Jaddeus Dempsey, an associate pastor at a church in central Ohio, who encouraged young students to spit in his face, slap him and cut him with a knife, has apologized for the incident and said he “crossed the line.”
Dempsey explained in an apology posted to Facebook that his intent had been to teach a message about how Jesus Christ suffered pain and died on the cross because he loved everyone. Dempsey said the idea had been to do a physical demonstration of this lesson.
Students posted videos of the incident to social media, which immediately prompted concern and backlash from parents. Dempsey has said he is “deeply sorry” and that the demonstration was “not appropriate.”
The Licking County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation and the church launched a formal review as well.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Jaddeus Dempsey Encouraged Students to Slap, Cut & Spit On Him; The Teens Laughed But Also Appeared Apprehensive With the Exercise, Especially When Dempsey Held Up the Steak Knife
Jaddeus Dempsey’s “demonstration” took place on April 15, 2019, at the Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, which is located east of Columbus. The church has a youth event every Monday directly after school.
Dempsey said that his intent was to teach the students about Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and how Jesus loved the people who were hurting him. To show this, Dempsey encouraged the students to spit in his face and slap him. A portion of the incident is viewable in the video embedded above. Heavy has viewed a longer version of the incident that was posted to Facebook, but we’ve chosen not to link to it in order to protect the students’ identities.
In the longer version, the students can be heard laughing as several of them take turns to spit. Some can also be heard expressing disbelief that this was really happening. About halfway through the video, Dempsey appears to be encouraging students to slap his face, even as they hesitated. The slaps prompted gleeful reactions from the rest of the students watching.
Dempsey then takes his shirt off and holds up a steak knife. The teens shouted in surprise, and one student can be heard exclaiming, “Are you serious?!” The first student whom Dempsey handed the knife over to looked very apprehensive. Cries of “don’t do it” and “don’t do it hard” can be heard. Another adult in the room, who also appeared to be recording with his phone, stepped forward and told the kids to “be very gentle.”
The first student ultimately decides that he isn’t comfortable cutting Dempsey, and hands the knife to someone else. That person cautiously scrapes the knife along Dempsey’s upper back. Students were heard saying, “You’ve got to make him bleed.” Dempsey appears to flinch as the knife cuts again, but did not appear to be injured.
2. Lead Pastor Justin Ross & Jaddeus Dempsey Posted an Explanation & An Apology to Facebook Almost Immediately After the Youth Event Had Ended
The pastor of the Impact City Church immediately responded to the violent demonstration that had occurred on April 15. According to the church’s website, the weekly youth gathering ends at 5:30 p.m. Lead pastor Justin Ross and Jaddeus Dempsey posted a video on the church’s Facebook page at 6:03 p.m. the same day to apologize for what had happened.
Ross attempted to explain the lesson that Dempsey had intended to teach. Ross said that the upcoming Easter holiday provided an opportunity to talk about the crucifixion. Ross said that Dempsey’s illustration “went too far and it was inappropriate for the audience that we had with students.” He said that there was no excuse for it.
Ross added, “The intent behind it I think is important because this part did not get posted on social media. After Jaddeus allowed them to spit on him and slap him and cut him, he sat them down and explained to them about this guy named Jesus. Thousands of years ago, he was put on trial for a crime that he didn’t commit and he was beaten, he was broken, he was whipped, he was crucified, and he died as an innocent man. We believe that Jesus had the power at any point to stop them. To stop those who were hurting him. But he chose to allow it to happen. He chose to allow them to spit on him and beat him and crucify him in order to take the payment of our debt that we call sin. He chose to allow it to happen because he loved them and wanted to show them how much he loved them. So Jaddeus, in an effort to share that message of love in the gospel of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. He shared this illustration and tried to share in some of the pain that Jesus took on that day. Although the intent was honorable, it wasn’t appropriate for our student gathering today.”
3. Jaddeus Dempsey: ‘This Was Completely My Idea’ & Expressed That He Was ‘Deeply Sorry’ For the Incident
Jaddeus Dempsey expressed his remorse for the incident. He explicitly stated that the idea had been his alone and that none of the other church leaders had been aware that he was planning to do this.
Dempsey described the exercise as “over the top,” “in bad judgment” and not appropriate for the students. He added, “I am so sorry for misrepresenting the community, the church, the parents, the students, anybody that I’ve hurt. It was not my intention. My intention was just to show them how much Jesus loves them and that I love them as student-leader for almost four years now. Tonight was an anomaly and is not normally what happens. And again, I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”
4. The Church Launched an Internal Review & the Local Sheriff’s Office is Investigating
The Impact City Church shared on April 16 that the Board of Directors had launched a formal review and investigation. Lead Pastor Justin Ross also stated that he was “making himself available to meet personally with every student and their parents who were present at the student gathering” in order to answer questions and address concerns.
Ross admitted to CBS affiliate 10TV that he had been present for Dempsey’s demonstration. But he did not intervene. Ross was asked why he hadn’t stopped it. He answered, “That’s something that I’m thinking about a lot right now.”
Several parents had seen the videos that their children posted to social media in real-time, and had rushed to the church to pick up their children. One of the teens who had been there told 10TV, “I thought it was very weird and awkward… I took part because I thought it was ok because it was coming from an adult.”
The Licking County Sheriff’s Office was also notified of what happened and opened an investigation.
5. Jaddeus Dempsey is a Part-Time Pastor at Impact City Church; He is Married With Children
Jaddeus Dempsey is a central Ohio native. According to his Facebook page, he grew up in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus, and lived in Tulsa, Oklahaoma for a time before returning to central Ohio.
Dempsey joined the staff at Impact City Church in July of 2015. He wrote in the description on his Facebook page, “I love kids and who they are. While others may overlook them, I think there is no one more important! We are setting the foundation for kids and students in how they view their relationships with God, family, friends, and others. I believe there is no greater time of learning, wonder, and discovering who God made them to be than before they become adults.”
Dempsey is married and has two children. In the apology video posted to Impact City Church’s page, Dempsey added that his wife had not been aware of his plans that day, either.