The megachurch’s lead pastor, Chris Conlee, said in a statement that leadership is “engaging a qualified, independent, third party organization to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy’s ministry.”
Conlee added that the church will “continue to support Andy and his family” despite the “mutually agreed upon” decision that he should take a leave of absence.
During a service earlier this month streamed on the Tennessee church’s YouTube page, Savage admitted he “regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church.”
Now 42, Andy Savage was a 22-year-old youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas when the encounter unfolded.
In an essay for Watch Keep, Woodson recalled the spring evening she spent waiting for her parents after spending some time at the church with friends. When they didn’t show up, Savage offered her a ride.
Tennessee pastor admitted, Andy Savage apologized for a previous “sexual incident” with a high school student 20 years ago, to rapturous applause from his congregation
Rather than taking her home though, he took her to a wooded area where he “unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis.
“He asked me to suck it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it,” she wrote. “I remember thinking this must mean that Andy loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did.”
She was 17 at the time.
During his recent remarks, Savage said he thought the issue had been “dealt with in Texas.”
“Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” he told congregants. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.”
Victim: Jules Woodson was a 17-year-old high school senior in 1998 [photo]
Woodson in her Watch Keep statement writes: “I couldn’t have been more grateful that it was the spring of my senior year as all I wanted to do was to leave town and get away from everything and everyone. I had basically shut down. I felt so alone. It wasn’t until much later that I would realize that no matter how far away I moved nor how much I tried to move on with my life, that I could never truly escape what had happened to me.”
She adds ” I am a grown woman now and although it’s been almost 20 years since everything happened, it still affects me to this day. There are triggers that take me back to that night, there are nightmares that haunt my dreams.”
She says the motivation in finally coming forward with her story is not only to get closure and healing, but to empower other victims of abuse in these types of situations and affect positive changes regarding how they are handled within the church.
The Woodson, who said comments made during the recent Sunday service and the reactions to them were “disgusting.” has a message for victims of sexual abuse within 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”.
Megachurch’s lead pastor Conlee in an official statement said news of the assault was “not new to me or our leadership” and described Savage as one of his “closest friends and partner in ministry.”