A bleak day at Germantown Baptist Church link
This response by the *leadership* (I wonder what the term really means these days) of Germantown Baptist Church, TN, reinforces for me that the Southern Baptist Convention is made up of many churches which will continue to act coldly, shamefully and autonomously, especially when it come to sex abuse. There are way too many pastors who’ve indulged in such behavior, successfully covering it up for themselves and who are quite comfortable in letting their similarly affected brethren off the hook.
Sadly, I think some are getting their cues from leaders in the SBC, like this response from SBC’s Credential Committee. I am not saying all of them are like this. But sadly, there are far too many.
Do these leaders even have a bit of caring in their souls for those who have been abused by pastors? Does this church even care that their homeboy, Andy Savage, went on to molest Jules Woodson AFTER he was ordained by this church? Or is there something else at play here? I have heard from reliable sources that Andy Savage’s family are (or have been) members of this church. Can anyone confirm this? Does that make things awkward? And does avoiding *awkward * trump doing the right and caring thing?
Here is the letter that Jules sent to Germantown Baptist Church, explaining why she was requesting that Savage’s ordination should be revoked. We have it on good authority that, from time to time, ordinations have been revoked. She carefully outlines the pain that she suffered at the hands of Savage’s hands when he was her youth pastor AFTER he was ordained by Germantown Baptist Church.
If you want to go directly to their stunningly blind response, skip this section. However, it is a wonderful letter from a woman crying out of justice.
Dear Pastor John Longworth,
I would like to thank you again for speaking with me last week, regarding my request that Germantown Baptist Church formally revoke the ordination of Andy Savage.
As you take the time to carefully and prayerfully consider this solemn request, I would like to draw your attention to a few facts regarding this request and Andy’s disqualifying behavior.
This sex crime did not just occur on one spring night in 1998. Andy’s grooming of me in the youth group began three years earlier when I was just 14 years old. Andy WAS our full-time, ordained Youth Pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (WPBC).
I beg that you and your wife Sandra please take some time to look at a few pictures of your precious daughter Katie, back when she was 14 years old. Does she look worldly and sexually sophisticated enough to discern what sexual grooming from a grown man with spiritual authority over her would look like? Was she precocious and wise in the ways of the world at that age? At 14, was she able to make adult decisions and to put up battle hardened adult defenses from years of adult men making passes at her? Or was she like me at 14, goofy, giggly, with braces? This crime was just NEVER about one night in the dark woods; it was about a three-year long pattern of deceptive behavior and manipulation that led to a crime.
During those same three years, Andy was warned to stop luring girls to be alone with him, such as the time he took me into his bedroom, was tickling me and touched my breast. These types of behaviors are designed to break down physical barriers between a predator and a child. Andy would single me out and pay me special attention during those years. He knew my deepest secrets, as I saw him like a father figure and a counselor…Such as how I was struggling with my parents divorce and also how I had been raped my junior year of high school. He KNEW that I was extra vulnerable.
Andy teaching ‘True Love Waits’ and promoting purity during youth services followed by him unexpectedly exposing his genitals to me, left me reeling. It was the opposite of everything I had been taught in church or had expected. I have since learned that this technique is used to inflict alarm and distress in the victims which causes a sort of paralysis to this trauma. It’s playing out a stimulating fantasy.
I do not wish to relive any graphic details of the crimes, as they can trigger my PTSD. However, if you have not watched this video carefully prepared by Sheila Gregoire, an author and head of a marriage and family ministry which specializes in sexual relations inside Christian marriage, I respectfully ask that you prayerfully consider watching this with your wife before making your decision on the withdrawal of Andy’s ordination. Sheila does an excellent job of explaining the long-term trauma caused by predators who act as Andy did.
In addition to my sexual assault at WPBC, Andy has behaved in other ways which further demonstrate that this issue was not the result of a limited, one-time lapse in judgment back in 1998. Andy has continued to act deceptively and to the detriment of his flocks at both GBC and Highpoint and even now at Grace Valley Church. I will only be reviewing the clergy misconduct that relates to my situation:
- At WPBC, Andy minimized and mislead the flock into believing that the only bad thing he had done was stolen a kiss from me. He specifically told this to his supervisor, Pastor Larry Cotton, thereby making me look like a liar. This was a bald-faced lie and Andy is not disputing that now. However, at the time it caused me irreparable harm. The students in my youth group were angry at ME, for causing Andy to be fired over what Andy portrayed as a minor issue. When I needed my church family most for support, I was gossiped about, lied about, slandered, shamed and shunned. This has had a lasting impact on my relationship with God, the church, my friends and family. This, in turn, has been passed down, to some degree, to my children. This breaks my heart every day of my life.
