On Sunday, March 18, I received an email from William Birch, an up-and-coming Baptist blogger who was part of our “Blue Collar Blog Madness” contest, requesting that he be removed from the contest because of immorality that had taken place. He was non-specific. Then, of course, the news broke out that Billy had been arrested for sexual assault on a fellow student at SEBTS. The blogosphere lit up over the next week or so.
It was at that moment that some in the Baptist blog world showed its down side. One blogger speculated blindly that William might have drugged the victim to commit assault. None of that was true, of course. That same kind of wild speculation also was rampant on a forum discussion at another site. People rushed to judgment and made unwarranted conclusions. I’ve not seen apologies, corrections or admissions of faulty reporting concerning any of the untrue information that was posted.
Maybe that can serve as a corrective to us the next time that it is best to wait until the facts come out before we draw our conclusions.
The blog world has moved on, but perhaps some have wondered what has happened to William Birch. I’ve exchanged a few emails with him in the six weeks since this tragedy occurred. He has given me permission to share with you what is going on in his life.
1) William’s emails to me evidence a true repentance that would serve as an example to others. He has never justified or excused his sin, neither the general sin nor the specific act against the other man. He has faced it, admitted it and completely rejected it. I respected William as a blogger, but while his sin shocked me, my respect for him has grown as I have seen his humble, repentant response. He has demonstrated godly sorrow that will eventually, I believe, lead to his healing.
2) William continues to be thankful for the way that SEBTS handled this situation. Danny Akin and the staff there, while they were left without options other than to expel him, did not shun or despise William, but demonstrated grace that helped to begin the healing process. They helped both Billy and his victim take the first steps in the healing process.
3) The court case has been resolved. Here is what happened that day in March. Both sides, the victim and William’s defense, agreed that the case had been overcharged. The charge was reduced from felony sexual assault to misdemeanor sexual battery. The facts were agreed to by both parties and are not in dispute. While the other student slept, William touched him in a sexual way, hoping that he would not be caught. He was. William has been given three years probation and will soon leave North Carolina to return to his Virginia home to continue the healing process.
4) In every email William has written me, one of his chief concerns has been the man he sinned against. There seems to have been some reconciliation there and we should continue to pray for this unnamed young man. Again, it seems that the gracious and godly response of the leadership of SEBTS had a positive effect.
5) William is in counseling and is trying to work on root issues that led to this shameful sequence of events. His relationship with God has grown as a result of all of this and his relationship with his father (which he believes to be a root issue) has also grown “exponentially.” He is attempting to deal with root issues, not just behaviors and symptoms, and this seems to be a genuine course to healing. Each of us should pray for that healing to continue.
6) William expressed something to me that I find encouraging. The perception of many is that the evangelical church is homophobic and hateful to homosexuals. Since William’s issues have surfaced, and in spite of the unkind behavior of a few bloggers, he has been the recipient of a lot of grace within the Christian community – at SEBTS, from Christian friends, and from pastors and churches. The SBC may be closer to the ideal that Dr. Mohler and others have articulated, of an uncompromising but loving response to homosexuality.
7) William is trying to figure out his future, and I would urge all who have an interest in this to pray for him. At the present time, he is just working on healing and restoration. The rest will flow from that.
William is devastated by all this, ashamed, broken – all of those natural things. But what impresses me is the healing power of Christ in all this. Less than two months after his world, and that of his victim’s, was shattered, God has begun the restoration process through his own power and the grace demonstrated by Christian people. While the process is only beginning, it has progressed farther than we might have believed back in mid-March. Christ is more powerful than our sin!
We can speculate on what is wrong in our denomination and in the Christian world. But there are some things that are right as well.
I appreciate William’s willingness to grant me permission to share these thoughts with you.