A former Southern Baptist pastor from Jacksonville, Florida, has been arrested for allegedly grooming and sexually molesting a minor girl for about five years.
According to the Florida Times-Union, former Chets Creek Church pastor Jeffrey "Jeff" Bedwell, 38, reportedly groomed and sexually assaulted a young girl from the time she was 12 years old until she turned 17.
According to county jail records, he has been charged with transmission of material harmful to minors, unlawful sexual activity, lewd and lascivious battery and lewd and lascivious molestation. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.
The Florida Times-Union reports that the abuse began in 2013 when Bedwell grew close to the young victim and started grooming her by exchanging photos and having sexual conversations with her via text message and Snapchat. By 2014, the young girl reportedly began to send explicit photos back to the former pastor. Eventually, the two began to exchange explicit videos with each other too.
When the victim was just 14 years old, Bedwell allegedly had two sexual encounters with her, the arrest report says. The assaults ended in 2018 when the victim was 17 years old.
Senior Pastor Spike Hogan of Chets Creek Church, a multi-campus Southern Baptist megachurch, told The Christian Post that the church was aggrieved over the alleged actions of one of their former pastors.
"Chets Creek was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff," Hogan told The Christian Post in a statement on Tuesday.
"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. … [T]here 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," Hogan added before noting that church leaders will "cooperate with law enforcement in any way we can as they conduct their investigation."
While it is unclear how police were tipped off about Bedwell's alleged actions, they are currently investigating the assault.
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Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper. She has written on her blog since 2012 and has also contributed to IBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.