Andy Savage, Who Assaulted a Girl in His Youth Group, Should Not Have a New Church

by | Oct 30, 2019 | Abuse, Faith, Uncategorized | 82 comments

Andy Savage is disqualified from pastoring again after sexually assaulting Jules Woodson.
Merchandise is Here!

So Andy Savage, a former megachurch pastor from Memphis, is now starting a new church, despite being disqualified from ministry.

I have had a tremendously busy week. Our grandson was born exactly a week ago, and we just got back from being with Rebecca and Connor (and Alexander!) in Ottawa for a month. So I’m behind on a whole lot of things.

I was supposed to run my last post in our series on the stages of sex today, talking about the slowing down years. But this Sunday the news broke that Andy Savage has a new church. I’ve covered him extensively on the blog, from when the original scandal broke to saying that he had to resign, and I thought it was important to comment on this, because everyone’s talking about it, and I thought I had something to add to the situation. I thought I’d cover the emotional/sexual aspects of the abuse.

So yesterday, instead of writing the post for today on the stages of sex, I recorded a video. I’m going to run the video today, and then wrap up our stages of sex post on Friday.

I’m sorry I’m so out of order, but it’s just crazy getting back to work now!

So on to the topic at hand: If you’ve used your power to sexually abuse someone, you can never be a pastor again.

Can you be forgiven? Absolutely. Can you be restored? Absolutely. You can attend church, attend small group, even lead a small group. You can volunteer in prisons, in soup kitchens, in celebrate recovery groups. You can still be an active member of a church. But you cannot serve in the pulpit again, and I explain why in this video:

I’ll just summarize a few of the points here.

It’s not just about the pastor. It’s what we’re saying to the victims in the pews.

I spend a lot of time in the video explaining the trauma of sexual abuse, and how it’s so hard to heal from. And then I point out that if a pastor goes back to preaching, saying, “all of this was so long ago! And God forgives!”, what is the sexual abuse victim hearing? She’s hearing that God can restore an abuser, and make everything hunky dorey for him, while she’s still struggling to have a normal marriage, a normal relationship, freedom from flashbacks (which can last decades). That’s why this is bigger than just the one pastor’s story. This is how we treat victims in general.

The “relationship” was not “consensual”.

I hear from Andy Savage and also from other pastors in this situation that they essentially consider the relationship consensual. And so I explain here why it was not consensual–why the only reason that Jules was hanging out with him was because he was a youth pastor; why him bestowing special favour on her gave her status among her peers, which is important; why there’s a power element. Had he been a 22-year-old in a college & career group, it would be totally different. She would not have felt drawn to him in the same way.

[et_pb_shop type=”product_category” posts_number=”4″ include_categories=”1653″ columns_number=”2″ _builder_version=”3.28″ _i=”3″ _address=”0.0.0.3″][/et_pb_shop]

One pastor is not indispensable

Sure, Andy Savage is a good preacher. But he isn’t indispensable. God doesn’t need him preaching.

People need to stop supporting him.

The reason he’s able to have a new church is because people are willing and eager to go. Others are supporting him. That has to stop. And so I draw your attention to the story of David and Saul, which I’ve talked about before in relation to Andy Savage. Saul disobeyed God several times–first by making an offering when he was not a priest. Later he didn’t follow God’s commands about the Amalekites. And God rejected him as king. But Samuel said to Saul, after the incident with the offering, that God was already preparing someone else. He had David in the wings. But a civil war eventually broke out because the people liked Saul. He had won military victories. He seemed like a good king. Why should they reject him in favour of David?

And that’s what’s happening here. People are propping up Andy Savage when they should be waiting to see who God has already prepared. Do we not believe that God can have a David in the wings?

I encourage you to watch the video. It is important. Next week I’ll be writing a post on the other side of this equation: why Andy Savage was in a bad situation as well, because 22-year-olds should not be put in charge of youth groups. But regardless of any of that, he abused his power, and he can’t be back in the pulpit now. Period. And churches need to get this right.

Jules Woodson has issued a public statement, too, and I’d like to run it here:

Andy Savage sexually assaulted me when I was 17 and he was my ordained youth pastor. He admits to sexually assaulting me. He admits that it was abuse of power.  Less than two years after this abuse was exposed, and he resigned from Highpoint Church, he has filed non-profit paperwork to plant a new church “Grace Valley Church.” When Andy sexually abused me, two other pastors, Larry Cotton and Steve Bradley failed to oversee Andy’s repentance, and failed to teach Andy that he had forever disqualified himself as a pastor, according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2 in the Bible. I have listened to Andy Savage’s speech to the potential members of “Grace Valley Church,” which was published online. Andy Savage is using manipulative approaches and what are considered “grooming” tactics to gain interest and support for his church.  In his speech, Andy appeals to vulnerable, broken people and broken lives who are in need of the gospel; he asks for people to share their secrets with him and the church; Andy chuckles while saying “I got my hands on the wrong thing” referring to his past sexual abuse of me. While it is true that we are all sinners, that God’s grace is amazing and available to all of us – including Andy Savage – there is a difference between repentance and restoration to the body of Christ and restoration to being a pastor. A pastor who sexually assaults a minor in their care is who Jesus talks about in Luke 17. Morally, ethically, biblically, Andy Savage is not qualified to be a pastor. Because he has abused people when he was given a position of power, part of his repentance and restoration is to NOT be put into that position of power ever again. When a trusted pastor appeals to people to be vulnerable and to share secrets, that can be a gift to help repentance and grow a person’s faith. These are the things that Andy asked of me when I was a child to groom me for sexual abuse. He is using the same method to start Grace Valley Church. Twenty years ago, Larry Cotton and Steve Bradley supported Andy Savage.  Andy Savage is not starting Grace Valley Church without the help and support of others. Andy Savage and his supporters are setting a precedent within the church that men who have preyed upon the flock can still belong on the pulpit. This is dangerous, this is wrong and I believe that Andy’s message of “cheap Grace” leads people astray from the truth of God’s Word.

Jules Woodson

That sums it up pretty well.

Why Does Andy Savage Have a New Church When He Used His Power to Sexually Abuse? #churchtoo

What do you think? How can we stop pastors from heading back to the pulpit after disqualifying themselves? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Why I’m Glad The Christmas Story is Messy

Sheila here! Every Friday Rebecca writes an email that goes out to our 45,000 email subscribers. (Well, sometimes it doesn't go out until Monday, but she does write a weekly round-up!). It tells you what the top posts of the week were, points you to the podcast, and...

What My Grandson Taught Me about How God Sees Us

Every now and then my grandkids give me a picture of God’s love for us. Or rather, their parents do. I don’t share about my grandkids very often, but last week, on a private Instagram page, Rebecca posted a series of pictures of my 3-year-old grandson Alex and his dad...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

82 Comments

  1. Jessica

    I’ll admit, I have a hard time with a really horrific decision at 22 disqualifying a person from using their gifts for the rest of their lives, in the department of ALL have sinned and if you’re looking for a perfect pastor, it’ll be an impossible search. But I do end up coming back to, while ALL sin causes us to fall short of the glory of God, SOME sin has more devastating earthly consequences and I would agree that this one is disqualifying for the pastorate.

