I think my resignation was the only way to avoid bloodshed. Eduard Shevardnadze
A special thanks goes out to Jules, Amy, Kenny and Brooks:
I am honored to know all of you. You have brought joy, faith, expertise and humor to a difficult process. Thank you for putting up with my multitude of “Do you think we should…?” questions. Jules, you are my hero. I have learned so much from listening and watching you. Kenny and Brooks- remember when I told you a couple of years ago you would help other abuse victims? That is another prophecy I got right. Amy, thank you for all you know as well as your spot on instinct. We sure had fun in NYC!
Jules’ Woodson response to the resignation of Andy Savage:
This is Jules’ statement which is being given to news outlets. I am breaking it up into smaller segments to make it easier to read in a post.
While yesterday’s announcement is a step in the right direction, the conversation must not end here. Instead, this needs to be a wakeup call for everyone.
There is a systemic problem within the institution of the church that props people up in places of power and gives them immunity based on cheap grace and a call for forgiveness. This has bred a culture ripe for abuse and cover-up. Repentance, accountability and justice should not be contrived.
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. My hope in speaking out is that this opens up the conversation and empowers others. We, as Christians, should be leading the way in recognizing, preventing and handling abuse.
Genuine repentance is not demonstrated by one decision but by many decisions that, over a period of time and born out of humility, transform the culture of the church. As Jesus demonstrated, the church should be the safest and most affirming community for the vulnerable and the wounded. This announcement is one step forward and I am hopeful there are many more steps to follow.
Jules is right. This is one step in the right direction but there is more to be done. The following are some of my observations and opinions from the last 3 months. I can assure you that, never in my wildest dreams, did I imagine the course of events that have transpired since Jules’ initial phone call in December.
Pastors who sexually engage with those under their care and those who cover it up should be banned from the pulpit. The church should, at the minimum, have the same moral standards of secular institutions as opposed to far lower moral standards.`
Jules is correct. She is not the only one who has endured assault from inside the church. My husband often says that the church has lower standards than the secular institutions while simultaneously claiming moral superiority. Teachers who have sex with students are sent to jail, no matter their age. Recently, a 22 year old school teacher was arrested for having *consensual* sex with an 18 year old student. The student and his family protested her arrest. However, it is against the law and the Superintendent said it well. Church leaders, memorize this! Secular schools say they have a sacred trust to students. Do you believe the same? I wonder…
“As educators, we are entrusted to protect and educate all of our students and know there are certain boundaries that can never be crossed,” wrote Duarte in the letter. “Also, we will not tolerate any behavior that compromises the safety or well-being of our students. I hope you will not let the misconduct of this one individual cast a shadow over all of our staff members who demonstrate their commitment to our students every day.”
Superintendent Moore added, “Whether someone is 21, 41, or 61, the moment they are a part of a school as a student teacher, mentor, or coach, they enter into a sacred trust with our students and community.”
Church: Are we to have lower standards than our public school system? Do we use repentance as the get out of jail free card?
Andy Savage should have resigned. This was not an act of heroism. He simply had no choice after Larry Cotton’s resignation and the New York Times video. It should have occurred on the first day he got the email from Jules. Instead, we had to hear of his sickening account of his supposedly *consensual,* organic experience with Jules. I will never use organic in the same way. Yesterday, I laughed and shook my head when I picked up some organic eggs.
Jules Woodson did not consent to have sex with Andy Savage and nonconsensual sex is a crime.
Now, assuming that Highpoint Church is fine with their bottom feeder standards for sex between clergy and their students, let’s go one step deeper. Many people at Highpoint brought up the age of consent, claiming it was 17 in Texas. They don’t get it. Jules has expressed her frustration regarding this entire argument because she did NOT give Savage consent to expose himself and make her do things. Nonconsensual sex is a molestation and subject to the law.
Let’s go over this again. She was driven down a dark dirt road and her youth pastor told her to perform oral sex. She was scared, confused, trying to figure out if this meant he loved her so this act was normal, etc. Had Savage said to her, prior to driving down that dark road, “Jules, I want you to perform oral sex on me* she would have said “No.” People, if you doubt this then you are saying that Savage is so *hunky* that no woman would turn him down. You know, deep down inside, that is simply not true.
To make things clearer, the next day, Jules went to Larry Cotton and had to tell him everything that occurred. It was hard and Larry Cotton has admitted this. So, she really wanted it and couldn’t wait for more? Baloney! She was in pain and would continue to be in pain for the next 20 years.
Why is it wrong for the secular news media to critique the church?
First things first. The small team of folks, the ones Jules initially contacted and who stuck with her during this ordeal, are Christians. If anyone doubts that, give me a call and I will state my beliefs in historical Christianity. We started TWW as an *insiders.* We are as much a part of the church as Billy Graham.
However, for those of you who think it is just plain awful that the secular news media is involved, here are two important considerations.
- Jesus said that the church was to be a light on the hill so that people would see our good works and come to know Him. We do NOT get to demand what people are allowed to see when they look at us. So, it is incumbent on all of us to act like Christians so that people can see our love. There was far too little of that love shown from Highpoint members and pastors and it makes me wonder what is being taught about the servant-like nature of the love of Jesus. You know, turn the other cheek and give him your coat thing?
- Have you read the entire Bible, especially the hard stuff like in the Old Testament? When Israel screwed up, God sent in the pagan hordes who stuck rings in the noses of the Israelites and led them off to captivity due to their disobedience. He used nonbelievers since the Israelites were not getting the job done.
I learned something from the New York Times team. I watched how kind they were to Jules. I saw how they elicited her story in a non coercive and thoughtful manner. I remember thinking that Jules got more love there than she did from the Highpoint troops. How could any Christian support such despicable tweets, even if they loved Andy Savage? One guy even claimed he was going to tell the world what a bad girl Jules was as a teen! the Jezebel card! This is Christian behavior?
Chris Conlee failed as a leader and now seems to performing doctrinal gymnastics.
Conlee should have prevented the standing ovation. Instead, my guess is that he approved of the ovation and may have even encouraged it. He embarrassed himself and the church in the eyes of the world. One does not give a standing ovation when a pastor confesses to having sex with a student. Why do I even have to say this? That service was bizarre, including the female singer who was crying and screaming the Andy was worthy. What was that? A real leaders would have come forward and stopped it in its tracks.
Conlee should have been the first to tell his people to stop with the mean tweets. He should have been the first to correct that obviously deficient theology that was getting thrown around. I could write several posts on the that alone. Instead, it appears he surrounded the pastors with a bunch of bodyguards so they could go on the doomed to failure offensive.
Conlee participated in the nonsense of blaming the bloggers, calling them hateful for merely speaking the truth. He spent time gushing over a prophecy he got from IHOP and somehow managed to get his church out of the SBC. He should have been spending time helping his members handle things in a biblical way.
There is something I don’t understand and I would imagine there are some thoughtful Highpoint members who don’t either. When this whole thing started in January, Highpoint was a member of The Gospel Coalition, a hard core Calvinist organization. It was also a member of the Southern Baptist Convention which has both Calvinist and nonCalvinist views.
