Embattled Highpoint Church Teaching Pastor Andy Savage will remain on leave as the church wraps up an investigation of his ministry sparked by his public confession that he had a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old while he was her youth pastor.
The Tennessee church had initially announced that the investigation, which is being conducted by an independent counsel, would be completed by March 1. But in an announcement Sunday, it said the investigation is now "wrapping up."
The full statement reads: "We want to update you regarding Andy Savage. The investigation is wrapping up and the initial findings give us assurance that we can begin the long process of moving forward as a church. Just as the culture around us is waking up to the suffering expressed by the courageous voices of the #metoo movement, we are taking very seriously our commitment to fully understand how our church should minister to the needs of the people we impact. Andy Savage remains on leave. We will release further updates as the situation requires."
Savage was forced to publicly discuss his past in early January after an online uproar over revelations by his now grown-up victim, Jules Woodson, who told The Wartburg Watch how Savage coerced her into performing oral sex on him 20 years ago. The incident occurred on a dark Texas dirt road that he turned onto rather than taking her straight home to her mother's house, she said.
Savage has stated that he believes it was consensual. He also noted that quickly repented after the incident.
"As a college student on staff at a church in Texas more than 20 years ago, I regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church. I apologized and sought forgiveness from her, her parents, her discipleship group, the church staff, and the church leadership, who informed the congregation. In agreement with wise counsel, I took every step to respond in a biblical way," he said in a statement about the incident that took place while he served at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now known as StoneBridge Church.
"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," he said.
Savage, who is currently married and a father of five boys, said he shared his past with his wife, Amanda, before they were engaged and also disclosed the incident to Highpoint Church Memphis Lead Pastor Chris Conlee and other key leaders prior to joining the staff at the church.
Conlee and the leadership of Highpoint Church have defended Savage, saying he has "total confidence in the redemptive process Andy went through under his leadership in Texas" and that he's "100 percent committed" to Savage and his continued ministry at Highpoint.