When Tennessee pastor Andy Savage confessed to sexually abusing a teenager in January of 2018, his congregation gave him a standing ovation, believing they were seeing a picture of grace and redemption in action.
Following backlash, Savage took a “leave of absence,” then soon resigned from the pulpit. At the time, Highpoint Church in Memphis announced that “Andy’s resignation is appropriate” and that the church’s leadership team “was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced.” That was in March of 2018.
Savage’s exile from the pulpit was apparently temporary. Today, Woodson herself noted that Savage was on the verge of returning to preaching:
Devastating news today. My abuser is back in the pulpit. ���� https://t.co/anu860KSJz
— Jules Woodson (@juleswoodson11) October 26, 2019
That link goes to audio of a meeting Savage appears to be holding for prospective members of his new church, Grace Valley Memphis. Right now, that link goes directly to a survey asking for participants’ biographical details. It rather disturbingly asks how many children everyone has. There’s a follow-up question, now prefaced by “Field no longer in use,” that asks for the kids’ names, ages, and birthdates. Another question that is in use asks, “Would you open your home and make it available for group relationship building?”
Not sure that inviting a predator into your house is a great way to build relationships.
According to Whois, the website was created on September 24. This is been in the works since at least then. Which would mean it took Savage 18 months to go from leaving a church in disgrace after admitting to sexually assaulting a child… to starting a brand new church in the same city. (Not that their experiences were the same, but it took Ted Haggard nearly four years to begin a new church after he, too, resigned in disgrace. Mark Driscoll also took 18 months between resigning from one church and starting another.)
It’s one thing to be genuinely sorry for a crime and repent. If his congregation — and more importantly, his victim, Jules Woodson — forgives him, fine. But repentance and reconciliation are two different things. Savage lost the ability to be trusted with minors when he assaulted Woodson in his car. No sensible person should trust him to be around other minors again.
In case you’re keeping score in Christianity this week, Andy Savage is starting a new church, but Beth Moore has to “go home.” Because we wouldn’t want a woman in the pulpit now, would we?
Patriarchy is one powerful drug.