Suddenly, Highpoint is not a member of either group and Conlee has been doing the prophecy deal with IHOP. Let me be blunt. It is rare to shift doctrinal stances so rapidly. Is Conlee having a midlife crisis? I heard his sermon in Sunday, 3/18/18. There was no carefully thought-out, reasoned explanation given for this about face. I stand by my post on 3/16/18 until something more intelligent is communicated. My guess is that Highpoint is going charismatic. If not, then why did Conlee tell his congregation about a prophecy given to him by IHOP which admits that between 80-90% of their prophecies are wrong?
The Highpoint statement: Is Andy Savage a chronic liar?
This is significant. Let’s look at the Highpoint statement.
Before employing Andy Savage, the church leadership was informed of his past with Jules Woodson and we understood that it had been thoroughly addressed at the time. We have since learned that this was not the case, and we have accepted Andy’s resignation.
Throughout this process, I have questioned whether or not Savage ever told the truth to his subsequent churches. We heard that his next church after he left Woodlands, Germantown, did not know what had happened. It is now evident that Highpoint didn’t or else they are simply rats deserting a sinking ship. What gives?
On the investigation conclusion: No more standing ovations for sex abuse
The lawyers state that they were unable to find any further examples of Savage’s abuse. From my point of view, that does not mean there were none, just none to be found in 2 months of looking. Given Savage’s history of not telling the full story, who knows? That is the best I can do at this time. I hope it is true.
Here is where I get mad. Darn straight Highpoint acted defensive. Defensive and stupid. Who in their right mind gives a standing ovation to a guy who said he had sex with a high school student when he was a youth pastor? Not only that, I am totally convinced that this standing ovation was orchestrated by the leadership since I predicted they would do this in a tweet the day before it happened. Unlike most IHOP prophecies, it came true! This was a despicable move which I believe was planned by the leadership. It wasn’t just defensive. It was despicable and appeared abusive to the victim and most of the onlooking world. Too bad the lawyers toned it down. (Lawyers: Did you have to use Christianese? “Humbly?” It sounds so fake.)
Highpoint leadership has come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced, and humbly commits to develop a deeper understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse.
Andy Savage’s statement: the good and the bad
He stepped down. Stop for a minute and take that in.
We have been doing this gig for 9 years. Look at CJ Mahaney. That man is still running around being a pastor, speaking at conferences and playing kissy face with Al Mohler. We documented problem after problem after coverup. Lawsuits were filed and never heard due to a state of limitations.
No matter what happens in the future with Andy Savage, Chris Conlee, Larry Cotton and Steve Bradley, Savage’s resignation happened and Larry Cotton’s resignation happened. They both loved their jobs and giving them up was a blow. Also, Savage will always be known as the guy who had oral sex with a high school student when he was an ordained youth pastor.
The bad from the statement by Andy Savage
- When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change:
He is emphasizing that he is now a morally changed person.Yet, this morally changed person did not respond to Jules’ email in December.
- as if getting my own life in order:
Once again, he is letting us know that he is a good person. Sorry Andy, your life was not, and is not, in order or this would not have happened
- the first was my inappropriate relationship with Jules, which was not only immoral, but meets the definition of abuse of power since I was her youth pastor; therefore, when our relationship became physical, there could be no claim of mutual consent. Another wrong was the failure to follow due process afterward; Jules deserved, and did not get, a full investigation and proper response 20 years ago:
This is an interesting statement. At first, he downplays the assault, calling it an inappropriate relationship. There was no relationship, just sex. This was about unwanted, nonconsensual sex. However, he goes on to accurately list several things and I had some hope the statement would be redeemed. However, he pulls the rug out at the end saying that Jules didn’t get a proper response and investigation. He should have said that the police should have been notified. Instead, it is left up in the air. For example, he could just be saying ” Larry should have done better.” He avoided the potential criminality of the action altogether. The fact that he doesn’t mention the police makes me wonder if he would call the police if this sort of thing had happened in his Highpoint youth program.
- Admittedly, at 22 and in my first job,: Once again, he is playing the *I was a kid* card. This needs to stop. 22 year old teachers go to jail for this stuff and he is insulting the integrity and professionalism of 22 year old folks who would never do something like this ands who know it is wrong.
- I truly believed that I was being guided through proper steps for restitution, which included resigning my position and moving from Houston to Memphis. Those steps seemed significant at the time, and I trusted in the process assigned to me.: I am getting tired of his “blame the wise counsel” shtick. Here is where he loses me. Let’s say he was really stupid, unlike most 22 year old professionals. Eventually, he should have grown up and realized that things were not handled properly. So, did he seek justice when he got smart, like at 30? No, he didn’t. Let’s assume he is really, really stupid. Did he realize that something was wrong when Jules sent him an email in December? Nope! Did he tell leaders of Germantown Church what he had done? No. Why not since he believed it was handled well. I beleive that he knew things weren’t handled appropriately and he acted as if he were dodging a bullet.
Also, I would love to see any document that spelled out the process of his restitution because I don’t believe that there was any such process. Maybe someone can prove me wrong?
- I know that stepping down once, or even a second time: Now this is interesting. Savage really didn’t step down in any significant fashion the first time as we documented in our posts. By most accounts that I have read, he was back working for a church around 4 months later.
I wonder how long he will remain out of ministry this time?
My concern for Highpoint Church and their understanding of sex abuse is longstanding and give me pause as I consider the safety of members of that church.
I am glad they are reviewing their policies with MinistrySafe. I don’t know how that group handles underlying assumptions but there is no question in my mind that there is a theological, as well as a practical, problem in Highpoint’s view of confession of sin, repentance, restitution and restoration when it comes to sex abuse.
Sex abuse is not just another sin like cussing at the driver who cuts you off. It runs very deep and there is a reason that the *abuse* word is used and TV shows like Law and Order SVU stay on the air for 18 years. The abuser is troubled and the victim bears the scars for years.
This should not be treated as “all is forgiven, let’s get on with it.” All sins are forgiven with true repentance but some sins are crimes and many sins are so concerning that they are disqualifying. For example, school teachers, who are sex offenders, can never be teachers again. There is a reason for that. Why don’t churches have such rules?
I had a discussion with Highpoint’s Pastor Jim Pritchard in 2016. I have never forgotten it because red flags went up. This is from a post in11/2016 Highpoint Church Memphis Has a Convicted Statutory Rapist Leading Worship.
Pastor Pritchard told me that any instance of child sex abuse is a crime and it should be reported to the authorities. He then stated that the church wanted to bring healing to the victims and felt this could be accomplished by being reconciled with Scott Payne. This was not the intent of the victims and they expressed this in their responses.
However, there was a part of that conversation that kept niggling at the back of my mind. He also said, seemingly out of nowhere, that God could forgive anybody, even a pedophile and that God loves them and can heal them. I remember thinking, “Where did that come from?” and chalked it up to anxiety about the subject matter.
Yesterday, this conversation came back to me when I learned from Amy Smith and the three victims that Highpoint Church Memphis has a man who helps lead worship who was convicted of aggravated statutory rape in 2009 and is on the registered sex offender’s list.
Here is the issue. All sins are forgivable with true repentance but some sins are so bad that the person who commits them must not be given a front and center role. What does doing so say to those who are watching and have been abused, still suffering mightily from that abuse? At the time, I thought Pritchard was just talking about that offender. Could he have been thinking of Savage? Even worse, could he have been thinking about more people? Let’s see if MinistrySafe can figure this one out.
