A Southern Baptist pastor in North Carolina has resigned and left his church reeling in “shock” after he was charged with child pornography for copying a video of a young girl being raped by an adult male.
In a statement posted on Facebook Friday, First Baptist Church of Stanleyville announced that their senior pastor, T. Elliott Welch, resigned and they have been cooperating with law enforcement since they announced a second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor charge against him on Tuesday.
“We are shocked and saddened by the criminal charges brought against T. Elliot Welch, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville. We in no way condone the behavior for which Pastor Welch has been accused. We are and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials as the investigation into these charges continues,” the church said in their statement.
“Pastor Welch has resigned from his position as senior pastor, First Baptist Church – Stanleyville. As a church, we remain committed to the spiritual needs of our members during this difficult time. We will refrain from further comment on these allegations as to allow law enforcement officials to continue to do their important work,” the church added.
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced on Tuesday evening that they arrested Welch, 34, after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“We recently received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an individual was uploading child pornography to the internet. After completing a search warrant at the residence in Tobaccoville, we arrested and charged T Elliott Welch, a 34-year-old white male with one (1) count of Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor,” police noted in a statement.
Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor occurs when someone "knowingly records, photographs, films, develops, or duplicates material that contains a visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual activity or distributes, transports, exhibits, receives, sells, purchases, exchanges, or solicits material that contains a visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual activity," the statement added.
Welch allegedly copied material showing a nude girl, who appeared to be between the ages of 10 and 12, being raped by a man, the News & Record reported.
He was detained at the Forsyth County Law Enforcement Detention Center with a secured bond of $50,000. Officials at the center confirmed with The Christian Post on Thursday morning that the pastor was released on bond Wednesday and he is scheduled to appear in court on May 13.
Information cited from the church’s website by News & Record before it was disabled said Welch became their lead pastor in February 2020. Before that, he served as an associate pastor and minister of students at the church for nearly six years.
Anyone with information related to the investigation is being urged to contact the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office directly at (336) 727-2112; anonymously text information, photos and video via Text-A-Tip at 336-920-8477; or anonymously call Crimestoppers at (336) 727-2800 for English or (336) 728-3904 for Spanish.