- Andy lied to GBC and dishonored your church, by accepting the commission to go to WPBC then concealing his sexual assault from the leaders upon his unexpected return. Andy put the church at risk in doing so. Had he gone on to sexually assault more students, GBC may have faced harsher legal judgments for hiring a predator.
- Andy knew all this time that he had dishonored God, his home church of GBC, and his next congregation at Highpoint by keeping his sexual assault history a secret. Andy dishonored the sanctity of his ordination, which is a sacred commission. Andy betrayed the trust that was endowed to him through this ordination that GBC bestowed upon him. Therefore, Andy is no longer deserving of this honor.
- Andy is a manipulator. He manipulated GBC into granting him his ordination when he clearly lacked physical and spiritual maturity. He manipulated WPBC into trusting him with their children, then getting them to help him conceal his crime. He then manipulated his way back to Memphis, concealing the truth behind his abrupt departure from The Woodlands. Andy deceived both the executive staff leadership and the flock at GBC, which dishonors God and makes all flock members question the integrity of the American church.
- Andy, while being an ordained GBC pastor, refused to be honest and explain why he had been fired from WPBC. Because of his secrecy and the secrecy of the pastors at WPBC that concealed the assault, Andy did not undergo ANY restoration process, whatsoever. For that reason alone he should be immediately stripped of his preaching credentials. Andy Savage has never been restored.
- Andy refused to heed the cries of a wounded lamb when I reached out to him in December 2017. I initially had no intention of going public with my story. However, after re-living the pain of being ignored and shunned while Andy was once again elevated and celebrated, it felt wrong for me to maintain my silence, while Andy was publicly criticizing secular celebrities who had sexually harassed their staff.
Andy immediately turned to what he referred to as ‘wise counsel’ for advice so that he could protect his “brand” which included protecting his marriage ministry and parenting ministry (7000 Days), his cash generating marriage conferences and his new upcoming book deal for The Ridiculously Good Marriage. Chris Conlee supported him in this decision as Chris was also protecting his brand which included his Leadership Works business conferences and his upcoming book Love Works. This was their top priority. This ‘wise counsel’ advised Andy to not acknowledge my existence at all, despite the years that he had been my pastor and the damage that his actions caused.
- Once I went public, Andy and Chris went into manipulation mode. The song leading up to Andy’s announcement about the assault was a protracted, emotional rendition of Bethel Redding’s Reckless Love, where the worship leader started screaming “You are worthy Andy! You are worthy!” Head worship pastor, Josh Maze, talked about how the TRUTH was going to be told that day at Highpoint because the flock “needed some truth right now,” yet Andy got on stage and completely minimized his assault of me.
All of this was manipulating the flock to believe that Andy’s lies were the “truth” that the flock “needed right now”. Later Chris Conlee would deliver an excessively dramatic sermon about how only those without sin should be casting stones, as though spiritual and clerical abuse are everyday common sins in the House of Highpoint.
Chris brought a large jagged stone on stage which he dramatically kept throwing down to the ground. It is no small wonder that Highpoint leadership was able to coax out the standing ovation heard around the world. The piercing of that ovation, through my soul, will never be assuaged in this lifetime. There are no words to adequately describe the devastation wrought by the man GBC unwittingly ordained so many years ago.
- Andy would characterize the assault as consensual to his flock, but that was not enough. In his capacity as an ordained pastor he then called upon his childhood friend, and former church attendee, Ben Ferguson (Ben and Andy attended GBC youth group together). Ben invited Andy onto his syndicated radio show recorded in Rockwall, TX, broadcast on I Heart Radio. Chris Conlee and at least one other Highpoint official flew to DFW to be with Andy for the talk show interview and to meet with teams of lawyers and crisis management experts. Andy and Chris concealed this from their flock. It was only discovered because somebody recognized the three men at DFW sitting in the airport eating candy bars. Highpoint would end up spending over $938K in severance and legal consulting fees
Almost one million dollars in tithes and offerings were spent to spin and lie about what happened.