Why is Steve Bradley getting a pass?
Are there no people who can hold him accountable? Stonebridge is the church (renamed) who allowed for Jules Woodson to be so badly treated. Unless this is dealt with, Stonebridge appears to be a church which does not care about victims of abuse.
Many, many thanks to the many people who cared enough for Jules to be proactive in their support.
So many people helped this process. I remember staring in amazement at tweets a few days after our initial post. People were stating they were calling publishers, starting petitions, arranging for protests, etc. We didn’t ask for people to do this. To be perfectly truthful, I hadn’t even thought of it! We were just trying to figure out how to manage the unexpected hoopla with the media, etc.
I wonder if you all understand it was your compassionate response to Jules that got the attention of the nation. Many people saw your kindness and support which stood out in stark contrast to the hostility that came out of Highpoint Church. It gives me such hope that there are so many of us out here who want to see things change in the church. We need one another and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
In closing, a special thanks goes out to Julia Dahl who has been front and center in seeking justice in this situation.
Julia has been present on Twitter. She attended the protest. And she has a unique talent besides being a physician. She does infographics that are so helpful in understanding what people say.
I am a former Highpoint Church member (2004-2006). I have interacted directly with both Chris Conlee and Andy Savage. After a neighbor asked me to sign a petition to KEEP Andy Savage on staff, I read Jules statement and andy’s. I watched his statement to the church live and was astounded. During my quest to understand if Andy had actually undergone restoration, I listened to some of his sermons, read his blog and also came across the video about the origins of the church. The origins video is full of untruths. I spoke to the pastors that were at HP and pushed out for not thinking Andy Savage ready for eldership (and for disagreeing that HP should move out of the loop) about what they knew. One had confronted Andy and asked “what happened in Texas?” Andy didn’t even tell him about the kiss. He said nothing to the other one – and neither did Chris Conlee
I am going to close with a sampling of her infographics on Andy Savage’s resignation statement. Many people on Twitter remarked at how good and helpful these have been. Julia says:
“Written statements are generally used to provide a specific message. The content of written statements is planned and often these statements undergo legal review. Dissection of a written statement may be considered by some to be nitpicking. A review of selected language contained in a written statement for the image repair theory tactic used is a valuable tool to discern both content and intent.”
Updated Mar 22, 2018 by GBTC for minor typographic corrections.
You lead the way, Dee, with your thorough insights and questions. May God do even more for those who have been abused by the church.
Likely of small importance in the overall scheme of things– I couldn’t help but notice the lack of any biblical terminology of SIN in Savage’s statement– odd coming from a recent long-time pastor:
Injustices, immoral, wrongs, neglect, mistakes, inappropriate, meets the definition of abuse of power…
Compare with the oft-cited King David in Ps 51″
Transgressions, iniquity, sin, transgressions, sin, sinned, evil…
“Pastors who sexually engage with those under their care and those who cover it up should be banned from the pulpit. The church should, at the minimum, have the same moral standards of secular institutions as opposed to far lower moral standards.`”
This makes me a 5 post Calvinist.
More coverage by Christian media.
Trust is not restored with words or one action… an action, such as resignation is a significant step… and I acknowledge that… however, if this becomes about “look what we (highpoint) did” and those “victims” refuse to forgive after Andy resigned… then we need to be testing for the “grand deception” per Boz… https://www.religionnews.com/2015/05/15/a-grand-deception-the-successful-response-of-sex-offenders/
because this isn’t about forgiveness, it’s about a sacred trust that was violated…
when there has been a betrayal of a sacred trust and the leaders have violated that trust, only the leaders’ continued actions to appropriately address abuse of power will restore that trust… it takes time and it takes transparency and it will be tested for authenticity, just in case it’s just manipulative maneuvering by master manipulators…
time will tell, if it’s an honest and authentic recognition of the wrongs done (which I hope it is), or if it’s just CYA…
Dave A A wrote:
Awesome! I wish I had noticed that!! I shall tweet that out!.
@ Dave A A:
People like your comment on Twitter.
I wish I had the perception of the Deebs, Julia Dahl, and the astute people who post on this blog! I feel that I’m easily “snowed” by the apologies of others and don’t require more in the way of repentance. How do you get this insight and understanding? I know there’s a difference between words and actions, but I guess I think that people are sincere when they apologize. Thanks for including the screen shots from Julia’s analysis of Andy’s statements.
“Suddenly, Highpoint is not a member of either group and Conlee has been doing the prophecy deal with IHOP. Let me be blunt. It is rare to shift doctrinal stances so rapidly. “”
Really. Good ole CJ in the SBC? Last time I looked Dave Harvey was at an EFCA church.
The point is, that these guys have no core conviction to begin with, they will parrot whatever they think will keep folks in the seats and giving, to line their pockets and stoke their egos.
My guess is that without Savage around, who seems to have been his principle draw, Conlee knows he will need something to keep people interested and on board, so he is bringing in the IHOPKC show.
Good round up of where things are now. Also highlights just how many unanswered questions remain. Highpoint leadership still doesn’t get it. Far too many churches still don‘t get it. There is something far wrong with *church* when the secular world acts more in accordance with biblical principles than the *church* does.
As I have shared before in other posts, don’t forget that not long after Andy Savage raped Jules he went and taught a “True Love Waits” workshop. If Savage had any concept of true repentance then he would have not taught that course even if it was already scheduled. Savage wanted to keep the status quo and hide his sin apparently.
Another post on this.
The “pastor”: “I truly believed that I was being guided through proper steps for restitution. … I trusted in the process assigned to me.
The implication that outside people assigned a ‘process’ to him that this person in a position of leadership was trusting in is remarkable. How about confessing (if not immediately, then later as Dee said when the supposed maturation had kicked in) to the person harmed here?
I mean, how’s about that Matthew 18 process that gets cited so often context-appropriate or not, especially since there’s a direct transgression? I’m sure the powers that be including him observed the legal implications of that on themselves (as well as future earning power, as confession might not lead to a more lateral move preferred by the ‘pastor’). It’s not in the best interests for their own personal goals to take this Matthew 18 step, and it doesn’t happen.
Meanwhile, the guy gets into leadership over youth, even to the point of writing a book dealing with of all things, relationships (all the more troubling given his deeming what occurred in his past as a relationship). So, acting in a position of authority and advice, but not acting on Biblical direction regarding someone harmed in a way that someone representing themselves as an authority on male-female relationships should know calls for confession as a step to healing. Again, surveying the self-interest meter — which often includes playing the odds that the last will stay there, especially one cowed into silence, nothing changes.
At what point do church bodies hold leadership as it were to Biblical standards such as those as in Titus? Little suggests that this guy will do so and essentially disqualify himself from leadership going forward, though there are endless opportunities to engage in Kingdom work (and/or do some tentmaking work as well to pay bills) outside of said leadership. What choice are the bad actors leaving us but to point things out like our hosts have done?
Recall that his tweet that apparently saturated all this was when he was commenting on the allegations against Matt Lauer: “So saddened to hear about another high profile person in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations. It’s beginning to seem that sex on our own terms isn’t working. Go figure.”
In lecture mode (dosing out the discipline), the words “sexual misconduct” are publicly published and assigned to another person. In his receiving personal discipline mode (from some much-maligned outside ‘advocates’, in contrast to the actions of the pastorate at multiple stops), not so much. Sex on ones own terms then, organic experience later. As he said, go figure.
