Surely you’ve heard by now that a former missionary with the IMB, Mark Aderholt, was arrested on July 3 and charged with sexually assaulting a teenager. The alleged crime took place 21 years ago when Aderholt was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The IMB learned of the allegations made by Aderholt’s victim in 2007 while he was serving with the board. They conducted an internal investigation which determined that “Aderholt ‘engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship’ with a teen in 1996-1997, that the victim ‘suffered as a result’ and that Aderholt ‘was not truthful’ with the IMB ‘about the full extent of the relationship.’ “ Because his victim was an adult at the time the allegations came to light and because she did not want to make a report to police, the IMB did not report the assault to authorities. They intended to fire Aderholt at the next meeting of the trustees, but Aderholt resigned first.
That’s when things get fuzzy. Two months later, Aderholt was employed as the executive pastor at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Ark. He then went on to become the associate pastor of missions/evangelism at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. From there he went to the South Carolina Baptist Convention as associate director and chief strategist.
This raises a lot of questions to which we do not yet know the answers. Did any of these employers contact the IMB to ask for a reference on Aderholt before hiring him? If so, what did the IMB tell them? If these employers did not contact IMB, did anyone who knew of Aderholt’s assault recognize a moral obligation to blow the whistle and alert someone to Aderholt’s sexual assault history?
Right now we have people at the IMB, SCBC, and both churches remaining silent aside from statements prepared by lawyers. No one is saying what they knew. No one is saying what information was passed along to whom. It’s been said that silence is golden. In this case, silence is NOT golden.
I understand the need to tread carefully when releasing public statements that involve employment issues surrounding a criminal sexual assault case. I do not envy these leaders’ position one bit. But there comes a time when standing up and doing the right thing is more important that protecting yourself or the organization you lead from a lawsuit.
So what needs to happen now?
- The IMB, SCBC, and the churches involved must fully cooperate with authorities.
- Anyone at the IMB, SCBC, or these churches who knew about Aderholt’s assault and did nothing should be terminated immediately.
- The executive director of the SCBC must be transparent with its member churches about what he and others responsible for hiring Aderholt knew. If they knew nothing, why?
- The churches where Aderholt was employed after leaving IMB must be transparent with their members about what those responsible for hiring Aderholt knew. If they knew nothing, why?
- David Platt needs to address the situation directly rather than relying upon a spokesperson. Why was a former missionary who was credibly accused of sexual assault hired at two churches and a state convention after resigning from IMB in disgrace? Dr. Platt was not the leader at IMB when Aderholt resigned, but he is now. IMB needs him to lead.
This must stop. Abusers cannot be allowed to resign quietly and then move along to another position of ministry without someone standing up and saying something. Blow the whistle. Reveal the abuser. Protect the abused.
I have been preaching through the book of Amos over the last several weeks. Through Amos, God said of the people of Israel’s worship, “I hate,” “I despise,” “I take no delight,” “I will not accept,” “I will not look,” and “I will not listen” (Amos 5:21-23). Why such harsh language? Because God’s people were marked by idolatry, immorality, and injustice, yet they thought all was well with God.
Brothers and sisters, we have a problem. The problem will not be addressed by silence and secrecy. Silence is NOT golden.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. -Amos 5:24