A Tennessee megachurch pastor lashed out at critics who shamed congregants for cheering after his colleague admitted to sexually assaulting a teenage girl decades ago.
Andy Savage apologized earlier this month to his congregation at Highpoint Church after news reports revealed the woman’s allegations against the pastor — who admitted they’re true.
The pastor didn't reveal details of the "sexual incident" to congregants, who gave him a standing ovation that was widely reported and criticized.
Savage then announced he was taking a leave of absence from the church, where lead pastor Chris Conlee chastised critics Sunday in the first service since the announcement, reported The Friendly Atheist blog.
"What happened 20 years ago was wrong," Conlee said. "What is happening with bloggers and social media critics being so hateful is also wrong."
Conlee then cited the Bible verse 1 Peter 5:8 to compare his critics to Satan.
"'Be sober-minded. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around — watch this — like a roaring lion,'" Conlee said. "He is not a roaring lion. He is like a roaring lion. There is only one roaring lion, and that is the lion of the tribe of Judah."
The lead pastor insisted he and Savage had been right to keep the allegations from congregants before the victim came forward with her story.
"I ask you this question: What do you want us to do?" Conlee said. "If you were watching a movie right now of this story, and in this particular movie we happen to be the main characters, what would you want us to do? Do you want us to compromise and cave in to the critics? Do you want us to quit? See, that’s what the enemy wants."
Conlee then patted himself on the back for his handling of the issue.
"What you want us to do is be people of incredible integrity," he said. "You want us to be people who are sold out, committed to doing everything we possibly can. To respond the way Jesus would respond. To speak truth in love. To have that perfect balance and tension that exists there. And so here’s what I want you to know: As your leader, as your pastor, I am committed to fighting the good fight. But watch this — don’t don’t get mistaken about the word fight — I’m committed to fighting the good fight, in the right way, at the right time, with the right heartbeat."