The Andy Savage Scandal
After Jules Woodson went public and gave her #MeToo account of a perceived sexual assault committed against her by Andy Savage, he gave a public confession to the congregation of Highpoint Church regarding a sexual offense committed back in 1988. He was 22 years old then and a youth pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (now Stonebridge Church). Jules Woodson was 17 years old at the time. This came to be a high profile issue since last week mostly because video coverage showed the people of Highpoint Church (where he now serves as Teaching Pastor) applauding and giving Andy Savage a standing ovation after his public confession during a service held on January 8.
Read 2 things the church should learn from this.
Read Jules Woodson's account of what happened.
Listen to Andy Savage's interview with Ben Ferguson of iHeart Radio.
Read the confession/ official statement of Pastor Andy Savage.
Read an independent statement analysis of Jules Woodson's account. (verdict: it was consensual)
Read the Texas Penal Code covering sexual assault inclusions (Highlight: Section 22.011 (10) "the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser;")
Watch Jules Woodson's live interview on wmcactionnews5.
Read Stonebridge Chruch's official statement. ( in harmony with the account of Andy Savage)
Read Pastor Steve Bradley's Official Statement ("There was no cover-up")
Why it won't go away for Jules Woodson
From her statement we clearly see her lingering sentiments.She believes Andy Savage's sexual misconduct or crime was not handled correctly by the church. She believes the church covered up for Andy. She believes she was pressured to remain silent all this time; hence, her coming out with her story just 20 years later.
Notedly, her account confirms mutual consent between them. She was not told, instructed, nor demanded. She was asked and she complied. She could not cite a moment wherein she said no because she didn't. She could not say she felt she had no choice but to do what was asked for her because she knew she had a choice. Whatever fear or terror she mentioned to have felt did not come during the sexual acts, but afterwards. There was no fear or terror prompting her to commit acts of sex. She was a willing participant.
Her statement shows lingering shame and disgust. It's clear that she felt let down by someone she looked up to.
"After... 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 Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you.’He said that several times. My fear and shame quickly turned to anger. I had just been manipulated and used. I swore to him I wouldn't tell anyone just to get him to stop."
It may be clear that she now felt contempt and was disgusted to see the man she so highly esteemed crumble before her eyes. It may seem that she resented the feeling that what she felt happening between them was special but he deemed it to be a grave mistake. Possibly that's why she felt used, and she felt betrayed.
Why there was mishandling by Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church
1. Dismissing the possibility of a crime.
It was only right for then Associate Pastor, Larry Cotton to ask her if she consented to the sexual acts. He had to ascertain whether a crime had taken place. Learning however that there was consent does not end the matter. Even though Jules Woodson was at the age of consent, Pastor Larry Cotton should have had enough sense to weigh in the position and influence Andy Savage had over Jules. Furthermore, he should have had the braveness to ask whether Jules or her family wanted to report the incident to police authorities. It was no longer an exclusive church matter. Pastor Larry Cotton should have sensed the possibility of criminal liability and should have taken measures to ensure the church has met its responsibility to assist.
2. Holding a going away party for Pastor Andy Savage.
A going away reception should never have been held. Church leaders should have sent him off in private. There is no wrongdoing in that. Affirming love towards the erring brother is important. Showing appreciation for services rendered is important. However, what's most important is for the church to strongly show that sin is a serious matter that bears serious consequences, especially if the sinning brother holds a ministerial office.
3. Lack of Restoration Program
Nothing was ever mentioned of efforts to restore Jules Woodson through a systematized restoration program. Nothing was said about Jules going through a period of counseling. The church had an opportunity to look into Jules condition years later when they contacted the family regarding the possibility of taking Andy Savage back on. The family's refusal could have been an indication that the matter remained unsettled. It was their chance to follow up and provide needed support but tit seems they did nothing.
