Last week, it was revealed that Andy Savage, a pastor at a megachurch by the name of Highpoint in Memphis, Tennessee, was guilty of what the victim, Jules Woodson, referred to as a “sexual assault” when she was a high schooler. The incident took place in 1998, when she was 17 years old and he was a youth pastor at a Houston, Texas, church. Savage told his church congregation that he had sinned and had never tried to hide the assault from church leaders, according to The New York Times.
The assault came to light after Woodson privately contacted Savage with an email, asking if he “remembered” the event, which came about when he offered to give her a ride home after a church event, drove her to a secluded location and then, according to Woodson, told her to perform sexual acts before swearing her secrecy. When Savage didn’t respond to the email, Woodson went public with her story. You can read her entire account here. Be warned: the details are graphic.
Savage then spoke with congregation about what he referred to as an “incident,” saying that he was under the impression it had all been “dealt with in Texas.”
“Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” Savage said during the service, which you can watch online. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.” The congregation reportedly responded with a standing ovation.
Woodson said that she told associate pastor Larry Cotton what Savage had done, and he told her that the church would handle it internally, urging her to not go to the authorities. (Cotton was placed on leave by his current church in Austin, Texas following the report.)
The Times reached out to Woodson, who said she found Savage’s statement “disgusting.”
“I just hope that by me coming forward that I would give courage to one other person,” Woodson said. “It doesn’t matter if I was his only victim. What matters is that this was a big problem and continues to go on.”
In the wake of the revelations, Bethany House announced that they would be cancelling the publication of Savage’s upcoming book The Ridiculously Good Marriage.