“Devastating news today,” Jules Woodson tweeted over the weekend.
“My abuser is back in the pulpit.”
Woodson was responding to news that Andy Savage, her former youth pastor, reportedly is planning to start a new church.
Last year, Woodson drew attention to the problem of abuse in evangelical churches when she spoke out about being sexually abused by Savage when she was a member of the Texas youth group he led two decades ago.
She was 17 at the time. He was a college student in his 20s. Under Texas law, sexual contact between clergy and someone for whom they are a “spiritual adviser” can be considered sexual assault.
Savage, who went on to become teaching pastor at a Memphis, Tennessee, megachurch, eventually confessed to “a sexual incident.” His confession was met with applause from the congregation at Highpoint Church.
He later resigned after a leave of absence and investigation.
Now Savage reportedly is planning to start a new church in Memphis.
And Woodson is worried about the message that sends to those who have experienced abuse— and those who would abuse.
“This has never been just about me. This is about all survivors,” she told Religion News Service.
“And it sets a dangerous precedent when you have someone who has admittedly committed a crime—broken moral, ethical, lawful qualifications—and here they are, 18 months (after resigning from Highpoint) later, starting a church.”
Watch Keep, a blog advocating for abuse survivors in the church, posted audio Saturday (Oct. 26) of Savage reportedly speaking at an interest meeting for a new congregation in Memphis called Grace Valley Church.
The website, gracevalleymemphis.org, links to a Google form that asks those who visit the site for their names, contact information and information about spouses or children. It also offers opportunities to volunteer or submit prayer requests.
That form includes a note saying it was “created within andysavage.com,” which is the former pastor’s personal website.
Savage could not be reached for comment.
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SOURCE: Charisma News