The tweet a few days later (after Jules emailed him) is also telling:
It’s on us to be watchmen and on guard against the grievous wolves that won’t spare the flock.
Judas Maccabeus wrote:
I don’t know how he could do it. I would feel sick to my stomach.
Exactly. The “authority” on “relationship”, deems having a minor service a youth pastor’s lust on a dark road, lying to get her there – is a “relationship”. Really? That’s how a hired worker services a lusty man, only she gets paid $$$. He bullied a youth group girl, and got a bargain. Low as it gets. “Relationship”? No.
Shows what can happen if you lack core theological values. It becomes all about money and fame. Which is why I am glad I am in a place where there is no money in being a pastor, and it is highly unlikely that you will ever become famous.
But you have convictions and a conscience, and likely the ministery of the Holy Spirit as well. Apparently…….
Ezekiel repented on behalf of OTHERS, ran around naked in the desert, and cooked with cow dung.
The least this guy could do is simply shut up and disappear.
I wonder how many of those who stood and applauded this guy are going to get it and contact Jules to apologize for their callousness.
Or how many who posted nasty comments on the churches FB page will apologize. Or will the church apologize for allowing their FB page to be used to attack Jules.
This entire episode points to the morally corrupt state of so many churches.
Savage should realize that any statement he makes will be insufficient. Even if he emolates himself, the religion of the victimatology will scrape through his ashes and demand more payment
True, but it also points to those who courageously stand “against the tide”, as some would say. God has worked through His faithful people here in exposing the truth, and I feel that we have witnessed a watershed moment in the church. We bear witness to such a time as this in history.
I had NO idea this had happened. (Frankly, sometimes I can only read so much before my stomach turns and I have to stop reading about the atrocities.) This is shocking and dismaying that that happened. Even if the man had been 100% falsely accused (which no one believed from the get go), for a church to allow that on their Facebook page (or for “Christians… oh, I can’t even)… is stupifying. Come Lord Jesus! Save us from ourselves!
Judas Maccabeus wrote:
Yes. Spirituality becomes a staged act to perform before a Sunday crowd, then collect tithes and sell books. Hence, the purity workshop immediately followed the assault. Purity as an act for $ale$ as a fake authority.
There are his relationship books and workshops when “relationship” includes tricking a youthgirl to perform a sexual service down a dirt road in a dark forest, followed by an NDA/promise. It’s all fake. Something is disturbingly wrong beneath the surface, at the core, behind the facade of pastor, authority, leader, role model – regarding relationships, purity, love, marriage.
Tim Fall today tweeted, “Whenever I read about a pastor citing ‘touch not God’s anointed’ and then cautioning people against criticizing pastors, I want to remind them that all of God’s people are anointed for his work. Every single one.”
And maybe the youth pastor should refrain from touching the youth in the youth group. They, too, are God’s anointed and not in the church to service the deceptive youth pastor on a dark and deserted road in the middle of nowhere.
“Let me be blunt. It is rare to shift doctrinal stances so rapidly. Is Conlee having a midlife crisis?”
It’s the same sort of midlife crisis that Mark Driscoll has had – shifting from reformed to charismatic theology. Personally, I call it running away from accountability for your failed ‘leadership’.
Yes, Bridget. The churches, particularly mega churches, seem woefully unchristian. They are built upon celebrity and money with a feel good gospel. They might use the name of Jesus and know all the buzz words, but in my opinion, Jesus has never been welcome there. That breeds corruption.
This is excellent work. Thanks for also recognizing Julia’s infographics. They are incredible.
Could you consider asking Ron Maxey at The Commercial Appeal and USA Today to make contact with TGC and the SBC? The current SBC President is local Memphis megapastor Steve Gaines, so that should be doable. This is a story of national interest so getting expelled by TGC and/or the SBC would be extremely newsworthy.
I asked a friend who still attends HP about this and they said that they have received no emails addressing this change, so it doesn’t sound like the membership is being apprised of such a major change. Sort of like concealing the coverups of 3 separate child sex cases from the flock. The friend also said he was not aware of and official Pentecostal changes, but is concerned if that is the direction Highpoint is now taking. Highpoint’s lack of transparency continues to be concerning.
Shifting to Pentecostalism is a logical move for Highpoint. The Televangelist set have no standards and are mainly focused on self-promotion and self-enrichment for the top executives. If they were to plant fresh today, they would definitely be an ARC church.
This demographic also don’t believe any pastors should ever be permanently disqualified for any reason. Just look at the current retreads like convicted felon Jim Bakker, Todd Bentley and even super manly man Heath Mooneyham is back in action http://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/heath-mooneyham-ignite/index.html When the founder, head “pastor” and CEO of America’s largest Christian Broadcasting company, Daystar, Marcus Lamb, gets to have a 7 yr long affair with staff, and not even take a few weeks off to reflect on this, that industry really isn’t going to push anyone else out for anything.
Conlee has made Highpoint mainly about the entertainment and being one of those sin glorifying party churches. It’s a natural fit for them to leave more serious doctrine behind in order to swing to the Pentecostal/Charismatic anything goes side.
Conlee can now change the rules as he goes along by simply declaring “God told me XX”. He already teaches the false tithe teaching. He is also partnering with Holy Trinity Brompton in the UK, which is affiliated with the Vineyard Movement, the Toronto Blessing and Alpha. Like IHOP, that is hard core Pentecostal, not slightly charismatic. Perhaps like Mark Driscoll, Conlee and Savage can now get Charisma to publish their cancelled books. Charisma will literally publish anything. The crazier the better.
After reading the comments on social media and even the less controversial comment sections on YouTube, such as this interview with Ben Shapiro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcZZrkz1xsE readers can witness the fruits of Highpoint with their emphasis on sinful lifestyles and slogan about how Love Works.
The Elders of HP need to take a long hard look at this fruit and consider why so many of their staff and members respond so poorly and unlovingly towards survivors and advocates? What is it about HP that fosters this kind of contempt and utter lack of concern for the safety of kids?
This is now three coverups in under 2 years. HP has a very real problem at the core of their church. Andy’s resignation will not fix these underlying issues. Leaders need to lead by example and outing victims, and deliberately provoking advocates repeatedly bears no resemblance to what you would expect for a church exclaiming “Love Works” painted in 10′ tall letters all over the campuses. I have yet to see any examples of “love working” during these three coverups. Perhaps the samples are skewed, but the attacks show some pretty rotten fruit and that should make everyone sad.
Jules’ statement is thoughtful and honest. She’s been so brave through all of this. I can’t even imagine how hard this was for her. My prayers will continue to be with her in the future.
On the Healing Journey wrote:
There were a couple of long and angry discussions on Twitter involving Highpoint members who did not believe Highpoint was SBC. One said Conlee repeated in services that they were nondenominational and belong to no denomination.
Probably the same deceptive New Cal scenario where they were leading up to covenants. But when the membership found out through all of this they were SBC, they were rioting more about that than about Savage. So, they are switching to appease the membership after all this other stuff. Changing will also get people to forget about the other issues.
