Crime & Courts

Former SC Baptist leader charged in Texas teen's 1997 sexual assault

Provided by Richland County.
Provided by Richland County.

A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who recently resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenager in Arlington more than two decades ago.

Mark Edwin Aderholt, 46, was arrested on July 3 in South Carolina on a warrant issued in the Tarrant County case. He has since been released on bond. He could not be reached for comment.

Aderholt was charged July 3 with sexual assault of a child under 17, according to Tarrant County court records.

The charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The alleged offense occurred in 1997 in Arlington, court records show.

Aderholt is a member of First Baptist Church in Columbia where, in the past, he had spoken before the church's youth groups and preached at least once, says Bryan Barnes, spokesperson for the church.

In Aderholt's former leadership role with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, it would not be unusual for him to speak at a church.

“He has spoke in scores of South Carolina Baptist churches including at First Baptist Church," Barnes says. "That was kind of the nature of the job he held with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. ... He hasn’t spoke [at First Baptist] since after these allegations surfaced.”

Barnes emphasized that Aderholt was never a staff member, nor did he serve in a volunteer capacity, with First Baptist, saying he was "one of 6,000 members.”

Sgt. Karen Standback, an Arlington police spokeswoman, said Monday that she could not release information about the case.

Aderholt had been a high-ranking figure in Southern Baptist circles.

He served as the associate executive director and chief strategist for the South Carolina Baptist Convention for a year and a half until he resigned June 19.

A statement from the executive director, Gary Hollingsworth, did not give a reason for Aderholt’s resignation, only noting that Hollingsworth accepted his resignation with a “heavy heart.”

After Aderholt's arrest, the South Carolina Baptist Convention issued a statement.

"In light of recent news related to Mr. Aderholt, our hearts are grieved and our prayers are with everyone involved," Lara Gopp, spokesperson with the state Baptist Convention, said.

Aderholt graduated from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 2000 with a master of divinity degree.

He previously served several months as interim pastor for the Lakeside Fellowship Church in Roanoke, now known as Freedom Fellowship of Roanoke, according to the church's website.

During that time, his wife, Kristi, served as children's minister for the same church. The couple then moved to Budapest to continue their missionary work, the website states. He also worked at Immauel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Aderholt is prolific as an international missionary. He formerly served as the missionary to Eastern Europe for the International Mission Board, an organization affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s cited as having also served in Bulgaria and Slovakia, among others.

He is married with children.

Mark Aderholt Courtesy/Tarrant County Sheriff's Office