T. Elliott Welch
T. Elliott Welch (Photo Credit: Stanleyville Baptist Church's Facebook)

Southern Baptist Pastor, Church Planter, and Author Arrested for Child Porn

By Steve Rabey

T. Elliott Welch, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville, North Carolina, was recently arrested after local law enforcement officials received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Welch had uploaded a video showing a young girl being raped by an adult.

Three days later, Welch resigned from the church he had served for more than six years. 

“We are shocked and saddened by the criminal charges brought against T. Elliott Welch, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville,” said the church in a statement posted on the home page of its website. “We in no way condone the behavior for which Pastor Welch has been accused.”

Welch, 34, was charged with one count of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for uploading a copy of a video showing a nude girl approximately 10-12 years old being raped by an adult male.

Welch is a married father of four and a graduate of Liberty University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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He served six years as associate and youth pastor before becoming First Baptist’s senior pastor last year. He also worked with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board in church planting and was the author of books, including a self-published Christmas devotional he co-authored with his wife that was released in late 2020.

A 2014 Liberty article described Welch “working as a chaplain at the local Baptist Medical Center” in Ghana, Africa. “Welch and his family serve primarily the Mamprusi people, praying with the patients, counseling the terminally ill, helping grieving families, and staying in contact with patients once they have returned to their villages,” said the article.

His latest book, The Local Church: God’s Plan to Reach the World, was released in March 2021. The book argues that “active involvement in your church is crucial to your life as a follower of Christ.”

The Christian Post reported that Welch was released on bond of $50,000 and is scheduled for a court hearing May 13.

Steve RabeySteve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

This article first appeared at MinistryWatch.

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24 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Pastor, Church Planter, and Author Arrested for Child Porn”

  1. Why are all these so-called men of God such despicably wicked people? I’m so glad sites like Julie’s expose them. Hopefully others can learn not to trust their pastors and religious leaders. The church is a dangerous place.

    1. Vanessa Lyons Latimer

      The church isn’t dangerous. These people are dangerous. And they will pay on both sides. Here and in judgment

      1. Vanessa,
        But the church isn’t a safe place if it doesn’t have proper safeguards to keep wolves from leading the Lords sheep. It is not a safe place if a child sexual predator is the lead pastor. The church IS responsible for this predator holding this position of power. The church must be held accountable for this. The church must learn & prevent this from happening ever again in the future. The church must try to represent the body of Christ.
        The Lord’s will be done, always and forever. Amen.

    2. Mark Zimmerman

      This world is a fallen, dangerous place. God’s true children thankfully have the secure hope for a better one.

    3. Matthew 7:21 says,”Not everyone who says to me Lord,Lord .” will enter the kingdom of heaven;but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. Also we are reminded of King David who was a man after God’s own heart but committed vile sin and lost a child as a result and was eventually repented after Nathan the prophet confronted him. Everyone’s redeemable but with repentance, accountability and a definite acknowledgment of their sin and solid counseling. Please provide much love and support to those offended and the offenders.

      1. “Please provide much love and support to those offended and the offenders.”

        John, in your response you have perhaps unwittingly equated the positions of the offended and the offenders, i.e. the victim and the perpetrator of the crime.

        Jesus did not do so.

        About the little children, he said “Suffer them to come unto me”.

        But about those who offended them, he said “Better a millstone be hung about their neck and they be cast into the sea.”

        Jesus’ position was not one of providing the same “much love and support” to the offended and the offenders. He did not lump them together as all sinners in need of God’s grace. No requirements were placed on those offended, while a heavy burden of punishment was placed on the offender.

        Churches need to demonstrate the model of Christ when addressing victims and perpetrators.

  2. Vanessa Lyons Latimer

    Why are these people always in position of leadership? They’re predators and I do believe that, more people are aware of their behavior than what we know. It seems like there’s this subculture in the church that somehow brings these to large fellowship. I pray that God brings all their dirty deeds to light. Julie, keep up the good work. I totally appreciate the work you’re doing.

  3. David Wells said, “God rests lightly on the church of America.” While I disagree in part about not trusting the Pastor or spiritual leader. It is the office that God has ordained to proclaim the Gospel. It is dangerous to lump all pastors in the same category as all bad. It just means that the church needs more discernment and with the technology that has entangled the body of Christ. Accountability must be a key element for the body of Christ. The main underlying problem is a low view of Jesus Christ and His supremacy over all things. The lack of the priority of His Word in personal life of the pastor and the of which the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The church today has left its first love and a microcosm of this reality is in this story via content and motivation.

