Update: Anne Marie Miller’s Response on the Aderholt Indictment plus SBC and IMB Responses

On Mr. Aderholt’s Indictment:

It has been a while since I’ve updated what’s been happening with Mr. Aderholt on my site. On December 19, the Tarrant County, Texas, Grand Jury met and indicted Mr. Aderholt on four felony charges: three charges of indecency with a child under 17 and one charge of sexual assault of a child under 17. I do feel the need to clarify the word “assault” here. Never was my abuse violent. He did not rape me, as the name suggests. I’ve never been comfortable with explaining the details publicly, so if you’re inclined to go and look at Texas Penal Code and find out what that means, by all means, it’s a free internet. But one thing I’ve always wanted is transparency and to speak with clarity when it comes to the things I am sure of and disclosure when there is confusion.

His next date is a court date on January 15 where he will enter his plea. We expect it will go all the way to a trial setting. Having to share the details of this trauma publicly gives me a lot of anxiety, but if Mr. Aderholt continues to deny the facts of what happened and maintains his innocence, that’s what will have to happen. I have full confidence in the Tarrant County DA’s office and there already has been so much evidence presented. Not only did the IMB conclude in 2007 that abuse occurred (though they called it an inappropriate relationship and not abuse) after I reported it to authorities in Spring 2018, they conducted a several-months-long investigation that concluded there was enough evidence for his arrest. From his arrest, the DA’s office further gathered evidence and presented it to a grand jury. I was told that because of my age at the time (16) many grand jurors think that’s close enough to 17, which is the age of consent in Texas, so I was given a 50/50 probability for his indictment. When he was indicted for more charges than he was originally arrested for, it was encouraging to know these folks saw the full extent of what happened and realized the gravity of the crime.

On my personal response:

The range of emotions after his indictment are all over the place. I’m happy because the truth is being heard and actionable steps are being taken by the criminal justice system. I’m grieved because of the messages I’ve received from people who know Mr. Aderholt that also range from denial to confirmation; some say it’s something he could never do and others say they weren’t surprised. I cannot imagine what his family is going through and from the day I knew he and his wife married as he told me they would, I hurt for her. I regret not emailing her back in 1997 because maybe all of this could have been prevented. His kids are old enough to understand and the consequences for what he’s done can realistically separate his family for a long time. Knowing the love I have for my daughter and how being away at work stirs in me a longing and a missing like no other, how much uncertainty and anxiety they must be experiencing. I grieve for them the most; I am not the only victim. I pray for them, and Mark, daily. I’ve also felt incredibly supported online and with friends and most family.

On the International Mission Board (IMB)’s response:

The IMB (who knew about the abuse in 2007 and failed to report it) has hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into how they handle misconduct. It seems to be entirely a self-serving action rather than a victim-serving one. They want to keep their “staff and their families safe”” overseas and no mention is made about past victims or the responsibility to protect the very vulnerable with whom they work. Someone from the firm contacted me but it was before the Grand Jury hearing so I wasn’t at liberty to speak with them. I am now, and will keep you posted on those conversations.

On the SBC’s response:

As far as the SBC response, after many emails asking for specific help-help outside of summits and study groups-I received this email back from JD Greear.*

Dear Anne,

Thanks so much for reaching out. I continue to grieve over all that has happened, to the degree that I find myself unsure what to do or say other than to pray and to do everything in my power to get this right. I do understand what you are saying: committees and study groups by themselves are not enough. And I agree. As you know, my authority as Southern Baptist Convention President is limited, but we must insist churches (and institutions) act in ways that help survivors and deter predators, and do all we can to educate them with the means to do so. That is the purpose of my initiatives in this. My heart’s desire is to do everything I can to explore tangible action steps that can make a difference from this point forward, and that’s what I am doing. I know that this was a big week, and I continue to pray for healing and justice for you. –JDG

I replied with some very specific struggles (a very absent faith and hope and trusting God in a spiritual desert) and specific suggestions: connecting me with some pastors or counseling resources in DFW for instance (it’s been over 3 years since I’ve been to church). Surely his “limited authority” as president of the SBC” can connect me to a few local places for help. I have not heard back and it’s been over two weeks.**

On the reality of it all

I am learning to put no hope into institutional or organizational entities. I will never, ever see the help or receive the support I need from the people who should be and are held accountable for this. Instead, I continue to take refuge in my little family, in school, and at work and knowing that I will be able to serve families of trauma victims so they will not have to live with decades of trauma hiding in their bodies. I apply to upper-level nursing school this summer and I’m so excited.

On the book, Healing Together: A Guide for Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors

Also, with the holidays, moving into a new house, and starting a new job, I haven’t had an iota of time to work on “Healing Together” or to update the Patreon page for that matter.

