A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. And how Highpoint Church Memphis twisted it to defend Andy Savage.

When Jesus said “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” he was speaking to a bunch of hypocritical men who were quite happy to mistreat a woman for their own agenda. Their agenda was to discredit Jesus…they saw the woman as disposable. They were using the woman just so they could induce Jesus to say something which would discredit him to either the Jews or the Romans. They hadn’t brought before Jesus the guy who supposedly had been caught in the act of sex with the woman. They only brought the woman to Jesus.

Those men would have been happy if the Jesus had said “stone the woman”. Then they could have reported Jesus to the Roman authorities for illegally instructing the crowd to stone the woman to death. Israel was under Roman rule at that time. Only the Roman Emperor or his appointed delegates could issue the death penalty in Israel, because Israel was a vassal state to Rome. If you want to read the story click here: The Gospel of John, chapter 8.

Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” to those men in order to prick their consciences (if possible).

They felt the prick, and they walked away.

I rather like to think that Jesus eyeballed each one of them and they felt his gaze driving a nail of truth deep into their corrupt, self-serving hearts.

Jules Woodson (that’s her real name) has alleged that twenty years ago when she was a 17 years old member of Youth Pastor Andy Savage’s youth group at Stonebridge Church in Texas, he sexually assaulted her. Later in this post I will give you two links where you can read Jules’s account of what Andy did to her and how Andy and the church shamed and bullied her after the sexual assault.

Andy Savage and all the men who have supported him to remain in church leadership for these twenty years are a bunch of hypocritical men, in my opinion. One of those men, Chris Conlee, is lead pastor at Highpoint Church, Memphis, the church where Andy Savage is now a teaching pastor. (link)

Yesterday, Pastor Chris Conlee twisted “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” to manipulate his multi-campus congregations to tell Jules Woodson and her supporters to shut up. And the vast majority of the Highpoint congregation appear to have been deceived by Chris Conlee’s “sermon” and the statement which Andy Savage made to the church before Conlee’s “sermon”.

The whole church service from Highpoint Memphis is on YouTube here. I suggest you skip the hyped music and graphics at the beginning. But if you want to see Andy Savage’s statement, it starts at 16:00, and Chris Conlee’s “sermon” comes after Andy Savage’s statement.

I suggest you steel yourself if you are going to watch them. Pay attention to your emotional responses and how Andy’s presentation pulls on your heart strings. Pay attention to the way Chris Conlee uses a stone and hand gestures to give drama to his message. The whole thing is a case study for those who want to sharpen their discernment.

Andy Savage said, “I never sought to cover this up.”    (18:31 in the YouTube link I gave above)

Andy Savage said, “Until now I did not know that there was unfinished business with Jules. So today I say: Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions twenty years ago.  I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness with you, and towards healing. And I mean that.”   (18:49)

I have read Jules Woodson’s account very carefully. I believe that Andy Savage lied in those two statements he made.

Trigger Warning:  I know that many of our readers are rightly wary of being triggered by hearing other survivors’ stories of sexual assault, spiritual abuse and interpersonal oppression. I honor each and every person who has suffered abuse. Please make your own judgement call about whether you want to click on the links I’m going to give in the next paragraph. The links will open in new tabs.

I have read Jules Woodson’s account of what Andy Savage did to her when she was 17 years old and he was her youth pastor, including her account of how Andy and the church bullied and shamed her into keeping silent. She kept silent for 20 years. Now she has come out, using her real name, and told her #MeToo #ChurchToo story. Her account was published by two websites. The Wartburg Watch published it here. And Watchkeep published it here.

Both of the websites which pubished Jules’s story are victim-advocate websites. Their websites are examples of ‘watchblogs’.  (The term alludes to how the prophet Ezekiel was a watchman for Israel.)

In my considered opinion, there are MULTIPLE discrepancies between Jules Woodson’s account and Andy Savage’s account. Those discrepancies are typical of cases where women accuse powerful men of sexual abuse. I totally believe Jules Woodson. The way Andy Savage has responded to her allegations is very typical of how skilled abusers respond when they are exposed. His responses and the responses of his allies and defenders are a case-book study of what happens in these situations.

I honor Jules Woodson. She is an immensely brave lady. She has told her story using her real name because she wants other survivors of sexual and spiritual abuse to know they are not alone. She said that in a video interview here. She wants to help empower other survivors – help them shed the false shame and false guilt and the fear of stigma … and all the other fears that the abusers induced them to feel. She wants to give survivors of abuse and oppression the confidence to believe that “It wasn’t my fault! I was not to blame!”.

Now … over to you, dear readers. If you have chosen to watch Andy Savage’s statement at Highpoint Memphis ‘C’hurch yesterday, or if you have watched Chris Conlee’s message, or if you have read Jules Woodson’s account of what Andy and the church did to her, please offer your observations and thoughts here.

  • Did you notice any things that seemed ‘”off”?
  • Did you discern any marks of wolves in sheep’s clothing?
  • Did you discern any falsehoods, or evasions, of half-truths, or minimisation, or victim-blaming, or manipulation?
  • Did you discern anything that might help other readers come out of the fog?

 

97 Comments

  1. M&M

    That the only time he said, “sorry” to Julie was in the context of “don’t tell anyone”, which isn’t the same as what he said to the church.

    • SPOT ON! ^

    • Yes. This is true. Well spotted, M&M.

    • JM

      Great points made here, I sent an email to Chris Conlee yesterday. Who knows if he will ever read it or if he is just so deep in this web of deception to agree with any of it.

      Dear Pastor,
      You don’t know me, I am not a member of your congregation. However, I am a member of the body of Christ and feel convicted to send you an email based on the story I just read on the Washington Post. Let me first say, I believe in forgiveness, always and for every sin. It’s not always easy or quick to forgive someone who has wronged you in a horrible way, but ultimately forgiveness is the right choice, it is the forgiveness of Christ that sets us free. I know our God, is a God of restoration and reconciliation, He desires for his children to be reconciled to Him and to each other, that is not to say that there are not consequences for our actions…the fact that we live in a fallen world is a consequence for sin. Saying I’m sorry does not negate sin and is a not a free pass avoid the consequences of your sin.

      Now that I’ve said that, as a Christian, a woman, and honestly just a human, I am appalled at your leadership decisions. I am more appalled at your colleagues decisions, but you as the head pastor and shepherd of your congregation have a responsibility to live to a higher standard, to make the hard calls, to say no when it’s easier to say yes. In your statement, you clearly say you were aware of Mr. Savage’s past sexual assault of a minor while he was a youth minister and yet here he is as a pastor of your church. I’m astonished and baffled at the lack of care for this young woman, to see her assailant say a mere “I’m sorry” and be elevated to such a high position of leadership in the church body (and people wonder why so many women never come forward). I’m astonished and baffled at the lack of care for your congregation. For you allow a man on you staff to serve as a pastor who is CLEARLY disqualified from ministry is heartbreaking.

      Now I know there are two sides to every story and I’m sure you have your reasons for having this man on your staff. Maybe you said “this happened so long ago”, as if being disqualified from ministry for sexually assaulting a minor has an expiration date on it (it doesn’t). Maybe if this had been when he was not a Christian (but it wasn’t). Maybe he founded this church. Maybe someone else hired him. Maybe you believe immediate regret and repentance is enough (I don’t and frankly even if I did, based on the facts at hand, there was not repentance, there was a cover up). Maybe he said he repented and you said “ok that’s good enough”. Maybe this man is a shining example of Christ, loves his family, and is theperfect husband/father/pastor/etc (it doesn’t matter what he is now, it doesn’t erase the past). Regardless of what the other side is that I don’t know, this man has clearly admitted to a sin that disqualifies him from ministry and he is still on your staff. There’s no other side to that. Period. Like it or not you and any other pastor, are called to a higher standard, the consequences for your actions are just not the same. That’s what you signed up for. This man committed a crime, a crime for which he never went to jail for. He didn’t cheat on his wife, he didn’t look at porn, he broke the law and sexually abused a child. Frankly, not only should this man be removed from leadership, he should also be arrested, but that’s not the way this country works. White men of power, get to say and do whatever they want and get away with it, it just saddens me deeply that this abuse of power carries over into the church. I pray you make the right decision and remove this man from his position.

      Sincerely,
      A Furious and Saddened Sister in Christ

      • Hi, I change your name to JM, as a precaution for your safety. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) —twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂

        Since this may be your first time of coming to our blog, you may not know some of the things we teach. So I hope you don’t mind if I encourage you to cease using the saying ‘there are two sides to every story’. In cases of abuse, where that saying is so often used, it is a very unhelpful and misleading saying. The abuser’s side to the story is a tissue of lies and half truths, the victim’s side is the truth. To say ‘there are two sides to every story’ often implies that the victim is telling some untruths. We do not engage in victim-blaming on this blog. We prioritise the voices and viewpoints of victim-survivors.

        I encourage you to read Jules Woodson’s account in full. The Washinton post and al the mainstream media coverage of this story have not relayed Jules’s whole account. To read her account in full, go to the following two links:

        The Wartburg Watch published it here.
        And Watchkeep published it here.

        We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

        And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.