    I am thankful that after months of awful comments and zero accountability to comments posted on Mrs. Roys’ page that there will finally be responsibility and accountability. Unfortunately, these articles are proof that the restoration of the church transcends the goal of this website.

    To answer why are these so called men of God are so wicked? The first step is self-examination, and make sure that these men are truly a followers of Jesus Christ! That they are approachable, men of the Word, integrity and rule their household well. They must have their wives in submission to their husbands as unto the Lord. Their is a few lists in the pastoral epistles that shouldn’t be bypassed. That includes the Elders and the Pastor ot the local body. The qualities that many churches look for are astounding. They look at credentials, speaking abilities and a lot of outward qualities. Everything that the Bible warns against. The church looks for the Saul (1 King of Israel Saul). Paul warned about those things, using plausible speech and what men look for. It is time to turn the tables upside down and do church biblically. The entire congregation is responsible to follow the Bible, but especially the leadership…

    1. This is insane. They must have their wives in submission? Yes, I see you wrote “as unto the Lord” and I know this is taken from Ephesians 5. But that’s one of the problems, isn’t it? These men abuse their authority, and no one stops them until it’s too late. The entire system is broken. Christians are known more for their abuses (see Ravi Zacharias, James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, et al.) or else their excesses (see PreachersNSneakers for examples), then they are for their good deeds.

      The Apostle Paul summarizes all of the OT law with “love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). I don’t know a single pastor who lives remotely close this. And before anyone says, “That’s why we need grace; salvation isn’t by works” (etc), I’ve heard that line trotted out again and again. If Jesus really is who the Gospel accounts paint him to be, and if the Holy Spirit really dwells in the hearts of believers, you’d expect to see some sort of behavioral change that would trickle down to a neighborhood, a city . . .

    2. Since you’re so concerned about the wife being in submission KC, I assume you’re just as committed to this part of the elder qualifications: “whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient”

      That rules out John MacArthur and John Piper, for starters.

    3. Darren Gruett

      KC, the first and most important quality for a pastor is that he be above reproach. Furthermore, the qualities for the office of an overseer does not list having a wife who is in submission to him, but it does mention that he should be faithful to her. Furthermore, since you alluded to Ephesians 5, you neglected to mention that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

      Maybe you meant well, but consider how one-sided your comments sound, as evidenced by the replies you received.

      If we believe that the church is not completely dangerous, and that pastors are trustworthy, then our voices need to be the loudest and clearest in condemning sin in the church and in our leaders.

      There are people who read this blog who have given up on the church because of people in leadership who claim the name of Christ but do not know Him, but we can be examples of what followers of Jesus look like.

    4. “It is the office that God has ordained to proclaim the Gospel.” KC Dell, where did Jesus say, command or model ordaining pastors and elevating them to have the sole role of proclaiming the gospel?

  4. Gloria Austin

    So much wickedness and evil among the “saints” of God has been exposed during this pandemic season than any other period I have ever known…

  5. The once-saved-always saved, irresistible grace Southern Baptists have been taken a beating with recent high viz de-conversions and sex abuse crimes.

    However, in this case I do have some reservations. This needs to be fully investigated before stones are slung. Once, I was trying to find out some historical information on the White House as part of my job. I did a search and selected a link entitled “White House.” It opened up into a nasty porn site! I called IT to notify them. The IT guy told me that this does happen from time to time. Porn links troll for folks with attachments to official looking emails and sites with names very similar to legitimate sites. I got caught in the latter. I didn’t look closely enough at the link. I also had to get rid of an audio-bible app, which worked fine at first, but later it started linking to a porn voyeur site. Another possibility is having your unsecure WIFI IP address exploited.

    Apparently, the FBI works with the Center for Missing Children to do online stings. Unfortunately, the FBI has come under fire for massive distribution of child porn and malware use in an effort to catch offenders in these stings, a practice that can snare the unwary. Charges in one case with 173 stings were dismissed when the FBI refused to reveal how the sting was conducted. The Defense wanted to show entrapment. Defendants also alleged that the FBI for two weeks was in fact the biggest distributor of child porn on the internet. Even the FBI can’t legally break the law with impunity to enforce the law.

    In the case presented, we’re talking one download. This case is crying out for discovery in court.

    For some cases of the innocent being nabbed in online porn stings, and spending big bucks to defend themselves, see this article:

    https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2010/nov/15/child-porn-investigations-may-snare-the-innocent/

    Let’s see what happens with due process. They’ll be plenty of time to lament the shortcomings of folks later with real convictions based on scrutinized evidence.