- On the radio show, for the entire world to hear, Andy took one more swipe at me. It was a blow that would pulverize me in a way I could not have expected. Andy and Ben discussed the assault in a familiar and friendly way, including chuckles punctuated by careful wording. When it came time for Andy to catalog the details for his fan base, as a shepherd he hit an all-time low.
In this interview Andy LIED over and over. He starts by calling the assault a consensual act and describes it as a flirtatious hormone filled organic moment. Andy had been crafting statements with the Dallas attorneys and crisis managers. Instead of owning his role in this spiritual/sexual abuse and, frankly, his bizarre and unsettling act of driving into the woods then exposing himself, he completely flipped the script.
On a national radio program, Andy referred to my version of the events as a shocking accusation. He claims that is not what took place. The following are untruths stated by Andy:
- a) “I” was the one who told him to NOT drive me home. “I” was the one who told him to keep driving.
- b) “WE” mutually flirted during this drive
- c) “WE” together “found” this side-road next to the new school in an area that “I” was not familiar with, but Andy had inside info about the construction under way.
1. d) “WE” chose to stop the car and “PARK” as though his vehicle had dual controls.
1. e) “WE” started consensually “MAKING OUT” along with “HEAVY PETTING”.
- f) In Andy’s “version” there was no unilateral unzipping of his pants and unexpectedly exposing himself to me
- g) “I” performed oral sex on Andy, unsolicited.
- h) Although he states that it was “wrong” he quickly adds the words “it was very mutual” again. It was not.
- i) He chuckles lightheartedly as he described the act. I was having a panic attack and sobbing while listening to this, while he and Ben Ferguson sound casually flippant.
- j) The one non-hemming and hawing statement Andy makes is when he states declaratively, “She performed oral sex” implying this was my idea. He doesn’t leave any doubt later in the convo.
- k) When he describes his sense of panic, he states, “the number one sense of, ya know, responsibility I felt was, I had crossed a line in a standard of sexual purity that I said I wouldn’t do. I had, I had, nev-nothing like this had ever happened before. It was the first and last (pause) incident, of its kind, until marriage. I- I was panicking”.
Andy shows ZERO amount of concern for me, the student in his care, whom he just assaulted. The only thing Andy cares about is that his outside “Purity” ministry, where he and his friend Clayton King were getting large speaking gigs to speak on purity, was now blown. At 23, Andy was more concerned about his “brand” than the shocked and stunned kid feeling sick inside his truck. It’s not surprising that as a pastor he chose Marketing as his undergrad major, considering how important his brand is to him.
- l) Here is the final kicker and I pray that as you read this you consider how you would feel if Andy had said this lie about your daughter, after having done the same to her. Andy said, in a voice filled with rehearsed conviction (the kind that comes when your lawyer coach is in the room with you): “I do want to say this Ben. I did not, uh, ask for, I did not force, I did not direct her to do anything, in this moment”.
Within those five minutes on this radio show, Andy had painted me out to be the one who instigated the riding around instead of going home, picking out the secluded parking spot, parking the car, engaging in a steamy make-out sesh with heavy petting, followed by ME STEALING ANDY SAVAGE’S PURITY, as he describes me as the one who initiated the sex act without a request, direction or other provocation, meaning it was ME WHO ASSAULTED ANDY that dark night in the woods!
The world heard Andy’s false version. My family, once again, heard Andy’s false version. His flock, since he was still a legally ordained pastor at Highpoint, heard Andy’s version. I have every reason to believe that Andy did this on purpose so that he could relaunch his career as the victim, after a “season” of reflection. Although why would he need the reflection since this man who towers over me by over a foot and outweighed me by 60 pounds is pretending to be the poor victim.
Andy later admitted to a few of his previous LIES in his resignation letter, although not enough. And he did not go on a national radio broadcast to correct the record. Just Highpoint. Not even GBC.
I’m not sure how many sex abuse victims you have come into contact with over the years, but there is literally nothing worse a predator can do after the assault is over, than what Andy did to me and my family from his church stage and on that radio show, while he was still working as a pastor with the power of the GBC ordination.
