Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A particularly sad time at Southeastern

It doesn’t take long for news to circulate among the blogs, especially bad news.

The sexual assault at Southeastern Baptist Theological seminary, one male student assaulting another male student who was incapacitated at the time, and the perpetrator’s subsequent confession have been widely distributed in secular and religious media, and the blogs of course.

It is a terrible incident and generated a genuine crisis management situation at SEBTS. The statements I have read from Southeastern president Danny Akin seem timely and appropriate.

I am pleased that, for once, Baptist Press reported the story. A felony sexual assault, on campus, by one SBCseminary student on another is news that any responsible denominational press should report. Although Southern Baptists have not always been well served by BP the last few years, BP did report this one in a timely manner.

When crimes are committed by those employed by or attending our institutions, Southern Baptists should be informed. It is sad that some SBC sense of denominational propriety seems to drive denominational employees to cover up crimes and non-criminal disasters and keep Southern Baptists uninformed. 

Openness and transparency is a good thing and a healthy thing, even if the news is bad.

It is sad that in my several decades of paying attention to SBC matters, I'd have to conclude, along with any sentient SBCer, that we have a deplorable record of crisis management in our denomination. (One might be asking today exactly what happened to the forensic audit at Midwestern Seminary that was reported to have led to that seminary’s president resigning. A forensic audit indicates someone has suspicion of wrongdoing. Exactly what is the status of that?)

The assault at SEBTS has one element that I don’t recall being present in previous sexual assault cases. The perpetrator communicated with another blogger, Dave Miller of SBC Voices, and his confession was contained in an email. I am unsure if the confession was made only to Miller or to law enforcement as well. Miller wrote a piece for SBCV this morning that characterized the salient parts of the email.

Associated Baptist Press, far more vigorous in reporting religious news, particularly clergy sexual assault stories, reported not only the incident but Miller’s part in the aftermath. It shouldn’t be lost on those of us who blog that sometimes we might be involved in things we don’t ask for. 

I’m sure Dave Miller has sufficient wisdom and sensibility to have reacted properly. If a crime is confessed, unless there is a clear priest-penitent relationship present we have a duty, I believe, to report the matter.

 One can only promise and call for prayers for the entire situation and all involved.


Dave Miller said...

For the record, William did not confess to any crime in his email to me, only to immorality.

I would not have released even the fact of the email, if it hadn't gone public through the press already.

William Thornton said...

Dave is referring to William Birch, the alleged perpetrator.

Big Daddy Weave said...


You stated at BL.com that "For the record, Billy has confessed to what he did"

Over on your SBCVoices post, you wrote "I did a little research and found a link to a news article that disabused me of any hope that THIS was not real or that it was not as serious as it seemed."

I know that I (and I'm sure many others) were left with the impression that William Birch confessed to a crime, something more specific than a generic "moral failure."

In the context of the news report detailing a crime, I'm not sure how we could have reached a different conclusion? The clear message conveyed was that Birch confessed a crime to you.

Big Daddy Weave said...

I also have to give some kudos to Baptist Press for covering this matter.

jlogan said...

It's a good thing that he is not a liberal, because that would be unforgivable. Groping another man, however, seems to be another story. Do you really believe that he was just overcome by a sudden urge to do so, and will just promise not to do it again?

While I respect and admire the compassion, I wonder where the righteous indignation toward homosexuality went.