    If I had to guess the cause of putting men with this kind of baggage in the pastorate, it would be the power of personality, which probably really means that they worship this guy more than they worship God. Kind of the same concept as when a pastor or Christian leader’s big sin is outed and people’s faith is shaken and leave the Church as the result. I tend to wonder if their faith was in God or the pastor. I won’t make that call for anyone, God knows the heart and all that, but I still tend to think that **in general** if one’s faith is so closely tied with our church’s pastor or this or that Christian leader, that finding out that they’re a sham leads to that person rejecting God, that suggests a level of idol worship rather than God worship. Taking this back to Andy Savage, if finding out about a pastor’s devastating sin causes one to excuse such sin and continue wanting to be in his church rather than declaring NO this is WRONG, and we love you man but being a pastor is not a choice you now have, then again, are you worshiping God, or that pastor.

    In conclusion, people are dumb and we all need Jesus.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen to your conclusion!!!!

      I totally agree. And I actually had a lot of compassion for Andy at the beginning of all of this. He was young; he was in a situation that no 22-year-old should really be placed in (more on that next week); it doesn’t seem (though we can’t know) to be pattern in his life. But the way he has failed to own up to this is very concerning and depressing.

      Reply
    • Ruru

      Why do we have “head pastors” anyway? One church my family attended had a group of elders, each with differing responsibilities and no lead pastor. Each man would take turns preaching. As far as I know none of them were required to be seminary or bible college graduates just be men who had demonstrated godliness and ability to accurately teach the word. All were married with childre. As far as I know only one of the elders was paid a salary. The others had jobs/were retired. It also was understood that others in the church congregation were being discipled so that should it be needed or if they desired they’d be prepared to preach. No one person became the focus. Of course every church has its problems, it just seemed like the people I interacted with had the mindset everyone should be trained and able to teach in whatever context they were in no matter if they were a leader or not. The more recent model of church with a lead pastor and dozens of staff people can look more like a corporation/nonprofit organization than the body description described in the bible. In those churches it seems like pastors/staff/bible school graduates are the ones who do the teaching and the rest of us just sit and listen. There is little encouragement/no expectation that believers should be proficient in the word.

      Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    Oh good grief.

    First, being a pastor or priest is *not about you.* It is about bringing people to God. If you have massive problems that interfere with bringing people to God, then you need to understand that it’s your ego, not God, “calling” you to this.

    Second, I’ve alluded to what happened to me as a child and a teenager – ongoing, vicious, frightening physical abuse. At this point, I am estranged from my family because they want me to forget and “forgive.” (Definition of forgive: never tell anyone about it; never bring it up; allow the perpetrator to spin her own story about those years; pretend that my life is “fine” and that there are no ongoing effects from a decade-plus of death threats and abuse.)

    Actual repentance involves understanding that the victim’s feelings are more important than your wants, career goals, desire to preach, whatever. Even when it’s not convenient for you.

    Third, this sends an incredibly mixed message about human sexuality. If a church preaches that sex is for marriage, and the person who is doing the preaching sexually abused an underage girl, the message looks a lot like: sex is about control.

    Sorry, ranting. I just… wow.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Rant away! That was awesome. And I’m really, really sorry about your family of origin, Jane. That’s so sad. And that is absolutely NOT what forgiveness means.

      Reply
  3. Arwen

    You know Timothy, Titus & Peter have VERY strict guidelines for what a man must qualify for in order to be a pastor. One of those qualification is being “above reproach.” There is NOTHING above reproach about Savage! Peter’s nasty attitude and behavior towards the Gentiles literally disqualified him from ever preaching to them and Paul had to take up the mantel. If a “simple” attitude and behavior is enough to disgust God then sexual assault should get you no where near the flock!

    I’m glad you brought up Saul because, lets not beat around the bush here. The only reason why Savage is getting away with this is because of his looks! Just like the reason why the Hebrews elected Saul was because of his looks. A wicked society will let you get away with evil as long as you tingle them sexually. If he looked like those 700 rapist pastors that were arrested nobody would give him a platform. But because he’s “handsome,” hip, wears the latest fashion, bla, bla, bla……he gets a platform. Shame on any the women who attend his “church.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well said.

      Reply
  4. Sarah O

    First off – agree totally.

    Secondly – the fact that we are spending so much time scrambling and fighting over who gets to be “pastor” “head pastor” “senior pastor” etc tells me we have A VERY UNBIBLICAL VIEW of what a pastor is and what their responsibilities are. No one needs an office of pastor to exercise their spiritual gifts. You can speak, lead, exhort, or prophesy without an official office. We have such a corrupt view of pastorhood that hearing someone is a pastor honestly takes them down a few notches in my book, instead of the opposite.

    I see all this bull crap in church leadership and I am not surprised at all that Christ is allowing a shaking and dismantling across every major denomination.

    Can we please get better at looking for Jesus and stop looking for “good pastors”? Can we stop putting Fellowship into an “11:00am-on-Sunday’s-at-a-nice building” box?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree, Sarah! That’s been part of the crisis of faith that Keith and I have been going through lately. We need to rethink a lot of this stuff from the ground up.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        Sheila – I really am sorry for what you’re going through and facing. It drives me nuts from the sidelines and you are definitely on the field. I do think all this stirring up is being used for good purpose, but it is so discouraging! I want to believe that people – and especially other Christians – are generally decent and honorable, just flawed. I want to minimize our sin nature so badly and live in a world where we are all earnestly wrestling against evil instead of rolling over.

        I wonder if the disciples knew any of the Pharisees by reputation? I wonder if they were bewildered and baffled by their behavior like we are with our Christian celebrities?

        I know you and Keith have a heart for people, and that kind of love and energy can only come from one place. You have created a place where we can fellowship free of gender and denominational limitations, which is amazing. I hope you find some rest for your soul soon.

        Reply
    • Sarah O

      You know who had a good understanding of the pastorate? Jonah. Jonah understood that being a pastor is not about being seen and heard and celebrated and provided for – it was about serving people you don’t like, who probably won’t appreciate it, someplace you don’t want to be. It was about taking God’s message to a place that was probably very dangerous. And it meant acting according to God’s character when literally everyone around you is crude, vulgar, violent, and provocative.

      When someone says they are “called” to a lovely, accredited and insured seminary school near their hometown or in a nice area of a cool city, “called” to a full time salary with benefits and provided housing, “called” to speak from a prepared liturgy to a receptive audience, I have to ask WHO is calling???? I can’t think of one single biblical figure that received such a call from God Almighty. And that is certainly NOT how he spent his time on earth. Yet droves and droves of handsome, young, relatively affluent white men – many of whom’s father mysteriously got the exact same “call”, are hearing exactly this instruction.

      Goodness knows more polished speakers with spiky hair and preppy clothes are just what’s needed at such a time as this!

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Good point, Sarah. A youth pastor of mine was at seminary when this awesome job opened up at a very high end church. He KNEW he was going to get that job, he was 100% certain. Then somebody else got it, and he went outside and yelled at God, about how God OWED him that job, and so on.

        He tells that story to teach people humility. He isn’t proud of how he acted, but he hopes that he can use that story to help others

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        This is seriously a good point. People need to think about this stuff. The church is not being salt and light right now because we’ve got our priorities all wrong!

        Reply
      • Arwen

        Sarah, say it louder for the people in the back! Every single church around me is EXACTLY how you described. I sometimes feel out of place, not wealthy enough, not hip enough, not wearing the latest fashion, not drinking the most expensive coffee, etc. I have been thinking about relocating from CA to D.C. because there are several churches there i LOVE. However the weather is cursed on that side of America. loool! That weather is the only thing keeping me from moving. It’s horrid compared to sunny CA. Yikes!

