MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WHDH) — A megachurch pastor received a standing ovation from his congregation Sunday after he admitted to sexually assaulting a teenager 20 years ago.
Former congregant Jules Woodson accused Highpoint Church pastor Andy Savage of forcing her to perform oral sex on him in 1998 when he was driving Woodson, then 17 years old, home from church. Woodson said Savage, who was 22 at the time, was her youth minister at a church in Texas.
“I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it,” Woodson wrote in a blog post that outlined the assault. “I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me.”
Savage addressed the accusation during his Sunday service, which was streamed online. He admitted to what he called a “sexual incident,” saying he had sinned and taken responsibility by telling church members.
Congregants stood and applauded Savage for about 20 seconds after his admission, the New York Times reported.
Woodson told the paper that she found the standing ovation “disgusting,” and pointed out that he pleaded with her not to tell anyone as soon as she stopped performing oral sex on him.
“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 Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you.’ He said that several times.”
Before going public with her accusation, Woodson said she sent a message to Savage’s church email account in December to ask if he remembered the incident, but said he never replied.
News of the incident prompted Christian book publisher Bethany House to cancel publication of Savage’s upcoming book, entitled “The Ridiculously Good Marriage.” It was set to be released on July 3.