      • JM

        Thanks for the clarification Barbara. I my intended message was more of “you sir may believe there are two sides to every story but there are not”. I see how this was misrepresented in that text and I will be more careful with my word choice in the future. I’m very proud of Jules Woodson and the bravery it took for her to come forward.

      • Good for you, JM!

  2. Suzanne

    All these years have elapsed since his assault on our sister Jules, and Andy Savage is still enjoying freedom, protection, and a position of authority in the church. The only comfort I take when I read about these things is the knowledge that God sees all, and that He will mete out justice to all unrepentant abusers and those who enable and protect them.

  3. Avid Reader

    Barbara,

    Thanks for covering this. I watched the whole sermon yesterday and noticed that they kept referring to Andy by his first name and Jules by her last name. Is that a subtle way of making us feel connected to Andy and detached from Jules?

    Then I noticed that they kept blaming Jules for not “healing”—meaning not responding the way that they wanted her to. Chris said “It saddens us that Miss Woodson has not been on the same road to healing.”

    Chris Conlee said, “You are supporting Miss Woodson by supporting Andy.”

    “We are not choosing sides. It’s not his side or her side but God’s side. This is God’s side: love covers a multitude of sins.”

    “Will you please stop being so opinionated? Your opinions never won anyone to Christ.”

    Note: Chris really needs to study the Biblical story of Hophni and Phineas which shows how much God hates when clergy abuse women. God got upset because Eli the High Priest didn’t deal with his sons Hophni and Phineas who were using their ministry position to take advantage of the women that “assembled” at the tabernacle. So God sent two different prophets to tell Eli that judgement was coming.

    God told Eli, “I will honor those who honor me, and I will treat with contempt those who despise me.” 1Samuel 2:30 (GNT)

    • Chris really needs to study the Biblical story of Hophni and Phineas which shows how much God hates when clergy abuse women.
      God told Eli, “I will honor those who honor me, and I will treat with contempt those who despise me.”

      1Samuel 2:30 (GNT)

      This ^^^^

    • Dear Chris Conlee, will you please stop being so opinionated? Your opinions never won anyone to Christ.

      Your opinion is that the people who are metaphorically throwing stones at Andy Savage and all his pastor-allies, are wrong. Your opinion is not biblical. Please read my post.

      Your opinion is that people can be neutral and support both the predator and the predator’s victim. Your opinion will never win anyone to Christ. It will win a lot of wolves who are fake christians to your ‘c’hurch. They love that opinion of yours. They know you’ve given them a rock-solid guarantee that if their wicked deeds are exposed in your ‘c’hurch they will suffer no penalty. In fact, they may even be promoted into leadership.

      Your opinion is that anyone who has opinions other than the opinions you endorse, is being a very naughty Christian. And in your opinion, you are empowered to admonish and rebuke them.

      You are peddling the gospel of tolerance for evil and intolerance of righteousness. You are not teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  4. Avid Reader

    Here’s another exact quote from Chris Conlee yesterday:

    “We are so grateful for your support. I know when you support Andy in that way, you are also supporting Ms. Woodson. You are supporting her healing. You are supporting, you are praying for her, and we are willing as individuals and as a church to do whatever we can within the scope of what it means to offer spiritual healing, to do that for Ms. Woodson.“

    What do you guys think?

    • StandsWithAFist

      Scripture twisting like a low-life scumbag.
      Jules is clearly the scapegoat here, & poor little super-pastor needs to resign & find another line of work….away from ministry, children & especially women.

    • Here’s what I think about that statement of Conlee’s.

      1. He refers to Jules Woodson as “Ms Woodson”. That could be a way of pointing out that she does not have a husband so hint hint there must be something wrong with her. It would have been inappropriate to refer to her familiarly as “Jules” since Conlee does not have any personal familiarity with her. But I believe it would have been respectful to refer to her as “Jules Woodson”. That would have been a better balance with how he keeps referring to Andy Savage by Andy’s first name.

      2. He claims they can support both Andy and “Ms Woodson”. That means he takes a neutral stance.

      Neutrality is Not Neutral. Pastors who take a neutral stance, effectively become allies of the abuser. Chris Conlee encouraged all his congregations to take a neutral stance. He therefore encouraged them all to be allies of the abuser.

      There is No Neutrality, No “Innocent” Bystander When We See Abuse

      3. He patronisingly (haughtily) assumes that he knows Jules needs ‘healing’. That is so arrogant of him. He has never even spoken to her. How dare he says what he thinks she ‘needs’?

      4. By saying “We are willing as individuals and as a church to do whatever we can within the scope of what it means to offer spiritual healing, to do that for Ms. Woodson,“ he is lying.

      The fact is, this is a reportable offence in Texas and there is no statute of limitations for this offence. There’s not way Conlee can slither out by saying he only meant *spiritual* healing and that therefore he wasn’t including any suggestion of secular justice becoming involved in the case.

      If Andy reported himself to the police and faced the music for his sins under the secular justice system — or if Chris Conlee did the right thing and reported Andy to the police, then imagine the sense of vindication and reparation which Jules might feel if Andy was subjected to the sword of the state (Romans 13).

      Imagine how much encouragement that might bring to Jules! Imagine how much it might build up her faith to see that Chris Conlee and Highpoint Church were actually brave enough to follow what the Bible says and take a strong stand for justice and truth and righteousness!

      And imagine how much it might encourage all the myriads of #metoo #churchtoo survivors who are longing for the visible church to help them rather than kick them under the bus!

      • Anonymous Woman

        “Ms.” is formal and proper. It is the equivalent of Mr. where there is no change in the title. I’m rocking “Ms.” 4 life – married or not! 🙂

        But it was weird and unsettling how they kept on saying her name and talking for her. Its not like they’d had a big group hug or something with her before this broadcast, asked if she approved, and indeed heard that she wanted healing otherwise she was bound to be wanting to stone him…..it just was creepy, confusing, unsettling, and weird…..

        “The victim” would have been nice to hear again and again so we would hear the predation being seen as the criminal act that it was.

        I saw on a comment board that the publisher for his upcoming marriage book supposedly dropped him – not sure if this is true or not.

      • Anonymous Grandma

        Tennessee is part of the south, and in southern culture it’s respectful to refer to someone by title and last name if you don’t know them well. Having been raised in that general area myself, I’m not picking up on anything wrong with that part. (I’m not saying that Conlee’s respect is necessarily sincere, but only that it’s culturally & regionally appropriate.)

        But that’s just about the ONLY part I can approve. I’m flabbergasted that a supposed confession of a serious sin morphed into a love-fest for the perpetrator. Conlee even claimed that Andy’s guilt over the whole incident had made Andy a better pastor and teacher, as if that cancelled out the damage it did in Jules’s life. I don’t see a man of God offering mercy to a repentant sinner. I see a man who’s determined to defend his best friend and ministry partner come what may, who may even be harboring secret rage at the victim for upsetting the apple cart.

        Maybe I’m wrong about his inner feelings but that’s how it comes across to me.

  5. Song of Joy

    I believe and support Jules in her efforts to bring this assault and its aftermath to light. Thank you Barbara for the sensitive trigger warning, because I must say I was severely triggered by watching that church service “live” yesterday.

    I am appalled at the mistreatment that is dished out to abused women (and girls) by so-called church leaders. What is happening to the church? It is totally corrupt. A young man named Andy Savage was given responsibility and a youth ministry leadership position, he sexually assaults a high school teenager in his youth group, and then the (male) church leadership literally does nothing to expose him or bring him to justice.

    All of the leaders involved with Andy went out of their way to support him and give him big opportunities in ministry all of these years. And what about the gall of Andy Savage specializing in talks on sexual purity to young people? The leaders who knew of his background just sat back and approved of him doing it. This is a deep kind of evil.

    Regarding the church service “confession and message”, I thought it was a very manipulative “dog and pony show”. The worst thing about it was that they did not personally reach out to Jules and humbly begin to make amends in accordance with her needs…No. This service was all about controlling their narrative and publically shaming Jules some more with their lies and condescending drivel about wanting her to heal and forgive.

    And Andy wiping away the tears after his “confession”. What a joke. If Andy had ever been cut to the heart about what he had done to Jules, he would have circled back during the ensuing years to ask for her forgiveness, and he would have disqualified himself from preaching ministry. It’s all a bunch of crock. He wants the big ministry position, and he’s not interested in the lovely Christian girl he so seriously harmed.

  6. Un-Tangled

    I have read Jules’ story and listened to her video interview. I had to force myself to listen to Savage’s statement–and didn’t listen to anything else.

    I noticed that Savage always refers to the sexual assault as a “sexual incident,” which is a minimizing and distancing statement — it downplays what he did to Jules as well as separates himself from his actions. If he was REALLY repentant, he should have said something like “I took Jules into a remote area without her or her parents’ knowledge and consent and sexually assaulted her…” Savage also kept repeating that “the sexual incident” happened “more than 20 years ago” which is also a distancing statement. The underlying message is that it happened a long time ago, not worth bringing it up now, and that Jules is harassing him and being unforgiving by exposing it now.

