(RNS) — When Jules Woodson saw the viral video of an Indiana church applauding a pastor who had confessed to sexual misconduct, her heart sank.
It was a scene Woodson had experienced before.
In 2018, Woodson came forward to confront Andy Savage, her former youth pastor who pressured her into performing a sex act when she was 17. After Savage left that youth pastor position, he had gone on to lead a megachurch in Memphis, Tennessee, and write books about marriage and family.
Woodson confronted Savage on social media about his past actions, leading him to admit his sexual misconduct in a church service. The congregation responded with applause.
The Indiana video revealed how abuse and sexual misconduct are sometimes handled in churches, especially those that are nondenominational or independent — years after the #Metoo and #Churchtoo movements revealed the scope of abuse and misconduct in churches and other institutions.
A pastor confesses a “moral failing” and steps away from ministry while seeking God’s mercy and restoration. The church stands by the pastor. Survivors are asked to forgive and forget.
“They are doing the same s***,” said Woodson.
In the viral video, taken at New Life Christian Church & World Outreach, a nondenominational church in Warsaw, Indiana, pastor John B. Lowe led the congregation in an altar call on Sunday (May 22), followed by what’s known as the “sinner’s prayer.”
Then he began to confess to adultery, which he said occurred 20 years ago.
“I will not use the Bible to defend, protect, deflect my past sin. I have no defense,” he said. “I committed adultery. To say it plainly, I didn’t make a mistake. I did not have an affair. I didn’t make a misjudgment. I sinned.”
Lowe admitted in the video that he had overseen church discipline for church members who were guilty of “sexual failure” but failed to confess his own misconduct. He then said the church was involved in a “biblical process” to restore trust.
After his confession, church members began to applaud.