WAKE FOREST, N.C. (ABP) – A Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student arrested March 17 and charged with sexual assault has been expelled and removed from student housing, officials of the school in Wake Forest, N.C., said March 21.
A special chapel service was held Tuesday following Saturday’s arrest of William Watson “Billy” Birch, 43, for allegedly sexually assaulting another male student who was “mentally incapacitated and physically helpless” at the time.
According to a press release, seminary President Daniel Akin used part of the chapel service to clarify “some misconceptions and misinterpretations” resulting from early media reports suggesting that administrators were slow to notify the student body of the incident.
“Honestly, we moved very quickly and the sexual perpetrator was quarantined and no one was in further danger after his apprehension,” Akin said. “Since then, our primary concern has been to protect the victim and the seminary family.”
Akin pledged that neither he nor his administrators will “ever cover up any facts that concern our institution and family at Southeastern.”
Akin said he met with Birch Monday, after Birch posted a $50,000 bail. He described Birch as ashamed and repentant, and said that he asked for and received Akin’s forgiveness.
“Not only did I forgive him for what he had done,” Akin said, “but I want to let you know that Birch’s victim has already forgiven him as well.”
Prior to Tuesday’s chapel service, Dean of Students Mark Liederbach led a mandatory meeting for campus residents to provide information and an opportunity both to ask questions and to pray.
Liederbach closed Tuesday’s chapel service by reminding students that the student life department and all of Southeastern’s counseling professors were available for any concerns or problems with which they may be struggling. “I have discovered that grief takes a lot from a human being, so we want to be here to help you in any way we can,” he said.
–Adapted from reporting by Michael McEwen, news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.