Tennessee pastor who received standing ovation after admitting ‘sexual incident’ with teen resigns

Tennessee pastor who received standing ovation after admitting ‘sexual incident’ with teen resigns
Pastor Andy Savage resigns from his position at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, after admitting to taking part in a "sexual incident" with a teen over two decades ago. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Pastor Andy Savage, the Tennessee pastor who admitted to engaging in a “sexual incident” with a teen 20 years ago, has resigned from his position at Highpoint Church in Memphis.

What’s the background?

During a January church service, Savage publicly admitted his role in a 1998 Texas incident in which he reportedly asked a 17-year-old high school senior for oral sex before allegedly groping her.

Savage, now 42, said that the incident occurred with former parishioner Jules Woodson when he was a staff member at her suburban Houston church in 1998.

Woodson said she opted to address the incident recently on the website, Watch Keep, after being inspired by the #MeToo movement.

During his message, Savage said, “When this happened 20-plus years ago, I did everything I knew to do under the counsel I was given to cooperate with those involved, to repent of my sins, take responsibility for my actions, and seek forgiveness.”

“I never sought to cover this up,” he added.

“My repentance over this sin 20 years ago was done believing that God’s forgiveness is greater than any sin,” Savage continued, naming Woodson among those to whom he apologized. “And I still believe that.”

Then the pastor went on to issue another public apology through his platform at the church, and his public admittance of sin was met with a standing ovation by the congregation.

No charges were filed in Savage’s case, as the statute of limitations had passed.

As a result of his admission — and the backlash that ensued — the church launched a third-party audit of the operations of Savage’s ministry, and placed Savage on leave while completing the investigation.

What are the newest developments?

In a statement on the church website, Savage announced his resignation.

In his note, Savage explained that he has spent the last couple of months reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident, and the outcry it caused.

“When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through,” Savage wrote. “Morality is meant to guard against injustices, not to minimize them, to compensate for them, or to obscure them. I agree with Jules that, of all places, we as the Church should be getting this right.”

He went on to detail the “many wrongs” that occurred 20 years ago.

“The first was my inappropriate relationship with Jules, which was not only immoral, but meets the definition of abuse of power since I was her youth pastor; therefore, when our relationship became physical, there could be no claim of mutual consent,” he explained. “Another wrong was the failure to follow due process afterward; Jules deserved, and did not get, a full investigation and proper response 20 years ago.”

Savage noted that, while he felt satisfied with the “restitution” being made at the time, “more should have been done.”

“I sincerely want to get this right,” he added. “I want the Church to get this right. I want Jules, finally, to see it gotten right.”

He went on to reveal that as a result of his prayers, and the counsel he received, he believes it’s appropriate to resign in order to “do everything I can do to right the wrongs of the past,” noting that more, beyond apologies, is required.

The church, who accepted Savage’s resignation, wrote in a separate statement, “Our prayers are with Andy, Amanda, and their boys as they enter this new season.”

In a second statement, the church revealed that the investigation of Savage’s ministry within the church had come to a conclusion.

“While the investigation found no other instances of abuse in Andy’s ministry, the leadership team at Highpoint Church agrees that Andy’s resignation is appropriate, given the reasons stated in his resignation statement,” a portion of the statement read.

The church also addressed its own processes, stating: “Highpoint leadership has come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced, and humbly commits to develop a deeper understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse.”

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