Christ's Church releases statement on former pastor's arrest | News

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Christ's Church releases statement on former pastor's arrest

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The former Student Minister for the Christ's Church's Greenland Road is out on bond after being charged with having sex with a 15-year-old.

Detectives arrested 38-year-old David Lawson at the church Jan. 2, according to an arrest report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The report said police received information Dec. 19 which stated Lawson engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old.

Police took Lawson into custody Wednesday after detectives obtained information which allegedly corroborated the earlier allegations against Lawson.

Detectives charged Lawson, who, according to the report, was the church's Student Minister, with four counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. Lawson is no longer employed at the church.

The church released the following statement:

"As your pastor, one of my greatest joys is sharing the "Good News" of the gospel. But sometimes I need to call our church family together to share bad news as well.

One of our ministers, David Lawson, has been arrested and accused of allegedly molesting one of our teenage girls. At the moment of this letter we are continuing to thoroughly investigate this matter. However, we have not been able to talk to David. Our attorney, Kelly Mathis, has had the opportunity to meet briefly with David. In light of what we know at this time, and at the direction of our attorney, we have terminated David's employment at our church effective immediately.

David has served this church in a multitude of positions for almost seven years and was beginning a transition from high school ministry at the Mandarin Campus to stewardship ministry as of January 1, 2013. During our close relationship with David, there has never been a hint or accusation of impropriety on any level and that is why these allegations come as a complete shock.

Regardless, our hearts and prayers go out to David, his family, our church family, and especially to the victim and her family.

One of the things I would like you to know is that the safety and security of our children is of primary importance at Christ's Church.

To the best of our knowledge, we have been a pioneer and leader in the area of protecting our children for many years. We implement strict policies and the best safeguards we can. No staff member is employed without a comprehensive background check.

And, as many of you have experienced, we do that same level of background check down to the volunteer level as well. Rules and procedures about child contact, parent and law enforcement notification are also practiced with great importance.

Secondly, you need to know that once we were notified of this situation, we acted immediately to get an understanding of what occurred. As stated above, upon the advice and direction of our attorney, David's employment was terminated, effective immediately. We have honestly communicated with our leadership, our staff, and now our church family. We have released a statement to the media and I will stand before our congregation this weekend and continue to share with you on this matter.

As a result of this occurrence, we are moving to place new leadership in our high school program at the CC Mandarin Campus by asking Jill Thomas to step in and take the reins. Jill has worked in this ministry previously and has just returned from the mission field to join us again at Christ's Church. Other announcements of leadership will be forthcoming as we secure new team members in the immediate future.

While the failure of any minister is a tragedy for all concerned, you need to know that with his termination from our staff, we still consider David a member of our church family. And, because of that relationship, we will be reaching out to David and his family. Please remember them all in your prayers.

And, at the very heart of our sorrow is the victim in this tragedy. The trust that children and parents place in our ministries is precious to us. Any violation of that trust wounds us personally and deeply. Please be in prayer for the victim and her family as we reach out to them as well.

Even as I write this letter, media crews have come to our campus and there is no escaping the coverage that will follow. I'm sorry for all involved who have to endure it; however I simply ask you to be in prayer. Lift up those involved and pray for grace and healing.

Serving You,
Jason Cullum, Lead Pastor

The report said due to Lawson making suicidal statements as a result of the incident, police Baker Acted him.

According to JSO Inmate Records, Lawson was released from the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility just after 7:30 p.m. Thursday.


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