Tennessee pastor resigns over 'sexual incident' with minor
Andy Savage, the Tennessee megachurch pastor who admitted a "sexual incident" with a high school student 20
years ago, resigned Tuesday and said he would "step away from ministry."

Savage, 42, a teaching pastor at Highpoint Church, a nondenominational congregation attended by more than 2,000
worshipers every week at three Memphis-area campuses, got a standing ovation from the congregation in January when he
acknowledged the encounter with Jules Woodson in 1998.
Woodson was 17 at the time, and Savage, then 22, was a youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church near
Houston, now known as Stonebridge Church.
Opposition to Savage's remaining with the church continued unabated, however. In a statement Tuesday, Savage noted the
"passionate opinions" that the case had stirred up and said he had "come to understand Jules' vantage point better, and to
appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up."
"When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in
order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through," said Savage, who acknowledged for
the first time that he took advantage of Woodson without her consent in what he called an "abuse of power."
"I agree with Jules that, of all places, we as the Church should be getting this right," Savage said, adding: "After much prayer
and counsel, I now believe it's appropriate for me to resign from my staff position at Highpoint Church and step away from
ministry in order to do everything I can to right the wrongs of the past."
Woodson went public with her story in January, writing on Watch Keep, a blog for victims of abuse, that she was inspired to
come forward by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. In the blog post, Woodson said Savage drove her to a
deserted back road and sexually assaulted her, then asked for forgiveness and pleaded with her "not to tell anyone what had
just happened."
The Montgomery County, Texas, district constable's office said that it interviewed Woodson in early January but that the
statute of limitations had expired and that no charges could be filed.
Woodson told the Commercial-Appeal newspaper of Memphis on Tuesday that she was "trying to process" the news of
Savage's resignation and was considering releasing a statement later.
Chris Conlee, Highpoint's lead pastor, said in January that the church knew of the 1998 incident when it hired Savage and
that church leaders had "total confidence in the redemptive process Andy went through under his leadership in Texas."
But in a new statement Tuesday, the church said its initial backing of Savage was "defensive rather than empathetic in its
initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson's communication." Highpoint said the church would commit itself to "develop a deeper
understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse."
Highpoint said it had asked MinistrySafe, a legal institute in Fort Worth, Texas, that works with churches to address child
sexual abuse cases, to investigate its training, policies, screening practices and supervision in ministries serving minors.