Tennessee megachurch pastor given standing ovation for admitting to past 'sexual incident' with teenNew York Daily News
January 10, 2018
A Tennessee pastor admitting to and apologizing for a previous "sexual incident" with a high school student was met with raucous applause and a standing ovation from his Memphis congregation.
Andy Savage's confession before hundreds of members of the Highpoint Church comes just days after Jules Woodson accused the church leader of sexually assaulting her decades ago while he was youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas.
Woodson, who was 17 at the time of the assault, opened up about the encounter on Friday with Watch Keep.
She recalled being without a ride after spending the evening with friends at the Texas church in the Spring of 1998. Woodson said Savage offered her a ride home, only to drive her to a wooded area where he assaulted her.
"Suddenly Andy unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis. He asked me to suck it. I was scared embarrassed, but I did it," she wrote. "I remember thinking this must mean that Andy Loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did."
She said she was left feeling manipulated and ashamed, which eventually drove her to discuss the incident with church leadership - though police were never called on the matter.
During his remarks over the weekend - which were streamed live on the Church's YouTube page - Savage did not open up about the details of the "sexual incident." He said he thought the issue had been "dealt with in Texas."
"Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules," he said. "Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing."
The lead pastor at Highpoint, Chris Conlee, said he was among those "hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin" but that he stood by Savage.
Conlee in an official statement said news of the assault was "not new to me or our leadership" and described Savage as one of his "closest friends and partner in ministry."
Still Savage - an author and podcast - continues to see fallout from the incident.
Christian publishing company Bethany House on Monday announced his forthcoming book "The Ridiculously good Marriage" had been canceled.
Woodson in an interview with the New York Times said the video of Sunday's service and the response to Savage was "disgusting."
Woodson also told the newspaper she spoke on Monday with a detective in Texas, though it's not clear whether a statute of limitations would apply.