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North Carolina pastor arrested on sexual exploitation charges

T Welch presents a "Monday Morning Encouragement" video on First Baptist Church Stanleyville's Facebook page on April 26. The next day he was arrested and charged with Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a minor.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with a statement from First Baptist Church of Stanleyville.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP) – T. Elliott Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church of Stanleyville, N.C., was arrested Tuesday (April 27) and charged with one count of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to Welch’s bio on an archived page of the church’s website, he has served as senior pastor since February 2020. From Sept. 2015-Jan. 2020, he had served at the church as associate pastor and minister of students. Welch also claimed to have served as a church-planting catalyst in northern Ghana through the International Mission Board. An IMB spokesperson confirmed Welch was a missionary to that country from 2012-14. Calls and emails from Baptist Press to staff of First Baptist Stanleyville were not returned.

According to a news release from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, investigators received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone at Welch’s address was uploading child pornography to the internet. Welch, 34, was ultimately arrested.

The charge is brought when a person “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.”

Area reports stated that Welch is being held at the Forsyth County jail under a $50,000 secured bond.

“We are shocked and saddened by the criminal charges brought against T Elliott Welch, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville,” the church said in a statement. “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. Pastor Welch has resigned from his position as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in 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.”

According to Welch’s bio on the church’s archived website, he is a married father of three, with a Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University and a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The bio also said Welch had served as an “open-air preacher” and in churches “along the East Coast,” but none other than First Baptist of Stanleyville could be confirmed.