Survivors of church sex abuse have gathered outside Highpoint Church on Jan. 29 to call on the Tennessee megachurch to fire a pastor accused of sexual assault when he was still working for another church in Texas 20 years ago.
Three weeks after Jules Woodson came out with sexual assault allegations against Pastor Andy Savage over what happened when he was her youth pastor 20 years ago, protesters demanded that Highpoint Church fire him to give "Justice for Jules." The embattled pastor has since asked for forgiveness in front of his congregation and has been placed on paid administrative leave while the situation is being evaluated, WREG relayed.
David Brown, a church sex abuse survivor who launched the SNAP Network, said keeping Savage in his position sends the wrong message. Kenny Stubblefield, another survivor and local activist, said it was about time to show more concern for the victim rather than the abuser.
"It's time to stop being so concerned about the abuser and be more concerned about the abused," said Stubblefield. "What they've said about the situation is that Highpoint is a safe place for abusers and a dangerous place for victims to come to. They should not feel safe there."
Highpoint Church, on the other hand, has issued a statement to WREG in response to the demonstration. The Memphis megachurch acknowledged that what happened to Woodson was wrong but assured people that it was taking the situation seriously and has in fact made steps to evaluate the church's actions in light of Savage's ministry.
Meanwhile, Highpoint administrator Jim Pritchard said the investigation into Savage's ministry is expected to be concluded by March 1. While he did not release additional details, he clarified that there was a separate investigation looking into the megachurch's protocol for protecting children which will start after the completion of their investigation, USA Today reported.
Savage has explained that he thought his encounter with Woodson was mutually consensual. He also said he had no intention of hiding the incident and had in fact informed Highpoint about it when he was hired.