Pastor Andy Savage to take leave after sexual encounter revelations
A Memphis, Tennessee, megachurch pastor who confessed to a sexual encounter with a teenager has been put on leave.
Congregants broke into 25 seconds of applause last week after pastor Andy Savage, 42, confessed to a 1998 “sexual incident” with a teen and asked for their forgiveness.
Savage was 22 at the time and a youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church outside Houston when the incident with then-17-year-old Jules Woodson occurred.
Highpoint Church issued a leave of absence for Savage to begin immediately, Chris Conlee, the church’s lead pastor, said in a statement Thursday night.
A full audit
Conlee said the church is asking “a qualified, independent, third-party organization to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy’s ministry.”
“Please know that we support Andy as a leader of our church, but we also understand this has been a difficult season not only for Andy and his family, but for our congregation as well,” Conlee said in his statement.
“We want to maintain trust in both Andy and our church leadership that we are not only doing things right, but we are doing right things.”
Conlee said that when the audit is finished, “we will continue to support Andy and his family.”
During a Sunday service, Savage said he “regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church.”
“I apologized and sought forgiveness from her, her parents, her discipleship group, the church staff, and the church leadership, who informed the congregation. … I took every step to respond in a biblical way.”
He said he “deeply regret(s)” the pain he caused the family.
The encounter, which he said happened before he was engaged to his wife, Amanda, was “dealt with in Texas 20 years ago,” he said without elaborating, “but in the last few days it has been presented to a wider audience.”
He added, “In hindsight, I see that more could have been done for Jules. I am truly sorry more was not done. Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules. So today, I say, ‘Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing. And I mean that.'”
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