    I would say that Savage was telling the truth when he said that he talked to the leadership in the church and followed their advice. However, their advice was NOT wise. They should have immediately reported the crime to the police, not hidden it — and, yes, it was a CRIME — and they should not have pressured Jules to remain silent. I do not believe that Savage’s leaving the church was a “removal from ministry” but was instead an attempt to remove him from the consequences of his actions.

    Savage’s and Jules account differs. When I first read that the church was going to address this issue on Sunday, I could have written the script for what was going to happen — and I was completely correct. The church’s response was exactly the way so many other churches handle abuse. It was a “performance” and it accomplished exactly what they wanted to accomplish — getting people to see Savage as the victim and gain him sympathy and support. Excuse me if I believe Jules rather than Savage.

    Finally, I noticed that comments were turned off from the sermon video. This prevents anyone from questioning or challenging what was said. Again, it is a silencing tactic.

    • Kimberly

      Yes, exactly. I lost count of how many times – “20 years ago” – was emphasized.

      There was no references to following up on accepting any criminal charges or making any kind of restitution to her. Authentic repentance includes restitution when it is in one’s power to do it.

      • Hi Kimberly, just want to let you know that your full name was showing in the “name” field when you submitted this comment. I changed it to protect your safety. But please, if you can, take care with what is written in the “name” field of the comments form before you hit the “submit comment” button. Here is a link to our New Users’ Info page as a reminder.

  7. StandsWithAFist

    “20 years ago”; “20 years”, “20 years” ….is there a statute of limitations in Tennessee of 20 years? I ask this b/c NOWHERE in this entire video did they mention filing charges or seeking justice. FAIL.

    The scripture twisting was OFF the rails, & I feel violated after watching this. Why is it when the Pharisees are exposed they play fast & loose with God’s word??? This was evidenced by the go-to comment[s] about “Love”, “learning to love”, “seeking wisdom in the Word”, having “the heart of God”, “spiritual healing” (whatever THAT means) and equivocating poor little Andy’s pain with that silly little Jules…20 years later of course.

    Blah blah blah.

    No one was angry at Andy!!! But Jesus would have been. Read this in Mark 3:
    “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
    2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
    3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
    4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
    5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
    6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

    They are all Pharisees, seeking to destroy the Shepherd & silence the sheep.

    • Texas has NO STATUTE OF LIMITATION for offences like this. That is what The Wartburg Watch state on their post, and I’m sure they have done their homework very thoroughly. They have even quoted from the Texas Statue which pertains to clergy abusing their own parishioners.

      • Suzanne

        I wish that charges had been filed. In addition to the sexual assault he also kidnapped her and that is a very serious felony.

      • StandsWithAFist

        Hmmm…..yes, he ran home to Tennessee but the assault was in Texas.
        No wonder he “got outta Dodge”….

  8. Anonymous Woman

    Just read in the quoted comments by Savage was enough for me. I read her account. I believe her. Then I had to pace about and eat some chocolate.

    Judith Hermon was excellent in her detailing what perps say after they’ve failed to ensure secrecy and the silence of their victims…… One of them is that it was a long time ago….. See where Savage, in his NON-apology, makes a point of reminding the congregation it was 20 years ago.

    Savage is a perp and a skilled one, too. He could have owned it but instead did what abusers do…..slithered around, threw some lies into the mix, made himself seem reasonable, distorted Scripture, and used his power and position to craft and control the narrative.

    Even the law recognizes that pastors need to be held to a higher standard because they are PASTORS and that is an immensely powerful position as the deference they are given from especially vulnerable persons is incredible and most often absolute. Even if you aren’t 17 and but a child, pastors still have the ultimate trump card because they are pastors!

    He offered her a ride home and then drove her to a secluded spot under the pretense of its a surprise or ‘you’ll see’. Then he did his act and dramatically did a whole pity play, complete with -probably fake- tears, to silence her (the ‘poor man’ and his career/reputation — vomit, vomit, same story every time)…….

    Lets think about this – if I was Savage and my conscience was active, I’d go and offer my resignation 20 years ago as clearly I couldn’t be trusted with the awesome responsibility of being a pastor because I’d already abused my power and committed a calculated crime.

    I don’t know how old Savage was (nor does it matter!) but 17 is young. When I was 17 I didn’t think so but with every year that passes 17 is younger and younger looking. There was no date that took place. He drove her from the church, as her pastor! These weren’t star-crossed lovers. This was a pastor taking out his penis, having driven an unsuspecting minor from the church to a deserted area. I have to go eat more chocolate…….. Ugh! Creep! Criminal! Sex offender! Abuser! Rapist! (Even if you try to argue ‘consent’ it is NOT because she wasn’t like, ‘gee, tonight I hope my pastor takes me from this church to a deserted road and pulls out his penis after throwing his car into park’ — this was predation and a crime — rape is rape — oral, anal, vaginal). Predator.

    If I had a magic wand, he’d be gone. He even presumes she can be pressured into forgiveness – how about he earn it with his repentance and actions showing true remorse — willing to make it up to her financially and whatever else could be done?! Go check yourself into jail, perhaps!

    Also, did anyone else see how he lists marrying his wife as his biggest accomplishment (along with being a dad to 5 kids)…… Its like he bagged a trophy buck while out hunting ….. Bet he didn’t tell her about this when working on getting her to marry him…..

    • StandsWithAFist

      Agree with everything you said, including the chocolate.

      I DO know that I’m not buying this “isolated incident” garbage.

    • In his statement to Highpoint Church, he claimed that he did tell his wife about it before he married her. In my educated guess, I think he probably did tell his wife something about it before he married her, but I am guessing that what he told her was a VERY airbrushed and minimized version of the real truth.

      If he had told her nothing about it before they married, there is a strong chance she would be calling him out now for publicly claiming he had told her about it before they married. And to my knowledge, she is not doing that.

      I feel for her.

      • Anonymous Woman

        You’re right, Barbara, I hadnt gotten the nerve to watch the linked YouTube video yet when i made the remark, but when he says he told his wife, I wonder WHEN he told her and I bet his version was nice and ‘lite’. Had they dated for awhile and he had made sure she was very attached to him already?

        I think about the wife of Josh Duggar. He said something to his wife about molesting his sisters prior to their marrying, but [I’m guessing] it was probably after she’d become attached to him and he gave a ‘lite’ version.

        I feel for her and the kids. The kids are innocent and yet they’ll pay for their father’s sin to a certain extent. Sexual sin is so greivious. It changes the victim. Totally changes who they are. Five year difference between a minor and a 22 ish guy. Those five years are HUGE. What 22 year old has a healthy interest in a teenage girl who has high school classes to attend the next day? It was so predatory. So slick, too.

  9. Anonymous Woman

    I missed the part where it says he asked her to suck it. And a few other details. So not a rapist but she was scared, 17, and taken to the middle of nowhere. Can she even consent at 17? More like coerced pseudo-consent. Manufactured ‘consent’.

    I should have read more closely and slowly but it was triggering enough just to speed-read that which I did read.

    Plus, he took her to a deserted spot where they were building a new church of all places! [Eds: he told her he was taking her to where they were buiding a new church. Obviously that was a lie.] So Savage is shown this new lot where a church will eventually be built and he thinks what a great secluded spot for him to drive his prey…..[Eds: I think you misunderstood that part. if you speed red, you ight have taken in Savage’s words to Jules as if they were truthful words]

    Even his comment (or tweet?) about Lauer was creepy but I don’t have enough chocolate on hand to dissect and spew about that. Lauer bought a vibrator for his colleague’s Christmas office gift including a note on how he’d have her use it along with having a button to remotely lock his office door from his desk — what a perv and predator. The correct response is outrage not sadness and peddling the lie that somehow this all is shame-based. Predators are shameless. Buying your female coworker a vibrator for the office Christmas party and writing how you want to use it on her while a married man isn’t indicative of much other than being a creep predator who has no shame or fear of God.

    • Anonymous Woman

      You’re right. I did whiz through it and I misunderstood. What a lying, slimey, criminal creep.
      I was thinking how other predators will scout out places and pretenses — like knowing a secluded, uninhabited house is for sale and having a woman realtor show the property and touring the house and waiting until showing the master bedroom’s closet to attack her like the convicted serial rapist in Anna Salter book on predators.

      Whoops. Thanks for clarifying that. Even his lie was church-related!

  10. Heather Black (formerly H)

    I only got through the first 30 minutes of the YouTube video… there was more than enough to be discusted and alarmed by in that short portion.

    What I noticed was how often Andy mentions how long ago that happened:

    “More than 20 years go”
    “Was dealt with in Texas 20 years ago but has now been spread to a wider audience”
    “When this happened 20 plus years ago I did everything I knew to do under the counsel I was given”
    “My repentance over this sin 20 years ago was done believing that God’s forgiveness is greater than any sin”
    “Jules I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago”

    That. Is. Weird. People don’t talk like that. You don’t repeat over and over again that an event you are discussing happened a specific number of years prior unless that is important to the point you are trying to make.

    So Andy, is the fact that it happened 20 years ago relevant in any way to your understanding of your actions? Why do you keep telling us how long ago it happened unless you are trying to drill it into the head of undiscerning listeners that it’s not a big deal because anything that happened 20 years ago is not a big deal and you’re not presently responsible for it?

