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Andy Savage Who Sexually Assaulted a Minor as a Youth Pastor Starts a New Church

“Devastating news today. My abuser is back in the pulpit.”

These are the haunting words of Jules Woodson, a woman who was sexually assaulted by her youth pastor, Andy Savage, in 1998. She was 17 at the time.

According to recent filings from the state of Tennessee, Savage, the former teaching pastor of Highpoint Church, is starting a new church. In February of 2018, Savage admitted to sexual misconduct with Woodson and was forced to resign from his post. The news of Savage starting a new church comes fewer than two years after his resignation when he told his church congregation he would be leaving ministry:

“After much prayer and counsel, I now believe it’s appropriate for me to resign from my staff position at Highpoint Church and step away from ministry in order to do everything I can to right the wrongs of the past,” Savage wrote in his resignation letter, adding:

Apologies are important, but more is required. I know that stepping down once, or even a second time, still doesn’t make things right for Jules. But addressing my own acts of abuse this way acknowledges the importance of confronting abuse in our culture and in the Church at large.

Christian survivors of sexual assault, including evangelical Bible teacher Beth Moore, rallied around Woodson. On Twitter, Moore wrote, “Jules, I can’t imagine how devastating that must be. I am so sorry.”

As we continue to have discussions about the #MeToo movement, we can’t forget that sexual assault and abuse of power happens in the #ChurchToo. If you are a Christian who has survived sexual abuse, assault or harassment, you’re not alone. If you’ve been invalidated, asked to instantly forgive your assailant or have been shamed into silence, we want you to know you deserved better.

In response to the outpouring of support, Woodson tweeted:

Thank you to everyone who has offered encouragement & support over the last couple of days. I am hanging in there. My shock and sadness is turning to frustration and anger. What we are seeing, should not be…Not for me, not for any survivor. I will not stay silent! #ChurchToo

If this news is hard for you or you are a Christian struggling with the impact of sexual abuse, know you are not alone. To connect with people who have been there, post a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #TraumaSurvivors. You can also reach the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

The Mighty reached out to Jules Woodson and Andy Savage for comment, but have not heard back.

Header image via Andy Savage Instagram