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Mark Aderholt pleads guilty in sex assault case

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Former Southern Baptist missionary, minister and state convention worker Mark Aderholt pleaded guilty Tuesday (July 2) in a plea deal related to the sexual assault of a minor two decades ago.

Aderholt, 47, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily injury, said Sam Jordan, a communications officer with the Tarrant County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office. Aderholt surrendered to authorities Tuesday to begin serving 30 days in jail and 24 months’ probation, and was levied a $4,000 fine in confessing to the Class A misdemeanor.

Aderholt was originally charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child under 17, a second-degree felony, in crimes that allegedly occurred in 1996 against a 16-year-old Anne Marie Miller. She met Aderholt, she told the court, while searching the America Online website for help organizing a See You at the Pole event during her junior year in high school. Aderholt, then a 25-year-old Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student, responded to her online search.

Miller agreed to the terms of Aderholt’s plea deal, adjudicated in the 297th District Court of Tarrant County.

“This morning,” Miller wrote on her blog after Tuesday’s hearing, “I had the opportunity to do something I never thought I would be able to do, emotionally or logistically: tell Mark Aderholt how the sexual abuse he inflicted on me as a teenager affected me, and that I forgive him. I did both at his hearing today at the Tarrant County Courthouse.”

In the victim impact statement she made off the record in court but later posted on her blog, Miller termed her ordeal “over.”

“I used to believe that in order for this ordeal to be over, you needed to tell the truth and ask me to forgive you,” she told Aderholt. “I know now that’s not the case. This is over because I have spoken the truth. It’s over because I have forgiven you. Your lies have no more power.”

She encouraged Aderholt to repent.

“I pray you begin to feel the pulse of conviction pursuing your heart,” she said. “I pray you begin to immerse yourself in the repentance and forgiveness you have spent your life proclaiming but never fully experiencing…. And I pray you will know the holy and saving power of God’s perfect and unconditional love.”

Aderholt made no statement in court other than his guilty plea, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Aderholt served as a missionary with the International Mission Board from 2000-2008 and later on the staffs of two Arkansas churches. He was arrested in the Miller case in 2018 in South Carolina, where he had served on staff of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Former IMB President David Platt apologized to Miller in 2018 and announced two independent investigations of IMB’s handling of any past sexual abuse allegations and its policies of zero tolerance for sexual abuse.

In May, current IMB President Paul Chitwood also apologized to any victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by “anyone associated with IMB” and said IMB is “committed to making the changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable.”

The Southern Baptist Convention addressed the issue of sexual abuse extensively at its 2019 annual meeting June 11-12, passing constitutional and bylaw amendments, conducting panel discussions and releasing new resources to equip churches to combat abuse, submit perpetrators to criminal justice and minister to victims.