    Creepy that the pastor also mentions that TWICE as he leads the congregation in prayer. He prays that God would heal Jules’ pain “from 20 years ago” and heal Andy and his family from “lingering effects from 20 years ago.”

    Ok… I get it. It’s 20 years ago. Where in the Bible does it say that a person is responsible for sin only for a duration of time shorter than 20 years? If that was the case, boy, why did Jesus have to die on the cross for us, he could have just waited 20 years after each person died to forgive them without that whole painful propitiation thing.

    I also noticed that Andy (and the other pastor) makes himself a passive bystander along with Jules. The real actor is “the sin.” And there is not even the slightest mention of the fact that what is alleged is one-sided sexual assault against the consent of the victim, not mutual giving in to sexual temptation. If you don’t hear Jules’ story, you would assume he just made out with his girlfriend or had premarital consensual sex.

    “Had a sexual incident with a female high school student”
    “When this happened 20 years ago”
    “Never been another situation remotely similar in my life before or after”
    Repeatedly calls it the “occurrence”, the “incident”

    All of this is passive language. He’s “never been in another situation” like this? So…. he’s never been in another situation in which he forcibly assaulted someone? As if forcibly assaulting someone is a situation that just happens to people like when they go outside sometimes it happens to rain. He “had a sexual incident” with someone? So…. he kidnapped a vulnerable underage girl who he had a position of authority over and then assaulted her?

    “Was dealt with in Texas 20 years ago but has now been spread to a wider audience”
    “I never sought to cover this up”

    Then I guess you don’t mind that it’s being brought into the open now, correct, Andy? Also, am I supposed to give you props because first you kidnap and assault a girl, but then at least you told people about it? Sorry, not generating any sympathy from me for the fact that you acknowledged what happened AFTER she told people. That’s what unrepentant people do, by the way: only confess to sin once caught. Also notice the dig at Jules in the “spread to a wider audience.” Audience implies entertainment. She didn’t “spread to a wider audience,” she told the truth to a larger group of Christians because the ones she told originally failed to handle the situation properly.

    Then at the end the church claps and cheers. I’m confused. Why are they cheering? If my pastor got up and said he raped a child “20 years ago” but was very sorry, I think there would be a hushed silence. This is something to soberly consider. What are they clapping for?? How is the victim supposed to feel when she hears a congregation clapping because her perpetrator got up and said it wasn’t a big deal and it happened 20 years ago and God forgives?

    Sorry this is turning into an incredibly long post…. I should probably just write to that pastor with my detailed concerns (not that it would help). To try to end here are just a few quotes I pulled out from the pastor’s message:

    “Sorry a sin was committed and at least 2 people (Andy plus victim) were hurt by it”

    Again, the passive language. A sin wasn’t committed. Andy committed a sin against the victim. There’s a big difference.

    “We don’t need to take a side. We must take God’s side.”

    That’s a stupid catchphrase, but even so, the Bible make sure it clear God is against sin, the proud, those who cover up sin, and God is for the helpless, the victims, the ignored.

    “Does God want us to criticize people? If he does, how much criticism is enough?”
    “Does God want us to condemn Andy, and how much condemnation is enough?”

    Tricky use of the slippery slope fallacy. Seems to imply that any criticism or condemnation at all would dissolved into absolute criticism/condemnation, which he assumes his listeners would not support. That therefore makes them feel that no criticism or condemnation is appropriate.

    “Guess what, this sin did not happen in the last few days. This sin happened over 20 years ago….That does not minimize it… BUT… I’m trying to do what God called us to do which is take God’s side.”
    “I do not blindly support him, I support him knowing him better than anyone besides (his wife) and I support him with great confidence because I do know him so well” (pastor getting highly emotional at this part) —

    This part is extremely telling. He IS trying to minimize the sin by saying repeatedly how many years ago it happened. He is clearly quite biased toward Andy by his own blatant admission. And he denies he is taking sides (except for God’s side, for course) but then CLEARLY takes Andy’s side. The message? God is on Andy’s side. This is twisty spiritual abuse. I really hope the victim did not hear this part. It would be really emotionally upsetting. I feel upset for her.

    “Can you imagine what goes on in the heart of an individual who wants to pick up a stone and throw it at someone. Do you want me to throw a stone at Andy?… do you want anyone to throw a stone at anyone?”
    “No? Why? You never heal by hurting others”

    This is emotionally manipulative toward the listeners. What is implied is if you disagree with the pastor about how Andy’s sin was handled, then you want to throw stones at EVERYONE and you’re a monster. What’s weird is that God is the author of the OT too. I wonder if he realizes that. So God is the one who gave instructions on who to stone and for what sin. So the person’s sense of justice that this pastor really has a problem with is God, not any listener who feels Andy should be more accountable.

    “We are willing to offer any type of help possible.”

    Yeah, except you refuse to help the victim by standing with her, taking her side, spiritually building her up, denouncing the perpetrator, removing him from his position as he is biblically disqualified from being a pastor, etc. Any sort of help but that.

    • So Andy, is the fact that it happened 20 years ago relevant in any way to your understanding of your actions? Why do you keep telling us how long ago it happened unless you are trying to drill it into the head of undiscerning listeners that it’s not a big deal because anything that happened 20 years ago is not a big deal and you’re not presently responsible for it?

      This is spot on. Andy Savage and Chris Conlee drilled it into the heads of their congregations.

      This is a mark of the language of abusers when they are making false statements. They say things that are redundant. They repeat a detail they have said before. When they repeat something, that may be a sign that the repeated detail is irrelevant but they have figured that if they get their hearers to focus on that irrelevant detail, the hearers will not focus so much on the really wicked things they have done.

      There is another thing Andy Savage said in his statement to HighPoint Church yesterday. After saying how sorry he was he said “I really mean that.”
      The sentence “I really mean that” was redundant. It added nothing to his statement… except that for those who are alert to the tactics of manipulators liars, the fact that he said it is probably a sign that he did NOT really mean what he had just said — he knew full well it was a lie — so he said “I really mean that” to bamboozle naively trusting people into thinking he really did mean it.

      • Song of Joy

        Yes! “I really mean that” is just like the phrase “I swear!”. Suspicion should be the order of the day when those unnecessarily insistent remarks are used.

    • Suzanne

      I find the clapping and cheering of his congregation to be just as disturbing as his crime against Jules. Each one of them should have, instead, demanded his immediate resignation.

    • Liz

      This has just made me realise something about my own situation. Just because it happened a few years back, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter or my husband shouldn’t be held accountable. Several people have said to me, oh it was just one time (it wasn’t) and it’s in the past now. And I believed it. I bought into that without understanding why it made me feel horrible. And now I understand that just because I didn’t respond and get my kids away from him then, doesn’t mean I can’t do it now. Especially as he is unrepentant. I took some steps for their protection at the time, but I wish I had done more. I always felt I couldn’t because it would mean I was being bitter and unforgiving. So thank you for helping me realise this.

  11. Hephzibah17

    Heather and others, so helpful to hear your analysis. What struck me was this, “When this happened 20 plus years ago I did everything I knew to do under the counsel I was given.” Might this not be blame-shifting? He is trained as a youth pastor, has read and supposedly studied his Bible, yet is so quick to hint that it was the counsel of those whose authority he was under that led him to minimize and cover-up the “incident” as he did. He does not take full responsibility, and as we know from Jules’ story, the pastors are quick to make her think she is at least equally responsible for what happened to her. He can blame those he looks up to for how things were handled, but she who looked up to him is not supposed to do the same.

    The Bible is clear on what to do – I Corinthians 5:11 – 1 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

    As one person said, he should have stepped down and sat in a pew the rest of his life.

    As these stories keep coming up regarding clergy and church members, I can’t imagine how rampant abuse is amongst the members themselves. I personally know what it is like to have someone outside the church come to the church and ask them to get my then husband to stop his persistent, disgusting pursuit of her. What did they do? A little prayer, and quiet request to stop what he was doing, and that was all. Brushed under the rug, no follow-up, no accountability. And I am left reeling from the pain of it all. No one helps, no one supports, no one cares. Later he walks out on us, also leaving the church. He shows up at church after a 3 year absence, and I again bring this and other issues up, serious concerns about his character. And who gets outed? Not him! As another person quoted from Mark 3:5 how Jesus was grieved at the hardness of their heart.

    I am reading Barchester Towers (set in the 1850’s), and when the clergyman, Mr. Slope, gets a well-deserved slap for an inappropriate proposal, the first thing he wants to do is preach at her from the pulpit so he can feel better, just like happened to Jules. Nothing has changed in the church.

    • What struck me was this, “When this happened 20 plus years ago I did everything I knew to do under the counsel I was given.” Might this not be blame-shifting?

      I thought the same thing. Andy Savage could have been inviting all his listeners to see him as such an obedient under-pastor… He just followed the counsel of his superiors! Don’t blame him if it turns out to have been bad counsel!

      It’s so important that we become wiser and wiser to the tactics of manipulation used by wicked people who masquerade as nice people.

  12. M&M

    He also said that he told his wife before they were engaged so I wonder what version he told her and if it’s different from Julie’s recent statements.

