A 35-year-old youth pastor at a South Carolina church has been placed on administrative leave after reportedly giving out stickers to students that read “i (heart) hot youth pastors.”
Fairview Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Greer, S.C., announced Sunday that Cory Wall had been placed on administrative leave and will not be involved in student leadership while it conducts an investigation.
“Our student pastor, Cory Wall, acknowledges that he made a poor decision and a mistake by making a sticker available that was offensive to some,” reads a post by the church’s personnel team and deacon officers on its website and Facebook page.
The post did not describe the stickers Wall had made available. Fairview could not immediately be reached for comment.
“We take this matter very seriously and want to be proactive as we move forward. Our main goal is to always make our campus a safe place for anyone who attends,” the church’s statement reads.
The original social media post, which blurred the name of the church involved, claimed a youth pastor had given “i (heart) hot youth pastors” stickers to students during Midweek, the weekly gathering for students in sixth grade through high school at Fairview, according to the church website.
Another social media post claimed to show an email exchange between Wall and someone expressing concerns about stickers being distributed at Midweek.
“We’re updating our church-wide database, and I encouraged kids to come see me to get a sticker and update their information,” reads the email reportedly from Wall.
“The sticker was meant to poke fun of the ‘I Love Hot Mom’ culture. In hindsight, the joke was of very poor taste and a mistake on my part. I do apologize for their distribution.”
A number of sexual abuse cases involving youth pastors have made headlines in recent years, and the stickers touched a collective nerve as churches and denominations around the world, including the Southern Baptist Convention, reckon with their handling of abuse cases in the wake of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.
Leaders of the SBC’s Executive Committee released a list earlier this year detailing about 700 cases, dating back to the 1960s, of sexual abuse by pastors, Sunday school teachers, camp counselors, music ministers, bus drivers and missionaries, with about 400 tied to Southern Baptist churches from Alaska to Alabama.
In 2018, Jules Woodson, a prominent advocate for sexual abuse survivors, helped spark reform in the SBC by publicly sharing her story of abuse by her former youth pastor.
— Religion News Service