Seminary student charged with sexual assault

Baptist Press
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Posted: Mar 19, 2012 6:22 PM
Seminary student charged with sexual assault
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- A student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has been arrested and charged with sexual assault after an incident involving another student in an apartment on the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.

William Birch, 43, confessed to the crime, according to local media reports, and bond was set at $50,000 and his first court appearance was scheduled for Monday (March 19).

In an email to students, Daniel Akin, Southeastern's president, said Birch has been suspended and the seminary is fully cooperating with local law enforcement in their investigation.

"This incident is tragic in so many ways and is a reminder of the fallen and broken world in which we live," Akin wrote. "Christians are not immune to this reality. Sin is always crouching at the door and this is an evidence of the necessity to take every thought captive to Christ and to walk wisely before our God."

Seminary staff and counseling professors are available to speak with students as they "pray through and process all of this," Akin said. Mark Liederbach, the seminary's dean of students, was scheduled to meet with the men of Goldston Hall, where the incident took place, "to talk, listen and pray."

Student Nathan Kistler told NBC-17 News in Raleigh the incident should not be a reflection on the campus.

"I hope that he repents. That is the first step. But he has to understand that there are consequences to our actions," Kistler said.

"Let me encourage you to pray for all involved in this situation," Akin wrote in his email to the seminary community. "We will look to the courts to do what is their responsibility. As a community of faith we will seek God's mercy, grace, forgiveness and healing. We are desperate sinners who need to avail ourselves of all that is ours in Christ. Times like this acutely remind us of this."

In closing, Akin described the seminary as "a precious family of redeemed sinners."

Birch is a recognized blogger in Southern Baptist circles, with Dave Miller of SBCVoices.com calling him a friend "whose judgment and astute theological argument I was increasingly impressed with."

In a blog post March 19, Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, said he returned from leading the evening service at his church Sunday to find an email from Birch admitting moral failure.

"I feel like crying as I write these words, because a brother in Christ whom I counted as a friend has fallen deeply into sin," Miller wrote.

Noting that "a 25-year-old seminary student has had his life turned upside down as the result of this assault," Miller wrote that the victim "has been badly damaged by another's sin" and will need "God's grace and power to find comfort, healing and strength."

Miller also requested prayer for Birch, who "seemed genuinely sorrowful and broken," that God would "bring him through the dark night of repentance to a restored walk with Christ" and "carry him through the difficult days that lie ahead."

"Let the authorities do their work, pray for the victim and for Billy and let us speak only those words which build others up," Miller wrote.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net