  13. Anonymous Woman

    The more I read, the more upset I become. This is predation. What’s most crucial is victim selection and grooming. Her parents were divorcing or had recently divorced. She confided in him, as her pastor, about another perp sexually victimizing her. And there was a ‘tickling incident’ where he had her in his bedroom and the family hosting him walked in and said to stop.

    I see a wolf ‘pastor’ in sheep’s clothing licking his chops listening to a vulnerable 17 year old with divorced parents, no dad at home, mom probably inattentive due to divorce, single motherhood, and the kicker being she’d been forcibly sexually victimized by someone else. Pretraumatized individuals are like choice morsels to predators because they are likely to have the freeze/dissociate response.

    Then there is the grooming. 22-ish year old, cute, wolf ‘pastor’ pays so much attention to her the other girls are jealous. The inappropriate touching (tickling) was a test. See what happens. Does she loudly object, yelling for him to get his hands off of her?

    Pimps, batterers, and pedophiles act in similar ways. Victim selection, testing, grooming, surprise attacks, manipulation, deception, fear, isolation, abuse of positional power, control, abuse, and then comes the coverup later. He is an abuser and that he did it while pretending to be her pastor is all the more vile. What is the Bible verse about tying a millstone around one’s neck and drowning in the ocean …. Thank the LORD she hasn’t walked entirely away from her faith. Many Catholic priests’ victims are said to now be atheists.

    Ugh! How dare they give a distorted sermon about casting the first stone!

    Add to it all how Christian women are brainwashed and indoctrinated into having no boundaries, submitting, obeying, being docile, keeping quiet, not making waves. Even his ‘asking her’ wasn’t a legitimate question given all that is involved. That was probably premeditated so as to make it seem less predatory and less forced.

    How dare he continue being a pastor! No way. Slithering snake creep.

    • I agree. And what you say about pimps, batterers, and pedophiles act in similar ways. That is true. I soon I will be publishing a series of posts about a wonderful book called “How He Gets Into Her Head” by Don Hennessy. Hennessy says that the tactics used by skilled abusers whose abuse their intimate partners are very similar to the tactics used by serial child molesters. And he says that skilled adult intimate abusers are MORE devious than serial child molesters.

  14. Anonymous Woman

    Watching his statement on youtube, he almost makes a person forget that he took a vulnerable minor and drove her to a remote location — as her pastor — and then pulled out his penis.

    He didn’t ask her out on a date. She didn’t say, ‘hey baby, let’s find a place to park so we can make out when it gets dark’. Nope. He didn’t even kiss her! Just threw the car into park and pulled out his penis.

    I agree with the person who said he abducted her. She didn’t agree to get in his car to be taken to a wooded area at night via some dirt road. He was to take her from the church to her home. He abducted her.

    Thank the LORD for her courage to say something, to speak truth. Holding a going away party for him??? Ugh!

  15. Dear Commenters,
    I have a couple of requests. It’s okay to express your educated guesses about Andy Savage’s conduct and tactics. But please refrain from speculating about his wife and kids, other than to say you are feeling empathy and compassion for what they may be going through.

    Also, please understand that The Wartburg Watch and Watchkeep have done due diligence in researching the legal aspects of this situation under Texas law. Some other websites may be saying things about the legal aspects which are simply guesses or speculations or the result of a quick google search. I suggest if you are interested in the legal aspects and implications of this case, rely on what The Wartburg Watch and Watchkeep have said about that. And please don’t relay here any info about the legal aspects which you may have gleaned from other websites than those two.

    We published this post for two main reasons. Firstly, to support Jules Woodson. And secondly, as an educational experience for our readers. We hope this post will help our readers become even more astute at recognising the tactics of manipulation which wolves in sheep’s clothing use.

    That is our focus, and we’d prefer to stick with that.

    • StandsWithAFist

      Thank you Barb for that reminder. I am guilty of speculating myself. I am. I did that. And I don’t want to be that person.

      I went back to Wartburg Watch & read more slowly & carefully. I had missed some details, including that Jules eventually told her “female discipleship group”. Here’s the paragraph, when Jules recounted telling her group:

      As if a final breath of courage filled my lungs, I opened my mouth and began to share some of what had happened to me. Looking back now, I know without a doubt, it was a cry for help. Tears ran down my cheeks. I remember feeling a slight sense of relief as this was no longer just a secret between myself, Andy, Larry and Steve. However, I too remember feeling as though I had just played my last card. I knew I had broken the rules of silence and that there would be consequences to my actions.

      This has been my experience too: not one woman stood up for me when I spoke out about my abuser. Not one woman ever intervened when they witnessed it. Not one woman confronted my abuser. Not one. In fact, decades later when I begged the director of “women’s ministry & prayer” for my abuser to be put out of the church, I was shamed and told the problem was me. I was the problem…..not the abuse, not the church’s neglect, not their failure, not their silence, but me. I was shamed into silence. I just needed to shut up so they could all sing kumbaya.

      This seems to have happened to Jules also. If the “female discleship group” did nothing, said nothing, then I feel her additional pain. And I ask “why”? A million times….why??? It isn’t that no one heard her voice; it’s that her voice didn’t matter. Not even to some “discleship group” women. That adds insult to injury.

      I guess it underscores the movement afoot of “#MeToo”.
      We must support each other.
      We must tell these stories.
      We must listen.
      We must give voice.
      And we must hold each other accountable.

      And it makes this place the safest place I know.

    • Anonymous Woman

      I, too, am very guilty of this. What is this called? The keyboard warrior response?

      I feel for his wife and children. I should have not mentioned them at all. It just seems creepy when a guy talks about marrying his wife as his greatest accomplishment. Accomplishment???

      The law clearly says he is guilty of sexual assault. And consent cannot be consent unless it is freely and voluntarily given — under duress, in the middle of nowhere, dealing with your very own pastor, a child, nothing free or voluntary about that and he still was her pastor……even if she had been 23, it still would have been wrong.

      The article you linked, Barbara, about a pastor whipping it out, of course there was no consent by his victim.

      Did anyone else see how the victim had emailed him a MONTH prior to coming out with her story in a public way. He didn’t reply to her email.

      I think he should step down. If you whip out your penis and demand a vulnerable 17 year old who confided in you and trusted you as her PASTOR give you a blowjob in the middle of nowhere……still 20 years later, you still should not be a PASTOR.

      That she endured silently and had people in her church thinking there was merely an “innocent kiss” involved, complete with a going away party for him??!

      Savage didn’t email her to say he was sorry. He said nothing for a month. He only said anything about this, in a scripted, public broadcast, AFTER she told her story and it became a problem for him again.

      But still, I appreciate the comment Barbara, as I was really triggered by this all and my comments needed editing.

      • The keyboard warrior response

        I like that expression!

  16. As this will encourage Jules Woodson and many other #MeToo and #ChurchToo survivors, I am sharing this link to a FoxNews article.

    Church leader connected to sexual assault accusation against Andy Savage placed on leave

    Here is an excerpt from the article:

    Jules said she talked to Larry Cotton, who was the Associate Pastor of Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church. After their conversation, she alleges Cotton told her he would talk to fellow church leadership, along with Andy Savage, and she should “not mention anything that had happened to anyone else.”

    Larry Cotton now works as the Director of Internship and Residency at The Austin Stone Community Church. As a result of Jules’ accusations, the church has put Cotton on a leave of absence while an investigation is conducted by a third-party.

    The church released the following statement:

    “We grieve for what happened to Jules Woodson. It was wrong and unjust; we cannot overly express our sadness for what this woman experienced in God’s church. No person should ever be subject to sexual sin from any church leader. Every church should be a safe place for the vulnerable. The trust afforded to any church must be used to care for God’s people, never to harm them.

    “At the Austin Stone Community Church, we take our responsibility to care for and protect our children and students very seriously. This especially includes protection from any kind of sexual abuse or misconduct.

    “In response to this, we plan to continue doing everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of all of God’s children in our care. We want The Austin Stone Community Church to be a place where the voiceless have a voice and the powerless are protected.

    “In light of the seriousness of these accusations against Larry Cotton, we feel that due diligence is appropriate to ensure Larry’s qualification for his current role of leadership. In order to remove our potential bias from the situation, we have placed Larry on a leave of absence while an investigation by a third-party organization is undertaken. We will provide a full report to the church after its completion.

    “Our church body was informed of this situation on January 6th.”

    Andy Savage, who helped found Highpoint Church in Memphis, is still on the church staff.

  17. Another piece of encouraging news!

    Bethany House and Baker Publishing Group have cancelled publication of the Andy Savage book The Ridiculously Good Marriage.

    It may remain on various retail web sites for a short time until those sites update.

    • StandsWithAFist

      Wartburg Watch pointed out that the cover of the now-cancelled book has an ice cream cone on it.

      Jules thot he was taking her for ice cream.

      Coincidence? Or just plain creepy?
      Hurrah for the publisher.

  18. Speaking of the tactics of manipulators, Wade Mullen who I follow on Twitter has written an imaginary letter from a Screwtape-like devil to Andy Savage. It instructs Andy how to manage the situation, so that it all dies down and blows over.

