TX pastor placed on leave in connection to sexual assault allegations against Highpoint pastor
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Texas pastor has been put on leave from his church in connection with the sexual assault allegations surrounding pastor Andy Savage at Memphis's Highpoint Church.
Over the weekend, a woman stepped forward and said Savage sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager back in 1998. At the time, Savage was working as a youth pastor at a Texas church.
"In hindsight, I see more could've been done for Jules. I'm truly sorry that more was not done," said Savage in a message to the congregation of Highpoint Church on Sunday.
Savage admitted a sexual "incident" took place and said he disclosed the misconduct to Highpoint Church staff before being hired.
"This is something I struggled with all my life," said Jules Woodson in an interview with WMC Action News 5 on Saturday.
Woodson claims a cover up took place and that leaders at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church never called authorities. The church is called Stonebridge church now, and Senior Pastor Steve Bradley released the following statement Monday.
"We will be issuing a formal statement but thought that it was important first to discuss this matter with our church family, which I did Sunday during our worship services," Bradley said. "This happened twenty years ago and though I was not a part of every meeting to suggest that I or anyone else on the staff at Stonebridge Church participated in a conspiracy to cover-up this sexual misconduct is simply not accurate. After Andy Savage confessed and asked for forgiveness from the victim, her parents, her discipleship group, and the church staff, he was terminated. We were heartbroken twenty years ago when this happened, and we remain heartbroken for Jules, her family, and all those impacted."
Bradley's statement did not say whether the church reported the matter to Texas authorities at the time. WMC Action News 5 followed up to ask but did not receive a response.
Meanwhile, The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas has put pastor Larry Cotton on leave from his role in their organization. Cotton's LinkedIn page indicates he was an associate pastor at Stonebridge Church from June of 1995 until June of 2010.
"In light of the seriousness of these accusations against Larry Cotton, we feel that due diligence is appropriate to ensure Larry's qualification for his current role of leadership. In order to remove our potential bias from the situation, we have placed Larry 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," said John Yeng, director of communications with The Austin Stone Community Church.
WMC Action News 5 reached out to Cotton independently for comment and have not heard back.
Remarks of both support and criticism continue to flood Highpoint Church's social media page. WMC Action News 5 reached out Monday to see if Highpoint Church in Memphis would formally comment on Savage's employment and where they go from here. Administrative Pastor Jim Pritchard released the following statement:
We are praying about and working on the appropriate steps in this situation to honor the Lord. We will have further information, but just not at this time.
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