Andy Savage, former youth pastor of Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now co-pastor and teaching pastor of the successful Highpoint Church Memphis, received standing ovations for confession. Actually, he confessed and apologized to Jules Woodson for sexually assaulting her about twenty years ago.
“As a college student on staff at a church in Texas more than 20 years ago, I regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church,” Andy Savage said on Sunday morning earlier this month at Highpoint Church, CBS News reported. “Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” Savage, 42, said during the service. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.” Church members then stood and applauded him for about 20 seconds.
Jules Woodson felt that she needs to speak up about that traumatic event from her past. She sent Savage an email last month and he finally responded and she said he apologized. Savage also posted a statement on the church’s website. “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,” he said.
Jules was a popular student in the youth group and Savage was well-loved by the students and their parents. A number of the kids would go over to the church after school just to hang out with him. Jules was part of that group, the Wartburg Watch reports.
After offering her a ride home from a youth group event at church one evening, Savage parked his car in the dark woods near her home and sexually assaulted her.
“I did it because I was scared and I was in shock and I didn’t understand what was happening,” said Woodson, adding that she notified another pastor, who told her to keep quiet. “I remember him pleading, while he was on his knees with his hands up on his head, ‘Oh my god, oh my god. What have I done? Oh my god, I’m so sorry. You can’t tell anyone Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you,’” she wrote on Watch Keep.
Woodson reported the incident to Pastor Larry Cotton and he told her he would tell the head pastor, Steve Bradley, about it and that the church would handle it. On the other side, Cotton told her not mention anything that had happened to anyone else. After that, Woodson went a step further and shared what happened with her female discipleship group. At the end, when rumors spread, Andy left the church without an official statement from the church.
If someone deserves standing ovations, it certainly should not be the perpetrator of sexual assault, but the victims who had the courage to speak up. The message church members sent with their applause does not show that they are good people who forgive, but how they are hypocrites who do not show respect for the abused but for the abusers.
Photo Credits: Dept. of Defense