Let me suggest an idea. People are talking a lot about repentance as necessary for forgiveness. I agree. I also think that repentance is more than just a change in thinking but also a change in behavior. I also think that, depending on the circumstances, repentance includes reparation in some form and that may simply be public declaration of that repentance or may be more than that.
Hear me now. What I am saying is way too ‘Romish’ for some people, if I may hijack a word used by one commenter here. In a theological system which defines ‘faith’ as merely what one thinks/believes and does not include what one does as an essential aspect of genuine faith, scripture would call it faith which is not dead, then ‘adding to’ thinking by demanding doing as a part of repentance is heretical. Bluntly put, in that paradigm if someone sees faith, with its first cousin repentance in this case, as being both thinking and doing, then one has ‘fallen from grace’ using Paul’s term and fallen back into law/works and one is not really ‘saved’. That is not what Paul was saying, but that is what too many people say all the while misusing Paul’s meaning to deceive themselves and others.
When I was a Baptist I more or less believed that, and that is one reason why I went on down a different theological road from there. That attitude toward faith looks to me like salvation by doctrine alone, or salvation by wishful thinking alone, or salvation (saving one’s reputation and job) by words alone–you see where I am going with this.
Theology needs to be held up to the light and the moth holes in the garment of theology need to be repaired if the church is to be in a position to require changes in behavior from its people. Cheap grace as taught in places is heresy. To say ‘sorry’ and nothing else is not repentance, and forgiveness without change is not salvific for the miscreant. Change is not ‘works’ but rather an act of the Spirit on the repentant soul. God have mercy on us when we forget that.
[Side note: Associated Press: Austin Stone Community Church is the church of the Austin bomber: Mark Anthony Conditt. (Larry Cotton’s church? Where Savage was the youth pastor?)
Conditt wrote that gay marriage should be illegal, argued in favor of the death penalty and gave his thoughts on “why we might want to consider” eliminating sex offender registries. A friend of Conditt described him as smart, opinionated and often intimidating. “When I met Mark, he was really rough around the edges. He was a very assertive person and would end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation.” ]
Given the track record of such “organic moment” incidents, my money’s on CYA with additional money passing under the table.
On the Healing Journey wrote:
With me, it was growing up alongside a Master Manipulator, NPD, and Sociopath whose Skubalon never stank. If this does not utterly destroy you as a functioning human being, you learn “that insight and understanding”, with collateral damage to your personality as part of the package.
Ezekiel was “One WEIRD Dude”.
(As well as having the dirtiest mouth of any of the Prophets — at least in the original language.)
My writing partner thinks he may have actually been schizophrenic, “Speaking to the Wise with the Voice of Insanity”.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Austin Stone Community Church was Larry Cotton’s most recent employer and not the church at which the abuse took place.
I completely agree with you that this is a big problem.
For me, the thing that I find very hard to understand is what “salvation” means. Growing up as a mennonite/evangelical, I was taught that it means saying the sinner’s prayer and going to heaven when you die. That is one way to read the text, but it is by no means obvious that this is the correct reading of the text, and it isn’t reflected in the practice of Jesus and the Apostles. The idea that Christianity is simply about going to heaven when you die and this is the meaning of salvation is opposed by people like NT Wright who claim that this isn’t historic church teaching.
To me the meaning of salvation is the lynchpin of the faith/works “paradox.” I do not have the answer about this, but I want to think about it more. I think that more exploration about this can help get us out of the theological mess that allows someone like Andy Savage to expect instant forgiveness and restoration.
I think John the Baptist would agree with you.
8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance… And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12 Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13 He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ 14 Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’ Luke 3:8a, 12-14
Same church. It looks as though Mark Conditt “attended regularly” a few years ago but then, according to friends, moved away from his faith.
…. sorry . . . my answer was confusing. I meant Austin Stone CC is the same church regarding both Larry Cotton and Mark Conditt but abuse took place at a different church (Highpoint).
“For me, the thing that I find very hard to understand is what “salvation” means.”
oh yes — “SALVATION”… one of the highest scoring words in bs bingo, the christian edition. Heard it all my life. Then one day i woke up, after being all growed up, and i said to myself, “What in the world does that even mean?”
it’s hard to have any real feelings for it if it’s relegated to the realm of eternity. too elusive a concept to warrant all the typical christian gush. (at least to me)
seems to me it has to have value here and now for anyone to truly grasp, enough to sing songs about.
also, i think anything that is significant enough to impact “eternity” has to have impact on here & now, too.
but saved from what? and so what?
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
“Ezekiel was “One WEIRD Dude”.”
i bet he was right-brained!
@ Judas Maccabeus:
“Shows what can happen if you lack core theological values. It becomes all about money and fame.”
i see these as basic ethical values.
Any statement Andy Savage makes, as with any statement anyone makes, is insufficient. There are two ways to know the truth about someone: (1) by what they say and (2) by what they do. When there is a difference between #1 and #2 – trust the LATTER.
Your post states that the “religion of victimatology” (interesting word) as requiring more payment of Andy Savage. Perhaps you have not noticed, while you were convincing yourself that there is a “religion of victimatology” but the actual VICTIM of Andy Savage’s abuse has emerged as a strong survivor. Her words are graceful and speak difficult truths. Those who are continuing to show the contrast between what Andy’s words and actions are and what Andy’s words actually mean is not based on maintaining a victim status. The continued exposure is to prevent current and future abusers from having targets to take from, abuse, lie to, deceive and get their needs met from. Exposure and education empowers people to see the manipulation for what it is – and to reject being manipulated.
Lastly, I cannot speak for anyone but myself when I say: My prayer is for Andy Savage to truly turn from manipulation, coercion, deception, abuse of authority, luxuriating in the praise and attention of man/woman and simply return to his first love – GOD. It is my prayer that he actually does seek forgiveness honestly – without redefining “relationship” or using passive voice qualifiers or blaming other people for HIS failure to listen to his own conscience (BTW – Andy plays the victim card pretty routinely).
Thank you for your post.
I realized how often I used these code words without understanding what they meant to me. I’m trying hard in my life now to not say anyone else’s words. I don’t want to say things I don’t understand to signal to an in group. That leaves me a hollow husk of an ideologue
Be wary of churches breaking the silence by Deborah Brunt
There is the concept of a seared conscience. Is it possible that at 22 years old a person (not speaking exclusively or even directly about Andy) a person could have seared their conscience to the point of having NO connection to the feeling that they are doing something completely in violation of God’s instruction… no empathy… ?
Sometimes, people are given the gift of recognizing the verbal tactics and behaviors. More often, I believe – people pay for their knowledge through experiencing and RECOVERING from narcissistic abuse.
What if those who are gifted or those who paid for the knowledge decided to teach other people:
– Here are the patterns (show examples of patterns – targeting, selection, grooming, abuse-cycle: idealize… devalue… trauma bond… idealize… devalue… repeat).
– Here are the behaviors (show examples of flattery, shared secrecy, future-faking, gaslighting, denial, push/pull relating, isolation, playing the victim, silent treatment, hoovering)
– Here are the code words used in manipulation.
What if there was a guide to predict the person’s next move:
It could be said:
“Now watch this… If this person is a narcissist or sociopath and YOU are his/her target, what will happen next is ….”
And it’s often correct because the behaviors are reliable and predictable.
Once you see a narcissist or that behavior pattern it cannot be unseen.
Rachael Denhollander, sovereign grace. Christianity today turns up the heat.
