A Forsyth County minister facing a child pornography charge has resigned his position at the church, according to a statement from the church.
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.
Welch was the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville.
On Friday, Bill Rhue, a church member who is on the church's personnel committee, issued this statement:
"We are shocked and saddened by the criminal charges brought against T. Elliott Welch, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville. We in no way condone the behavior for which Pastor Welch has been accused. We are and we 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 so as to allow law-enforcement officials to continue to do their important work."
Rhue said Welch submitted his resignation Thursday.
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that it had received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone who lives in the 7600 block of Stonewell Lane had child pornography. Investigators executed a search warrant at Welch's home. The search warrant has not yet been returned and is not publicly available.
Welch had been the senior pastor at Stanleyville's First Baptist since February 2020. Before that, he served as associate pastor and minister of students from September 2014 to January 2020, according to the church's website.
He is married and has four children and graduated with a bachelor of science in religion, specializing in youth ministry, from Liberty University. He received a master's of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also had 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, and he and his wife are the authors of "Grace and Gingerbread: A 25-Day Devotional" about the Christmas season.
Welch was in the Forsyth County jail with a secured bond of $50,000. On Friday, he was not listed as an inmate, meaning he likely was released on bond. He is scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on May 13.