Criticism, support growing for Memphis pastor accused of sexual assault

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Criticism, support growing for Memphis pastor accused of sexual assault

Pastor Andy Savage, who preaches at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tenn., came under fire last week when a former church member came forward with her story of sexual assault.

Highpoint Lead Pastor Chris Conlee has expressed support for Conlee, also in a written statement on the church website.

"As a college student on staff at a church in Texas more than 20 years ago, I regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church", Savage said. "I was sorry then and remain so today", Savage said. Oh my god, I'm so sorry.

Savage said he thought the incident, for which criminal charges were never filed, had been "dealt with" in Texas 20 years ago when he apologized. "I was scared embarrassed, but I did it", she wrote. "Andy and Amanda have been instrumental in my families life".

Still Savage - an author and podcast - continues to see fallout from the incident.

One woman wrote on Facebook, "This is why I'll never trust organized religion or a building". I apologized and sought forgiveness from her, her parents, her discipleship group, the church staff, and the church leadership, who informed the congregation. They also confirmed Savage is still employed.

But this November, after Matt Lauer was sacked from NBC for alleged sexual misconduct, Woodson was inspired to confront Savage over email, asking him if he remembered sexually assaulting her. You can't tell anyone Jules, please.

In her blog, Woodson said she spoke to Larry Cotton, who was the Associate Pastor of Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, about the incident and that Cotton told her he would talk to fellow church leadership, along with Savage, and she should "not mention anything that had happened to anyone else".

Following his admission, church members stood and applauded Savage for around 20 seconds, The New York Times reported.

On Sunday, Savage, repeated his statement before his congregation, noting that what happened between himself and Woodson was a one-time affair and he had done nothing remotely similar before or after that incident. I asked what was back here. "You have to take this to the grave with you.' He said that several times". "I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me".

In a statement on Twitter, the publisher said Tuesday, "Bethany House and Baker Publishing Group have canceled publication of the Andy Savage book The Ridiculously Good Marriage". The publisher said the book may remain on retail websites for a short time until those are updated.

"I support him in great confidence", said Conlee. She said that she has since reported the molestation to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department, even though Texas' statute of limitations may prevent the situation from ever being resolved.

He continued, "Until now I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules", and asked her for forgiveness.

"It's not just a right-and-wrong issue, though there was something definitely wrong", Conlee said.

Woodson said she had made a decision to send an email to Savage on December 1 with the subject line 'Do you remember?' after being inspired to act by victims of abuse coming forward in Hollywood and elsewhere.

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