And they’re siding with Rachael!
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
YES. THIS IS HUGE.
Which I have maintained is Christianese for a psychopath/sociopath.
The remained of your comment is from the POV that psychopaths/sociopaths are made, not born. I don’t think that is always a clean break. My take on that is that it can be both, the proportions varying from individual to individual. Someone born with a tendency in that direction could have that “bent” cultivated and nourished by upbringing or experiences until they may as well have been “born that way.”
Gaga’s error is not in stating that there is a “religion of victimology” — if there’s a system of something, someone’s going to try to game it to their advantage whatever the rules. Any belief system can go Fundamentalist/Fanatical, and there’s always some disturbed idiot who’ll jump on a bandwagon for 15 minutes of fame or for a sympathy ploy.
Gaga’s error is in claiming this IS ALWAYS what’s happening, that such gaming the system is either the default reason or the ONLY reason to come forward and accuse.
Beware about Theologizing everything you come across.
Or you can detach from reality like Pneumatic Gnostics.
Something I have noticed about Judaism is that it’s very focused on the here-and-now, about “living your life” instead of always looking at the Hereafter.
In Screwtape Letters, Screwtape advised Wormwood to keep his “patient” always living in the Future, and a lot of Christians have followed this advice, whether that future is Rapture or Heaven (as commonly described, which may not resemble the original concept).
I’ve seen how that meaning of salvation can go sour and really mess you up.
When “It’s All Gonna Burn” and “This World Is Not My Home I’m Just Passing Thru”, it’s real easy to become indifferent to reality. You don’t have any stake in what’s going on in Meatspace. In the darkest form of this, you’ve had totalitarians from Robespierre to Pol Pot enamored about their Platonic Archetype “heaven” always on the distant horizon to where the living people standing between them and that Platonic Archetype cease to have any meaning (or even to exist).
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
P.S. “God lives in the real world.” — Rich Buhler
(hit Post Comment too soon…)
Has anyone asked
1. when the investigation from the lawyer in Texas concerning Andy will be published ? I am positive that this document’s findgs will be the reason why Andy resign and the about face from HP’s leadership team . This will also be why leadership at HP made their statement the investigation would not be rapped up in March 1. I bet they had the document on March 1 and had to make preparations for what was to come . I would have LOVE to have been a fly on the wall when leadership read the conclusions and recommendations for HP moving forward . More will leak out .
2. Will Jukes have a civil case against those who didn’t handle this properly and all churches involved ?
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
One of Papa Chuck’s favorite sayings.
Like I’ve remarked here before, he was as revered and obeyed as Chairman Mao was in a bygone China.
Andrew Jones wrote:
how you radicalize a person into becoming a terrorist is that you give them an enemy and marinate them with hate. i read that article and it sounds really nice and clean and upstanding. Larry Cotton is a pastor that knew about a fellow pastors sexual abuse of a minor and kept it quiet and even helped the pastor get into favorable positions. He was a pastor for many years influencing many young people. the Austin bomber wrote his opinion on sex offenders as being that they should not have to stay registered as sex offenders.
the description on buzz-feeds article of the riot youth group activities that conditt attended included guns. “Cassia Schultz, 21, told BuzzFeed News that she ran in the same conservative survivalist circles as Conditt in high school.
Schultz said they were both involved in a group called Righteous Invasion of Truth (RIOT), a Bible study and outdoors group for homeschooled kids, created and named by the kids and their families, that included monthly activities such as archery, gun skills, and water balloon fights. Conditt and his younger sister would usually attend the activities along with 15 to 20 other kids, according to Schultz.
“A lot of us were very into science; we would discuss chemicals and how to mix them and which ones were dangerous,” said Schultz. “We were into weapons and stuff. A lot of us did role-playing, and RPG [role-playing games]; we’d have foam weapons and act out a battle.”
the homeschool coalition made a statement on twitter:
1h1 hour ago
Tim Lambert, President of THSC released the following statement today in response to the horrific bombings in Austin.”
the THSC twitter account shows that they follow:
wretched radio host
every fox news host, except shepherd smith of course, almost every republican, except those that have been denigrated by POTUS,
texas freedom caucus
the master’s seminary
texas values action
reformation bible study
liberty U university
^alliance defending freedom – church alliance
open carry texas
Young red texas YRTX
Anna Duggar @joshduggar
The duggar family
The blaze radio
The buck sexton show
Eric Metaxas talk show
AFP americans for prosperity
oh and also this woman:
Far Above Rubies
Ladies, do you ask your husband to teach you the Word?
1 Corinthians 14:35
11:35 AM – 13 Feb 2018
so i think this is important because if you indoctrinate kids with anti gay, anti democrat, pro sex offenders, and they listen to hate radio/tv all day long and never go to public school it is certainly going to lead ot some of them becoming unbalanced and violent. twitter #austinBomber is almost crashing the web today with posts of “if he wasnt white he would be called a terrorist and who radicalized him and why isnt anyone looking into this”
Alt Fed Employee
(Brown) guy blows himself up in NYC
✔Not a terrorist:
(White) guy drives into crowd at KKK rally
(White) guy shoots 500 at concert killing 58
(White) guy kills 17 at school
(White) guy shoots 7 at school
(White) guy plants 5 bombs in TX
the common denominator in almost every single white one?
its not christian values that are being investigated, its what some people are doing with them, using them as hate towards gays, minorities, abusively controlling women, using them to promote the nra and guns, excusing sex abuse in churches, and kids are listening to all this at a vulnerable time in their lives. Unless the church speaks up truthfully then i fear that there will be a huge anti-christian sentiment wave over this country, and maybe rightfully so but what about Jesus and lost souls?
@ Muff Potter:
Another term from Papa Cuck is “ touch not my annoited”, and he uses the “”Moses model” so he, and his preacher followers do not have to “hirlings” under Elders…..
Opps… Chuck.. and “have to be hirlings”
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Agree that “seared conscience” and “sociopath/psycopath” are different words to describe the same condition.
Many in the field of psychiatry ascribe to the theory that sociopathy and psychopathy are initiated not at birth, but early in life as disorders of attachment. In the absence of normal attachment behaviors, with the addition of particular trauma, there are both anatomic and also neurophysiological alterations of the brain that are incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to reverse.
Most narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths will display features of the disorder by their early teens: excessive need for attention, manipulative behavior to be the center of attention (even if appearing functional and charming), entitlement, air of “superiority” with expectation that rules do not apply to them, ability to “mirror” the people around them or a specific person to gain trust/benefit and lack of awareness and empathy for others.
High functioning or even moderately intelligent narcissists and sociopaths can appear to be very successful, charming and sincere despite these very pathologic behaviors.
In reference to Andy Savage, it is up to each observer to assess for these traits unless there is going to be release of a new UPDATE that confirms or denies some suspicions.
@ Mary Ann Carpenter:
It appears, from this perspective, that Highpoint Church believes that the resignation is sufficient additional information and removes the need for the report to be made publicly available. Chris Conlee is known to share information within Highpoint Church on a need to know basis – so even staff and members are likely to receive the same information that is released to the public.
Highpoint does not appear to have done any detailed reading on how to manage a scandal – within a church/pastor setting – or their consultants are reading playbooks that may have short term results; however are long term equations for failure.
