Home Christian News SBC Pastor Arrested on Child Sex Abuse Material Charges

SBC Pastor Arrested on Child Sex Abuse Material Charges

Jonathan Elwing
Screengrab via Manatee County Sheriff's Office

A Florida pastor was arrested and charged with four counts of possession of child pornography on Friday (June 21). Jonathan Elwing, now-formerly of Palm View First Baptist Church in Palmetto, Florida, resigned from the church before being taken into custody. 

Elwing was arrested after an investigation revealed that he allegedly used cryptocurrency to purchase child sex abuse material. Law enforcement executed a search warrant on Friday at the church and Elwing’s home and found child sex abuse material on Elwing’s phone.

In response to the shocking news, Larry Bianchi, the chair of Palm View’s deacon board, told WWSB that “the people of the church are the church.”

“The pastor may be the front man, he may be the leader of the church—and we need a new one,” Bianchi said. “But Palm View Baptist Church will go on because of the strength of the congregation.”

The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). 

The church also appears on Founders Ministries’ list of “gospel-preaching, Christ-exalting” churches. Led by Florida SBC Pastor Tom Ascol, Founders is “committed to encouraging the recovery of the gospel and the biblical reformation of local churches.”

Notably, Ascol has expressed suspicion regarding the SBC’s sexual abuse reforms, which Southern Baptists overwhelmingly voted to adopt. Ascol has cited the cost of reforms relative to what he believes to be their effectiveness, as well as his concern for false allegations, in his arguments against reform.

“The Houston Chronicle report on sex abuse in the SBC found that, over a 20 year period, for every 125,000 Southern Baptists, 124,999 were never convicted of any sex crimes,” Ascol said in a social media post on April 16. “Interesting study in narrative constructions.”

In an email to ChurchLeaders, Ascol said, “I am deeply grieved to read about Jonathan Elwing’s arrest and the charges filed against him.”

“Pornography is wicked and a scourge on our nation. It should be outlawed at every level of our society. Child pornography is a compounded wickedness because it necessarily involves the abuse of the most vulnerable among us,” he continued. “Those who engage in it should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

RELATED: Robert Morris Resigns as Gateway Church’s Senior Pastor Following Sexual Abuse Allegations

Per Founders Ministries’ website, churches that appear on its recommended list of “healthy, biblically-grounded” churches “are listed voluntarily, and Founders Ministries is not able to evaluate and endorse each church individually.”