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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Jonathan Elwing Accused of Child Pornography Possession

jonathan elwing

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.

Jonathan Elwing, pastor of Palm View First Baptist Church in Palmetto, Florida, stands accused of multiple counts of possession of child pornography. Palm View is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and holds to Calvinistic theology.

The Biblical Reporter reports:

Jonathan Edward Elwing, senior pastor of Palm View Baptist Church in Palmetto, was arrested June 21 on four counts of possession of child sexual abuse images.

The church, located on the southern edge of Tampa Bay, confirmed the arrest of Elwing, 43, on its Facebook page that same evening. Elwing resigned from the church prior to being arrested.

The church’s chairman of deacons told local news that Palm View had held several training sessions on identifying signs of sexual abuse. He added that Elwing, who according to online records began at the church in November 2019, followed a pastor who had been with the congregation for 41 years.


Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives received information the day prior that Elwing had used cryptocurrency to purchase the images online. Deputies found four “sexually explicit photos of children” on his cellphone Friday after executing a search warrant at his home and office. Elwing remains in custody at the Manatee County jail and is being held on $15,000 bond for each count.  

The Conservative Baptist Network, of which Elwing was a member of the Florida state chapter leadership, released a statement on June 22.

“Upon learning of this news, he was immediately removed from the Network,” said Timothy Pigg, CBN network director. “I ask that you pray for the Palm View Baptist Church and Jonathan’s family.”

ABC-7 adds:

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children detectives arrested a Palmetto pastor on June 21 for possession of child pornography. Tuesday, 14 more charges were filed against the pastor.

Church Leaders adds:

A former Florida pastor has received 14 additional charges in connection with a child sex abuse material case. Jonathan Elwing, now-formerly of Palm View First Baptist Church in Palmetto, Florida, was arrested after an investigation revealed that he allegedly used cryptocurrency to purchase child sex abuse material.

Elwing, 43, resigned as pastor of Palm View First Baptist Church before being taken into custody on Friday, June 21. 

The new charges include six counts of possession of child pornography, six counts of use of a child in a sexual performance, and two counts of sexual battery on a person less than 12 years old—which is a capital offense. 

lwing had previously been charged with four counts of possession of child pornography, bringing the total number of charges against him to 18. 


Palm View First Baptist Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Elwing appears to have been invested in Southern Baptist denominational politics. He was a member of the Florida chapter of the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN), a group formed in 2020 to address what it believed to be “liberal drift” in the denomination. 

Following the news of his arrest, Elwing’s membership was revoked. 

Palm View First Baptist Church had also been featured 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.”

The church has since been removed from the list. 

And finally, WFLA reports:

Elwing was a pastor at Palm View First First Baptist Church for the last few years, according to church leaders. He resigned from his position as senior pastor before his arrest on Friday.


The chairman of the deacons at the church said the search for a new head pastor will soon be getting underway. They are in the process of forming a committee to begin that search.

“We are under control, but quite in shock,” Deacon Larry Bianchi said. “Personally, I keep thinking it is a really bad dream, and I am going to wake up from it, but unfortunately, this happens in society. It happens more often than not in places where children can be seen.. There’s a lot of children in church. It is a bad, bad, bad situation my preacher has gotten himself into, but we are no longer associated with him. It is hard to say that, but we are no longer associated with him and we are going to have to go forward from there.”

The church leaders said they conducted background checks before hiring Elwing, and he moved to the Palmetto area after working as a pastor in the Florida Keys.

“Everybody is tempted and sometimes we give into that temptation and now we have to deal with the aftermath of it,” Bianco said. “I hope and pray to God that we react correctly, we keep Palm View strong in the neighborhood, and people might come to worship there if they choose. That is my want, and that is the want of the congregation of Palm View Baptist Church.”

Did the chairman of the deacon’s board really call Elwing’s alleged sex crimes “temptations?” Really? Does this deacon think this is a one-off, akin to the preacher getting caught in bed with the deacon’s wife? How stupid and naive can you be?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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