BUT HERE’S A BIG THING: I have decided to make Healing Together: A Guide for Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors COMPLETELY FREE as an eBook/PDF and make the paperback as inexpensive as I can using Amazon’s Createspace which I used to self publish the reprint of Mad Church Disease, Beating Burnout, and my Advent book.

I don’t want people to think I am capitalizing on my–or anybody else’s–trauma. I don’t want to make money on a book. I don’t want money to get in the way of people finding help and healing. The whole “Christian” publishing industry burned me out so badly with its expectations and that is why I bought back my last book contract. I didn’t want to write, and I had nothing to say to the world through that medium.

If you do pray, please pray for me as I write and that book and hopefully, through Patreon, we can get our very basic costs of doing business (web hosting, design, editing) taken care of. ANY and ALL extra funds will go to help SURVIVORS. PERIOD. All of it. Tim’s and my jobs provide our income. This project is not about padding the Millers’ bank account. I’ll talk more about Patreon next time I write and share how you can contribute to the basic business costs of me self-publishing this book (and how to give more if you want to give to survivor funds).

As always, thank you for your love, prayers, faith, and kind words. They matter. And you matter too.

Anne Miller

*&**: I’ve updated this to reflect an email I received this evening after posting this. In my original post, I made a snarky comment that Mr. Greear only emailed me after the Star-Telegram wrote about the absence of communication from the SBC. In my initial response to him, I told him that I found the timing curious but would choose to believe the best. My earlier post did not reflect me “believing the best” and for that I apologize. I was wrong. Since posting this, I received another email from Mr. Greear following up with me on tangible way he is trying to support me/us. I am grateful for his reply.

Finding True Justice and True Grace in a #MeToo #ChurchToo Culture

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Several times over the last ten years, I found myself in the city where the man who sexually abused me as a child lived. Most of the time I was terrified to accidentally run into him. Sometimes I became full of rage and fantasized seeing him at a gas station and attacking him. And other times I would get caught off guard by my grief and sit in my car weeping outside the hotel where I was staying.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the myriad of emotions I experienced changed as naturally as the Texas sky in springtime. Sometimes I’d feel guilty about the complexity. Other times I wouldn’t.

I learned that each emotion had its place.

In March of this year, when I found out the man who abused me was never reported to law enforcement, a strong desire for justice gave me the extra courage I needed to walk forward. I felt validated knowing the criminal justice system would handle what the Southern Baptist Convention would not–and could not–handle. I felt a sweeping loss as my mental health suffered. I burned with indignation as this man, who already has taken so much of my life by his actions, consumed more: I lost sleep, I lost time with my daughter and my husband, and lost the easy joy I generally danced in.

There were parts of me that wanted to destroy him. There were parts of me that wanted to destroy myself.

And again, each emotion had its place.

As I worked with law enforcement, my detective encouraged me to not share the name of the man who abused me publicly until they had everything in order for the criminal case they’re working on. They understood this man’s current role and his access to vulnerable people, including children. Yet the benefits of not coming out with his name publicly outweighed the risks in regard to the integrity of the criminal investigation. I respected their wishes then and I respect them now.

Somehow this felt right and good and okay. Even though the only thing that remained between me exposing the man who did this to me was a “publish” button, I have yet to have peace about sharing my story in such a public way, most likely because of the condition of my heart. Some people have gone public and done it in a way that glorifies God while respecting the criminal process. I would have shared out of a place of vengeance.

I’m glad I had a little extra space to reconsider going public because, for me, it was not the right choice to make at the time.

have courage and be kind

Since I’ve been offline for most of the last two years, I guess I forgot how ruthless the voices on social media are…myself included. In the last month, since I shared my story online (without identifying my abuser), I’ve clicked on enough hashtags and read enough fodder to lose a little bit of faith in the world (and in myself).

Don’t mishear: there are some pretty awful people who have done some pretty awful things. Many well-respected men and women, especially within the SBC, have had their skeletons come out and be displayed for all the world to see.

In the court of public opinion, most are starting to pay a hefty price for their sins and for their crimes. I want to reiterate that the people who commit these horrid acts–and the ones who cover them up–are ultimately responsible for whatever consequences come their way.

But in all of this, there is something I just can’t get my spirit to shake off:

This court of public opinion–social media, newspapers, blogs–is not and should not be the final destination of justice. However, it seems as if most of us treat it as the highest court of all, damning those who have lied, cheated, stolen, raped, abused, and covered up to a man-made hell of Twitter firestorms, petty insults, unnecessary commentary, and misplaced desires to have the final word.

I understand as survivors of abuse we feel like we have no voice and now we can say whatever we want, when we want, to whomever we want. There is power in rediscovering our voice.

We cannot neglect our responsibility to be like Christ and we cannot evade the call to exercise wisdom with how we discuss these things, especially in public forums.