    View story at Medium.com

  19. Anonymous Grandma

    Wow, this thing is messed up on so many levels I don’t even know where to start.

    That video of the Highpoint Church service victimizes Jules Woodson all over again. Quote from Andy Savage: “I had a sexual incident.” What Andy needed to say was, “I committed a sexual assault.” Downgrading it to an “incident” makes it sound like a consensual indiscretion.

    He prepared his script in advance. Could he not have chosen language that made it clear that Jules shared no part of his guilt?

    As for Pastor Conlee, I wonder what kind of healing he expects Jules Woodson to find when she hears him equate her pain with her abuser’s pain; when she hears him whisper, “Love you,” to Andy just before Andy begins to speak, and the applause and murmurs of loving support from the audience afterward; or when she hears that God wants us to remain neutral instead of siding with the innocent party. Will she be healed by hearing the pastor’s glowing praise of his close friend and co-founder? Was that praise even appropriate in the same sermon where her abuser made his (partial, misleading) confession?

    Sadly, Pastor Conlee missed a perfect opportunity to tell young pastors and would-be leaders something they really need to hear. He should have said, “God is not mocked. For most of history it was possible to sexually abuse a woman or a child, and then hide that fact for the rest of your life. That’s no longer true. Your victims now have the Internet, and they have the support of each other. If you’ve ever harmed anyone, you had better make it right. If you’re ever tempted to take sexual advantage of a vulnerable person, don’t go down that path. You’ll be exposed. Technology has destroyed your hiding places.” This is what future leaders need to hear, instead of watching their pastor minimize and excuse something so horrible.

  20. Sandra

    I also believe the “20 years ago” is one of the deliberate tactics he uses to minimize his horrific actions. When reading the posts on the HighPoint Facebook page, many of his supporters note that “Andy was only 20 years old when this happened, etc.” Has anyone ever seen where Savage has admitted his age at the time of the assault? I haven’t. Yet he continues to harp on the “20 years” and people get confused. That is deliberate in my opinion.

    The fact Savage states it happened many years ago “in Texas” places a geographical distancing tactic as well.
    Savage distances himself from the enormity of his actions, i.e. Clergy Sexual Abuse, by claiming he was a “college student on staff” versus the truth that he was the Youth Pastor.

    So we can see three ways in which he distances himself from his actions: He distances himself by time, by geography, AND by not admitting the truth that he was her Youth Pastor.

    I’m not sure what restoration can be made for someone so devious and manipulative. He should not be in any pulpit ever again.

    • I have not and will not be looking at the Highpoint Church FB page. My personal opinion of FB is that it is a necessary evil. I prefer Twitter and blogs.

      But as for how old Andy Savage was at the time he did those wicked things which Jules describes in that remote place down the dirt road… The Wartburg Watch say he was 22 years old.

      The number “twenty” only refers to the fact that it took place twenty years ago.

      If some people are saying Andy was only 20 at the time, they have likely mixed up the ’20 years ago’ with Andy’s age at the time. Or a few people who are malignantly and intentionally helping spin Andy’s story, have spread the rumour that “he was only 20” and others have picked it up and are recycling it. People who recycle such falsehoods are not interested in the facts of the case as the various sources have presented them. They hear someone else saying something false or inaccurate or mistaken and they pass it on as if it is true.

      And this is exactly the kind of thing Andy would have intended by claiming that he was ‘a college student at the time’ but NOT saying that he was employed as the YOUTH PASTOR at the church. This is known as ‘blurring the truth’.

      Facebook is full of ‘Chinese whispers’ where misinformed people pass on misinformation. That is why I am so reluctant to interact much on FB. I encourage anyone who uses FB as their primary social media to spend less time on FB and more on blogs and Twitter. The blogs are where the really good material is. Twitter is like a bulletin board: you can track what is happening quickly, without engaging in heavy debate with misinformed Chinese whisperers.

  21. CeeKay

    It is disgusting the way this man and his church have handled his sexual crime! That there was not even ONE person to stand up in that congregation and forcibly speak out against what was being said and done in that “sermon,” is proof enough to me that Spiritually speaking, that church is D.E.A.D.

    • Suzanne

      As I read about this travesty I wondered if there is some way that the congregation could be contacted and given a more Scriptural appraisal of Savages words and actions. There must be at least one person there who can benefit from the truth.

      • The congregation at Highpoint are free to read all the material which The Wartburg Watch and Watchkeep have published. Many people have been using social media to respond to or reach out to the people in the pews at Highpoint. Most of the folks at Highpoint seem to have swallowed the KookAid, but God will be sifting each and every one of them.

  22. steve240

    The big issue I have here is how quickly and without doing any investigation the leadership of Highpoint chose to basically fully support Andy Savage. Why didn’t they give an initial statement of perhaps some support for Andy Savage but promise to do an investigation and find as much about the case as possible. This would include hearing Jules’ side of the case and especially important since Jules is indicating Andy Savage isn’t being truthful about the whole situation.

    IMO this is pronouncing of support for Andy Savage before doing even a basic investigation and within days of this news breaking is a major mistake. Maybe this action shows that they have already decided in favor of Andy Savage and thus don’t want to research the facts since they might not like what they will find?

  23. Charis

    Sometimes stones and judgement are relevant. Israel’s greatest king got his start using 5 smooth stones and killing a giant. A stone was his weapon of choice; a deadly one and accurate. David was a one-man jury and Goliath was found wanting.

    In another example, Ananias and Sapphira come to mind. They were the classic cover-up story in the church; caught lying to the leadership (Paul) and struck instantly dead.

    Churches today seem to have lost cultural significance for the holiness and justice of God simply because no one carries slingshots or dies instantaneously in judgement-by-lightning. Who has changed? God or us? I suggest it isn’t God.

    If we aren’t comfortable with the idea of God’s holiness, justice or righteousness – perhaps we have some repentance to do; myself included. Deep transformative work wrought by the Holy Spirit, bearing fruit. This is what I see lacking in today’s churches of cheap grace and easy mercy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I also worship the God of love, He IS love! But to say that “love covers a multitude of sins” as an excuse to turn a blind eye is to miss the point and counterpoint of ALL that God is. When I hear that phrase, I think of Noah and his sons – the two who covered his nakedness while he slept (drunk from wine) in his tent. They were careful not to look upon their father as they covered him; a great sign of respect and love. When Noah awakened the following morning, he cursed the son who mocked him and refused to provide assistance and blessed the two sons who treated him with love, care and respect. One son turned a blind eye…the other two did not. It is the other two sons who acted out love covering a multitude of sins by covering (caring for) their father (Noah) in his time of indiscretion.

    An apology really only needs a few simple points:
    “I’m sorry; what I did was wrong.”
    “It was my fault.”
    “What can I do to make it right?”

    We don’t see this very often. Instead, we see squirming and shifting and excuses and counter accusations.

    I disagree with the phrase: “You never heal by hurting others.” There is a distinction to be made between “hurt” and “harm.” You can, indeed, heal even though others are hurt by your actions. To pull a very literal example from the medical field – there are several procedures that while not feeling pleasant (“ouch, that hurts!”) provides healing in the long term. Surgery, removing an abscess, placing an IV (or other equipment/tubes). If I, as nurse, were told to do my job without hurting others – it would be impossible. I am; however, instructed not to *harm* others. That is different. I can be sued and my license revoked if I am discovered battering patients outright or by my actions abusing them (causing harm).

    In this same way – Jules is not harming Andy. Although Andy has harmed Jules. We could argue that Jules’ actions might be hurting Andy…and if Andy chooses, that pain could be brought to good use. Might it hurt his career? Might it hurt his relationships? Maybe, and that pain could cause him to repent and look at his life and make significant changes.

    Pain avoidance is not healthy – despite what pastors and our culture today tells us. Pain is a healthy dashboard indicator. It tells you immediately to pay attention because something is wrong! If you slipped on the ice while jogging and now your ankle is bruised swollen and in pain, you need to seek medical attention. It could be broken or sprained and only an X-Ray machine can tell you what you need to know with proper care by medical experts. Then you will need to make some lifestyle changes – maybe don’t jog when it’s icy.

    If you harmed someone by your actions (regardless how long ago) and now they are confronting you about your behavior – you need to sit up and pay attention, apologize and do the deep work of repentance and maybe make some lifestyle changes (called transformation).

    • Suzanne

      Absolutely correct and, most importantly, Biblical truth. It grieves me to know that so many are unwilling to deal with sin and evil as God directs.

  24. Seeing the Light

    What am I missing here? Isn’t it a no-brainer that anyone who ever committed such an act while in a position of authority, such as youth pastor, as he did is forever disqualified from such a position of authority ever again? He left the ministry “for a season.” A season? I don’t care if it was 60 years ago. He’s done and he should be the first one to say so and never seek such a position again. Am I off base here? Major red flag for this whole church. And this Chris Conlee…what is this nonsense? If I have to hear the Word of God misused this way one more time, I’m going to scream.

    • Heather Black (formerly H)

      I don’t think you’re off base at all! That’s clearly what Scripture says about qualifying pastors.

