A Memphis megachurch pastor resigned from his position Tuesday months after he was accused of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred in Texas with a teenage girl around 20 years ago.
Andy Savage, 42, resigned from his position at Highpoint Church after an investigation by Scott Fredericks, a lawyer from Fort Worth, Texas whose “specialties include assisting churches with child-abuse investigations,” USA Today reported.
The church released a statement, saying they accepted Savage’s resignation.
"The leadership team at Highpoint Church agrees that Andy's resignation is appropriate," the church said.
In January, a woman named Jules Woodson detailed the alleged encounter in a blog entry on Watch Keep, a website for survivors of sexual abuse.
Woodson wrote that she was 17 in the spring of 1998 when Savage offered to drive her home from the Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, located more than 20 miles north of Houston.
Woodson claims that the pastor pulled over on a dirt road and asked her to perform oral sex on him before he demanded she take off her top. Woodson wrote he begged her not to tell anyone what transpired.
“You have to take this to the grave with you,” Savage told Woodson, according to her account. Savage was 22 at the time of the incident.
Savage admitted to having a “sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church” and said he apologized and “took every step to respond in a biblical way,” according to USA Today. He gave the apology speech to churchgoers in January who gave the pastor a standing ovation.
Woodson told The New York Times she was disgusted after watching Savage’s “apology” speech online.
“You have to take this to the grave with you."
“It’s disgusting,” Woodson said while crying.
Woodson told The Times the matter was never “dealt with” because she never reported her allegations to authorities. She said she went to authorities in January to make a report, but the statute of limitations had expired.
Savage said in a statement on the church’s website he “came to understand Jules’ vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak her.”
“While 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,” Savage wrote.
The church came under fire for the video of churchgoers applauding Savage’s speech. Following the criticism, the church urged any other victims to come forward and tell local law enforcement of any incident.
Meanwhile, Christian publisher Bethany House announced it had canceled the publication of “The Ridiculously Good Marriage” by Savage, the Associated Press reported.
Woodson told the Memphis Commercial Appeal she was “trying to process” the announcement of Savage’s resignation and said she might release a statement later this week regarding the news.