By Bob Allen
A student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was arrested Saturday, March 17, and charged with second-degree sexual offense against another male student in a campus apartment.
William Watson “Billy” Birch, 43, was arrested after admitting “to sexually assaulting the 25-year-old victim,” police said in a statement quoted by local media. Police said the victim was “mentally incapacitated and physically helpless” at the time of the assault.
Seminary President Daniel Akin sent an e-mail Sunday to students reporting the arrest. Akin said the seminary is “fully cooperating with local law enforcement in their investigation” and offered counseling to anyone who wants it.
“This incident is tragic in so many ways and is a reminder of the fallen and broken world in which we live,” Akin said. “Christians are not immune to this reality. Sin is always crouching at our door and this is an evidence of the necessity to take every thought captive to Christ and to walk wisely before our God.”
Birch worked 10 years in hotel management before enrolling in the College at Southeastern, an undergraduate school that awards bachelor’s and associate degrees established in 1994. He began studies in the seminary’s master-of-divinity program in the fall of 2011, with a goal of someday earning a Ph.D. in church history.
He was among a network of Southern Baptist bloggers, representing a minority position opposed to the rising interest in Calvinism popular among his generation. Currently off-line, his blog described him as a “former Calvinist Southern Baptist” who was born again in 1995.
Akin said he would “address this situation briefly in chapel on Thursday” and encouraged students “to pray for all involved in this situation.”
“We will look to the courts to do what is their responsibility,” he said. “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.”
The charge against Birch is a Class C felony, punishable by a minimum of 44 months in prison for a first-time offender.