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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Student Pastor Timothy Jeltema Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Online Child Abuse

timothy jeltema

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.

Timothy Jeltema, a student pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to four charges of online sexual abuse of a minor, including one charge of indecency with a child, one charge of sexual performance by a child, and two counts of online solicitation of a minor. Jeltema was sentenced to five years in prison. Champion Forest is a multisite Southern Baptist megachurch.

The Christian Post reports:

A Texas man who used to be a student minister at a Southern Baptist church has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to online sexual abuse of a child.

Timothy Jason Jeltema, 31, pled guilty on Nov. 17 to four charges of online sexual abuse of a minor, including one charge of indecency with a child, one charge of sexual performance by a child and two counts of online solicitation of a minor, reported the Baptist Press.

The charges were initially filed in 2018, one month after Jeltema was fired from Champion Forest Baptist Church in Harris County for an unrelated issue regarding communication with an 18 year old.

“Jeltema, a former minister to students at the North Klein campus of Champion Forest Baptist Church was terminated on May 15, 2018, the same day he was accused of and admitted to improper contact via social media with an 18-year-old member of our church,” stated the church, as reported by BP.

“Though no laws were known to have been broken, he was immediately dismissed for a clear violation of the church’s written code of conduct and his admission that he did not follow long-established Champion Forest regulations that pastors of students and adult volunteers must never communicate electronically one-on-one with students.”

In 2018, authorities arrested Jeltema after an unnamed minor accused him of sending her nude photos of himself over a period of several months and asked her to send him sexually explicit photos in return.

Authorities at the time believed that Jeltema had asked for photographs from around 20 to 25 minors between the ages of 14 and 17, reported ABC News 13 at the time of his arrest.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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