Group wants Memphis pastor fired for sexual misconduct

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a protest against Highpoint Church teaching pastor Andy Savage on Monday morning.

In a statement released Sunday, SNAP said it wants the pastor removed from ministry for what he did to Jules Woodson decades ago. A small group of SNAP members appeared outside Highpoint Church to promote their message.

Officials of Highpoint Church have not removed Andy Savage from ministry despite the admission by Savage that he initiated sexual activity with Woodson, at the time a 17-year-old youth group member. This was an abuse of his power as an authority figure and should disqualify him from continuing to hold such a position.

Earlier in January, Savage admitted to sexual misconduct with then 17-year-old Woodson 20 years ago while he was a youth pastor in Texas. Savage referred to the misconduct as an 'incident' while addressing his congregation.

"In hindsight, I see that more could have been done for Jules," Savage said earlier in January. "I'm truly sorry that more was not done."

Woodson shared her story with WMC Action News 5 earlier this month after her story caught national attention.

"It's very hard to tell your story. It's very hard to speak up, especially when you feel pressured by the church to be silent," Woodson said.

Savage said he disclosed the incident to Highpoint lead pastor Chris Conlee before he was hired.

"What message is Conlee sending to the membership - we're going to rally around the offending minister?" SNAP volunteer leader David Brown said.

Highpoint announced that Savage is still on a leave of absence as a lawyer reviews the events. Savage no longer appears on the church's website.

Highpoint takes this situation very seriously.  As announced earlier, Andy Savage is on leave of absence from ministry at Highpoint Church.  We have engaged Scott Fredricks, a partner with the law firm of Cantey Hanger in Fort Worth, Texas for the purpose of evaluating the church's actions with respect to Andy Savage's ministry at Highpoint. Mr. Fredricks is a respected Christian attorney with experience guiding churches and other organizations through similar circumstances.  His investigation will include a review of past and current actions of the church and its leadership concerning Andy Savage's ministry, the impact of those actions, and advising Highpoint as it makes decisions moving forward.

Administrative Pastor Jim Pritchard said the church expects Fredrick's investigation to conclude by the end of February.

The church said it is also sorry for the pain Woodson suffered and support SNAP's right to protest.

We respect and are thankful for that the rights of people to peacefully protest.  We too are very sorry for the pain Ms Woodson has suffered and pray for God's healing touch.

However, that investigation isn't good enough for this group.

"If they want to have it done right, get an independent group, somebody from DHS, from the attorney general's office to investigate," Brown said.

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