Church officials placed Andy Savage, Tennessee megachurch pastor at Memphis’ Highpoint Church, on leave effective immediately Thursday, according to a report by CNN.
Savage publicly admitted his role in a 1998 Texas incident in which he reportedly asked a 17-year-old high school senior for oral sex before allegedly groping her.
Savage, now 42, told his church congregation Sunday of the “sexual incident” that reportedly occurred with former parishioner Jules Woodson when he was a staff member at her suburban Houston church 20 years ago.
Woodson said she opted to recently resurface the incident on website Watch Keep after being inspired by the #MeToo movement.
Savage on Sunday told his Memphis congregants, “When this happened 20-plus years ago, I did everything I knew to do under the counsel I was given to cooperate with those involved, to repent of my sins, take responsibility for my actions, and seek forgiveness.”
“I never sought to cover this up,” he added.
“My repentance over this sin 20 years ago was done believing that God’s forgiveness is greater than any sin,” Savage continued, naming Woodson among those to whom he apologized. “And I still believe that.”
Savage concluded, “For any painful memories or fresh wounds this has created for anyone, I am sorry. And I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
His public admittance of sin was met with a standing ovation by the Memphis church congregation.
CNN on Thursday reported that Highpoint Church’s lead pastor, Chris Conlee, in a statement said that Savage was placed on leave effective immediately.
CNN reported that the statement revealed Highpoint is seeking “a qualified, independent, third-party organization to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy’s ministry.”
“Please know that we support Andy as a leader of our church, but we also understand this has been a difficult season not only for Andy and his family, but for our congregation as well,” another portion of the statement read.
“We want to maintain trust in both Andy and our church leadership that we are not only doing things right, but we are doing right things,” the statement added.
CNN reported that Conlee said when the audit is finished, “we will continue to support Andy and his family.”
Conlee previously released the following statement:
This information is not new to me or to our leadership. As one of my closest friends and partners in ministry, I can assure you that I have total confidence in the redemptive process Andy went through under his leadership in Texas. In addition, for more than 16 years, I have watched Andy strive to live a godly life and proactively share what he has learned to help others.
On behalf of the elders, pastors, staff, and Trustees of Highpoint, I want to affirm that we are 100% committed to Andy, Amanda, and their family and his continued ministry at Highpoint Church. We ask for your prayers and support for all involved.
Woodson on Wednesday told CBS News that she only complied with Savage’s request for oral sex because she “was scared” and “in shock” and “didn’t understand what was happening.”
“An apology does not change the fact that what happened to me was against the law and that it was wrong,” Woodson added.