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IMB, ex-missionary’s accuser differ over abuse response

EDITOR’S NOTE: The third paragraph was edited July 19, 2018, to add another church where Aderholt served.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Aug. 21, 2020, the International Mission Board issued a statement clarifying and correcting a 2018 statement published in this article. The statement of clarification and correction can be viewed here.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — The International Mission Board and an alleged sexual assault victim of a former missionary have presented differing accounts of how the board handled an investigation of the alleged misconduct.

After Baptist Press published a July 16 update on the case of former IMB missionary Mark Aderholt — who has been charged in Fort Worth, Texas, with sexual assault of a child under 17 — his alleged victim, Anne Marie Miller, sent an email to BP disputing the IMB’s representation of its 2007 investigation into the alleged misconduct. Miller was 16 and Aderholt 25 when the assault allegedly occurred in 1996-1997.

Aderholt served with the IMB from 2000-2008 and went on to serve on staff with Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Ark.; Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.; and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

In response to Miller’s claims, board spokesperson Julie McGowan said, “We stand by the statements we made. We are cooperating with an ongoing criminal investigation, and we do not plan to share information publicly that could interfere with that investigation.”

Among Miller’s claims: She did not decline “multiple times” to report the abuse, as the IMB claimed, and the IMB is not “supporting” her. Miller also said that while others could have reported her alleged abuse to Texas law enforcement in 2007, IMB was the only organization or person with “an intimate knowledge of what happened” until she “gave the details to law enforcement” earlier this year.

“As the victim in Mark Aderholt’s case,” Miller said, “I assure you I did not say ‘multiple times’ that I did not want to report the abuse to law enforcement.” Miller wrote that she made the comment one time following what she characterized as “an emotionally stressful and inappropriate line of questioning from the IMB” in its 2007 investigation. She also faults the IMB for not encouraging her to file a report or offering to help her “psychologically deal with their investigation.”

The fact that others could have reported “does not let the IMB off the hook, especially with their in-depth knowledge of my abuse,” she wrote.

Miller added, “In order for the IMB to ‘support’ me, they need to accept their own responsibility for not reporting this crime and publicly apologize to me and the thousands of SBC members who could have been negatively impacted by the IMB not informing other entities of this heinous act.” She also wrote “[IMB]’s actions are not consistent with the [SBC annual meeting’s] resolutions about women and sexual abuse.”

McGowan told BP in an email, “We have a process to openly share information with media, and we have shared that information.”

She reiterated 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.”

Ministries and other employers looking to hire any former IMB missionary can request a reference, McGowan said, by emailing [email protected].