuals from IMB employment,” she said.
McGowan told the Star Telegram:
Julie McGowan, the Mission Board spokeswoman, declined to answer specific questions about whether it shared its findings with other Soutern Baptist churches. In an email she said responding to such questions “could subject IMB to possible lawsuits under tortious interference with contract laws.”
The initial SCSBC statement is laughable because it states Aderholt’s resignation was accepted because or *the Gospel.*
Is this how the SBC handles thing? Throw out a bunch of *gospel words* and hope it sticks? Is this how we misuse the term *gospel?* According to WISTV which posted Former SC Baptist Convention employee charged in Texas for sex assault accusation from 1997, they accepted his resignation in order to “see every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel.”
Dr. Gary Hollingsworth, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, has received and accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Mark Aderholt who had been serving for the past year and [a] half as the Associate Executive Director and Chief Strategist for the Convention.
While accepting this with a heavy heart, Dr. Hollingsworth did so based on the importance of staying focused on the Convention’s Vision statement of “seeing every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel.”
Hollingsworth informed the Executive Board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the staff of the SCBC, all the Associational Directors of Missions and leaders of the Convention’s Institutional Ministry Partners and wanted to make sure all South Carolina Baptists were made aware of this staff change.
He and the SCBC staff are committed to continuing to see the Gospel advanced here in South Carolina and around the world by working to fulfill the Convention mandated priorities of evangelism, church strengthening/discipleship, missions mobilization and church planting.
Recently, the SCSBC spoke through their lawyer when asked questions by the media about Aderholt. Basically, they ain’t talking!
Hollingsworth had been pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, where he and Aderholt worked before going to the South Carolina Baptist Convention. In response to 29 questions about Aderholt — including the hiring process at Immanuel and the South Carolina Baptist Convention and whether anyone had known of the Mission Board’s investigation — the South Carolina Baptist Convention deferred comment to its employment law attorney, Stephen Savitz of Columbia, S.C.
“Our longstanding advice to the South Carolina Baptist Convention and to our other clients is that as to former employees, they should only give a neutral reference which would be dates of employment, position held and salary,” Savitz wrote in an email. “I do not recommend his responding to additional questions.
The SBC/IMB/David Platt did not report a crime that they have known about since 2007. This raises the question – do SBC leaders respond to abuse by covering it up? In this case, we have proof that they did not report this crime to the police. We also know the police would most likely have arrested Aderholt if the IMB had reported.
We’ve been told that the IMB investigates incidents of abuse internally and then decides if they will report it. Given their response in this situation, we know that they don’t always report sexual abuse.
- How many more of these crimes have been covered up?
- How many victims have been denied justice by savvy lawyers who convince them to “let it go.”
- How many victims have been asked about what they wore when they were assaulted?
- How many victims go years without getting the support that they need?
- How many victims have been told to forgive and reconcile?
I believe that the leadership of the SBC needs to repent and ask forgiveness for their actions. Let’s see how the *new and improved* SBC responds to this. If they remain quiet, hidden behind lawyers, we may discover that the new and improved SBC is no different than the old SBC. We will wait on a statement from their new President, JD Greear.
In the meantime, please join me in praying for:
- Justice for Anne
- Other potential, unknown victims
- Apologies from the IMB/David Platt
- Resignations of those who covered up the situation
We believe that Anne’s story may be the tip of the iceberg for the SBC. We know there will be more coming.
#metoo #churchtoo #justiceforAnne #IMBcoverup