Justice and grace are not mutually exclusive.

Does the man who abused me, who stole so much of my life from me as a sixteen-year-old and over the last 22 years deserve the justice coming his way? Yes.

Does he deserve grace? No.

But here’s the thing: I don’t deserve that grace either.

I don’t write this in a self-deprecating manner.

I don’t intend to minimize what has happened to me or to the countless number of women and men, boys and girls, who have been abused in the worst possible ways, and in the name of Jesus.

The humbling reality we are faced with in this and in every part of our life is the very basic tenet of the Gospel: God so loved the world that He gave his only son to die for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of the man who abused me.

This includes his sin of abusing me.

It is a grace none of us deserve but all of us can freely receive.

I’m afraid that the beauty of this grace is being buried alive by the permission we now have to speak freely. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and in our attempt to bring the light into darkness, we are inadvertently suffocating out the Life the world needs to survive.

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Let us recognize the same God who sought us out and asked us, “Where are you?” seeks out all of us, even the criminals hanging on the cross.

When reconciliation plays out here on earth, may we remember the love of God that has reconciled us is also available to those who have hurt us.

May we give thanks that all of our brokenness is healed through the same holy man on the same holy cross. This man is near to us when we are brokenhearted and he is near to those who have hurt us when they are brokenhearted. He grieves for us when we are far from Him and he grieves for the world when they are far from him.

As justice begins to shine like the noon-day sun, may our hearts also shine with hope and grace for ourselves, for others, and for the world to come.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

A Letter to My Daughter on My Darkest, Brightest Night

Dear Baby Girl,

First, you’re not really much of a baby now, are you? I can’t believe you’re almost two years old. So big, yet so small. So fiercely loving even though you don’t even know how big of a heart you have or how much this world needs it.

Even though we’ll talk about it when you’re older, I wanted to write a few things down while I was living them live, in real time.

Last night when I put you down in your bed, prayed our prayer, and stepped out of the room, I started weeping because it was the last time I will get to see your face for the next month. Those closest to me know the heartbreak that comes in saying goodbye, even when it’s for a good thing. I’m afraid my absence will damage your heart or your mind. I’m afraid you will think I am gone forever. Or that I left you and don’t love you. Or that you did something wrong to make me leave.

My girl, none of those things are true.

Ever since the moment I knew you existed inside me, since the day when your dad and I saw your jumping tadpole body on the ultrasound, I have loved you with a love that only grows stronger with each day. The amount of gratitude I have for you feels like taking a deep breath of the purest oxygen and I feel my chest rise with gladness, the molecules of thankfulness penetrating each one of my cells.

It seems you grow up every night we put you to bed and you’re impossibly more beautiful, more lovely, more smart, more curious, and more surprising than the day you were born. I don’t know how this is possible, but with close to 22 months under our belt, it’s safe to say the research has been consistent.

Fear consumes me when I think about what could happen to you out in the world, whether by accident or on purpose. Part of me (most of me) dreams of a world where you do not fight the mental demons your father and I fight. That you trust fully but wisely. That no harm falls on you. That your heart never breaks.

Even if, baby, even if…

  • If your brain tells you lies, you’ll know the truth.
  • If someone breaks your trust, it won’t break you.
  • If harm falls on you, it won’t bury you deep.
  • If your heart breaks, it won’t always bleed.

And should you feel like the lies, the breaking, the burying, and the bleeding become too much, look all around you because you are so loved. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll have an army already by your side.

So, my sweetest girl, I want you to know that it’s all worth fighting for.

That’s why I’m gone for now.

I’m out fighting for me, for you, and in a way, for others so that maybe I can be hope to them too.

  • My brain tells me lies, so I’m fighting for the truth.
  • Someone broke my trust I’m fighting to be made new.
  • Harm fell on me so I’m fighting out of the heap.
  • My heart is broken and I’m fighting to be free.

I love you, baby. I love you.

How Do You Begin the End?

This is my final post.

It’s been a year or so since I took a break from the Interwebs–away from writing online, from traveling and speaking, from Tweeting and Facebooking and Snapchatting and the like. Pregnancy was such a lovely season, and truly a miracle. Our baby girl was born perfectly happy and healthy in July 2016. She’s almost 10 months old now, trying to scoot around the house on her bottom (unsuccessfully), with 8 teeth she definitely earned the right to show off. She’s coming into her own, a little drama queen human who I can’t believe just a year ago was the size of a cantaloupe, tucked away in utero, kicking my bladder, my kidneys, and everything in between.