        Reply
        • Sarah O

          Arwen, I hear you! I LOVE Jesus, but I have struggled with church my entire life. I lived in the DC (northern VA) for a good while before moving down south to GA. I loved having all four seasons in DC but do not miss the traffic or driving in the snow and ice!

          Our church here has some really wonderful people
          in it who are good caring souls. They show up for babies, weddings, funerals, etc with food and company, and they also do valuable ministry in the community – the big one is a week long home repair/renovation marathon for people who can’t afford it.

          That being said, I don’t care for either of the pastors we’ve had since we’ve been here. One female, one male, both caught up in church politics and neither particularly available to individual church members (our church is like 75-100 people…)

          I have been kicking around an idea of starting a home church. I was part of one about 10 years ago and it was the most encouraging form of fellowship I’ve ever had and lots of good came from it.

          Hope you find a spot that’s truly edifying! If you’re ever down south stop by for some tea and I’d be thrilled to worship with you!

          (Also huge Lotr fan so we’d have that to go over in detail ;))

          Reply
          • Ina

            Home churches are the best. My parents left our big church to join a home church when I was 6 and it was the best decision ever. The church is too big to fit in a home now so we rent a church basement. This trend should continue though! It’s wonderful being in a community where I know if anything happens every single member will be praying sincerely for us and most will probably be at our door with practical help. You know, the way community is supposed to work.

          • Becky

            Off-topic, but Sarah, it sounds like you and Arwen would be my people for fandom, as I also love LotR! My baby daughter’s middle name is Eowyn. 🙂

            Arwen, I live about 2 hours north of D.C., and while I grew up here and don’t know differently, I can see how the weather might be a deterrent for you. The humidity can be brutal. But I do like having 4 seasons, and that area is a favorite day trip destination for my family.

            I don’t really have anything on topic to add, since it seems that not putting a man with a history of child molestation in charge of a church should be a no brainer. Seriously. It’s situations like this that make it hard for people to think well of Christians, and that’s tragic.

    • Nathan

      Very true, Sarah! There are LOTS of things this guy can do to help advance God’s Kingdom and assist the less fortunate without being an official pastor.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        Thank you Nathan! It’s weird to me how we approach these situations. Convicted felons can’t own guns. No one gets all worked up over that. When pastors use their pulpit as a weapon to hurt others, they should get disarmed too. What’s so sad about that?

        Andy Savage could have and should have faced prison time, offender registry, etc. I don’t think it’s outrageous to ask him not to be the line leader. Do we really think pastorship is the only way to serve God?

        In fact, seeing JUST ONE of these disgraced pastors actually demonstrate repentance and service toward victims of sexual abuse is a HUGE gospel opportunity – that appears to be beneath them.

        Reply
  5. Nathan

    I’ve never heard of this guy, but I agree with what’s being said here.

    Yes, God is great. He can (and will) forgive any sin if you are truly repentant. BUT… forgiveness does NOT mean that we act like it never happened. Some things have earthly consequences that you must pay for. And I would agree that sexually assaulting an underage girl means that you should not be a pastor.

    And as an aside, no 22 year old man should be put in charge of a group of teenage girls like that. Note that this is NOT excusing or justifying his behavior.

    Reply
    • Lolo

      Thank you, Sheila, for speaking the truth with boldness. Keep on exposing evil, red flags, controlling and toxic behaviors, abuse…At the same time, I really like how you encourage people to mutual love and mutual respect, especially couples. You are such an encouragement for women and for the godly men out there.

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    We recently talked about forgiveness at our church. Our pastor also said that forgiveness does NOT mean that people get to do whatever they want and get away with it. If somebody hurts you, and you forgive them, you’re basically letting go of the anger, hate, desire for revenge, etc. It’s more for your sake than the sake of the person that you’re forgiving. You can forgive somebody and still believe that they need to be held accountable and face a consequence for what they did.

    At our church, a woman told her story about forgiveness. When she was young, her father died and her mother remarried. Her stepfather REPEATEDLY molested her, and her mother did nothing, denied it was happening, etc.

    Years later, after moving out and getting therapy, she forgave him, but she didn’t become best friends with him. She maintains no contact with him at all. for the sake of her own kids, she told her mother that she can come over and visit her grandchildren, but she must come WITHOUT her husband.

    So yes, she has forgiven him, but his actions carry a consequence, at least an earthly one

    Reply
  7. Nathan

    Up above, Sarah O says
    > > I want to believe that people – and especially other Christians – are generally decent and honorable, just flawed.

    I believe that the vast majority of all people are generally decent and honorable. A small percentage are, however, just plain rotten. I’m convinced that it’s a very small percentage of the whole, however.

    All of us, of course, stumble now and again.

    Reply
    • Sarah O

      Nathan – I hope hope hope you are right and I will be happy to eat a whole crow if so.

      I am trying to hang on to that belief but the headlines make it tough lately.

      Reply
  8. Dave

    This is a really great discussion! My first thought about the post was wondering why we compare pastors so much to ancient kings. Not one of them would have qualified as a New Testament elder or bishop, because they were violent and greedy (and most were polygamists as well). Their job was to fight battles on behalf of Israel and their salary was 10% or more of the Israelites’ hard-earned everything. Hmm think I answered my own question.

    Reply
  9. Noel Lokaychuk

    “And the Shofar Blew” by Francine Rivers is a really interesting fictional comment on modern church culture. The cult of the individual, the megachurches, abuse of power, misconduct, etc, contrasted with ordinary people serving God to their neighbor.
    We recently were church shopping after leaving our old church due to a new pastor with whom we had doctrinal differences over the nature of salvation. (He looked like Boris Karloff, but that wasn’t the issue!)
    It is incredibly difficult to find a church. We eventually ended up attending a church where we felt there was good fellowship, even though the speaking is lackluster, and the music is annoying. But we also go to a friend’s house on Fridays- they host people to just sing together, and read verses or pray in between songs. That is really the biggest spiritual encouragement we find.
    It has really made me think about the nature of church and worship- without any definite conclusions.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, can I come to that Friday night gathering? That sounds lovely!

      I read And the Shofar Blew. It was a really good story, but it didn’t sit well with me because I felt as if she portrayed the wife as far too passive, and that that was a good thing. If the wife had drawn some clear boundaries about what she was willing to tolerate and what she was not, I wonder if the marriage would have deteriorated the way it did. I just felt that Francine Rivers could have made a story that was more empowering. Instead, it’s like everything turned out well in the end by a miracle–but it wasn’t realistic, and it wasn’t the sort of plot that would help a woman, even though most of her other books are. I just found it kind of depressing, actually.

