The Southern Baptist megachurch Chets Creek Church in Florida is reportedly “shocked” to have learned that one of their former pastors has been charged with crimes related to grooming and sexually molesting a young woman beginning when she was just 12 years old.
38-year-old Jeff Bedwell left the Southside campus of Chets Creek Church two years ago although the church says that his termination was unrelated to the charges he now faces for the transmission of materials harmful to minors, unlawful sexual activity, and lewd and lascivious molestation and sexual battery of a minor between the age of 12 and 16.
“Chets Creek was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff,” Senior Pastor Spike Hogan told The Christian Post in a statement on Tuesday.
When Bedwell was hired, Hogan said, he had been “subjected to the same thorough vetting and background check process that we require of all leaders” and there had been “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,” his statement said.
According to local news reports cited by the Post, Bedwell had served as a youth pastor at the church, although an article from the Southern Baptist Church’s official news service, Baptist Press, he was named as the campus pastor of Southside in 2018, prior to being fired.
Hogan’s statement did not specify what his role at the church had been, and stated that they had “no plans to comment further at this time.”
“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’s statement explained.
“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.”
Bedwell was accused of grooming his victim through text messages and SnapChat beginning when she was just 12 years old. He was soon sending messages containing sexual content and asking her to send illicit photographs. This later turned into videos.
He is accused of engaging in two sexual encounters with her when she was 14, which according to the arrest record continued until she was 17.
Bedwell was arrested on July 8 and is expected to answer the charges filed against him on July 28.
Just yesterday, we shared the story of an Illinois pastor who is still preaching from the pulpit after being arrested and charged after a church member accused him of sexual battery.
It is far too often that we hear of men who have been placed in positions of authority in the church accused of taking advantage of their congregants in the most unthinkable way.
These are wolves in sheep’s clothing, friends, and we will never be able to drive them away from the flock by failing to address the severity of church abuse. The church has been silent too long.
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