A Forsyth County minister has been arrested on child pornography charges, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office.
T. Elliott Welch, 34, of Stonewell Lane in Tobaccoville, was charged with one count of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. An arrest warrant alleges that Welch copied material showing a nude girl, who appeared to be between the ages of 10 and 12, being raped by a man.
According to the sheriff's office, a person commits second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor if that person knowingly records, photographs, films, develops or duplicates material showing a minor engaging in sexual activity. That person also commits the offense by transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, buying, exchanging or soliciting that sort of material, the sheriff's office said in a news release.
The sheriff's office alleges that investigators received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone who lives in the 7600 block of Stonewell Lane had uploaded child pornography.
Investigators executed a search warrant at that home.
Welch is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville. Calls to the church for comment were not returned Tuesday evening.
Welch says on the church's website that he has been lead pastor at First Baptist since February 2020. Before that, he was an associate pastor and minister of students, serving in that position from September 2014 to January 2020.
He is married and has four children, according to the website and court documents. He graduated with a bachelor of science in religion, specializing in youth ministry, from Liberty University. He also received a master's of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. According to the website, Welch has served in churches along the East Coast and was a “church-planting catalyst” in northern Ghana with the International Mission Board. He also has been a street preacher, the website said. According to Amazon, he and his wife are the authors of “Grace and Gingerbread: A 25-Day Devotional” about the Christmas season.
Welch is in the Forsyth County Jail with a secured bond of $50,000. He is scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on May 13.
Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office at 336-727-2112. The sheriff's office also can receive anonymous texts, photos and video at Text-A-Tip at 336-920-8477. People can call Crime Stoppers, either at 336-727-2800 or on the Spanish language line at 336-728-3904.