Two days after authorities arrested T. Elliott Welch, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Stanleyville, North Carolina, for allegedly possessing child pornography, the church has yet to respond publicly to the allegations against their spiritual leader.
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.
According to an arrest warrant, material showing a man raping a nude girl, who's believed to be between the ages of 10 and 12, was allegedly copied by Welch, the Greensboro News and Record reports.
Welch 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.
Calls made to both the church and Welch’s home went unanswered Thursday. A recorded message from First Baptist Church of Stanleyville still names him as their lead pastor.
While the church’s website has been disabled, social media accounts for the church, including its Facebook page, remain live. Nothing new has been shared on the page since Tuesday, despite calls from concerned members of the public and church community calling for the church to address the charge. Some on Facebook reminded commenters that Welch, who is married with four children, is innocent until proven guilty.
Information cited by the News and Record before the church’s website 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.