      It’s amazing how church discipline and excommunication has seen a revival of practice in Protestant churches lately (as we know because so many abuse victims are being excommunicated due to demanding justice and fair treatment from the church) but that the clear teachings in Scripture about things that disqualify a person from ministry are not enjoying a similar revival in practice.

      Instead we see pastor after pastor known to have committed serious sin either staying in the church and kicking out all dissent and letting the whole thing blow over, or leaving the church and reappearing only months later to start a new one somewhere else, often helped and supported by their celebrity pastor buddies. The church as a whole (and I mean the people sitting in the pews, not the leaders) needs to start taking pastor qualification seriously.

      • Seeing the Light

        I watched most of Chris Conlee’s message. It’s utterly amazing to hear the way forgiving a man for such a sin – pastoral sexual abuse of a seventeen-year-old girl, for crying out loud – is equated to welcoming him as a teacher, pastor, and shepherd. The verses that may apply to forgiving such an offender (if truly and sincerely repentant) and loving him as a member of the church and as one of the sheep in no way mean that he should be restored to the position of shepherd – ever. To turn those verses around and use them to judge Christians who know he should not be thus trusted is unfathomably manipulative. It creeps me out the way one after another of this kind of man craves leadership. They are simply not satisfied without it. I have to believe a truly humble, repentant man forgiven for an offense such as this would not dare to even ask to be in leadership again and would himself proclaim his disqualification and be satisfied and amazed at the grace that allows him to take up his seat as a follower and a sheep.

  25. Anonymous Woman

    is anyone else deeply upset by all of this? i mean, i’m still in a bad situation so i’m extra triggered and vulnerable but this is bad. i feel for the victim – her 17 year old self and her current self today.

    i think FB is evil and have since it began and today i looked at Savage’s church’s webpage and oh my goodness! i dont even have words. Savage apparently got a standing ovation in church for his so-called ‘admission’ on Sunday. People are painting Savage as the victim.

    This is a case study in what is wrongly done in cases with a skilled predator abuser and his victim. I stand with Jules. Thanking her for being so brave, for sharing her story, for speaking out, for being courageous and so strong.

    Its the same old, same old. The rallying for the victimizing perp. The hating on the victim. The twisting of Scripture. The calculated, carefully scripted, PR plays. The abuser’s charm and impression management skills. Evildoers are so, so slick. It is crushing to see how quickly a mob of Savage-backers formed to defend and support poor, poor, ‘victim’ Savage (vomit, vomit). What is being done to Jules is what is done to so many victimized, preyed upon innocents. Its evil.

    I stand with you, Jules. I kick Savage to the curb and all the others who think he is somehow the victim in this all. How dare they! Makes a person want to die all over again seeing Jules being implied to be an agent of the devil, trying to bring ‘poor, poor’ Savage down……such a lie, so incredibly wrong!

    A standing ovation for a sexual assaulter to minimize, obfuscate, and slime his way through a so-called ‘admission’ of there being an ‘incident’?! This is why churches are not safe places for Jules or other actual victims. No way.Thanking Almighty God we have Barbara, TWBTC, and this website!!!!

    • I encourage all who are easily triggered to not look at Andy Savage’s Facebook page or Highpoint Church’s Facebook page.

      It will only trigger you more. I suggest you can do without that! I suggest if you are wanting to follow the story, follow it at the watchblog sites and on my personal FB page where I am posting a few things that are encouraging. I posted this just now on my personal FB page: The New York Times has covered the story and they did a phone interview with Jules. Their article is pretty good especially where they report Jules’s words.

      My question to all our readers, if you are looking at the stuff on Andy Savage or Highpoint Church’s social media feeds, is “Why are you looking at it? What is your aim? Have you weighed up the risks versus the benefits of going to such sites and reading their spin and drivel?”

      Of course, every person is free to make their own decisions about what they read and what they don’t read. I’m just encouraging folks to be mindful of the risks, and use your time in a way that will be most edifying and helpful to you in your coming out of the fog and your recovery. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • M&M

        The New York Times said she reported it to authorities in Texas just yesterday. Good for her!!!!

      • I think the NY Times was a bit inaccurate on that point.

        According to the Wartburg Watch and Watchkeep which jointly broke this story several days ago (i.e. several days before the NY Times article), Jules had made a formal report to the police BEFORE they published their articles.
        I suggest you read the Wartburg Watch article I linked to in this post, to apprise yourself of those facts.

  26. And here is the CBS video report on the Andy Savage story

  27. Jamie

    I have not been (and will NOT be) following this closely at this time, not on FB or anywhere, except where it is referenced related to general abuse/education. And I have only watched a tiny fraction of the worship service.

    But I assume if we are going to be “neutral” and they are SO willing to do “anything they can” for the victim…they will be giving this same allotment of time to Jules Woodson during next week’s service and posting that content through all the same venues…to their large audience at every location…broadcasts at YouTube and elsewhere.

    …Tell her they love her just before she speaks and fill the building with eager supporters.

    Especially since we are instructed: “Out of respect and consideration to every single person, that you would listen to everything before you evaluate….”

    Unbelievable.

    To address guests at the service and tell them, that you’re “sorry that you’re having to hear about a difficult subject” is offensive. If this were actually true, it’d be easily managed doing this at the end….asking guests to exit just prior to members…and turning the cameras OFF.

    He even follows with what they HOPE they’ll hear, which is, of course their actual motive….to sway and spin this.

    Andy Savage never utters a single unscripted word. Not once.

    As for the sermon, I didn’t get her very far. I stopped at the part where the pastor begins asking us how God wants us to respond. I am so grateful for ACFJ (and LightForDarkTimes.org, which is Jeff Crippen’s blog) where we receive excellent, consistent education on exactly what *scripture* says about how we are ALL instructed to respond.

  28. romans818

    I’m with Jules – if you read this, Jules, your courage to come forward is amazing. I wish we could give you the standing ovation – you deserve it.

    I agree with the other comments for which I am SO THANKFUL as I still sometimes can’t formulate exactly why I think what the “Christians” are saying is wrong. The churches’ responses — 20 years ago at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (now renamed Stonebridge Church), and now Highpoint Church — are so revolting, and so familiar. Who on here hasn’t heard all the same satanic drivel?

    My guess is the mainstream press picking up Jules’ story will only further polarize the sides. Because of course there are sides. And this church [Highpoint] and its supporters and everyone else in the visible church who is complicit in allowing abuse to continue in the pews will easily dismiss the criticism from the world. [They will say things like:] “See how the world hates the light? They just can’t even understand what it is to forgive. The world has no familiarity with the concept of forgiveness and restoration, and so they can’t understand how we love our fallen brother. And Jules of course, too. We love her too and are just so concerned for her. That she won’t reconcile just makes us really wonder whether she knows her own sin and what she’s been saved from? Or if she truly is saved? It’s all so sad…”

    (I wish I could add some personal details of my similar experience.) And on and on. It’s a DISGUSTING, OFFENSIVE perversion of the gospel and the holy character of God.

    • Jules IS getting a standing ovation!

      Social media and mainstream media around the world are giving her story momentum and exposing the ghastly way she has been treated buy so-called ‘churches’.

  29. One thing I question is the title of the message referring to “casting stones.” No one is here is talking about stoning Andy Savage. It is almost as if the use of the title and teaching about “casting stones” was another one of Conlee’s tactics to try and take the focus away from Andy Savage and what Savage did to an underage girl. In other words make it sound like someone is wanting to apply extreme punishment to someone and teach against that.

    Doing this makes people go on the defensive and forget about what really should be considered for Andy Savage … With the way Savage has seemed to want to downplay his actions and mislead people as to what really occurred my feeling is that this recent dishonesty has disqualified him as a leader. This would include claiming that members of the church in TX were made aware of what he did when he left which reports are now indicating that this wasn’t the case. See the following link:

    [Link removed by ACFJ Eds]

    • Hello Steve240, thanks for contributing to the discussion here.

      I removed the link you had given at the end of your comment, and I also removed your suggestions about what really should have been considered for Andy Savage. The linked article was too defensive of Larry Cotton in my view. And it failed to address the fact that what Savage did to Jules, in his position as her Youth Pastor, was and still is a REPORTABLE OFFENCE under the law of that state.

      There were also some other smaller inaccuracies in the article.

  30. Lori

    They definitely made it a point to remind everyone this happened 20 years ago. They did not seem genuinely concerned about the victim. Also, if they truly want to do the right thing Andy would turn himself into the police since he sexually assaulted a minor. Those in ministry are not above the law. Do the right thing!

    • Hi Lori,

      Welcome to the blog! We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.

      Again Welcome!

  31. Kind of Anonymous

    I haven`t watched the video or read Jules interview, because the standing ovation part bothered me enough for me to veer away from it. It certainly made my stomach turn over and made me wonder. A STANDING OVATION ???! Are they kidding? How brainwashed are these people? So many churches are “you support me I support you fraternities that seem more like personality cults loyal to a man than to Jesus“.

    Surely before it ever got to that part there ought to be some form of “What do you mean by a sexual incident – could you please explain what exactly happened? What about the girl – is she okay – has anyone checked ?”

    Now I see that it was in fact, a premeditated rape on a young girl who thought she was safe with him. What a pig. Don`t get me going on the pious, condescending bit about how sorry they are that Jules, spiritual tiny person that they insinuate that she is, is not on the same so called road of healing they are. Barf. They are on a road alright.