Transparency with complete recognition and disclosure of the facts of the crisis, going beyond apologies to demonstrate the action plan for restitution to those injured AND prevention of the crisis recurring AND doing what the VICTIM(S) ask as restitution is the only tried and true method of church/pastor crisis management that allows for long range relationship repair with the public. (At least according the the articles on the subject I read). I’m not an expert – have been learning A LOT while hoping to stand with Jules and in front of her when people get snitty.
Ricco, one of my strong hopes is that others can learn from my experience. You are so right about there being a pattern, tactics, red flags. And not being able to unsee what was unseen before. So much I didn’t know even as a therapist. And plenty I wish wasn’t true that I understand now. TWW has fascinating commentors!
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
As Leslie Knopf once said, “when you think the world is going to end tonight, turns out you don’t aim very carefully in the urinal.”
Leslie Knope. Autocorrect fail
Is this Hybels guy a complementarian?
If so, wasn’t John Piper just saying that complementarianism protects women?
Bill Hybels Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Former Willow Creek Leaders
A group of former pastors and staff members has accused Hybels of a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct, the Chicago Tribune reported tonight.
…At issue are allegations of pastoral misconduct by Bill Hybels, a bestselling author and founding pastor of one of America’s largest churches.
From that same CT article about Hybels:
Ah yes, the Billy Graham Rule (or “Mike Pence Rule’ to some). Sexist against women, and it’s ineffective.
Oh, he’s not? I thought I read years ago that Rick Warren’s church was complementarian, and I associate Hybels with Warren, since they have that same seeker friendly blue print for churches.
At any rate, this Hybels story is big on social media right now.
Try Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap!!!
Jeffrey Chalmers wrote:
I know, I was there (Costa Mesa) as a young vet back during the wind-down of the Vietnam war. They were like bronze age dessert chieftains always sharpening their swords for conquest.
I know nothing of these allegations. However, I do know a notable woman youth pastor that worked at Willow Creek. She has quietly said she left because working at Willow Creek as a woman pastor was anything but ideal. Apparently there was bullying in how some of the men pastors treated women in leadership. Beneath the surface, not a shining model of Jesus. She eventually moved on, fortunately, because she is successful and acknowledged in her work, outside of Willow Creek.
Warren Throckmorton has a statement from Sovereign Grace, and basically, it’s “Woe is us, we can’t investigate the two churches that left Sovereign Grace, woe is us, there’s nothing we can do.”
But the statement also says: “While there is a specific process by which a charge may be submitted against an elder by any current or former SGC church member, SGC leadership has no authority to mandate an investigation by an outside authority upon all of our churches.”
I’m presuming that since Sovereign Grace Louisville is still listed as a Sovereign Grace Church on the Sovereign Grace Churches website, and CJ Mahaney is still the pastor per the website, someone could file a charge against Mahaney. I’m tired, very tired of this “we can’t do anything.”
Sovereign Grace Gilbert is a mere five miles from my home. I think I’m going to work it into my picketing schedule until SGC decides to investigate CJ Mahaney. I’m TIRED of this nonsense.
Hybels and his wife wrote a book about marriage called Fit to Be Tied in which they admitted to serious problems in their marriage. At the time of publication (1991) they made it sound as though that was behind them. A high profile, lucrative ministry is powerful incentive to maintain the facade of a blissful union. It doesn’t surprise me that there’s an allegation that Hybels told a woman he was unhappy in his marriage.
Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:
Lame excuses by a pack of rats. Bottom line is they will fight against a truly independent investigation because the evidence is overwhelming that they have conspired to cover up abuse, and in some cases taken part in abuse.
Most of the main rats are still employed by Sovereign Grace. Mahaney, Kauflin, Ricucci, Loftness, and Conolly for starters. Steve Shank attends a SGC church in Nashville. We all know where to find Joshua Harris, Robin Boisvert and Grant Layman. I would expect any decent Christian to willingly and truthfully testify to what they know. That”s why I would be surprised if any of these men would be helpful.
Brent Detwiler would be a treasure trove of information, as would Larry Tomczak.
Mary Ann Carpenter wrote:
Any legal action – civil or criminal – seems almost certain to be barred by the statute of limitations. The controlling statute would depend on the jurisdiction and the specific claim / charge. It is tough to imagine how anyone’s actions in response to Jules’ bringing her allegations forward could be styled as a viable legal claim. That said, for the right fee or a chance to propound on a topic hot in the news these days, there may be some lawyers willing to try. Of course, the best counsel Jules would get on that point is from a lawyer representing her as a client. Even if there is a possible claim to be made, there may be very valid personal or legal reasons for not doing so.
Just goes to show that egalitarian-in-name-only churches can have problems, too. But I think that has never been denied here.
Andy resigned, which is what Jules and everyone else has been saying they wanted done, and it’s still not enough. What is the point of bashing Chris Conlee now, except to just blatantly attack Highpoint Church? What good will come of that? Do you know we tutor ACT prep to students and donate clothing for Asha’s Refuge? We have adopted Overton Highschool, and we serve the football players a meal before games on Friday. We have a serve night with worship music and preaching at Memphis Union Mission, where homeless people of Memphis can come eat a hot meal that we prepare and serve them. We invest in our children, and work tirelessly to help people across the city of Memphis. You said you “guessed” Chris approved of the standing ovation and may have even encouraged it. But you really have no idea, so why defame his character like that? Is your goal truly justice or is it to stop people from coming to Highpoint Church entirely? Chris’ references to “the enemy” was not at bloggers, but at the actual enemy. SATAN. And I can assure you I personally did encounter “the enemy” on Twitter. As a member of Highpoint, I feel I should have a right to worship there if I choose, without being threatened and have my own personal character and morals questioned. I was called awful names and even had my role as a mother questioned because I have a daughter who attends Highpoint and goes to the children’s area. Just because I attend church at the same place Andy was a pastor? How is that fair to me and my family? I can never understand what Jules went through, but she has gotten what she even said she hoped would happen. Andy resigned. Can we please stop harrassing me and my fellow church goers now? And before anyone attacks me, I am not trying to start a fight. I honestly just want the harassment to end for me and my fellow church goers. We have done nothing wrong except apparently worship at Highpoint Church.
i think its everywhere, every denomination, but not every church. like the thing i posted on the austin bomber, i dont know if his particular situation was like that-isolated and only listening to negative things all the time, but it seems there are some red flag patterns for both violence and abuse. what keeps me hopeful is that this site and the brave victims and advocates commenters keep shining light on abuse so we can all see what to avoid. Not to get stuck in church’s that are too close knit and not accountable to the congregation or victims when they speak up. Not to stay in churches that discourage contacting police when abuse happens and to not be afraid to seek mental health counseling and be able to say when we or our kids are needing help. and not being shamed for asking for help, even ‘secular’ help.
Let me try to answer you.
1. Believe it or not, this is NOT about Highpoint Church. The self centeredness that I have experienced from a number of people who attend there has been breathtaking. This is about how churches do not deal appropriately with sex abuse. #churchtoo And your church, about 1 1/2 years ago got called out by us for having a convicted sex offender, still on the registry, up front helping to lead worship. This is bizarre.
