Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeff Rolen Accused of Sex Crimes Against a Child

jeff rolen

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jeff Rolen, pastor of Highlands Fellowship in Wise, Virginia, was arrested today of accusations of sex crimes against a child. Highland wasted no time in scrubbing Rolen from its existence.

WJHL-11 reports:

The former pastor of an area church. accused of sex crimes against a child, is being held without bond in Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, VA.

Jeff Rolen, campus pastor of Highlands Fellowship in Wise, VA is charged with 10 counts of indecent liberties with a child. The alleged incidents occurred more than 30 years ago.

investigators say the alleged incidents took place between January 1985 and end of December 1987.

According to indictments obtained by News Channel 11,  if convicted Rolen faces a maximum of 5 years behind bars on each count. News Channel 11 obtained a letter sent to members of Highlands Fellowship.

It said part, “We are saddened to share Jeff Rolen, campus pastor at Wise, VA has been arrested, late yesterday. We learned of his arrest and charges regarding inappropriate relations with a minor prior to his employment with Highlands Fellowship.”


Highlands Fellowship released the following statement:

We are saddened to share that Jeff Rolen, Campus Pastor at Wise, Virginia has been arrested. Late yesterday, we learned of his arrest and charges regarding inappropriate relations with a minor prior to his employment with Highlands Fellowship.

Preemployment background checks did not reveal any issues.
The Church only has limited information about the situation at this time. However, given the seriousness of the allegations, we have released Mr. Rolen from his position here at Highlands. We are also leaving Camp Bethel as a church site.

We ask you to pray for all those affected by this situation, the Wise Community, and our church family. Please refrain from gossip so we do not cause further harm to anyone involved.  As followers of Christ, we must trust God to provide guidance and healing to move forward.

We will have Easter service this Sunday for our Wise Campus at the Inn at Wise at 11 am.  Mark Estepp will speak live with acoustic music.  The Good Friday service in Wise is cancelled and we encourage our Wise members to attend the service at our Abingdon campus.

God is in control and we can find comfort in His words.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV

Jim Fleming, Executive Pastor,Steven Davidson, Operations Pastor

In December 2017, someone on a public forum alleged that Rolen was having an inappropriate relationship with a church member. I have no idea whether the accusation is true. One person made a resolute defense of Rolen:

How dare you accuse one of the best men to ever walk in this area of such bullcrap. Are you feeling guilty about something yourself to go and accuse a true man of God who has done nothing but help the youth and young adults in this area? Jeff not only runs Camp Bethel, he is also one of the first on the scene of accidents, i.e. house fires, natural disasters etc. Even going as far as Texas and Florida to help rebuild damaged homes. Go and pick on someone else, nobody believes any of the lies you are trying to spread. God will deal with you, I pray.

I wonder if her opinion has changed since Rolen’s arrest?

WCYB-5 reports that Rolen had been granted bail, pending his August trial date:

A pastor and youth camp director accused of sexual misconduct with a minor has been released on bail pending trial.

Camp Bethel executive director Jeff Rolen pleaded not guilty in court Monday to 10 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.


The charges in the case date back to the mid-1980s, but a Virginia State Police investigator said in court Monday they were discovered while looking into more recent allegations. The investigator testified that during the execution of a search warrant last week at Rolen’s home and the camp, authorities found board minutes in which Rolen confessed to a sexual relationship from 1985 to 1987 with a female camper.

Rolen’s daughter also took the stand, standing by her father’s civic work in the community. The Wise County Chamber of Commerce honored Rolen as the county’s Citizen of the Year in 2014. News 5 spoke with Rolen’s attorney after the hearing who encouraged the public not to rush to judgment, saying there is a whole lot more to the story.

The attorney said Rolen has been suspended as Camp Bethel executive director. Last week, Highlands Fellowship released a statement stating Rolen had been removed from his position as pastor of its Wise campus.


  1. Brian

    “I wonder if her opinion has changed since Rolen’s arrest?”

    Well, the question might be rhetorical but allow me to impose on the rhetoric if you will be so kind: The answer is an emphatic NO! The opinion is not changed, not a whit and why should it change. A Change would indicate that important, new information has come to light and it has not. All that has happened is an arrest of a Godly man. And even if he did sin some years ago, that will have been washed by the bood of the lamb and does not apply now. He does good work in the world and these so-called sex crimes may or may not have occurred! Little children grow up and if they know the Lord, it is all water under the bridge. Why I oughta take a switch to you, you Satan worshipper.
    (With apologies to all balanced, healthy Christians out there…. all five or six of you.)

  2. Claire

    No it’s not bridge under the water. A CHILD was expoilted by a 30 something man! I don’t care if she was 16 or 17! She was a child attending a summer camp. It was not consensual even if she did say yes because she was a child.

    Not only is Rolen guilty but the board, his wife and any other adults that were privy to this information. They failed to report a crime and allowed him to stay in a position in which he had access to other children. In truth, if he got away with it once he can do it again. That is the mindset of a Pedophile!

    1. Grammar Gramma

      I believe Brian is engaging in a bit of sarcasm here.


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