There is a debate online concerning a recent report about a pastor who allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl.
A pastor named Andy Savage in a megachurch in Memphis, Tennessee is receiving heat online after a recent report that claims he allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl.
The fact that this incident reportedly happened while he was serving as a youth minister at his previous church is not stopping social media users from talking.
Huffington Post reports that the victim, identified as Jules Woodson, was inspired by the recent #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement to share her story on a Christian blog called Wartburg Watch.
She also sent an email to Savage last month with the subject line “Do you remember?” Woodson says she did not get a response to the email.
In the email, she wrote, “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? … Well, I REMEMBER.”
On the blog, she recounts the sexual assault which occurred in 1998 while she was in high school.
On that fateful day, she accepted a ride after a church event from Savage, who was the youth minister of her church, the Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas at that time.
During the ride, Woodson says he took a detour to a deserted forested area without her consent.
After parking the vehicle, she says, Savage “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.”
Afterwards, she says he suddenly jumped out of the vehicle, ran over to her and started pleading. She writes, “‘You can’t tell anyone, Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you."
Woodson says she felt “fear, shame, anger and hurt” resulting in her reporting him to the church leaders who engaged “in a cover-up to protect my abuser and the image of the church.”
She alleges that church never “came out with an official statement addressing what had happened and/or what was being done about it.
“Instead, they held a going-away reception for Andy at the church in which he was allowed to simply say that he had made a poor decision and that it was time for him to move on from our church.”
She adds, “To anyone who has suffered from sexual abuse in the church and the subsequent cover-up and pressure to remain silent, I want you to know that it is not your fault. Most importantly, I want you to know that you are not alone.”
Savage, who is also an author, podcast host, husband and a father of five, has released a statement acknowledging what he calls the “sexual incident.”
He writes, “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.
“As a college student on staff at a church in Texas … I 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.
“In agreement with wise counsel, I took every step to respond in a biblical way. I resigned from the ministry and moved back home to Memphis. I accepted full responsibility for my actions.
“There has never been another situation remotely similar in my life before or after that occurrence. The incident happened before [my wife] Amanda and I were engaged and I shared every aspect of this situation with her before I asked her to marry me. I further disclosed this incident to Chris Conlee before coming on staff at Highpoint and have shared with key leaders throughout my tenure.”
The leaders of Savage’s megachurch have also reacted to the ongoing sexual assault issue.
In a statement, Chris Conlee, the lead pastor of Highpoint Church, said: “This information is not new to me or to our leadership.
“On behalf of the elders, pastors, staff, and Trustees of Highpoint, I want to affirm that we are 100% committed to Andy [Savage] … and his continued ministry at Highpoint Church.”
What would you do if you were in this situation?