After decades of silence, Tennessee megachurch pastor Andy Savage went on a conservative radio show Thursday, and spent over an hour reminiscing about that night in 1998 when he, then a 22-year-old pastor, sexually assaulted one of his 17-year-old congregants. Savage came under fire when his accuser, Jules Woodson, came forward last week.
“The atmosphere was very flirtatious,” Savage said. “That flirtatious environment continued to move forward, which led to us making out, some heavy petting.”
“It was a very mutual, spontaneous, physical moment, and our hormones were obviously very much in that moment, and she performed oral sex.”
Finding the entire show is proving elusive, but Memphis’s local ABC affiliate captured some appalling tidbits. The chuckling is particularly gross.
Savage goes on to insist that the forced oral sex wasn’t his idea at all, and maintains that it was all consensual, basically placing the blame on Woodson, stopping just shy of saying she insisted on fellating him.
”I did not force anything. I did not ask for anything. I did not request anything. This was a very mutual, organic moment that we shared.”
The disgraced pastor also maintains that he does “not believe he broke the law,” but the Christian Post isn’t so sure.
Texas Law also identifies as assault a sexual encounter that involves "a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser."
Legal recourse (or lack thereof) aside, Woodson’s allegations are having quite the ripple effect. Thursday evening, Savage’s employer, Highpoint Church, announced a leave of absence, just four days after the congregation gave the pastor a standing ovation for his confession. And as previously reported here, Savage’s latest book, The Ridiculously Perfect Marriage, has been pulled by his publisher.
Chris Conlee, Savage’s current business partner and fellow pastor at Highline, has also had his book pulled.
Conlee has also been relieved of his speaking gig at an upcoming Christian conference, in light of the scandal.
Savage’s supervisor at the time of the 1998 assault, Larry Cotton, was placed on administrative leave on Saturday as his current church investigates his role in the coverup. That’s right, Saturday. Just one day after Woodson came forward, and one day before Savage confessed to cheers and applause!
The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, placed Larry Cotton on leave in connection with allegations made by Jules Woodson against Savage.
"We grieve for what happened to Jules Woodson," the statement reads. "... No person should ever be subject to sexual sin from any church leader."
The statement said that in light of the seriousness of the accusations, Austin Stone felt it was "appropriate to ensure (Cotton's) qualifications for his current role of leadership. In order to remove our potential bias from the situation, we have placed (Cotton) on a leave of absence while an investigation by a third-party organization is undertaken. We will provide a full report to the church after its completion."
Savage’s Twitter account is also currently on lockdown.