MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Andy Savage resigned Tuesday as a pastor of Highpoint Church in Memphis weeks after he admitted that, as a youth pastor in Houston in 1998, he had a “sexual incident” with a high school student.
Savage got a standing ovation from his congregants in January when he admitted to the encounter with Jules Woodson. He was a 22-year-old youth pastor at the time. Woodson was 17.
In a statement released Tuesday, Savage said that since January, he’s “come to understand Jule’s vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up.”
“When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through,” he said.
He admitted that his relationship with Jules was “not only immoral, but meets the definition of abuse of power, since I was her youth pastor,” and said that he thought he had taken steps to make up for the situation when he resigned from his position and moved to Memphis.
“Those steps seemed significant at the time,” he said. “Only through my recent time of reflection have I realized that more should have been done.”
Highpoint Church officials released the following statement after Savage’s resignation:
Cantey Hanger’s independent investigation of Andy Savage’s ministry has been completed and the findings communicated to the elders and trustees of Highpoint Church by lead investigator Scott Fredricks.
While the investigation found no other instances of abuse in Andy’s ministry, the leadership team at Highpoint Church agrees that Andy’s resignation is appropriate, given the reasons stated in his resignation statement. Highpoint leadership has come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced, and humbly commits to develop a deeper understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse.
Highpoint Church remains committed to ensuring that it protects families and children involved in its ministries to the highest standard. Accordingly, as announced earlier, Highpoint Church has asked MinistrySafe to conduct an assessment of Highpoint’s current training, policies, screening practices, and supervision in ministries serving minors at Highpoint Church, then help us implement any needed enhancements. That work will begin soon. In the meantime, our child safety policies can be found online here.
We urge anyone with suspicions of child abuse to make a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services or local law enforcement.
Rare.us and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
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