At the Annual Southern Baptist Convention, three churches appealed the decision made by the Credentials Committee to disfellowship them from the Southern Baptist Convention. The reason for the disfellowshipping refusal to cooperate with a sexual abuse allegation that the SBC was investigating. On the floor of the convention the messenger from Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Florida appeared contrite before the messengers, stating that the pastor with the allegations surrounding him was innocent but had resigned for the good of the church. In rebuttal, Dean Inserra, an SBC company man spoke before the messengers claiming that the pastor was running a shadow government on the church until the situation blew over with the SBC. Despite the conflicting accounts, the messengers deferred to the platformed and voted 96.46% to disfellowship Freedom Church, a higher percentage than the other two feminist churches disfellowshipped. What exactly is the truth behind these conflicting accounts. Evangelical Dark Web set out to find that truth interviewing multiple witnesses to unravel the complicated situation in Vero Beach, Florida.
Enter Richard Demsick
Things may have started out peaches and cream for the small town Anglican priest. But behind the scenes was a marriage in disarray. Marital infidelity was among the dysfunction that killed this marriage. Demsick’s wife would even be made to confess her adultery before the congregation. Yet one witness stated that the infidelity was mutual and that Demsick was not made to confess his own. Nevertheless, in the wake of divorce, Richard Demsick was a partaker in hookup culture. This occurred both within and without the church.
Richard Demsick had a propensity for violating the so-called Billy Graham Rule, which would escalate as far as him using the priestly office to seduce female congregants. This became the subject of an investigation conducted by the Anglican Church of North America, the ACNA. The conclusions of this report were disputed on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. The messenger from Freedom Church, Donald Stewart, insisted that the investigation exonerated Demsick while, Dean Inserra of the platform insisted otherwise.
Representing Freedom Church at the SBC23, Donald Stewart testified:
“First, our long-standing policies and practices show that we very much act in a manner consistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse. Second, at the time our former pastor was called and even to this day, there have never been any allegations of sexual abuse brought against him by any women anywhere under his pastoral care or otherwise. This has been confirmed through an independent investigation done by the Anglican Church of North America. Third, we have addressed the issue by using a local Baptist pastor until we can decide how to best fill the position.”
And while it is true that seducing women as a pastor is not sex abuse, thus never any claims of such brought against him, the ACNA investigation which could hardly be called independent did not exonerate Demsick in the slightest. A witness who has seen the findings corroborates Dean Inserra’s rebuttal on the floor of SBC23. The ACNA took actions to remove Demsick.
Following his stint as an Anglican priest, Demsick would go on the prowl.
A witness provided screenshots of Demsick’s Tinder profile in which he tries to portray himself as a muscular, edgy yet sensitive guy.
Meanwhile Richard Demsick went viral as a TikToker for going woke. One video that went particularly viral was when he filmed himself running through his neighborhood carrying a television to prove a point about Ahmed Arbury.
Enter Freedom Church
Freedom Church in Vero Beach Florida is a small church which had a long-time beloved pastor, Roger Ball. Vero Beach is the kind of small town in which people know each other and the reputational reproach of Demsick preceded him in a Christian setting. Roger Ball was a trusting man who believed in second chances. Demsick took advantage of that and was brought on as some sort of discipleship pastor. And when the eventual time came for a congregational vote on Demsick’s position, Demsick took no chances and enlisted his friends and family as members of the church in short order prior to the vote. Demsick was confirmed as pastor and multiple witnesses tell Evangelical Dark Web that the new members brought in by Demsick did not remain in the church.
So, when Ball’s untimely death occurred in November 2021, there was a leadership vacuum that Demsick took the reins of the church and expedited the process to make him the official pastor. Three elders of Freedom Church resigned.
Freedom Church would be disfellowshipped by the Southern Baptist Convention in February 2023 for failing to cooperate with an investigation regarding a pastor accused of sex abuse. Donald Stewart testified at SBC23 that Demsick resigned on May 22, a Monday after he preached. This eleventh hour action did not sway Southern Baptist of contrition. Moreover, Dean Inserra rebutted by accusing Freedom Church of lying in their testimony. Inserra claimed that Demsick was running a shadow government in the church until the situation with the Southern Baptist Convention blew over.
Multiple former members say at a minimum this is plausible. Some have claimed that Demsick is being retained as a “consultant pastor” which is a position invented for Carl Lentz type situations.
Enter Treasure Coast Baptist Association
Yet it’s bewildering to think that a church would go through all this effort just to maintain friendly cooperation with the SBC. After all, Baptist polity dictates that the local church is autonomous, and the SBC is not a hierarchy. Indeed, most churches do not dispute the disfellowshipping decision. 2023 was an unprecedented year in which three churches did.
However, there is one link that seems to make the outlandishness of the situation make sense.
The reputational reproach of Richard Demsick would eventually catch up with him as the local Baptist association would take an interest in this church. One former told Evangelical Dark Web that the local association caught wind of Richard Demsick becoming gay affirming, in addition to being a woke pastor in a church that was not woke.
Evangelical Dark Web was informed that Treasure Coast Baptist Association has some sort of leverage on the church property that should Freedom Church go astray, the local association can assume control of the property. Going astray would include being found not in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Treasure Coast Baptist Association declined to comment on whether they caught wind of Demsick being gay affirming and whether they had a control over property. However, Donald Stewart told Evangelical Dark Web that:
What we have received is a notice of legal proceedings to remove Freedom Church from the property it has owned since 1987. This is what we believe to be at the heart of the matter.
This would explain why Freedom Church went to great lengths to resolve its issues with the SBC.
After reaching out for comment with Freedom Church, their website went dark. It is our analysis that this is likely due to money issues rather than avoiding scrutiny, as one attempt to load the page indicated a domain issue with GoDaddy.
Indeed, Richard Demsick has not preached since May 21. A new interim pastor was brought on. Freedom Church resumed livestreams to YouTube two Sundays ago. In this past Sunday, an elder, Mike, disclosed the church’s gloomy financial situation.
In all of this, Freedom Church plays the victim, even insisting on Demsick’s innocence. Donald Stewart told Evangelical Dark Web, “Over and over we have declared Pastor Demsick’s innocence. We have asked repeatedly, verbally and in writing for any kind of evidence that these accusations are true. To date we have received none.”
The question as to whether Demsick is running a shadow government is moot. The church is in no position to bring him back into leadership any time soon, much less compensate him. Freedom Church hired an unqualified pastor whose reproach soured relationships with the organization that has control over their property and ultimately the Southern Baptist Convention, and they did so to their own demise.