Andy Savage’s website includes several blog posts about how to be a good parent and husband, but Jules Woodson says that he sexually assaulted her while she was a minor and he was her youth pastor at a Southern Baptist Church (SBC) in Texas. Woodson’s story, first told at WatchKeep and later featured in a New York Times video op-ed, is haunting. Woodson’s voice quivers as she describes Savage offering to take her home, passing the turn to her house, then driving down a dark road before stopping and crudely asking her to perform oral sex.

When Savage publicly addressed this history to his congregation at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tenn., he said, “I never wanted to minimize anything about what’s taken place.” But Savage referred to his assault as “a sexual incident” for which he apologized to Woodson and her family. He followed what he says was a biblical pattern for repentance. “I never sought to cover this up,” he said.

Savage left that church in Texas — with a going-away party — without facing criminal charges or consequences from the SBC, allowing him to eventually continue his ministry at Highpoint. It wasn’t until countless people condemned his initial apology that he resigned. “When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change,” Savage wrote in his resignation letter.

Russ Meek

Associate Professor of Old Testament at William Tennent School of Theology