    Even if the people thought he got into a consensual, impromptu make out session with a girl close enough in age that it could plausibly have seemed a legit relationship to a young guy of 22, that is still enough for him to have to be removed from authority and ministry.

  32. Here’s another very good article. It deals with the question of consent in relation to this story. I approve of the article except where it mentions Andy Savage’s wife. I think it is entirely possible that Andy’s wife has believed lies that Andy has told her about what he did to Jules, and is therefore not believing Jules’s account at all. It is also possible that Andy’s wife has not even read Jules’s account. So I prefer to not comment on what Andy’s wife has said in relation to this case.

    http://makechurchsafe.com/2018/01/10/when-a-pastor-shows-his-penis-or-of-course-jules-woodson-didnt-consent/

    • M&M

      Related to what the article said, I bet the reason she “participated” and “didn’t say no” is because she was both in shock and realized that he took her to an isolated place so that she couldn’t run away and that it might not be possible to get home if she didn’t comply. A logical decision under duress, but duress means non-consensual.

      And a different page of the Make Church Safe site had an article about Highpoint assisting in the coverup of abuse at another church……ahhhhhhhh

  33. This is disappointing news from the Texas Police.

    http://abc13.com/ex-woodlands-youth-pastor-wont-be-charged-in-teens-sex-assault/2926363/

    A quote from the article:

    This afternoon, the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constables’ office said because of Texas law in 1998, the statute of limitations has passed and no charges are able to be filed.

    “Using the current statute, we would have some possible options, but we are limited to the law as it was at the time of the offense in 1998,” Captain Dan Zientek said in a statement. “As a result, we are unable to investigate and seek justice to the full extent of what would we normally would in such a case.”

  34. Kind of Anonymous

    Thanks Barb, I will indeed have a read. By way of clarification, in case anyone wonders, while I was musing on what the church folks might have thought at first, I in NO WAY think or buy the spin that Jules` situation with Andy Savage was in any way consensual on the part of Jules or believe she had a normal guy girl relationship with Andy Savage. This was a case of premediated evil on Andy`s part , strikingly similar to the case of Amnon in his planned rape of Tamar. And Andy`s church`s revolting response equally similar to the Corinthians who discovered gross evil amongst them and were proud instead of mourning and removing the offending person.

    • Yes. Amnon and Tamar is a perfect analogy. And so is the Corinthian church arrogantly ‘giving grace’ to the sexually immoral man i 1 Cor 5.

      Thanks for pointing out those two scriptures. They are ultra relevant to this story.

  35. Kind of Anonymous

    Okay just had a read through the Make Church Safe Article. Its even more clear that this was premeditated and that he used his position to get her alone where he could assault her. I cannot yet bring myself to watch a church give a standing ovation to such a confession, however much he may have watered it down to give a misleading impression to his congregation. It still makes no sense to me that an ovation would be their response. Loons. Just reading bits and pieces was disturbing enough.

    The author correctly points out that in fact, Andy Savage abducted Jules. And that he exposed himself. The author of the article asks rhetorically, “What kind of dude just whips it out?” He points out that this is not normal sexuality but rather criminal activity of the Weinstein kind, as one commenter said. We call them perverts

    This is truly distressing and disturbing. Nothing normal about what Andy did. It makes me wonder if he had been reading porn, because these are not normal actions for a healthy young man.

  36. When a person tells factually true things to cast an impression that they know to be false they’re lying even though everything they’ve said is true. And do they know their lying? YES!

    That quote comes from Dr George Simon Jr. He said it at a seminar he gave which my dear assistant TWBTC attended. Thank you TWBTC for passing it on to me. 🙂

    It is so applicable to Andy Savage. Andy described what he did to Jules as “a sexual incident”. Andy Savage was casting an impression that he knew to be false because he knew it was minimizing the sin he committed. Andy was lying. What he did to Jules Woodson was much more than a ‘sexual incident’. It was a violation of pastoral duty and a crime against Jules.

    But frustratingly, the law which pertained in Texas in 1998 does not allow the Texan Police to investigate and prosecute Andy Savage now.

    Nevertheless, we can all take comfort from the fact that God sees all…and He will bring judgement and justice in the end to people like Andy Savage.

    And God’s judgement on unrepentant sinners will be so immense that we, in our flesh, cannot conceive of how much the unrepentant will suffer in eternity. Our minds cannot imagine it. Just like our minds cannot imagine the blessings we will enjoy in eternity if we have truly come to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

  37. Charis

    Just a quick comment about the preoccupation with the offense being 20yrs ago.

    God’s timeline is much wider reaching. Consider the Israelites wandering in the wilderness – a judgement against their disobedience and disbelief: 40yrs/death sentence. No adult male who left Egypt save Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land. (Joshua 5, Deut 2, Numbers 14). However, during their time of exile, they lacked for nothing. God provided.

    Yet Andy wishes to whine about something that happened “20yrs ago.” I don’t think that will stack up in God’s court. His memory is long and He has a history of decreeing consequences upon “generations” of men/people. Generations is often a loosely interpreted word…with more than 20yrs attached to it.

    Perhaps, should Andy decide to enter the wilderness of repentance – he would find that God still provides for Him. Albeit it in very different ways (not in the limelight/”Promised Land” of mega churches).

    Just my 2cents.

    • Well said Charis. I like how you bring scripture to bear on many of our discussions. 🙂

  38. The Wartburg Watch (TWW) published a further post about this today. (It’s their third post about the Andy Savage story).

    The post does’t describe what Andy did to Jules. So I don’t have to give you a trigger warning.

    It focuses on last Sunday’s church service at Highpoint Church Memphis. And it includes a report from someone who is a regular reader of the Wartburg Watch who attended the service in order to give an eye-witness account to the readers at TWW.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/01/10/highpoint-church-a-tww-tutorial-on-how-not-to-handle-an-andy-savage-metoo-church-service/

    • M&M

      This link goes to Julie’s story so I think you meant another one.

      • Thanks, I have just fixed the link.

  39. Seeing the Light

    I don’t know if I should still be commenting on this or let it go, but I saw that Andy Savage had done a radio interview on The Ben Ferguson Show on January 11. I found it and listened to it because I was interested in something that might be a little less scripted, and I am just overwhelmed at even trying to react to or respond to it. I can’t fathom that this is acceptable to anyone calling themselves Christians. I just don’t know what to say. It was so FULL of tells about what this man was and is and I can’t believe anyone is desiring him in a shepherding or teaching position. His utter cowardice both back then and now just oozed through the speaker as I listened to his voice. It is embarrassing to hear. I honestly believe this man would throw anyone under the bus to save his own hide and his selfish need to be in leadership. His insistence on the mutuality of the incident, his repetitive use of “we” and “us” and “our” while describing the events that took place are so obvious. I’m just beyond disgusted.

    • It’s fine to keep commenting on this. I too have listened to the radio interview with Savage and I agree with your responses to it, STL

  40. Anonymous Woman

    This guy bothers me to such a degree I must not concern myself anymore beyond this last comment… but what I keep coming back to is the reality involved:

    Pastor abducts a known vulnerable. already groomed, minor child — a church member in his care — by driving her out to the middle of nowhere. He then whips out his dick and has the child give him a blowjob while fondling her breasts.

    If he had anything of a conscience and he read his Bible, he’d know he is a predator and disqualified from being a pastor, working with children, and go rot in a jail cell for awhile, register as a sex offender for the rest of his days on earth, and stop pitching himself as some victim…..

    Consensual, my butt. A mere ‘sexual incident’, my butt.

    Rape, sexual abuse, coercion, child molesting, certain crimes need to be a one-strike and you are out for good. People go to prison for how many years because they were caught stealing a car — they don’t get a freebie, but rather spend years upon years sitting in a cell. Why does a pastor get a freebie victim? Child molester. Rapist. Predator. Con artist. Liar. Wolf in sheeps clothing.

  41. The CNN video in this article does a pretty good job of summarizing the early parts of the story: Jules Woodson’s account the story, and Andy Savage’s statement which he read out at the HighPoint Church service followed by the standing ovation:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/12/us/tennessee-pastor-leave/index.html

    A supporter of Jules has uploaded this CNN video to her FB page. Here is the link:

  42. Anonymous Woman

    Ok, so I told myself i wouldn’t comment anymore but what has been eating at me is the response of the pastor she told…

    ‘So you participated?’

    Notice the language. Language is very important. Isn’t that typical rape culture? Make the victim into a “willing participant”. Then no crimes apparently can take place in the magical barfland of “Willing Participant-town”.

    Has anyone seen her picture at 17? She looks so young. Such a child. She is a foot or more shorter than Savage.

    A child molester or incestuous father grooms his victims into thinking they are loved and to do the demanded acts out of love/because it means they love him.

    Given my poor experiences in life, I’d love to round up all the other women sick and tired of our woman-hating general population and perhaps move to an island or another planet, just to be free of all the evil harms that men inflict on us. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Trackbacks

  1. Jules Woodson’s Story of Andy Savage Sexual Assault: Online Sources – Make Church Safe Again

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