      Reply
  10. Natalie

    Wow! Excellent video, Sheila! Your passion for the topic is palpable!
    I agree with everything you said, especially what Andy’s future should’ve been in the church after that incident. And thank you for getting graphic and just saying it like it is. I’ve never consciously thought about how a bj abuse could affect a woman differently than forced intercourses, but that totally makes sense to me! And it’s so sad that abuse victims like that will always have the fullness of that experience stolen from them. 😓

    But a part of me is hesitant to place all the blame of what happened at Andy’s feet. Yes, he abused her. Yes, he SERIOUSLY misused his place of power over Jules. But don’t we ladies also have personal responsibility for our actions too? He didn’t physically force her to perform oral sex on him. He seriously coerced her and abused his authority over her, but she still could’ve said “no Andy, I’m not gonna do that.” You as a woman can want to impress someone and want them to like you and love you and find favor in their eyes. But if that means crossing boundaries you’re not willing to cross, it is still possible to say no and even physically run away if that’s what it takes to remove yourself from the situation.
    I don’t know where Jules was in her spiritual walk at that point in her life, and I don’t know if she’d ever set up some solid moral boundaries for herself. I also know that her family of origin and past experiences surely played a large part in why she felt how she did about “earning” the approval of her peers and superiors. And I don’t fault her for any of that. Obviously, nothing about this scenario or scenarios like this (which are far too common) is easy! It’s soooo multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. I just think that we should also teach girls that they don’t have to be victims. They don’t have to earn the approval of people they want to like them, even if they really badly want that approval and to fit in. I get it! I’ve been there and it’s so hard to be the outcast in the group. But we as woman also have some say (most of the time) in situations that we place ourselves into. And we also have our gut/intuition/Holy Spirit/whatever you want to call it that alerts us when we’re getting into territory where we could be harmed. I think it’s so important for women to be hyper-aware of that and to feel like they have power over their own bodies and lives… not like they have to succumb to the power of a man in charge (or woman in charge) and do things they don’t want to do. We need to take a stand and stand firm for the things we believe in! We’re not weak!

    Reply
    • Elena

      Really?? Really?!?!? I guess it was my fault I got raped because my no wasn’t desperate enough, wasn’t loud enough, wasn’t convincing enough!! Here’s a little piece of unsolicited advice: should you ever feel the need to comment that an abuse survivor contributed in ANY FREAKIN WAY, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND FINGERS OFF THE KEYBOARD. It’s hard enough dealing with this crap without someone saying, well you should have or shouldn’t have done whatever. Do you know what it’s like to have to relive something like that? Do you comprehend that a person gets traumatized again and again when there is something to trigger a response or memory. Like someone saying the victim contributed! Do you know what it’s like to try to make yourself as unattractive as possible to eliminate or reduce the risk of it happening again? Or what it’s like to think you’re doing well and are happy to then have your world crash down when your husband leaves you for another woman? Which then causes one to feel ALL the same feelings, intensified, that came with being raped. So then one must deal with the emotional fallout of their life ruined and past trauma, all at once. The victim of this story may never see your comments. But Sheila’s followers do and I can guarantee you there are a staggering number of them that are going to be having this anxiety attack I’m having right now because of your words. How about next time you just don’t comment, unless it can be in support of the abuse survivor!!!!!

      Reply
      • Natalie

        That’s not what I’m saying at all. You said no. You fought back as best you could. You were overpowered. That’s a totally different situation.

        Reply
    • Kim

      Natalie, I have to say that I agree with your points here. And I also have a point that Sheila referred to last week regarding King David’s rape of Bathsheba as he was in a place of authority iver him. The point being that David did not lose his place of leadership for his sin, and both he and Bathsheba faced the consequences for the sin. But in his repentance, God restored David to his place of authority and ministry. I honestly have no knowledge of the situation Sheila is discussing, and all the details, and have no judgement to give on this specific issue, but I do believe that every sinner needs to be brought to true repentance before God and be willing to submit themselves to all church and earthly authority for their actions. And when they are fully repentant, I believe that God can put them wherever He wants to use them and their redeemed story. There are former murderers that I can think of who were not disqualified from ministry. I feel that many times we as Christians categorize sins making some worse than others and placing eternal judgement on redeemed Christians. In studying grace in our small group, I have recently learned that “It is Finished” means that a sinners debt is cancelled “as though the sin was not committed”, as a criminal would receive a cancellation of their criminal debt after they served their sentence. I think we are far from this in the church for “certain sins”. It is like saying that a former thief who has repented and served their sentence can never be trusted with money, etc. I don’t think God looks at us this way. But He looks at our hearts.

      That being said, I believe anyone in ministry who has fallen into sexual sin needs to take time to be restored and make amends And submit to all church and government authority before jumping back into ministry, if that is what God‘S will is for them.

      I know not everyone will agree with this, but it is my personal perspective on this.

      Reply
      • Natalie

        I think that’s a good point too. And I think it’s worth mentioning that it is still logical and cognitively congruent to think these thoughts while also empathising with abuse victims. One can’t say what they’d do in a similar situation unless it actually happened to them. However, every choice we make does at least in part have some say in future events that happen to us. That doesn’t mean that it’s the woman’s fault for what happened to her (cuz it’s SO not!) or even that she could’ve changed it once things had progressed past a certain point. It just means that, had things in life gone differently, certain future events may not have taken place.
        But as an abuse survive, I think it’s pointless and in constructive to focus on the “could haves”. Thankfully we have God on our side. He saw us through those terrible things that happened to us, and He can heal us. We won’t ever forget what happened to us, but goodness can come out of horror in a way that would’ve have been possible without the horror.

        Reply
    • April

      I know you mean well. And I hope you have never in your life experienced something like Jules, or Elena, below. It may be easy for you to say that she could have been stronger to say no, or get out of the car and run away. You allude to her spiritual walk, and instincts. The thing is, Andy drove her to a secluded area. Not only was he in a position of authority over her, he was bigger and stronger than her. So, possibly the wisest and safest thing for her to do, was to comply. That was following her instincts. She had no where to run, where he in a car couldn’t catch up to her. In my experience, men who use coercive tactics don’t take too kindly to being refused, and will resort to other tactics that are more overt, and more dangerous to the victim. Like Elena, her no could have resulted in her being overpowered – again, he was bigger and stronger than her, and they were in a dark secluded area. This is in no way her fault, she didn’t ask for it, even if she didn’t refuse “enough” for some people’s taste. It doesn’t matter how close she was or wasn’t to the Lord, in that time. She did what she had to do to survive. And the impact is life-long and brutal.
      I am honestly really weary of people trying to find reasons why a victim isn’t a perfect enough victim, and why the abuser shouldn’t feel the full weight of his actions. And as long as we continue to have this narrative, people like Andy will continue to take advantage, doing lasting mental, emotional and spiritual damage to the innocent victims.

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        Agree with you, April.

        When I took self-defence, the instructors were very clear about something: we did not have to physically fight back. If we froze (“freeze and appease”) or thought that fighting back would be unsuccessful and make the rape worse, that is our judgement call.

        The problem is that abusers aren’t like normal people. Some of them lack any sort of proper “fear” response, as in, they literally do not feel fear themselves. So it’s hard to fight back in any meaningful way, because you figure out pretty quickly that their own personal cost-benefit analysis is skewed – they aren’t weighing the negative consequences to themselves.

        Others get off on the fight and winning – fighting back just makes it worse. For them, success is in breaking you down.

        Others will go out of their way to punish those who fight back. (My abuser is like this – did it to many other people, me included. No action of fighting back ever went unpunished.)

        Reply
        • April

          This is spot on, Jane!

          Reply
      • Lea

        Women in these circumstances have to make difficult choices, and sometimes that choice is to comply. Grooming and power differentials are a thing. I am not interested in judging her choices, because they are irrelevant to us in every way.

        What is a problem is what Andy did. He is the one who is attempting to put himself forward as a spiritual leader and authority when he clearly wasn’t sorry and didn’t bother to do anything about this until he got called out in the media. The question is not whether she is qualified, but whether HE is. No.