Below is the transcript and link to the original radio show for you to confirm all of this.
4:10 “When I received the email to be honest… I was Shocked by the accusation that was in there (Jules’ email from early December 2017).”…
4:15 “I did not agree with her description of the account…(5:00) yes, I do think I remember the events very differently. The, the- during this time, this event, that took place, um, I remember giving Jules a ride home from the youth group, uh, that night….I offered to give Jules a ride home. Um, we got in the car, we were driving she, uh, said, she did not want to go home, so quickly, so we drove around. There was um, quite a bit of flirtation in hehe the car. The atmosphere was very flirtatious. Um, we found a side-road next to the new high school in the Woodlands, um, where we parked. Um, that flirtatious environment, uh, continued to, uh, move forward, um, which led to, um, uh, us making out. Some heavy petting. Uh, it was a very, uh, mutual (chuckles), spontaneous, physical, uh, moment. And our hormones were obviously, uh, very much in that moment. And uh, she performed oral sex …It was wrong, it was uh, it was very mutual… So when the, hehe, the when when we finished- when things we-were complete, um, I did jump out of the car. I was panicking… the number one sense of, ya know, responsibility I felt was, I had crossed a line in a standard of sexual purity that I said I wouldn’t do. I had, I had, nev-nothing like this had ever happened before. It was the first and last (pause) incident of its kind, until marriage. I- I was panicking. I did tell her, we can’t tell anybody. Um, I was begging God for forgiveness. I was telling her I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry God, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry. Um, it was a moment of panic. I do want to say this Ben. I did not, uh, ask for, I did not force, I did not direct her to do anything, in this moment”.
As you further consider the potential withdrawing of Andy Savage’s ordination, could you please consider watching this video, made by the NYT. In your opinion, when you listen to Andy tell his version, on stage at Highpoint minimizing what happened and chuckling and having an easy discussion with his buddy Ben, then compare it to the version where I describe the same night, does it honestly sound like I am the dominant one? The one initiating sex? The ABUSER?
Does it sound like I, in any way, consented to, let alone initiated, this act? Is it normal for a person to display such signs of trauma 20 years after having a mutual “organic” fully consensual sexual encounter that was instigated by that person? Have you ever seen this kind of PTSD reaction when a person recalls a “flirtatious” “organic” make-out session where they were the ones making the first move and volunteering to perform the sex act out of the blue?
Do you realize that this event and the way my home church of WPBC treated me afterwards because of the lies Andy told about this being “just a kiss” (as he confirms in that Ben F interview) was so traumatic that after I graduated from high school, I moved 250 miles away to college so that I wouldn’t have to be reminded of the assault.
Could you further consider the following manipulations?
– Andy and Chris, continued to conceal/mischaracterize the assault even after its existence was confirmed
– They concealed that Andy had never undergone a restoration process. He STILL has not.
– They concealed the final reports that were issued by Ministry Safe and attorney Scott Fredricks from their flock.
– They continued to conceal that a registered sex offender (Tim Heinz) continued to work at their Collierville Campus for months after I went public.
– They concealed that they squandered nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS on severance packages and consulting fees to handle the fall-out from Andy’s abuse.
– They concealed from their flock that they voluntarily left the SBC shortly after news of this scandal hit. This was not their first major sex scandal in just a few years. When a church decides to leave their lifelong denomination, the flock has a right to know. This singular act helps call into question whether an ongoing ordination from an SBC church in good standing is still appropriate.
Andy is establishing his new church as one where no one will be “judged” for anything. Please listen to Andy’s closing statements from his recent service at Grace Valley.
Please keep in mind that Grace Valley is currently holding their services on Sunday nights only 6.8 Miles from GBC. Andy is currently sheep stealing from Highpoint, and with the close proximity it is possible he may start wooing some of your sheep as well. Please look out for their souls.
Andy is focusing his new church on justification and is setting up a sin affirming church where sanctification won’t be promoted since no one is allowed to judge anyone else. Please also notice the casual and comedic tone Andy takes regarding the assault.