This is a prevailing shortcoming of churches today. Many traditional systems are quick to discipline and excommunicate and very few have restoration programs in place. The Bible commands churches to rebuke and reprove sin that all may fear and take heed. The Bible also commands that sinning brothers be restored and brought back to the fold. While it is wrong to immediately reinstate Christians into ministry, it is more wrong to close the doors to service forever. Afford sufficient time for correction, counseling, and restoration. Then, let them serve the Lord because we are all called to a life of ministry. Repeat or serious offenders may be prohibited from certain functions or departments but the opportunity to resume a life of ministry should never be withheld.
Why Andy Savage remains in the wrong
Twenty years have passed but it seems Andy Savage never really got around to fully making it right. His actions from 20 years ago and his recent actions seem to show a man who's aged but hasn't learned and grown much from his mistakes.
1. He was content with partial truths.
The first time he tried to come clean, he only confessed to heavy petting. He did not fully acknowledge and take responsibility for causing another to commit sexual immorality. He had to make full disclosure only after Jules divulged the gravity of their sexual encounter because she could no longer contain herself.
15 months after his dismissal from Woodlands Park Baptist Church, Andy Savage took a ministerial position at Germantown Baptist Church. For the almost 3 years that he worked there, he did not disclose his past failing to the leadership. In an interview with Ben Ferguson of iHeart Radio, Andy Savage reasoned that he was advised that there is no need to tell anyone else about what happened in the past since he's already made it right. He deemed it to be wise counsel and followed what was advised.
For a man of God who wants to serve in all sincerity, there would have been a desire to come clean and disclose a serious sexual sin committed in the past. If one fully trusts God and wholeheartedly desires to honor Him and support the church, there would be no fear and no need to withhold crucial information from the leadership. Andy Savage seems comfortable with not being totally honest with people.
// On why he did not mention anything to Germantown Baptist Church:
From 2002 up to the present, Andy Savage has done ministry at Highpoint Baptist Church. From his same interview with Ben Ferguson, Andy admitted that he only disclosed the sexual misconduct a few months after he was taken as staff. And, he disclosed it when he was asked about his past. This could mean he had no intention of divulging the fact unless he was asked."I was never asked. I was embarrassed. It was not the kind of news you want to go and tell anybody. I was advised not to tell anybody. Looking back, it was bad advise. It was wrong." //
2. There was a disregard for the welfare of Jules Woodson.
In a number of instances, Andy Savage could have reached out to make sure that Jules Woodson was on track towards healing and recovery Word must have gone back to Andy Savage that the Woodson family didn't want him back in ministry at Woodlands. However, nothing was said about Andy reaching out and making efforts to further make amends and bring closure to the issue.
Later, as Teaching Pastor at Highpoint Church, Andy could have reached out to Jules once more, to ensure that all efforts for forgiveness and reconciliation have been made on his part, especially now that he is becoming well-known as a speaker, writer, and promoter of biblical manhood and biblical marriage teachings. There should have been an inner desire to somehow ensure that his past mistake has been laid to rest.
A month ago, Jules Woodson communicated privately with him and confronted him about the regretful past they shared. Andy Savage did not respond nor communicate anything to Jules. That may be why she decided to go public with her story. Andy reasoned that he listened to what he deemed at the time to be wise counsel in which he was advised not to respond to the email communication.
For a minister who is so passionate about purity in men, joy in marriage, respect for women, and honor towards God, how could he stand one month of not personally and directly addressing the issue? Now that he has confirmed that Jules was still in pain and burdened by the past, how can he not respond out of a sense of duty and Christianly concern? It seems that Andy Savage can separate himself from those he so passionately instructs to live right and to maintain right relationships. It seems he is unable to apply the principles he communicates to others so well.
Andy Savage may be a man who is at odds with his very self. He seems to know what to do, He teaches others the right things to do. But he himself is not 100% sold to what he knows to be right. He stirs others to pursue what is right, but there are things in his very life that He just can't commit himself do right.
A leave of absence may truly be in his best interest. He may really need to stop with all this work in order to spend time on himself. He may need these private moments to clear his thoughts, come to terms with himself, repent of wrong mindsets, break down strongholds, and let God grant him a new heart; a heart that is bare and humble before the Lord, so that God can fully work out His True righteousness in his life.