Update January 12, 2018
Highpoint Church’s lead pastor, Chris Conlee, released a statement Thursday night, January 11, 2018, announcing Andy Savage would be placed on a leave of absence, effective immediately. Additionally, the church has requested “a qualified, independent, third-party organization to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy’s ministry.” Conlee assured his congregation “we support Andy as a leader of our church,” in the statement.
Jules Woodson filed a report with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. After researching the law in effect in 1998 (the year the alleged assault occurred), the sheriff’s office concluded the statute of limitations had passed. “As a result, we are unable to investigate and seek justice to the full extent of what we normally would in such a case,” a statement released by Captain Dan Zientek stated.
Ministerial leaders at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, say they are aware of allegations of sexual abuse made against Andy Savage, their teaching pastor, from an incident 20 years ago and are “standing behind him.”
Chris Conlee, the lead pastor of Highpoint Church, said in a statement Friday,
“This information is not new to me or to our leadership. As one of my closest friends and partners in ministry, I can assure you that I have total confidence in the redemptive process Andy went through under his leadership in Texas. In addition, for more than 16 years, I have watched Andy strive to live a godly life and proactively share what he has learned to help others.
On behalf of the elders, pastors, staff and Trustees of Highpoint, I want to affirm that we are 100 percent committed to Andy, Amanda and their family and his continued ministry at Highpoint Church. We ask for your prayers and support for all involved.”
The incident became news when The Wartburg Watch, a site started by two Christian women who pursued their faith but saw “disturbing trends within Christendom,” published the account of a woman who had accused Savage of sexually abusing her in the late 1990s when she was 17.
Savage responded by way of a statement.
“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. 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.
There has never been another situation remotely similar in my life before or after that occurrence. The incident happened before Amanda and I were engaged and I shared every aspect of this situation with her before I asked her to marry me. I further disclosed this incident to Chris Conlee before coming on staff at Highpoint and have shared with key leaders throughout my tenure.
This incident was dealt with in Texas 20 years ago, but in the last few days has been presented to a wider audience. I was wrong and I accepted responsibility for my actions. I was sorry then and remain so today. Again, I sincerely ask for forgiveness from her and pray for God’s continued healing for everyone involved.”
In the Wartburg Watch blog, Jules Woodson, the alleged victim, detailed what happened and said she felt manipulated and used. She said she took her allegations to church leaders when the incident occured but the police were never called. The blog also contains an email Woodson says she wrote to Savage last month asking if he remembered the incident. She says he did not respond.
The blog states she has recently filed a report with law enforcement, saying what happened to her was sexual assault.
Last Sunday Conlee and Savage addressed the congregation about the allegations and the church’s response. The comments begin at the 16:00 mark.