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Former Arkansas Baptist minister charged with sexual assault

Jul 10, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Aderholt, a former employee of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, International Mission Board (IMB) missionary and assistant pastor of missions at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, has been charged in Texas with sexually assaulting a teenager 21 years ago.

Aderholt, 46, was arrested July 3 in South Carolina and booked into the Tarrant County, Texas, jail July 9 on charges of sexual assault of a child under 17, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. He was released July 10 on bond.

The offense allegedly occurred in Arlington, Texas, in 1997, according to the Star-Telegram, and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. An Arlington police spokeswoman told the Star-Telegram she could not release additional information about the case.

In a July 13 online story, Sarah Smith of the Star-Telegram said the IMB knew about allegations against Aderholt 10 years prior to his arrest on the charges. Smith cited as her source police records and emails from an internal investigation from the organization. 

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has confirmed that Aderholt was a student at the seminary when the crime allegedly was committed. He graduated in 2000 with a master of divinity degree.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) released a statement June 19 announcing Aderholt had resigned after a year and a half as the convention's associate executive director and chief strategist and that Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director who previously served as senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, received the resignation with "a heavy heart." The initial statement did not, however, give a reason for the resignation.

After the Star-Telegram reported Aderholt's arrest, Hollingsworth said in a statement, "In light of recent news related to Mr. Aderholt, our hearts are grieved and our prayers are with everyone involved." Hollingsworth told South Carolina's Baptist Courier newsjournal, "Our hearts are grieved, but we are trusting the authorities."

The IMB said Aderholt served with the board from 2000-2008. The IMB learned about the charges against him from the Star-Telegram's July 9 report, IMB spokesperson Julie McGowan said, adding, "It is our policy to cooperate with criminal investigations."

In 2000, the Baptist Press reported Aderholt and his wife Kristie had been appointed as new missionaries to the Central and Eastern Europe region.

McGowan said in written comments that "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.

"IMB has a process by which any church, SBC entity or other employer can request information on former personnel they're looking to hire by contacting us at references@imb.org," McGowan said.

"Details of how we seek to cooperate with our partners in this resource can be found at (https://www.imb.org/for-churches/abuse-harassment/]imb.org/for-churches/abuse-harassment), along with IMB's statement on our zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment and abuse. We actively encourage all churches – and any potential employers of former IMB personnel – to utilize this resource."

– This story was compiled from reporting by the Baptist Press and Arkansas Baptist News.

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