The State Law Enforcement Division charged Christopher P. Daniels, 40, of 1337 Blue Ridge Ave., Belton, with second-degree arson in the fire at Blue Ridge Baptist Church, 1340 Blue Ridge Ave., a warrant said.
Anderson County Fire Chief Billy Gibson said Daniels was the church's pastor. He wouldn't say what made authorities suspicious of Daniels.
"Early on in the fire (investigation) we found evidence that this fire was set, and just working some leads and some facts that we had, we arrived at that conclusion," Gibson said.
He said they have "no idea" what the motive could have been.
Daniels reported the fire at 9:20 a.m., before anyone else had arrived at the church, Gibson said.
The church had been painted with gang-like graffiti a few months ago, and about half of the congregation -- 25 or so people, mostly elderly women -- left the congregation after that, said deacon Bill Davenport.
He said he was surprised and disappointed that his pastor was arrested. "What little I knew about him, he was a good preacher," Davenport said. "He was getting better every service."
Daniels had been the pastor there for about a year, and it was his first preaching job, Davenport said. Daniels also was a teacher at a Christian school, Davenport said.
"What dealings I had with him, I liked him," he said.
Daniels has a wife and two teen-aged children, Davenport said.
Roger Orman, associate executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said his records show Daniels had been a Southern Baptist pastor since April 2008, but he had no details about his background.
The century-old rural church sustained significant smoke damage but only moderate fire damage, Gibson said.
Members plan to meet in a day or two to decide what to do, but a halfway house for recovering addicts has offered to let the church use its building for services, Davenport said.
Daniels was being held in the Anderson County Detention Center on a $25,000 surety bond, according to Cpl. Chris Burton at the jail.
Second-degree arson is punishable upon conviction by up to 25 years in prison, according to a statement released by SLED.