        He wasn’t repentant, or he would have contacted her. Voluntarily made retribution or stepped down from public life for real. Instead, he was just hoping he could get away with it, because he managed to get away with it at the time. That’s not a “mistake” he made at 22, that’s a choice he had as an adult pastor. Continually. And it was the wrong one.

        Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      I’m really thankful for the very black-and-white nature of the teaching I got about sex as a teen, which boiled down to: Sex with anyone you aren’t married to is WRONG, and if anyone is asking you for any sexual act, that person is WRONG. Whether it’s a teacher, relative, or whatever- you say no, you tell someone if anything makes you uncomfortable or feels off, and you take steps not to be alone or vulnerable. Mostly this came from my mother. My father was very blasé about boys putting their hands on me, as long as they were, in fact, boys; even if I didn’t like it. My mom taught me to trust my instincts and to treat inappropriate advances with the prompt outrage they deserve.

      So when my school headmaster put his hand on my thigh when he found me alone one day, I took the first opportunity to tell my father. When we got back from a school trip in the middle of the night and he sent everyone else home while we waited for my parents, I kept as much distance between us as possible. When he tried to get me to come with him into the school office on some pretext, I insisted on staying outside. Women and especially girls have to be taught that if a man is creeping on them, grooming them or tries to get them alone, they shouldn’t be afraid to say, “hey, this guy’s acting weird.” They should be taught that sometimes, you’re safer alone in the parking lot than in a dark, empty building with the headmaster, or in the car with the flirty youth pastor.

      I’m not familiar with this case at all. If the account I read in these comments is accurate- that he offered to take her home or something and instead took her to a remote secondary location for the purpose of soliciting sex, with the implication of abandonment or force if she said no- it really sounds like there ought to be at least one criminal charge in there somewhere. He definitely should never be in a confidential position, because those are very predatory behaviors. Like the domesticated part-wolf who reverted to stalking guests, I don’t think there can ever be real trust that he won’t default back to predatory behavior when an opportunity presents, such as when an attractive parishioner comes for counseling on her troubled marriage.

      Natalie, to your general point, yes, women are beings of moral autonomy. An adult woman (and many teenage girls) are every bit as capable of forming sexual intent on a male as he is on them, even if they lack the physical power a man has to procure it. It is far too frequent that women trade sex to get something they want, then complain later that they were “assaulted”. I am fully in favor of women taking personal responsibility. There is a difference between a consensual sexual relationship between a grown woman and a man who also happens to be a pastor (or her boss, professor, whatever), and a woman who complies with the sexual demands of a man because she’s afraid he will hurt her. I don’t know which of these things happened here. But no matter which it was, I think being a pastor should be out of the question.

      Reply
      • Lea

        “It is far too frequent that women trade sex to get something they want, then complain later that they were “assaulted”

        Please don’t perpetrate this falsehood. This is not ‘far too frequent’, by any study I’ve seen. It’s rare for women to bring false accusations, and someone did a great study about the ones who do and it’s not what you are saying at all.

        Reply
  11. Nathan

    > > But don’t we ladies also have personal responsibility for our actions too?

    Yes, but I believe that she was underage at the time. Also, he was in a position of authority over her.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Yes, I’d agree with that 100%, especially in the legal sense and having the perpetrator convicted of sexual abuse/assault. I’m talking more about morally. No matter our age, once we’re past early childhood and are able to think critically and analyze situations and the world around us, shouldn’t we put a firm foot down when something goes against our moral code?
      And I understand that for her & other teens and young 20-somethings, that moral code is still being shapes, making it easier for abusers to enact their harm. But I also don’t think we can 100% disregard personal responsibility, even for teenagers.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        I completely get what you’re saying and I think this is in the same spirit as Sheila’s post on teaching young girls how to be safe. We can’t ignore the sin and danger in the world and we do need to do a better job of teaching all young people how to guard their hearts, minds and bodies in healthy ways.

        I would caution against viewing the physical as the only “legitimate” form of coercion. This is one of the viewpoints that abusers use to minimize, justify, and deny that abuse occurred. It’s also a viewpoint they rely on for grooming communities, which makes reporting and seeking justice so difficult.

        Sexual abuse is the only crime where the victim gets as much scrutiny as the perpetrator, and it’s just kind of weird to me. The truth is, no one is prepared to be abused and no one responds perfectly to it. This is especially true when you consider that most abusers are known and have a relationship with their victim. It comes as a blind side to someone who thought they were in a “safe” place, not when someone has their guard up and is able to defend themselves. That’s the nature of abusive dynamics.

        If someone stole something from your home, but you left the front door unlocked, was it more understandable? I mean, they didn’t have to physically break in…

        If a drunk driver hits your car and injures you, but you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, is what they were doing somehow more ok?

        If someone mugs you in the street, and normally you carry pepper spray but this particular day you didn’t, are you less mugged?

        There are levels of influence that the law recognizes as potentially coercive other than physical (doctors, counselors, PASTORS). Why can’t we recognize them too?

        Finally, most of us avoid physical confrontation when we are reasonably certain to be overpowered. Abusers frequently choose victims who are physically vulnerable to them. So Jules would have had to gamble that the sheer principle of physical resistance would have been enough to deter this 22 year old physically fit male, and if she gambled wrong risk serious violence while trapped in his car miles from home. That’s a pretty awful risk analysis for a 17 year old to perform on the spot.

        Even if I assume the worst about Jules – where did the wrong thing occur?

        Andy is the youth pastor
        Andy has responsibility for the kids in his care
        Andy is the legal adult
        Andy is a professing Christian with theological training
        Andy becomes attracted to Jules
        Andy seeks out an opportunity to get Jules alone without attracting attention
        Andy not only gets Jules alone, but in his car which he is driving, so she is physically vulnerable
        Andy exposes his privates and solicits oral sex from Jules

        Honestly, at be his point there is nothing Jules can do or not do to exonerate Andy. Even if she jumped out of the car and ran screaming down the street, he is guilty of a great wrong and should face consequences.

        Also – and call me naive here – oral sex is not usually the first stop for initiating romantic relationships. No dinner? No first date? No secret texting? No flowers? No holding hands? No kissing? These are not the actions of a guy that is attracted to a young lady in an unfortunate context. This suggests to me very predatory behavior and someone who was looking for sexual gratification and was turned on by her vulnerability and innocence.

        I was honestly impressed that Jules reported immediately after his tearful begging. I thought that showed remarkable strength of character for a 17 year old.

        Reply
        • Natalie

          100% Sarah! Thank you for much more eloquently saying what I was trying to convey.

          Reply
        • Lea

          He used her, Sarah. It’s not ok.

          Reply
          • Sarah O

            Agreed, and apologies if my words somehow suggested otherwise. I was literally trying to put the full responsibility on him.

  12. Rebecca Lindenbach

    I think any idea of personal responsibilities here, even if there WASN’T the power differential (which there clearly was), end when she’s brought to a dark, remote area in the back woods. If she ran, where would she go? Was she supposed to throw herself out of his moving vehicle when he missed the turn? It was late at night and she’d likely be left alone with a broken limb on the side of the road without a vehicle while her rapist had a car and could easily catch up to her again. If he asked for oral and she said “no”, he’s a larger, stronger man who could have forced her to do anything or even killed her in a rage at her refusal. She could scream, but no one would hear. And again, you don’t want to make a man who is trying to assault you angry because if he’s willing to do THAT to you, what else might he do?

