Andy Savage steps down as pastor of Highpoint Church following investigation

(YouTube/Highpoint Church)Pastor Andy Savage appears in a screen capture of a video from Highpoint Memphis Church.

Highpoint Church has announced on Tuesday that Andy Savage has resigned from his post as a teaching pastor following an investigation into his sexual assault of a teenage girl in Texas 20 years ago.

In a statement, the Memphis megachurch noted that the investigation found no other instances of abuse, but the "leadership team at Highpoint Church agrees that Andy's resignation is appropriate."

Savage drew national headlines in January when he got a standing ovation from the congregation after confessing to a "sexual incident" with a teenager in his former youth group.

The victim, Jules Woodson, was 17 at the time, while Savage was 22 and was serving as the youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church near Houston, now known as Stonebridge Church.

The incident was first brought to light after Woodson shared the story ion the Wartburg Watch website. In the blog, Woodson recounted that Savage had taken her to a secluded area when he was supposed to be driving her home from church. She narrated that Savage asked her to perform oral sex before changing his mind later and telling her not to say anything.

In a radio interview shortly after the blog was publishes, Savage said that he remembered the encounter as a spontaneous and consensual situation.

Apart from the statement from the church, Savage also posted a personal letter on the church website on Tuesday. The pastor stated in the letter that the opinions expressed over the past two-plus months have helped him "gain perspective that I simply could not have achieved on my own. I have come to understand Jules' vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up."

"While Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through," he said, as reported by Commercial Appeal.

Woodson issued a statement on Wednesday, saying Savage's decision to resign from Highpoint was an important step toward solving a systematic problem in churches. She said that the conversation must not end there and that the resignation should serve as a "wake-up call for everyone."

"There is a systemic problem within the institution of the church that props people up in places of power and gives them immunity based on cheap grace and a call for forgiveness," she added.

Last month, Larry Cotton, the pastor to whom Woodson reported the sexual assault, resigned from his post at an Austin, Texas church following an investigation similar to the one conducted at Highpoint.

Cotton had been on staff at Woodlands at the time of the abuse but did not report the crime to the authorities. He said that he had come to understand the "weight of my mistakes."

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