Thursday, March 22, 2018

Andy Savage, Tenn. megachurch pastor, resigns following sexual assault investigation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  A pastor accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl 20 years ago has resigned from his ministerial post at a Tennessee megachurch, CBS News affiliate WREG-TV reports. Andy Savage announced his resignation Tuesday after the Highpoint Church concluded their investigation.
The church says they stand by Savage's resignation. They also acknowledged their own response to the situation may not have been appropriate. 
"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," church employees told WREG-TV. 
Jules Woodson claims Savage sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old in 1998. At the time, Savage was a college student and youth pastor at a Texas church. Woodson was a congregant.
According to Woodson, the alleged assault took place on a dirt road while Savage was driving her home. Savage, however, says he never forced her to do anything. 
"It was a very mutual, spontaneous, physical moment. Our hormones were obviously very much in that moment and she performed oral sex," Savage said.
Both Savage and Woodson told church leaders what happened, but the police weren't notified. Savage subsequently took a leave of absence after the allegations became public. He later resigned and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. 
"Your passionate opinions on this important matter have truly helped me to gain perspective that I simply could not have achieved on my own," Savage wrote on the church's website Tuesday. "I have come to understand Jules' vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up. While 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 make up for what she went through and continues to go through."   
Highpoint Church says a third party will assess their current policies and training. Necessary adjustments will be made. 
No charges have been filed against Savage as the statue of limitations has passed. 

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