    Jules did exactly what Jules needed to do to survive. I literally see no safe way out of that situation that allows her to take any form of a stand against her rapist.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Yeah, I’d agree with that too, especially once she was already in that situation in that moment. I guess I’m talking more about personal responsibility in the moments and situations that led up to her being at the point of no return.

      Reply
    • Chris

      Rebecca, how do you have energy to post comments right now?! Hope all is well with little one!

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Haha I’m on bedrest right now and so Connor’s handling literally everything except breastfeeding. 🙂 So I desperately needed something to do while baby slept!!

        Reply
  13. Dave

    I wonder if pornography played a role in the assault. Savage did not seem to be fantasizing about being alone so he could express his feelings in the hope something organic and mutual might happen. We’ll never know in this case, but… what percentage of pastors admit to recent porn use in surveys? What chaos would occur if half of those suddenly got inspired by the Holy Ghost to confess and disqualify themselves?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wonder that, too, Dave. I would venture a large proportion.

      Reply
  14. Belle Grace

    If a pervert wants access to children…he goes to work at daycares & schools where children are. Same goes for rapists who don’t want to be the stereotypical rapist who hides in the dark…so they look for places where women & girls will be. Predators scope out places where they can abuse their power.

    Many predators have staked out their prey, on those praying in those pews. A church is a perfect breeding ground to hunt for victims. Mostly because of those who choose to worship the preacher…& not God…they always turn a blind eye to the truth.

    Many fake Christians have landed in the pulpit.

    Many fake preachers have gotten away with murder…all because the self-proclaimed Christians sitting in the pews decided it was easier to cast their pastor as Jesus…than walking by true faith with someone they can’t see.

    Jesus shows His children red flags all the time…but we ignore them.

    We ignore the red flags…because we don’t want to inconvenience ourselves with the truth. We don’t like to rock the boat if it means us getting wet.

    Reply
    • Doug

      Belle,

      You make this man out to be a monster seeking out children, but he was barely more than a child himself. He was also probably not seeking out children but was probably placed there because that is where churches place young seminary students. I personally don’t think that is wise, but it is almost a universal practice. The youth leaders in my church are about the age he was at the time.

      I’m not saying that what he did was not very wrong. It was. I don’t particularly think that it was more wrong, based on his position, than it would have been otherwise.

      I spent 20 years in the Army and every Lieutenant I served under was roughly his age. They were in positions of authority, but they were not trusted to exercise that authority without being under the watchful eye and tutelage of a senior NCO and they were certainly not sent out on the battlefield with a bunch of Privates to lead, without the accompaniement of NCO’s of varying ranks to keep things in order.

      If you wish to blame someone blame the church who put all of them in that position. Absolutely, blame Mr. Savage for his actions but do not blame him for the faults in the system that put him there without some strong leadership.

      Reply
  15. Chris

    So, let me say first that my comment here is not really about this particular incident of pastoral abuse. Its clear he abused her and should not be in ministry. I also agree with Sheila that he shouldn’t have been placed in that job in the first place.
    But here’s my question and maybe it warrants its own post some day: Lets say you are a young man right out of seminary. You get a job at your first church. And in addition to working in clergy, you also dream of a having a family of your own; a wife and kids. Well, given your new position of clerical authority, it’s inappropriate (if not flat out illegal) for you to date a member of your flock. So what is the course you take? I really don’t know. Maybe work at your church but only date women from other churches? Hope you have a lot of ecumenical harmony. Or maybe you can only date non-christian women with the hope of evangelizing them? I really don’t know what one does in that situation. Or does the church just expect you to remain single? Catholics do this. Maybe they are on to something. I don’t have an answer. I do know what is NOT an answer: “Well consenting adult relationships are different “. Uh no, i went over that above with the authority part. Sheila, thoughts?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m actually writing about this next week. Hiring 22-year-old youth pastors is not a good idea. As to the other, let’s say you had a single senior pastor. I think you do what they do in the secular world. If he wants to date someone, he needs to consult with the board first. If they do start a relationship, they need to go forward and declare they’re in a relationship. That’s what my brother-in-law and sister-in-law did when they married; he was her accountant, and that’s not supposed to happen. So it couldn’t be done in secret. She had to declare that she wasn’t under duress, and then she had to have someone else take over her account. It is a good question, though!

      Reply
      • Doug

        I don’t know if he should be in ministry or not. There are a lot of damning details, but I am a little bit uncomfortable with some of the characterizations made of him, particularly the use of the word “predator”. He certainly lacked self control, and he certainly lacked judgement. That is not a good combination, but it doesn’t make you a predator either.

        The thing is I remember being that age. Actually I was a liyyle bit younger, but I was legally an adult, and was even serving in the Army. I was in a relationship with a girl that was a few years younger, and I also lacked wisdom and self control, and I was a little too pushy, and when I was not met with a hard no, things progressed beyond what they should have. There was no intercourse, but only because we were caught. I have no doubt that I was wrong, and I have no doubt that I hurt her deeply. We had discussed marriage before and she never spoke to me again after that night.

        I hesitate to say the next part because I think it will be misinterpreted. The degree one is hurt, does not define the seriousness of the offense, nor does it make the offender a monster or a predator.

        A lot has been said that I agree with. A Pastor should absolutely be above reproach. That is not the same as saying that a pastor should have lived a perfect life, ot that there can be no serious sin in their past, or that they could never have hurt anyone in the past.

        The Apostle Paul was basically a serial killer. He absolutely fit the definition of a predator. I think it is safe to say that he hurt a lot of people and a lot of those hurts were still very strong during his ministry.

        I am curious to how you reconcile his story and his testimony to Andy Savage. I think it is safe to say that Andy Savages sins were nowhere near as hurtful as Pauls, and yet he dpread the gospel everywhere he went.

        I’m not saying that Andy Savage is the same as the apostle Paul in his value to the ministry, but he wasn’t a serial killer either. If he was not disqualified….. then who can be, assuming confession, repentance, and restoration have taken place.

        I don’t know the man. He doesn’t sound like someone I would like, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others he could reach for the Lord. I daresay, most here wouldn’t care for the church I attend, and I would be equally uncomfortable in many of yours but I believe that God uses all of them.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Doug, the apostle Paul was a murderer BEFORE he came to Christ. He did not use his position as an apostle to identify victims to murder.

          And while, yes, people who are young often have bad judgment, that’s a far cry from driving a vulnerable girl to a secluded spot and asking for oral sex. That is quite different. And while you likely did do something very bad to the girl you were dating, the difference here is that you were not her pastor.

          I do feel badly for all concerned. I don’t think it’s right to have 22-year-old youth pastors, and I’ll be writing about that next week. But the fact that he has not acknowledged the severity of what he did and thinks that he can serve in the pulpit still is highly concerning, and does say a lot about his degree of repentance, in my mind.

          Reply
          • Doug

            I don’t disagree on any particular point and I actually agree with most of what you said.

            Personally I can not imagine looking at a 22 year old anybody and thinking they should be a Pastor. It defies common sense for any number of reasons, but we as a church have decided to fill our pulpits largely from the rolls of seminary schools, and those young people have to go somewhere. They absolutely aren’t qualified to pastor adults so, yes, they often end up as youth pastors or worship pastors or any number of other roles where they are constantly around young people.

            I don’t know how you change that without a wholesale change to the entire system.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m actually suggesting that in a big post I’ve written for next week. It is a problem, and we do have to change it. And it’s not only about sexual abuse. It’s also about the fact that 22-year-olds who went straight from youth group to Bible college do not make the best mentors for senior high school youth. And then we wonder why young people leave the church!

