Jeffrey Bedwell Florida
Jeffrey Bedwell, 38, has been charged with molestation of a minor and related crimes, which allegedly occurred for five years while he served on staff at Chetts Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo: Duval County Sheriff's Office) 

Former Pastor at Florida Megachurch Charged with Grooming & Sexually Molesting Young Girl

By Josh Shepherd

The campus pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch in Jacksonville, Florida, has been charged and jailed for allegedly grooming and sexually molesting a girl from the time she was 12 until she turned 17.

Jeffrey Bedwell, 38, campus pastor of Chets Creek Church, was arrested and charged on July 8 with four counts, including molestation and battery of a minor, and transmission of material harmful to minors.

Bedwell committed the alleged acts from 2013 until 2018, while serving as a youth pastor at Chets Creek. Bedwell was promoted to campus pastor in 2018 and fired one year later for issues unrelated to the current charges, according to the church.

“(We are) shocked and devastated to learn of the charges,” said Chets Creek Senior Pastor Spike Hogan in a statement. Hogan added that the church had no reason to suspect Bedwell had assaulted those under his charge.

“He was subjected to the same thorough vetting and background check process that we require of all leaders, and there w(as) no hint of criminal activity,” said Hogan.

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A local news report based on Bedwell’s arrest record detailed a timeline of his alleged grooming and abuse, which occurred inside his vehicle and at his home.

“Bedwell became close with the victim when she was 12 years old and used text messages and Snapchat to communicate with her,” the report stated. Within a year, he reportedly was requesting the victim to send him inappropriate photos. Bedwell then reportedly began to send lewd photos to the victim.

According to the arrest report, Bedwell sexually assaulted the victim twice when she was 14, and continued assaulting her for three more years.

Bedwell is being held at Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, and his next court date is July 29.

On Tuesday, local police noted to the city’s CBS affiliate the possibility that “there may be people with information about additional crimes.”

Pastor Hogan said the church would aid authorities in their investigation, cooperating in any way possible. He added that safety of their members has become a top priority for church staff.

“Right now, our primary focus is to pray for any person who has been harmed and support them in any way they need,” he said. “The trust that (families) place in Chets Creek is precious and something that we work to earn and maintain every day.”

“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.”

*Some of the wording in this piece has been changed to reflect more accurately the predatory nature of the crimes described.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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4 thoughts on “Former Pastor at Florida Megachurch Charged with Grooming & Sexually Molesting Young Girl”

  1. Robert Simpson

    Why was he fired from the church before this revelation? They say unrelated to this crime but that seems odd.

    1. Christopher Hanley

      Its Florida. Imagine a politician in Illinois or New York getting fired for unrelated corruption, then being busted for tax fraud. Easily could happen. And does.(Not comparing tax fraud with molestation).

  2. I can’t say for sure, but my bet is that someone at the church knew that the girl was being driven home by the gentleman, and some other people in and around the youth group observed something between the two. And yes, innocent until proven guilty and all that, but if they’ve got the text messages, suffice it to say that their case appears to be very good.

    Making these connections is, by the way, one of the reasons a church that suffers one of these tragedies/crimes needs to have someone looking over what happened who doesn’t have as his goal to exonerate the church or defend it from legal liability.

  3. Lot of this kind of report coming out of Florida lately.

    Florida Man, Florida Man, doing whatever a Florida can?

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