Pastor Andy Savage of Highpoint Church, which is in Tennessee and gathers more than 2000 people every Sunday, got a standing ovation after he openly admitted he had a ‘sexual encounter’ with a minor in 1998.
He was forced to come clean days after Jules Woodson, then 17-years-old and in high school, wrote a lengthy blog post accusing Savage of forcing her to give him a blowjob.
On December 1, Woodson sent him an email:
“Do you remember that night that you were supposed to drive me home from church and instead drove me to a deserted back road and sexually assaulted me?
“Do you remember how you acted like you loved me and cared about me in order for me to cooperate in such acts, only to run out of the vehicle later and fall to your knees begging for forgiveness and for me not to tell anyone what had just happened?
“Well, I REMEMBER.”
When she did not receive a reply, she went public with her story accusing Savage of sexually assaulting her when he was 22 and working at a Baptist church in Houston:
“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.”
Woodson told NBC News she told church leaders about the incident, but they did not contact authorities, did not tell her parents the extent of what happened and allowed Savage to resign.
Though he claimed he did not remember the incident completely, Savage told the congregation at Highpoint Church in a video streamed online.
“I apologized and sought forgiveness from her, her parents, her discipleship group, the church staff, and the church leadership, who informed the congregation. I accepted full responsibility for my actions. I was and remain very remorseful for the incident and deeply regret the pain I caused her and her family as well as the pain I caused the church and God’s kingdom.”
“There has never been another situation remotely similar, before or after that occurrence. This incident was dealt with in Texas 20 years ago, but in the last few days, it has been presented to a larger audience. I was wrong and I accepted responsibility for my actions.”
But Woodson says he is lying saying the church didn’t allow him to talk to her and vice versa. In her blog post, she says it’s difficult to speak out against the church especially if they are the ones trying to silence you:
“I want other victims of sexual abuse, especially within the church, to know that they’re not alone and to know that they have a voice.”