        • Lea

          ” I was a little too pushy, and when I was not met with a hard no”

          So a bunch of soft no’s then? Which is still a no?

          “I have no doubt that I was wrong, and I have no doubt that I hurt her deeply. We had discussed marriage before and she never spoke to me again after that night.”

          Doug, I think you were more than a little pushy if that’s the case. Wow. I have stronger words, but wow.

          How many people are defending andy because they too were predators and just think it’s not a big deal?

          Reply
          • Doug

            Lea,

            I suppose I deserve that response and more. I was very wrong. For the record, there wasn’t a weak no either. The best I can describe it now, almost 40 years later, was reluctance. And fear of being caught. If you want to paint me as a rapist or a predator, then I won’t argue with you. I certainly can’t defend my actions. It was a very long time ago, but I can still remember my heart for her quite clearly. She was no “conquest” or prize. I was truly in love with her and my actions destroyed any chance at a future with her. Does that make me a predator or a monster?

            For the record, I don’t think anything I have said up till now can be mistaken as defending Andy Savage’s actions, but rather presenting them in a different light.
            Like my own actions, his were indefensible. That doesn’t mean I believe that they were necessarily predatory. They might have been, but I am not convinced. I am certainly not trying to convince anyone one way or another.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Someone made that point on Twitter when I was talking about Emerson Eggerichs. She said: Maybe guys don’t want to acknowledge that this is sexual assault, because if they do, then they recognize that it’s not always a stranger grabbing someone in an alley. It could be what you’re doing, too. I do think there’s an element of that going on, especially in the Christian pastors who are supporting Andy Savage behind the scenes.

          • Doug

            “Maybe guys don’t want to acknowledge that this is sexual assault, because if they do, then they recognize that it’s not always a stranger grabbing someone in an alley. It could be what you’re doing, too.”

            I copied this from Sheila’s comment because I think it is important to address, as a man who has just confessed to this very thing. I know what I did was wrong, and there are probably many here who would say it rose to the level of assault. I won’t get dragged into a debate on that. Everyone is free to their own opinion. Laws have changed drasticly since then, so that isn’t a good measure, so that only leaves the state of my heart to be the question. Being wrong about something, even as grave as that, does not make you an evil person. I can know I hurt someone, without believing myself to be an abuser or a predator.

            In the same light I can believe the best of someone else, while still acknowledging the wrong they have done.

        • Sarah O

          Actually I think Paul gives us a great example of repentance in the face of grievous error and abuse of power.

          1) Repented directly to and served those he had sinned against

          Imagine if these pastors actually repented to their victims, and then took a few years to serve victims of abuse and/or started ministries specifically for sex offenders?

          2) His history was never “moved past” or kept secret.

          In fact he brought it up himself, repeatedly, publicly, as an example and testament to God’s work in his life. He didn’t talk about it only when caught.

          3) Did not demand to keep his position with the Pharisees

          No one is saying Andy Savage can’t be a Christian, we’re saying he can’t keep the weapon he used to hurt others. He does not need a pastorship to serve the Lord. Paul absolutely lost his high position in the synagogue and his political connections when he converted. Can you imagine if he had wanted to come visit the young church while keeping company with their persecutors? Can you imagine how hard it would have been to trust him?

          Michael Leahy of bravehearts.org is a great modern day example. He destroyed his family with porn and adultery even while professing to be a Christian. He has repented and actually given talks with his ex-wife – who did not remarry him, by the way. And he is currently serving in ministry to other sexual addicts. He still had consequences for his sin but he USES that to serve rather than looking at it as bad PR that should be overcome.

          Reply
      • Lea

        “If he wants to date someone, he needs to consult with the board first.”

        Anything done in secret is suspect. Completely agree.

        Also, to Chris’s question, it’s not hard to date people you meet outside of work? Or at the very least, people on the same footing as you (ie, not high school students when you are an adult.).

        Reply
    • Anon

      Chris, I can answer your question. It is possible for a church leader to date within the church, providing good guidelines are established and followed.

      I have just got engaged to the pastor of my church. Before dating, he had to have a meeting with his overseers, to ensure he was not taking advantage of his role and that I was not in a vulnerable position or someone who could be manipulated by him. We also had a mentor couple within the church who knew we were dating and to whom we were accountable. And the rest of the church leadership team were informed at a very early stage, although we didn’t let it be publicly known we were dating until we’d been going out a while and knew it was likely to last.

      Throughout our relationship, we have had a group of mature spiritual leaders to whom we are accountable. It might sound like a burden to have to get a bunch of other people involved in our relationship, but it has actually been a real blessing – we have had much wise counsel and it has really helped keep our relationship on track.

      Reply
  16. Allison Thompson

    I know my reply is probably unpopular with this audience, but I just have to mention for your consideration (even without knowing this pastor you’re talking about at all)… I strongly doubt that sexual sin disqualifies someone from preaching the Word of God and/or shepherding other people. David used his power as king to sleep with a married woman, and the Bible makes it clear that David had a private season of repentance and it’s clear that God didn’t disqualify him from leadership over His people after that.

    I read the lady’s description of the assault you’re talking about that occurred between her and her youth pastor over twenty years ago, and it sounds to me as if there was just a five year age gap between the two. It sounds as if the youth pastor felt immediate conviction for having sex outside of marriage. It also sounds like it didn’t keep happening over and over again.

    And the same blood of Jesus that can redeem and restore any of us from our sin can also redeem and restore our hearts after traumatic life events. I think we need to be willing to consider that the power of Jesus doesn’t want any of us to live our lives as victims, but instead to identify where we experienced pain, face it, and let it be completely healed by the blood of Jesus. That’s not minimizing the pain. That’s just recognizing the incredible power of Jesus.

    I’ve experienced horrible things in my life. Traumatic things that would have many people turning to alcohol or drugs to try to escape it. I could have spent years in therapy. But I am telling you, embracing the pain and being with Jesus and allowing beautiful believers to speak life and truth into my life has kept me from living my life from a victim mindset. We get to live victorious and I believe that the power of God heals AND restores.
    My guess is that perhaps there are a few others who feel this way too, and that’s probably why this guy you’re talking about is leading a new church.

    I understand that a lot of you have higher standards for yourselves, but my guess is that a few people reading this have something on your heart that you feel God calling you to do for Him, but you feel somehow you’re disqualified because of something about your past. You’re not disqualified in God’s kingdom and He wants to start using you for His glory. Don’t wait to “have it all together.” Serve Him even now in the process. And be honest about what He’s doing in you.

    Reply
    • Mike

      I agree with you wholeheartedly . I was senior when I got involved with a married with in the employ of my Christian High School. We both were wrong, but I was not a victim.
      People make mistakes and from what I know of the circumstances this was a mistake and not a heinous crime. The stone throwing has to stop and people need to be allowed to move on and be productive part of the Christian family even in a leadership role.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Mike–driving someone down a deserted road at night and assaulting them via oral sex is not the same as having a “relationship”. Don’t confuse them.

        Also, as I dealt with in the video, Jules would not have paid attention to Andy had he not been her youth pastor. There is an emotional, power dynamic thing that occurs in these situations which is very different from a 17-year-old dating a 22-year-old. Again, please do not confuse the two. I’d advise you to listen to some victims. Honestly talk to them. Don’t assume that you know what they’re thinking. When people have trauma afterwards that lasts decades; when they report it to the authorities the day after it happened; this is traumatic. This is not what you have described. And you need to listen rather than assume.

