A former pastor with the Chets Creek Church, a sprawling multi-campus Southern Baptist megachurch in Florida, was recently arrested on charges of sexual molestation, lewd battery and unlawful sexual activity with a young girl from the age of 12 until she turned 17.
As per local reports, the 38-year-old Jeffrey Bedwell served as a youth pastor at the Southside campus of Chets Creek Church. However, the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, named him as the campus pastor before his firing in a 2018 report.
Bedwell is charged with four counts—transmission of materials harmful to minors, unlawful sexual activity, lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor between the age of 12 and 16, and lewd and lascivious sexual battery on a minor between the age of 12 and 16. He is held at the Duval County jail with a bond of $500,000.
Reportedly, Bedwell’s alleged crimes began in 2013 and ended in 2018, when he was employed with the Chets Creek Church. Bedwell is accused of grooming a 12-year-old girl with text messages, photos and sexual conversations, during which he also allegedly asked her to send him inappropriate photos. When she turned 14, lewd messages escalated into videos. It is also alleged that the Christian pastor allegedly had two sexual encounters with the girl when she was 14.
The arrest report of the former pastor says he continued sexually molesting the victim at his home and inside his vehicle until she turned 17. He is expected to answer the charges against him in a court proceeding scheduled on July 29.
Chets Creek Church distances itself from Jeffrey Bedwell following his arrest
Following his arrest, the Chets Creek Church issued a statement, saying that it was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff. The church tried to dissociate itself from the pastor, scrubbing clean most of its association with Bedwell from its website and social media accounts.
“Jeff Bedwell’s employment with the church was terminated more than two years ago for issues unrelated to the current charges now made against him,” Senior Pastor Spike Hogan, who represented the Southern Baptist Church, said in a statement to The Christian Post Tuesday.
Hogan further added that during his time at the church, Bedwell was “subjected to the same thorough vetting and background check” process that is done for all leaders.
“There was not a smidgen of inkling about his criminal antecedents,” said Hogan, adding that if they had learned of it, they would have reported it to the law enforcement immediately. The senior pastor said with his arrest, the church would cooperate with the law enforcement in any way possible in their investigation.
It is worth noting that Chets Creek Church refused to divulge information about Bedwell’s former role in the church. Hogan insisted that the church was taking steps to secure the safety of people, but did not elaborate on how it was being done.
“The safety of our members and families remains a top priority for us. The trust that they place in Chets Creek is precious and something that we work to earn and maintain every day. To that end, we are also constantly looking for ways to make our church even safer. With God’s help and guidance, we will do just that,” Hogan said.
Another Florida pastor arrested on charges of video voyeurism
In another case, a Florida Panhandle church youth director who was already facing video voyeurism charges after a hidden camera was found in a bathroom was arrested again. David Nims, 37, was arrested on Friday last week for eight more video voyeurism charges, the Pensacola News Journal reported.
It was the third such arrest on similar charges in less than two months for the youth director at Calvary Baptist Church in Pensacola. According to the reports, Nims fixed a camera in the toilet and the videos captured through it showed people using the restroom at the church.