Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to add additional comments from elders at Lakeshore Church.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – A student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) was arrested today (May 13) on child pornography charges. Andrew Shiira was being held at the Orleans Parish Prison on 10 counts of pornography involving juveniles.
NOBTS released a statement saying the seminary had provided “complete cooperation” to law enforcement officials. The statement also indicated that Shiira, who had been set to participate in commencement ceremonies Saturday (May 15), was no longer a student. Shiira would have earned a Master of Divinity. While declining to discuss the specific degree, a seminary spokesman said Shiira had not met degree’s requirements and that it would not be conferred.
NOBTS President Jamie Dew said in the statement he was “shocked and grieved” at the news. He said the school would “continue to cooperate with law enforcement,” and said they were grieved for and praying for “those who are often overlooked as victims of online sexual crimes.”
According to the NOBTS statement, “[a]s soon as NOBTS was made aware of criminal online sexual misconduct allegations against Andrew Shiira, we were in complete cooperation with law enforcement and will continue to cooperate with them as requested. We offered any assistance we might provide to complete the investigation. Currently, we have no evidence of any physical harm or sexual harassment pertaining to our campus population by Mr. Shiira. If anyone has any information of this nature, we encourage you to notify the Dean of Students office at [email protected] and Campus Police at [email protected].”
The school said Shiira had resigned a part-time staff position as a recruiter earlier, before any allegations had been made.
Shiira had also served at Lakeshore Church in New Orleans, helping to plan the order of worship. According to an email from the church’s elders to church members, Shiira was not part of the pastoral staff, “had no contact with children or students at Lakeshore Church,” and his role ended April 30. The elders said Shiira “had completed Ministry Safe training,” as is required to serve at the church, and that “currently, we have no evidence of any physical harm or sexual harassment pertaining to our church congregation by Mr. Shiira.”
“We take this matter very seriously,” the Lakeshore Church elders said in the email, “and will cooperate with appropriate parties throughout any further investigation or review.” The elders said they would make private counseling available to any church member and would address the situation during their service Sunday (May 16). The elders asked the congregation to join them in “praying for anyone who has been impacted, courage for anyone who needs to see a counselor, Andrew, and the Shiira family.”
Shiira’s father, Ron Shiira, has been president of Hawaii Baptist Academy since July 2016. The school, located in Honolulu, is affiliated with the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.
“We are shocked and grieved to receive this news and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in this matter,” Dew said in the statement. “Our counseling services are always available to assist any student, faculty or staff members impacted by this shocking news and encourage anyone in need of counseling or other forms of assistance to let us know how we can help. We grieve and pray for those who are often overlooked as victims of online sexual crimes. We also pray for everyone who is negatively impacted by this situation.”