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a Ph.D. in psychology and become a doctor of sorts, a clinical psychologist. Life didn’t head down that road like I expected, and instead, I ended up working at churches, writing a few books, and traveling all over the world to share stories. In 2010, after my divorce, I considered going to medical school but knew I would likely have to sacrifice having a family to start a career in medicine at the age of 30. Three years later, I met and married my dear husband Tim. Medicine as a career was still ever on my mind, but there were books to write and events to speak at. Then sweet baby girl came along.

When my most recent book released a year ago, I had a feeling it would be the last. I was still under contract to write another one with Baker, but nothing surfaced in my heart that I had to write about. I waited, they waited, and still, nothing came.

Why put more words out into the world that’s overwhelmed by words, when nothing needs to be said?

I graciously asked if I could exit my contract and they graciously agreed.

The season of life when I am an author, a speaker, a blogger–the season when I knew something needed to be said and I was sure I was the one to say it–is over. There have been moments of grief, of saying goodbye, but overall, it has been the most peaceful, sure, and easiest transition I’ve ever made.

I’m heading into a new season now, and have been for a while. I’m back in school working toward a B.S. degree in Health Sciences, either to become a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Educator. I hope to focus on pediatric nutrition and family education. I realize that’s pretty far off from where I started ten years ago, but I think I needed to learn more about God, about people, and about myself to end up here. We’re back in Dallas, surrounded by family. Tim’s working in videography and I split my time between school and serving in patient care at a hospital as a technician, and as a nutrition consultant/Associate Certified Diabetes Educator.

I’m thrilled. It’s not perfect, but it’s bliss. And I have to say: there is a freedom in ending a career in professional Christendom.

Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to speak into your life over the last twelve (!!) years of blogging. Thank you for encouraging me, supporting me, buying books, giving literally millions of dollars to very worthy organizations. Thank you for sponsoring Compassion kids, for praying for me, for us, and sharing your stories.

There’s a commonly asked question: If you had to say one thing, to leave people with one thought, what would it be? 

I’d have to say this:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • It’s okay to be different, to not fit in.
  • It’s okay to quit and begin again (and again and again and again).
  • You are worth so much more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams.
  • Sometimes the quietest lives love the loudest.

I guess that’s five things, so I’ll ask for your forgiveness and thank you for humoring me one last time.

It’s been a gift. You’ve been a gift. You are a gift.

With love,
Anne Marie Miller

May It Be Light and Only Light

It has been three months since I said farewell to social media, sans a quick break to introduce our daughter to you.

Those three months-they have been enough. They have been enough to show me that I need more, which by writing you in simple words sounds selfish.

We want God to speak to us, so we become quiet. We wait until we hear whatever words we are supposed to hear. Sometimes those words are revealed quickly; often, they are shown to us letter by letter. And other times, the thing we hear is that we are to remain listening.

I returned to one of my favorite reads recently, Echoing Silence, by Merton. In this collection of letters and pages from his journals and books (collected and published posthumously), he walks through the tension of writing, his spirituality, suffering, ego, and vocation. Two passages in particular struck me:

“If the inspiration is helpless without a correspondingly effective technique, technique is barren without inspiration.” (October 24, 1958)

…and

“The best thing for me is a lucid silence that does not even imagine it speaks to anybody. A silence which I see no interlocutor, frame no message for anyone, formulate no word either for man or paper. There will still be plenty to say when the time comes to write, and what is written will be simpler and more fruitful.” (December 14, 1949)

I am grateful for Merton’s removing himself from distractions and entering into a time of soul-silence. I doubt he knew or even wished that within his silence, he was communicating a message stronger than the power any written word could possibly create: an example.

(To note: most of his writings about entering into silence were in autumn and winter; perhaps it is designed in our warm blood to hibernate for a while.)

A scattered few friends of mine are taking brief vows of Internet silence. For some, it is the first time. For many, it won’t be the last. I have debated if these seasons of silence are a giving into self-indulgent isolation. After time and examination, please believe me that is not the case.

During his time at the monastery in Kentucky, Merton wrote letters to friends and spiritual counselors, politicians, and artists near and far. He went to Mass, he worked alongside fellow monks, took Eucharist, and kept mostly to the hours.

In the same manner, I tend to my private world of family and friends and community. Letters are shared between kindred spirits, encouraging one another in good works and glory. My days disappear into nights–and back again to dawn…to dusk…and so on–as I feel the grit in my spirit searching for an unfamiliar worship in the quotidian mysteries that occupy my time as of late.

It is hard. It is good.

I will not renounce ever returning to this space, just as Merton “refused and had practically ceased to desire” writing again, God “gave [him] back the vocation that [he] had half-consciously given up, and He opened to [him] again the doors that had fallen shut.” (1976)

But for now, may the only message I give you be one that I cannot speak or write.

May it be light, and only light.

Silentium coelorum sit mihi lex: et vita mea imago luminis.
(Let the silence of heaven be my law: and my life an image of light. – Merton, 1952)