26:48 “Sometime we get so frustrated and maybe even judgmental over the things people do that are wrong. The ways that people are broken and dealing with their brokenness. And here’s the reality, on our way looking for God, we all got our hands on the wrong thing. Cause we were feeling. Trying to find out way onto God. And we got our hands on the wrong thing… This is why we don’t have to judge everyone around us. I hope you can see that. That’s why you will get no judgment from me. I mean it’s not hard to find out what I’ve done wrong, just Google my name (hehehe) it’s out there. It’s not hard to figure it out. And here’s the thing, we all have our story. Mine just got (pause) national news coverage. (muffled laughter). But here’s the reality, guys, and I’m not trying to make light of it, I, I got my hands on the wrong things. In my life. For all the right reasons. Looking for hope. Looking for fulfillment. Looking for a way to make my life better. Trying to stay out of the valley. That’s what we do. This is the human condition, which is why we don’t have to judge other people.”
33:08 “This is a place where you can come and be honest. You can start to learn to live a life of transparency with people that you trust. That you can be vulnerable. Knowing that we’re no different. We’re all people who got our hands on the wrong thing at one time or another and probably to a degree right now.”
I believe that you are a good and righteous man, Pastor Longworth. I understand that as a man of God you must try to walk the line between grace/forgiveness and appropriate consequences for disqualifying actions. I pray that as you try to balance these two, that you consider how far reaching your final decision will be.
Young adults and teens are leaving the Church in record numbers. How churches handle issues like sensitivity to sexual abuse victims may go a long way, especially when it is believed that as many as 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 6 men of our population have endured some form of sexual abuse. This could be an excellent way for Germantown Baptist to set themselves apart from the other churches who ignore or coverup sex abuse.
I would request that you ask yourself a few questions while considering this vitally important issue:
– Pastor, do you believe that God would be more pleased with granting grace to Andy or protecting his future flock from more lies and manipulation?
– Do you believe that there is such a shortage of pastors that God cannot build his church without allowing Andy Savage to manipulate more people so that he can rebuild his brand and create an even larger empire than he had before?
– How much should be risked to allow Andy to keep his ordination? Andy has ready income available to him right now. His father owns a construction company and his brother owns a large PR media company. Andy can work at either one of those places using his skills to provide for his family. Keeping Andy out of ministry does not place any undue hardship on his family; only on his ego.
Thank you kindly for giving this decision the appropriate amount of care and consideration it deserves.
The Response of the Leaders of Germantown Baptist Church to Jules’ letter: No Comment.
She heard nothing after sending this letter by certified mail. So she sent followup inquiries.
Finally she received this email.
My name is Matt White. I am the current Chairman of Deacons at Germantown Baptist Church.
We are in receipt of all your emails and phone calls. Church Leadership has met and our response is that we have no comment.
Jules then immediately asked for clarification.
——– Original message ——–
From: Matt White <email@example.com>
Date: 11/25/19 8:40 AM (GMT-07:00)
To: Jules Woodson
Subject: Re: Response
It has been handed to Church Leadership and there is no comment.
So she tried one more time but received no reply-not even an Ice cold one.
Forgive me but I still am not understanding your response. Are you saying that after church leadership recieved my request to revoke Andy’s ordination, that their only response is to have no comment, therefore they will take no action. Or, does this mean your church leadership is now in discussion and are following protocol to decide whether or not to revoke Andy Savage’s ordination.
Your Sister in Christ,
Did you catch it? These important leaders couldn’t even find it in their hearts to offer a compassionate response or even a bit of kindness. What is wrong with these men?
So what does Jules do now? I believe we were told that the Credentials Committee was supposed to be of help in these matters, along with racism, homosexuality and all sorts of other things. But we have recently found out that they are dead silent. Just keeps those card, letters and narratives coming, folks. In fact, send them two or three times. JD Greear promised that things would change and this stuff would get better. But that is not the case. He will be gone in a little over 7 months.Then, it’s be Al Mohler’s turn.
Silence is now the spiritual norm in the SBC. But, hey, they did put out the Caring Well stuff. Churches will not be forced to use it and I suspect that many will not. The SBC continues to prove that their leadership is filled with all sorts of good ideas, promises and crocodile tears but the male leadership of the SBC ends up looking rather impotent. Germantown Baptist Church merely mimics their betters and does it quite well.