      1. From the article: ….Welch had uploaded a video… Welch, 34, was charged with one count of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for uploading a copy of a video….

        MIEKHIE LIONG – Have I missed something? The article says three times that he downloaded one video. Do you have access to some other authoritative information?

  6. Can we please dispense with the incorrect term “child porn”? It is child sexual abuse material. Children can’t consent, and the term “porn” can imply consent.

    1. I see your point, but you have personalized your interpretation of the term. Actually “child pornography” is a legally defined term. Wiki has posted a legal definition, “Child pornography (also called child sexual abuse material[1][2] or child porn) is pornography that exploits children for sexual stimulation.[9] It may be produced with the direct involvement or sexual assault of a child (also known as child sexual abuse images[10][11][12]) or it may be simulated child pornography. Abuse of the child occurs during the sexual acts or lascivious exhibitions of genitals or pubic areas which are recorded in the production of child pornography.[15] Child pornography may use a variety of mediums,[16] including writings,[10][17][18] magazines, photos,[16] sculpture,[16] drawing,[16] painting,[16] animation, sound recording,[19] film, video,[16] and video games.[20] Child pornography may be created for profit or other reasons.[21]” The numbers are to footnotes from various criminal codes.

      As you can see even supposed “art” that depicts children pornographically (writing, photoshopped picture, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation) all break the law with no participation of children at all. I might add that this is just convention. Another term could have been chosen. Neither the terms “child porn or child pornography” nor “child sexual abuse material” imply child consent by definition. “Child porn” = “child sexual abuse material.” Journalists, legislators, etc. generally use the term “child porn” because it is shorter and means the same thing.

  7. Mr. Ralph Jesperson

    “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” Matt 10

    Do remember that Jesus said this about the towns of Israel. He was not talking about far away pagan lands. He was warning them about how corrupt their own clergy had become and all of the evil that was going to be done to them “in the name of God.” Nothing has changed. Our churches are still full of wolves. They will verbally flog you in their religious buildings. They will make false reports to police about you, like Mark Driscoll has. Where there is authority there is abuse of power. Where there is the name of God there will be those who claim to be leaders, pastors, prophets who will attempt to manipulate you. There will be scandals. There will be criminal acts. Jesus never used his authority the way these evil men do and He still does not…

  8. I agree, Tom. This cries for discovery.
    I know from personal experience that Satan’s favorite way to get someone out of the way or destroy their hard work for Christ is to have false allegations come against them, often of child sexual abuse or something to do with breaking codes of conduct.
    I find it astounding how quickly people jump on the train and assume that the FBI or some other organization is squeaky clean and would never put falsehoods out there to the public, or tamper with evidence to “prove” that someone has done something.
    Beware folks. There is far too much trust in our government agencies and people in positions of authority in our civil government.

    1. Welch’s immediate resignation and the statement issued by his church don’t support your response. Neither of them called for discovery or speculated that the allegations might be false.

      While there indeed are occasional false allegations of these crimes, they are exceedingly rare.

      Perpetrators claiming to be innocent when they are in fact guilty, however, is many times more common.

      So it is reasonable to respond according to the fact that the allegations against Mr. Welch are far more likely to be true than to be false.

  9. Lea James:

    In 1985, a Federal Prosecutor brought charges against then Sec of Labor Raymond Donovan larceny and fraud at his construction company, essentially alleging that the company was a front for organized crime. He was forced to resign from office because the charges undermined his credibility as Secretary of Labor. He was skewered and shamed from pillar to post in the media for two years. In 1987, he went to trial. It took 8 months. After the prosecution presented its case, his attorney didn’t call a single witness in his defense. The Defense argued that the Prosecution’s case was so bad, so lacking evidence, so outrageous that the jury must find Donovan not guilty. The jury agreed and found Donovan not guilty.

    When the judge affirmed the not guilty verdict and told Donovan he was free to leave, he famously replied, “Judge, where do I go to get my reputation back?”

    Again, this fellow may be guilty. Maybe more charges will be added. But the fact that he’s being charged for downloading a single video gives me pause. However, we have to exercise some check on confirmation bias. If one thinks that sexual abuse is a plague in the churches, it’s easy to believe all charges. The opposite is true as well. But there is wisdom in presuming innocence and letting due process play out. The Scripture in the Mosaic Law lays out this very principle. The fact he had to leave his job is not proof of anything. When a man is charged with a crime that potentially undermines his official position, he has to resign or be suspended from duties until the issue is sorted out. It puts the office under a cloud.

    The first to state his case seems right
    until another comes and cross-examines him. (Prov 18:17)

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