Despite his claim that he handled the consequences of assaulting a teenager “in a biblical way,” disgraced megachurch pastor Andy Savage announced during a radio interview with The Ben Ferguson Show that he is taking a “leave of absence” from ministry.
The absence follows a standing ovation from his congregation after he confessed that he had “sinned” as a youth pastor. (He didn’t tell them, however, that his sin involved driving a then-17-year-old Jules Woodson home from church, taking her to a secluded area, and pressuring her into giving him oral sex. Savage was 22 at the time.)
According to a letter sent to his congregation Thursday night, the absence took effect immediately:
“I’m going to be taking a leave of absence for the purpose of cooperating with a third-party, independent firm that will come in and do an audit of my ministry, the policies that we work with at Highpoint, and get their assessment on my fitness for ministry,” Savage said. “I will trust the leadership at Highpoint Church and submit fully to their leadership.”
While that kind of audit isn’t meaningless, no one was accusing Savage of taking advantage of teenage girls now. The problem is his lack of responsibility for what he did then. Even if this third-party audit is completed and Savage gets a clean bill of health to continue pastoring, it doesn’t exonerate him from his past.
Woodson filed a report with Texas authorities last week, but it appears that the statute of limitations has passed.
It’s a lucky break for Savage, whose lack of genuine repentance was made obvious during his radio interview:
During the wide-ranging radio interview, the first time Savage has spoken publicly other than addressing Highpoint members during a service last Sunday, he described the sexual encounter as something that resulted from a “flirtatious environment.”
A “flirtatious environment” that Savage himself created when he offered to drive her home.
Don’t be fooled by his clever wordplay: he was an adult who knew exactly what he was doing.
Savage said that while he took ownership of the situation, he remembered it differently than characterized by Woodson.
You don’t say.
“It was a flirtatious environment which led to making out,” Savage said. “Hormones were very much in the moment.”
Savage said he does not believe he broke the law because Woodson was of legal age under Texas law. The current age of consent in Texas is 17; it’s unclear what it was in 1998, but authorities said in announcing there would be no charges that 1998 law left them fewer legal options than they would have had under the current statute.
Legal or not, Savage was in a position of power over Woodson as her pastor. A relationship doesn’t have to be illegal in order to be unethical, and rape is rape no matter how old the victim is. What Savage did was a crime.
The church newsletter claims that Savage will still have their full support during his period of absence. Because of course he does.
(Screenshot via YouTube)