        Reply
        • Mike

          Umm. Deserted road?? Where do you think I was when it happened? The point is that I didn’t fear for for my safety.

          Don’t create a narrative about a situation using word triggers. Deal with facts. Andy asked. Jules consented. Her hurt doesn’t make her a victim anymore than mine. I did something wrong. So did Jules.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            You want facts? Here are the facts.

            An adult man asked a teenage girl for oral sex on an abandoned road. They had never kissed before, never gone on a date, nothing at all to make this seem like a “relationship” of any kind.

            The facts make him a sexual predator. Truly, he should have been charged with a crime.

            If someone is holding a gun to your head and says, “give me your wallet” and you decide to give them your wallet, you got mugged. You didn’t just engage in an act of charity or sharing.

            When a young woman is brought to a deserted road by a man who could easily overpower her physically and she has literally no way of getting away, if he asks for sexual acts and she does so, she is a sexual assault victim. She did not consent.

            If you didn’t fear for your safety, that doesn’t negate the fact that Jules was in a position where she did.

            I went on many dates with older guys when I was 17 and 18. And I would never say that I was sexually assaulted by any of them. Want to know why not? Because none of them sexually assaulted me. They were good men, men who respected boundaries and would never have dreamed of treating me the way Andy treated Jules. When we went out one-on-one they didn’t take a detour down a deserted road and then ask for sexual favours when I was powerless to say no. Instead, we met for coffee at Tim Hortons. That’s how relationships between people look–like breakfast dates and chats over coffee. Not unexpected solicitations in dangerous circumstances.

          • Mike

            No. What you wrote is spin.

            Here are the facts.
            Most teens are considered adults by state laws regarding physically intimate activity. My home state was 16. I was 17 at the time. Jules was of legal age.

            Intimacy doesn’t have check all the “boxes” for it to be non predatory. Or the other way around.

            Andy didn’t have a gun. Jules said she put her head in his lap because she thought he loved her.

            What you wrote is spin.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Mike, it is against the law in Texas for a pastor to have sexual relations with a congregant. In most jurisdictions, it is actually against the law. It was against the law at the time, and it is against the law now. Had it been reported properly, as it should have been, he would have been arrested.

            That is not spin. That is law, and that is fact. Please, learn about power dynamics. It does matter.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Not according to the law, no. And it was a deserted road.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Allison, I’d advise you to watch the video, because I deal with each of the things that you have brought up in it.

      My husband is a pediatrician. Had he done something like this, even as a medical student or as a resident (at that young age), he would have been thrown out and would never practice medicine again. In fact, some of his classmates were ejected for something similar. Teachers, if caught doing this, are barred from teaching.

      Why does the secular world have higher standards than the church? That’s an abomination.

      There’s a difference between being redeemed and being restored to ministry, and the Bible makes this very clear.

      Reply
      • Allison Thompson

        Where in the Bible does it talk about this exactly? The heart of God as I read it is always about restoration. Think about how God used Paul to pastor all of Christendom even to this day. He was involved in the murder of Christians. Yet God used him. Is it different for you because as far as we know Paul hadn’t professed Jesus as Savior prior to doing this?
        Side note: Pastor Rick Warren appointed a man as pastor at Saddleback Church who was serving 25 to life for two murders. Rick Warren helped get him out of prison on parole by writing a letter on his behalf. I just feel like God is pleased with his choice and that God is using a very broken man to bring freedom to others. ❤️

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Allison, there’s a huge difference between doing a major sin before coming to Christ, and being a leader in the church and then using that position to violate trust.

          As I said on Twitter this week:

          Paul was a murderer BEFORE he came to Christ. He did not use his position as an apostle to identify victims to murder.

          Paul also took 14 years after his conversion before he even began to teach. He needed to gain the trust of the Christians whom he had been persecuting in his former life. Andy Savage took about 3 months, I believe, before he started up at a different church.

          There is a big difference. Once you have used the position of pastor to abuse others, you can no longer hold the position of pastor. That’s what Jesus was talking about when he was talking about wolves among the sheep rather than a shepherd. Someone who has acted like a wolf, while being in charge of sheep, can no longer be a shepherd.

          Reply
          • Allison Thompson

            I’m still not sure what Scripture you feel backs up your opinion, but one of the many parts of the Bible that inform what I believe about this is found in Psalms 103…

            “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

            ‭Psalms‬ ‭103:7-12 NASB‬‬

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            1 Timothy 3:2–about an overseer, or a leader in the church: “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”.

            And then there’s this, from 1 Corinthians 5:1: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate:”. Okay, so a leader of the church has to be above reproach. Sexually abusing someone under your spiritual care means you’re no longer above reproach. And in Corinthians, Paul was apopleptic that Christians were tolerating sin that nonChristians don’t even tolerate. Let’s remember that if a physician did this, he would lose his licence. If a licensed counselor did this, they could never practice again. If a teacher did this, he would be in jail (and, I must point out, this was illegal at the time that Andy did it, too).

            I hope that helps! It really is very serious, and we need to get this right.

          • Allison Thompson

            Hey! Not able to reply to last comment about Paul and a couple of verses, but neither of those verses say that if you have ever done something terrible or committed a sin against God then you are not allowed to experience God’s redemption and shepherd people again. Just because someone was at one time not “hospitable” doesn’t mean that God can’t change their hearts and cause them to become hospitable and then be able to pastor people. I understand that in the secular world there are laws regarding physicians, psychologists, etc. But God’s heart toward people and His power to restore and redeem… to actually transform a murderer (which I think to most of us is just too awful to imagine) into someone that He can use on earth to transform lives… That’s just the God that I serve.
            And I’m not a person who has been involved in any sort of inappropriate relationships. I’ve never had even a sip of alcohol or tried any drugs. I love honoring God with my life and I don’t believe God’s grace is a license for us to dishonor Him. But I also believe that His grace has no limits.
            Certainly a bad choice to let a kid lead a youth group. Extremely unwise to have him alone with a kid (of either gender). But I don’t believe that one situation by itself excludes a person from pastoring again. A little more Scriptural basis for my thoughts:
            “Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
            ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:7-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬
            Thank God for that!!! 🙂

  17. bunkababy

    He is starting a church. Mmmm

    Because going to one not run by him is too hard for him?

    He can’t control anything? He doesn’t get enough praise or adoration or attention? He doesn’t want to learn a new career?

    Oh wait, it is a career. Let’s define “calling” it is a BS example of piety that you just wanna be a leader.

    In my opinion that right there disqualifies him as a pastor.

    A truly repentant , humbled individual would never attempt to run anything again, knowing the damage caused to Jules and the body of Christ and the bearing of Christ’s name.

    He is taking the Lord’s name in vain when he does this, he is bearing a false witness.

    As a child subjected to sexual abuse against my will by elders and pastors for many years I cannot stand the Ignorance the church has over these issues. The church stays ignorant because they want to be.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry for what was done to you when you were a child. That is so heartbreaking!

      And, yes, the church has to wake up. And the people have to wake up, too. It’s the people who are supporting him that are really the problem here. We need to be more discerning, and that means we need better teaching. Cheap grace is so wrong and unbiblical.

      Reply
  18. Jenelle

    Great video and explanation Sheila!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *