Megachurch pastor Andy Savage of High Point Church in Memphis, Tennessee, received a standing ovation from his congregation Sunday, but it wasn’t for his sermon or good deeds. Instead, the pastor admitted to a “sexual incident” with a high school student that occurred while he served as a youth pastor in Houston in 1998.
“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 told his congregants.
Savage is referring to the night 17-year-old Jules Woodson accepted a ride home from her Houston church with Savage, her 22-year-old youth pastor. Twenty years later, Woodson is speaking out about what really happened that night alone in his car.
According to a blog post penned by Woodson, Savage brought her to a secluded area and forced her to perform oral sex. Woodson said she complied because she was afraid and confused.
“I did it because I was scared and I was in shock and I didn’t understand what was happening,” Woodson said.
After the incident, she says Savage begged her to take it to her grave.
Later, she went to another pastor to report what happened, but says she was told to keep quiet. Woodson says she was also made to feel guilty for not doing more to stop Savage. A few weeks after the incident, Savage left the church, which at the time was called Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church.
As the exposure of sex scandals have dominated the news, Woodson felt like it was time to confront Savage, so she sent him an email. Though he apologized, Woodson was not satisfied because of the lack of consequences for his actions.
“An apology does not change the fact that what happened to me was against the law and that it was wrong,” Woodson explained.
Savage told his congregation he thought the situation had already been resolved when he left Texas. After his confession and request for forgiveness, the congregation stood and applauded Savage.
Woodson, who watched the incident on Youtube, said that it was “disgusting.”