SAME old story, different miscreant: Jeff Bedwell, above, of Chets Creek Church, a multi-campus Southern Baptist megachurch in Florida, is being held on a $500,000 bond in Duval County jail after he was was charged with four counts involving illicit sexual contact with a young girl.
According to his arrest report, the charges are the transmission of materials harmful to minors, one count of unlawful sexual activity, one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor between the age of 12 and 16 and one count of lewd and lascivious sexual battery on a girl between the age of 12 and 16.
The church has reacted with the usual expressions of horror. Senior Pastor Spike Hogan said:
Chets Creek was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff. 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.
Hogan said that during his time at the church, the 38-year-old Bedwell was:
Subjected to the same thorough vetting and background check process that we require of all leaders. There was no hint of criminal activity. Had we learned of, or had any reason to believe there was wrongdoing, we would have reported it to law enforcement immediately. With his recent arrest, we will cooperate with law enforcement in any way we can as they conduct their investigation.
Local news reports indicate that Bedwell served as a youth pastor at the Southside campus of Chets Creek Church. But Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, named him as the campus pastor before his firing in a 2018 report.
Chets Creek Church noted that the “church has no plans to comment further at this time” and did not elaborate on Bedwell’s former role. But the church insists that leaders are working to make their church safer.
Right now, our primary focus is to pray for any person who has been harmed and support them in any way they need. Please pray with us as we are once again reminded that we live in a dark world that needs help and hope that only God can bring.
According to the arrest report Bedwell’s alleged crimes began in 2013 and ended in 2018.
Bedwell reportedly used text messages and Snapchat to become close with the victim when she was 12.
When she turned 13, he is said to have begun grooming her with text messages, photos and sexual conversations during which he allegedly requested inappropriate photos. By the time she was 14, the exchanges allegedly escalated to include videos.
The pastor is accused of having two alleged sexual encounters with the girl when she was 14.
Bedwell allegedly continued sexually assaulting the victim at his home and inside his vehicle until she turned 17.
He has been at the Duval County jail since July 8. He is expected to answer the charges in court on July 29.
Since Bedwell’s arrest, Chets Creek Church has scrubbed most of their association with him from their website and social media.