A Tennessee pastor applauded by his Memphis congregation after admitting to a previous “sexual incident” has been put on leave.
Hundreds of members of the High Point Church rose to their feet after pastor Andy Savage confessed to the inappropriate encounter days after Jules Woodson penned an essay accusing him of sexual assault in 1998.
The megachurch’s lead pastor, Chris Conlee, said in a statement that leadership is “engaging a qualified, independent, third party organization to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy’s ministry.”
Conlee added that the church will “continue to support Andy and his family” despite the “mutually agreed upon” decision that he should take a leave of absence.
During a service earlier this month streamed on the Tennessee church’s YouTube page, Savage admitted he “regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church.”
Savage was a 22-year-old youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas when the encounter ubfolded.
Members of the Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee applauded Pastor Andy Savage when he admitted to and apologized for a sexual incident with a high school student 20 years ago.
(Highpoint Church via YouTube)
In an essay for Watch Keep, Woodson recalled the spring evening she spent waiting for her parents after spending some time at the church with friends. When they didn’t show up, Savage offered her a ride.
Rather than taking her home though, he took her to a wooded area where he “unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis.
“He asked me to suck it. I was scared and 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 was 17 at the time.
During his recent remarks, Savage said he thought the issue had been “dealt with in Texas.”
“Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” he told congregants. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.”
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.”
Woodson in an interview with the New York Times said comments made during the recent Sunday service and the reactions to them were “disgusting.”