2. Of course your church does nice things. They should. Did you know that all churches do nice things in the community? Do you know that atheist groups do nice things in the community? This is not about nice things. It is about a scourge of sex abuse that is rampant in our churches. Churches have been dealing poorly with this since the beginning of time and now the time has come to deal with it.
3. You misunderstand. I didn’t *guess* about the standing ovation. I knew they would do one. I have been writing for 9 years now and I knew that your leadership fit the profile of those who would attempt to do a standing ovation.Did you know that it happens all the time in churches and the leadership promotes it? I tweeted it out the day before, hoping that by doing so, they might not do it. They did it anyway. You were manipulated in that ridiculous service. Go back and watch it carefully, including the weird female shouting “you are worthy” from the stage. Good night! That was pure craziness.
4. No, Conlee’s sermon was about hateful bloggers. Just about everyone listening to it knew it. Go back and listen carefully. And yes, Satan was mentioned in the sermon. Satan was tied to what the bloggers were doing. This is a common tactic of pastors under duress. Shoot the messenger. We have been linked to Satan by churches gone wrong so many times it has become a standing joke. One guy called us Daughters of Stan. He misspelled it. One commenter even calls himself Stan in fond remembrance. We often refer to *Stan* when we joke about the silliness of this whole tactic.
5. Oh dear… You were *attacked* on Twitter…. So what? I get attacked all the time. That’s the nature of Twitter. If you can’t stand the heat, stop playing online. Jules was attacked by a number of your church’s folks on Twitter. It was so bad that the NYT put a sampling of them in the video which will remain a living testimony what is allowed at Highpoint.
6. Your church’s members brought the harassment on themselves. The Highpoint story is important for many reasons. The poor reaction (even Conlee has admitted to mistakes) must stand as an example of how NOT to do things. Your church made Jules the face of the #churchtoo movement. If you are a committed Christian who loves Jesus, you need to be humble and allow your mistakes to help others to learn. This was not just about Andy Savage. It was about how churches mishandle sex abuse.
7. As for Chris Conlee-Let me say this loud and clear. It is NOT normal for church to be a part of The Gospel Coalition and the Southern Baptist Convention (bet you didn’t know that before this mess) and suddenly become best buddies with IHOP, mentioning that he got a *prophecy* from them-a prophecy which has between and 80-90% chance of being wrong. This is indicative of a pastor who has lost his way. Most thoughtful pastors grow into their doctrine, they don’t ditch it and start again. It is evident to me that there is a doctrinal problem at your church. You may not think it is a problem. If so, that is an indication that it is a problem.
I go to a church in which a switch like this(and I bet not announced and discussed) would NEVER happen. That is because they know who they are and what they believe. Theology is not meant to be taken off and on like your pajamas.
I suggest you get a good book on Systematic Theology and start studying. You might enjoy trying to figure out the foundations of your faith and why jumping around theologically indicates a hole in the church. Here is one to start with.
Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God
I only wish you and your church well, even if you don’t believe it.
Nice response Dee.
I would add beyound the sex abuse issues, the leadership of Highpoint is NOT transparent with the pew sitters that are paying the bills. As one of the Andy Savage supporters called me in the heat of the back and forth when this first blew open, “ a foolish old man”, i have been going to churches for over 50 years. All of those churches have pew peon ellected elders which oversee the church, including organizing a yearly members meeting when the full budget is vented and VOTED on by the pew peons. This “foolish old man” would never darken a church that did not do this…
I actually think it is funny that the Andy Savage supporter, presumably a Highpoint Member, called me a foolish old man for saying that Highpoint should have the same standards as public schools do. If that person only knew what I have experinced in life and what I for a living….
I think all Jules wanted was some justice and genuine contrition. She went to Andy in private, via email, and gave him every chance to protect his reputation. But he ignored her, as if she were nothing to him. Again, she gave him every chance, possibly all it’d have taken was maybe a five minute email message back. But evidently, she was nothing to him, he couldn’t even be bothered to do that. Are you OK with that, Sarah? Are you OK with your daughter going to a church where that sort of attitude evidently prevails among the leadership? If so, then yes, I’ll question your wisdom, I’ll question your sanity and what your faith’s really all about. Is it in Jesus? Or Highpoint?
Because Jesus, who spoke of whispers being shouted from the rooftops, sure doesn’t seem to me to have been the one Highpoint leaders were following when they shoved this under the rug and likened bloggers who id nothing but told the truth to Satan. It’s a danged shame what passes for Christianity these days.
Jeffrey Chalmers wrote:
I guess who was the foolish one is now more clear—but time and truth have this funny way of walking hand-in-hand.
Either a Sociopath switching from role to role like flipping a light switch.
Or he has “arranged his mind” like Reichsminister Speer to see nothing wrong (as long as he benefits from it).
Todd Wilhelm wrote:
You forget the presence of LA OMERTA.
Jeffrey Chalmers wrote:
Which is also the favorite go-to line of Benny Hinn when he comes under scrutiny.
Are you familiar with Matthew 6?
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
It is completely understandable that you would want to speak up for your church and to provide examples of “good” that Highpoint Church does. This is called bolstering. Bolstering is the act of focusing on a positive trait or action. It is often used to distract from something negative or “balance out” something negative by stating something positive.
If you dig deep in the Bible, you will find that in the New Testament, there are exactly ZERO instances of Jesus bolstering. Zero instances of Jesus reminding people that He performed miracles when the religious elite was accusing Him of being of the devil. Bolstering is a crisis management technique used to reduce the offensiveness of the crisis.
No matter how much “good” Highpoint Church (which is the body of believers) has “done” – it does not change the reality that unless you have been a Highpoint member since 2002 – you may not actually know the depth of deception, control tactics and manipulation that has been exercised by your lead pastor. Those are not Godly behaviors. Teaching a congregation to self-promote your acts of service is also tragic – because for church members, it can become about what good the church does. Do you not know that all good works are initiated by God? Do you not know that in doing good works in secret you can develop a deeper relationship with GOD? Why does Highpoint Church teach self-promotion? Is Matthew 6 not a valid scripture?
You have a right to worship wherever you please. If you participate in social media in the United States where there is freedom of speech, you may encounter people who believe differently than you. Some people may express those beliefs in vulgar and judgmental ways.
What is operating in you that you believe that you have the right to tell other people what words they can choose to use? What is operating in you that whether someone agrees with you or says something hateful that matters so much to you? These are the things that YOU have control over.
If your conscience is clear attending Highpoint Church, that is what matters between you and God.
Every advocate that I interact with has been treated harshly on Twitter. Chris Conlee, a self-proclaimed visionary man of God has likened those people who are willing to speak truth to him (about Andy Savage, about previous issues of sexual abuse in the church) has encouraged this with his rather angry and ill-thought out messages from the pulpit. While playing his own version of the victim card “If this were a movie and let’s face it – we’re the main characters of the movie, would you want me to give up?” – Chris Conlee has encouraged victim shaming, victim blaming and defined bloggers and social media participants as the enemy – meaning The Enemy (Satan). Since he’s now stated that he was misinformed about Andy Savage and stated that he took a defensive, rather than empathetic approach – do you know how many of the bloggers/advocates that he BLOCKED on Twitter he has unblocked? Apologized to? As many times as Jesus bolstered in the new testament: ZERO.
Do you have a relationship with Jesus or do you have a relationship with Highpoint?
Sarah, I understand you and agree with you. Blessings….