WATCH: Memphis megachurch gives standing ovation to pastor after apology for sex assault
January 08, 2018
A Memphis megachurch gave a standing ovation to a pastor after he admitted to sexually assaulting a teenage girl just days before he conducted a workshop promoting abstinence.
Andy Savage apologized Sunday to his congregation Highpoint Church, after news reports revealed the woman's allegations against the pastor -- who has admitted they're true.
The woman said she was 17 years old and a high school senior when she met Savage, who was then in college and working as a staffer at a Texas Baptist church now known as StoneBridge.
She told the Wartbridge Watch website that Savage drove her 20 years ago to a remote area, where he forced her to give him oral sex, fondled her and then jumped out of the vehicle, fell to his knees and begged forgiveness.
The woman said the incident caused lasting psychological harm, and she has recently filed a police report about the incident.
"I took every step to respond in a biblical way," Savage said, reading from a prepared statement. "I resigned from ministry and moved back home to Memphis. I accepted full responsibility for my actions. I was and remain very remorseful for the incident and deeply regret the pain I caused her and her family, as well as the pain I caused the church and God's kingdom."
Savage told congregants he had never been involved in another similar situation, and he claimed to have notified his wife before asking her to marry him and lead pastor Chris Conlee before joining HighPoint.
"I was wrong and I accepted responsibility for my actions," Savage said. "I was sorry then and remain sorry today."
The pastor said he complied with the advice he was given by church leaders, but he now admits more could have been done to help the victim.
"I am truly sorry more was not done," Savage said. "Until now, I did not know that there was unfinished business with (the victim), so I say today ... I am truly sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward your forgiveness and healing."
After reading the statement, congregants rose to their feet in applause that lasted for nearly 30 seconds, and the lead pastor placed his arm around Savage's shoulder.
"What Andy and I both know is that the support that you gave is also for (the victim)," Conlee said.