A pastor at a Memphis megachurch has issued a response after being accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl 20 years ago.
On social media, Andy Savage of Highpoint Church says he “had a sexual incident with a female high school senior” when he was a college student working for a Texas Baptist church now known as StoneBridge.
He said he apologized immediately and asked for forgiveness from the victim, who was 17 at the time, Fox 13 in Memphis reports.
Savage is responding after the woman graphically shared her story on Friday with The Wartburg Watch, a site started by two Christian women who pursued their faith but saw “disturbing trends within Christendom.” Here are some excerpts:
“One evening, in the early Spring of 1998, I was hanging out with my youth minister, Andy Savage, at my church, Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church located at 10801 Falconwing Drive,” the woman writes. “I was 17 years old at the time and a senior at The Woodlands High School. There had been multiple kids there at the church after school, but as the night got later I was the only student left, alone in the church with Andy. I did not have a vehicle at the church, so Andy offered to take me home to my Mom’s house. ...”
“We reached a dead end and he turned the truck around before putting it in park. We were stopped, and he turned the headlights off. Suddenly, Andy 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.
“After what I believe to have been about 5 minutes of this going on, he suddenly stopped, got out of the truck and ran around the back and to my side before falling to his knees. I quickly buttoned my shirt back up and got out of the truck. Now I was terrified and ashamed. 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 ...”
The woman said she felt manipulated and used, and that guilt and anxiety were “eating at her soul.” She said she took her accusations to the church’s leaders, but police were never called.
She said she was told that the associate pastor would inform the head pastor and the church would deal with the situation. Savage went on as though nothing was outside of the norm, she said. In fact, he even taught a workshop titled “True Love Waits” about sexual purity and abstinence. The workshop wasn’t merely about sexual abstinence, it was a full-force, no kissing, no touching form of abstinence workshop.
The blog also states she had recently filed a report with law enforcement, saying what happened to her was sexual assault. She also had seen Savage tweet about recent sexual misconduct by powerful men such as Matt Lauer. Full access to his twitter account, which says “Making God, marriage and parenting make sense,” is closed to non-verified followers.
Savage, who helped found Highpoint Church, said in his statement that he had informed current church leaders of this before he was hired. He issued an official statement on the church’s website, calling this a “sexual incident” and that he responded in “biblical way.”
“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,” Savage wrote. “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 ministry and moved back home to Memphis. I accepted full responsibility for my actions. 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.”
The lead pastor of Highpoint, Chris Conlee, released a statement saying the church did know about the incident in 1997 and that the church is “100% committed” to Savage and his family.