JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The congregation of Christ's Church gathered Sunday for its first services since youth minister David Lawson was accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old.
Lawson was arrested at the church Wednesday and charged with four counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.
Church officials say the congregation is trying to understand how something like this could happen in a place they consider sacred.
"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.," Pastor Jason Cullum told the congregation in a statement posted on the church's website. "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."
Cullum went on to write, "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 the victim's family."
Cullum assured church members at both the 9 and 10:30 a.m. church service Sunday that they implement strict safeguards and background checks on all their employees. He then asked the church to pray for the alleged victim in this case, adding that the church will be reaching out to Lawson and his family to help in any way they can.
Lawson worked at the church for nearly seven years in a number of different capacities.
Church officials say as a result of the arrest they've moved new leadership into place in their high school program of their Mandarin Campus.
According to jail records Lawson is out of jail on bond.