Tag Archive: Highpoint Church

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

wtf

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.

Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal

andy savageThe 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.

Earlier this year, Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee admitted to the church that he had sexually assaulted a teen girl years ago at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Savage called the assault a “sexual incident.” Afterward, the Highpoint congregation gave Savage an ovation for being so open and honest — feel free to puke. And with that, Savage continued to work for Highpoint Church. Sin confessed, onward, upward Buzz Savage. Highpoint, by the way, knew of the sexual assault before hiring Savage. What’s a little sexual assault among friends, right?

Several weeks later, after outrage over Savage’s tone-deafness and lack of true repentance and sorrow, Savage resigned. Jules Woodson, the woman Savage sexually assaulted years ago, reported the assault to pastor Larry Cotton, then pastor of Woodlands Parkway Baptist. Cotton, as Evangelicals are wont to do, did nothing. In February, Cotton, now pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, resigned, admitting that he should have reported Savage’s misconduct to law enforcement authorities. Savage will not be prosecuted for his alleged crimes due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Today, another domino fell in the Andy Savage scandal. Chris Conlee, the lead pastor and founder of Highpoint has resigned, saying that it was time for him to pass the baton to someone else.You can read Highpoint’s board’s statement: here. Again, prepare to puke. No mention is made of the Savage scandal.  Instead, the church plans to give Conlee a grand send-off, thanking him for all he has done for Highpoint.

The Andy Savage scandal is sickening from start to finish. No one, I repeat NO ONE, acted on behalf of the victim. Instead, what we see is cover-your-ass moves and attempts to move on without honestly and fully dealing with Savage’s criminal behavior. And here’s the thing: all of these “men of God” will land somewhere on their feet, ready and willing to WOW new churches. And the beat goes on, one victim at a time.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Andy Savage Gets Standing Ovation for Admitting He Sexually Assaulted a Teenager

pastor andy savage

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.

Twenty years ago, Andy Savage, teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, sexually assaulted a church teenager. He was never prosecuted for his crime. His church, at the time, Woodland Parkway Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, covered up his “sin.” Thanks to fine people at The Wartburg Watch, Savage’s victim’s story is being heard far and wide, forcing the not-so-good pastor Savage to shed crocodiles tears before his church as he confessed his crime. Astoundingly, the tone-deaf, clueless sheep at Highpoint Church gave their pastor a standing ovation.

Lisa Gutierrez and Adam Darby, reporters for the Kansas City Star, wrote:

Members of a Memphis megachurch stood and applauded their pastor on Sunday when he admitted to and apologized for engaging in a “sexual incident” with a high school student 20 years ago.

Jules Woodson, who accused Highpoint Church Pastor Andy Savage of sexually assaulting her when she was 17, told The New York Times she watched the moment, streamed live on the church’s YouTube page, in disbelief.

“It’s disgusting,” she said.

Though Savage, an author and podcast host, remains on the Highpoint staff, repercussions have begun for what Woodson says happened two decades ago.

The Times reported that on Monday afternoon, Christian publishing company Bethany House canceled the July publication of Savage’s book “The Ridiculously Good Marriage.”

Also on Monday, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported that the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, placed staff member Larry Cotton on leave.

Cotton was associate pastor at Woodland Parkway Baptist Church in Texas, where Savage worked at the time of the alleged assault.

Woodson has said a pastor at the church urged her to stay quiet about what happened.

“We grieve for what happened to Jules Woodson,” said a statement to the Commercial Appeal from Austin Stone’s communications director John Young. “… No person should ever be subject to sexual sin from any church leader.”

The church felt it was “appropriate to ensure (Cotton’s) qualifications for his current role of leadership,” the statement read.

“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.”

Woodson graphically shared her story on Friday with The Wartburg Watch, a site started by two Christian women who pursued their faith but saw “disturbing trends within Christendom.”

After she did, Savage went on social media to say he “had a sexual incident with a female high school senior” when he was a college student working for a Texas Baptist church now known as StoneBridge.

Savage, who helped found Highpoint Church, said he responded in a “biblical way.” He said he had apologized to Woodson immediately and asked for her forgiveness, Fox 13 in Memphis reported.

During his remarks on Sunday he did not tell the congregation what happened, but he said he had sinned and had not keep it a secret from Highpoint’s leaders. He also said he believed the episode had been “dealt with in Texas.”

“Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” he said, reading a statement off his cell phone.

“Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.”

When he finished, church members stood and applauded.

Chris Conlee, Highpoint’s lead pastor, said he supported Savage, one of the people “hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin.”

Woodson told The Times the episode had not been “dealt with” because it had never been reported to law enforcement authorities.

….

She told The Times she sent an email in December to Savage at Highpoint, asking him, “Do you remember that night that you were supposed to drive me home from church and instead drove me to a deserted back road and sexually assaulted me?”

She said she decided to go public when he didn’t respond after more than a month.

Here’s some of what she wrote in the blog post.

“One evening, in the early Spring of 1998, I was hanging out with my youth minister, Andy Savage, at my church, Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church located at 10801 Falconwing Drive,” she wrote.

“I was 17 years old at the time and a senior at The Woodlands High School. There had been multiple kids there at the church after school, but as the night got later I was the only student left, alone in the church with Andy. I did not have a vehicle at the church, so Andy offered to take me home to my Mom’s house. …

“We reached a dead end and he turned the truck around before putting it in park. We were stopped, and he turned the headlights off. Suddenly, Andy unzipped his jeans and pulled out his penis. He asked me to suck it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it. I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did. He started touching me over my bra and then lifted my bra up and began touching my breasts.

“After what I believe to have been about 5 minutes of this going on, he suddenly stopped, got out of the truck and ran around the back and to my side before falling to his knees. I quickly buttoned my shirt back up and got out of the truck. Now I was terrified and ashamed. I remember him pleading, while he was on his knees with his hands up on his head, ‘Oh my god, oh my god. What have I done? Oh my god, I’m so sorry. You can’t tell anyone …”

She said she felt manipulated and used, and that guilt and anxiety were “eating at her soul.” She said she took her accusations to the church’s leaders, but police were never called.

She said she was told that the associate pastor would inform the head pastor and the church would deal with the situation.

Savage, she said, went on as though nothing was outside of the norm, teaching a workshop titled “True Love Waits” about sexual purity and abstinence.

….

Other links to stories about Andy Savage:

The Pastor of Andy Savage’s Church Calls Bloggers and Social Media Critics ‘Hateful’

Amid #MeToo, Evangelicals Grapple With Misconduct In Their Own Churches