A Memphis megachurch pastor whose congregation literally gave him a standing ovation earlier this year after he admitted to engaging in a “sexual incident” with a high school student has resigned.
42-year-old Andy Savage, who believes in conversion therapy and preaches that homosexuality as a sin, stepped down from his post at Highpoint Church this week after a two-month investigation by church officials into the time he committed sexual assault against a minor.
We’re not sure why it took the church two months to decide their rapist pastor needed to go, but that’s beside the point, right?
Just to recap: In January, Jules Woodson came forward in a blog post about an alleged incident that happened between her and Savage back in 1998.
Woodson was in high school at the time. Savage was working at a Baptist church in Houston. One evening after church, he offered her a ride home.
“As he was driving me towards my home, he passed the turn he should have made to go to my house,” she wrote in a blog post. “I asked him where he was going. I don’t remember his exact response [but it was] something along the lines of ‘you’ll see,’ or ‘it’s a surprise.’”
Savage turned down a dirt road. At a dead end, he parked the truck and turned off the headlights.
Andy unzipped his jeans and pulled out his penis. He asked me to suck it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it. I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did. He started touching me over my bra and then lifted my bra up and began touching my breasts.
After the assault, Savage told her not to tell anyone about it. Woodson says she became consumed with “fear, shame, anger and hurt.” When she approached church leaders, they told her that it would be handled internally.
Nothing was ever done.
After Woodson’s blog post went viral, Savage addressed the allegations with his congregation, saying he was sorry for what happened and that he remained “committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.”
He was met with a standing ovation and the full support of church officials, who declared the whole incident a “consensual sexual sin” between the rapist and his victim.
Well, what a difference two months makes!
In a statement posted Tuesday to the church’s website, Highpoint leaders issued an apology to Woodson, a 180-degree reversal from when the church first stood by Mr. Savage back in January.
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.
Savage also issued a statement of apology, saying he “carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change” and ignored “what she went through and continues to go through.”
“I have come to see that many wrongs occurred in 1998,” he wrote before saying he would be stepping down as pastor.
Local authorities say they had opened an investigation into the alleged 1998 assault but determined that the statute of limitations had passed.