International Mission Board investigating abuse policies

International Mission Board investigating abuse policies

Former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary and denominational employee Mark Aderholt is only days away from his initial court appearance to face a charge of sexual assault of a child under 17.

And while Aderholt prepares for court, the IMB is in the beginning stages of an independent investigation it launched to evaluate its handling of the alleged abuse.

Aderholt, 46, has been free from jail on $10,000 bond since his July 3 arrest.

Since his arrest the IMB has had conversations with various authorities, the media and legal representation about the situation because officials were made aware of the allegation in 2007 but did not report it.

The offense allegedly occurred in Arlington, Texas, in 1997 when Aderholt was 25. Officials from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, confirmed Aderholt was a student at the seminary when the crime was allegedly committed.

IMB did not report

Aderholt served with the IMB from 2000 to 2008 and then served at two Arkansas churches and with the South Carolina Baptist Convention as associate executive director after his time with the IMB.

The IMB learned of the allegations in 2007 while Jerry Rankin was president and conducted an internal investigation.

The matter was set to go before the board of trustees, “which, at that time, was the only group with the authority to terminate a member of our missionary personnel,” IMB spokesperson Julie McGowan said in mid-July. But Aderholt resigned on his own “before the board could vote on the recommendation from the investigative team.”

The IMB has since changed its policies to allow a missionary to be terminated by “staff senior leadership,” McGowan said.

The IMB did not report the incident to law enforcement at the time, McGowan said, because the victim, Anne Marie Miller, was not interested in pressing charges.

Miller, diagnosed in 2010 with PTSD resulting from childhood abuse, said she remembers feeling at the time that if the criminal investigation was anything like her two days of interviews with the IMB, she did not think she could handle it.

She added that regardless of her emotional state at the time, the IMB ignored mandatory reporting laws. It is unclear what, if anything, the IMB told Aderholt’s future employers.

Current IMB President David Platt announced on July 26 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,” he said.

“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.” (TAB, BNG, BP)