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Black Collar Crime: Highpoint Church Gives Chris Conlee a Standing Ovation


The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Last week, I wrote a post titled, Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal. I detailed the fall out from Andy Savage’s admission that he sexually assaulted a church girl twenty years ago. Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, received a standing ovation from congregants after he oh-so-humbly admitted the “sexual incident” twenty years before. Savage later resigned after public outrage over his tone-deafness and lack of true repentance and sorrow.

Yesterday, Savage’s fellow pastor Chris Conlee (who resigned last week) had an oh-so-touching parting moment with his church. Afterward, Conlee received a STANDING ovation, thus proving that the entire Highpoint congregation is deaf and blind, oblivious to how such crass behavior appears to outsiders. It’s evident that Highpoint and its leaders do not take sexual abuse seriously. Had they done so, they would have never hired Savage — the church new about the sexual abuse allegation when they hired him — and after hiring him anyway, the church should have fired Conlee for giving Savage cover. Instead, both men received ovations. Yes, both Savage and Conlee are gone, but there’s no sign from Highpoint that they understand their own culpability in this sordid story of sexual abuse and cover-up.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: Savage and Conlee will resurface somewhere, ready to shear more sheep on their road to personal fame and glory.


  1. Avatar
    Eric Bonetti

    This really touches on the power differential that is inherent in the pastoral relationship, which results in far too many unquestioningly following their clergyperson’s lead.

    In my own case, I have seen members of my former congregation follow the priest, Bob Malm, in telling me that I am unbalanced, mentally ill, and delusional, despite the fact that there is myriad written documentation of Bob’s shameless spiritual and emotional abuse, including shunning me and my family.

    Thus, I can only imagine how bad things are in a tightly knit evangelical church such as this.

    • Avatar

      Eric, I am sorry that you have been faced with the peculiar misery of shunning. One of the things that happened to me after leaving ‘faith’, was that I became more and more aware not that I was a sinner but that I was a person who lived without full knowledge and made mistakes along the way. In truth, it could be siad that I sought the dark as well as the light in my life. My Baptist-born faith proved to be central in that dark seeking. When we think we are turning to the light in religion (they always refer to it as light) we are truly turning to the dark. We stand and applaud those who lead us in darkness. The pastor priest dresses up just so, whether in robes or Sears suits and they assume a role of leadership. So to does the alpha coyote as it leads its followers into my field to rip lambs to shreds… blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a dark place is glory divine.
      Congratulations in being labeled unbalanced and ill by God-people who are spreading the true plan of God, who rejoice in a way that harms children and routinely demeans women.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser


      You are so right about the power differential. I grew up in a sect where congregants were taught to obey their pastors without reservations. Abuse was rife, and even good men had way too much power over people, myself included.

      Thanks for commenting.


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Bruce Gerencser