South Carolina church investigating student pastor who gave teens ‘i heart hot youth pastors’ sticker
A South Carolina church has launched an investigation and placed its student pastor on administrative leave after outrage erupted online over stickers he gave to minors in his care that say, “i ❤️ hot youth pastors.”
Fairview Baptist Church said in a statement from deacons and their personnel team on Facebook Sunday that Cory Wall, their suspended student pastor, has acknowledged he made a “poor decision” and they are treating that decision “very seriously.”
“Our student pastor, Cory Wall, acknowledges that he made a poor decision and a mistake by making a sticker available that was offensive to some,” the statement said.
“Cory has been placed on administrative leave and will not be involved in student leadership responsibilities while this situation is being investigated. There will be a thorough and comprehensive investigation,” the church leaders added. “We take this matter very seriously and want to be proactive as we move forward. Our main goal is to always make our campus a safe place for anyone who attends.”
Emily Petrini, who describes herself as a doubt-filled believer, first made the sticker public in a post on Twitter last Thursday. She said the sticker was sent to her by a friend in South Carolina who got it from a local mom group.
In the post, the mom who shared the sticker said: “The youth pastor gave my younger sister (14 years old) and other students, this sticker during Midweek last night. He is 35 years old... This made her very uncomfortable.”
Church officials did not immediately respond to questions from The Christian Post on Monday about the specific age range of minors who were under Wall’s care, but the sticker itself drew swift condemnation.
Amy Smith, a sexual abuse survivor advocate, called the sticker “disgusting” in a statement on Twitter.
In an email to Lead Pastor Eddie Leopard that Smith posted on Twitter, she further alleged that Wall discussed his porn addiction with the students and called for his immediate dismissal because he is “displaying grooming behaviors.”
“I’m very disturbed about the inappropriate behavior of your youth pastor Cory Wall. Your email to church members excusing his behavior is also very disturbing. His discussion of his porn addiction with kids is very concerning, in addition to his decision to pass out those offensive stickers. He’s displaying grooming behaviors. I think kids very likely are at risk of sexual abuse in your church. Please do the right thing and remove him from his position immediately.”
A Facebook post from the church shows that Wall, who studied psychology at North Greenville University before getting a graduate degree from Southeastern Theological Seminary, started his position at the church in January.
In a copy of an email Wall sent to the woman who raised the alarm about the stickers in the mom group, Wall said he was just poking fun at the “I Love Hot Mom” culture.
“Let me assure you that my intentions were pure, I the last thing I wanted to do was to make you, your sister, or anyone else in attendance feel uncomfortable,” Wall allegedly wrote.
“The sticker was meant to poke fun of the ‘I Love Hot Mom’ culture. In hindsight, the joke was of very poor taste and a mistake on my part. I do apologize for their distribution.”