Impact City Church’s Lead Pastor Justin Ross and part-time Associate Pastor Jaddeus Dempsey posted an apology for their "inappropriate" Easter lesson on social media after Dempsey’s methods to explain the crucifixion sparked criticism.
The video, obtained by NBC News, showed one of his church's weekly activities for middle and high school children, called "After School Student Hangouts", in Pataskala, Ohio. Dempsey is seen urging students to cut him and slap him. Several children heeded his call, cutting his back with a steak knife and spitting at him, while others laughed.
"I thought it was very weird and awkward. I took part because I thought it was OK because it was coming from an adult”, a 12-year-old student who took part in the session told a CNN’s affiliate channel.
In the video apology by the church’s lead pastor, Justin Ross, he said that after letting the children spit on, slap, and cut him, Dempsey sat down with them to discuss the tragedy of the crucifixion, explaining how Jesus was "beaten, he was broken, he was whipped, he was crucified and he died as an innocent man". Although he admitted that the action was inappropriate, he noted that the "intent was honourable".
The scandal-hit pastor insisted that it was completely his idea, saying that his way to explain the events in the Gospel had “crossed the line”.
"I am so sorry for misrepresenting the community, the church, the parents, the students and anybody that I hurt. It was not my intention. My intention was just to show them how much Jesus loves them and I love them", he said.
The church promised to probe the incident and conduct a formal review, while the Licking County Sheriff's Office reportedly also opened an investigation, according to the local broadcaster WBNS.