Last week, federal authorities announced that Cory Herthel, a former pastor in Green Bay, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Herthel, 40, admitted having inappropriate sexual contact with a child he met on a foreign mission trip. The contact involved the Green Bay pastor sending and requesting explicit images, with Herthel also sending the victim money online.
Green Bay Pastor Targeted South American Child
According to the DOJ, “Herthel acknowledged knowing the minor from a mission trip he had taken to Ecuador, where he met the child begging on the streets. The child and the child’s mother had returned to their native Venezuela, and Herthel kept in touch with the child.”
In May 2023, Green Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Herthel served as pastor, tipped off the FBI about a potential crime. With assistance from local officials, investigators discovered that “Herthel sent the child videos of himself masturbating, and at Herthel’s request, the minor sent similar videos and images to the pastor,” the DOJ said.
When authorities showed the former pastor the incriminating evidence, he “acknowledged sending the videos to the child whom he knew to be a minor…asking the child for the images and videos…[and] sending the child monetary payments via various online applications.”
Herthel also had been charged with attempted production of child sex abuse materials and the transfer of obscene material.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a DOJ initiative launched in 2006. The project targets child sexual abuse and exploitation while working to identify and rescue victims. It also aims to bolster cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities and to work with nongovernmental organizations.
Denomination Addressed the ‘Abhorrent Situation’
In a statement, the Wisconsin Conference of Seventh-day Adventists said in June that it “immediately informed the appropriate authorities about the allegations” against Herthel and terminated his employment.
“Even in advance of a legal conclusion to this case, the Wisconsin Conference determined that the behavior in question was a serious violation of the values and standards of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” the statement read. “Additionally, [Herthel’s] ministerial credentials and ordination will be revoked, preventing future employment within the Seventh-day Adventist church.”