Texas authorities announced that no charges would be filed against pastor Andy Savage for his 1998 sexual assault against a teenage girl, outraging his critics.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office in Texas released a statement Wednesday night explaining that the statute of limitations for Savage’s sexual assault against Jules Woodson had passed and that they could not pursue any legal means against Savage. The DA’s office released the statement in response to inquiries from Woodson, who called the Montgomery County Sheriff’s department Jan. 8 to report the crime nearly 20 years after Savage admitted his guilt and allegedly sought her and her family’s forgiveness.
“[Attorneys] researched the law that would have applied in 1998 for the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations has passed and no charges would be able to be filed. Using the current statute we would have some possible options but we are limited to the law as it was at the time of the offense in 1998. As a result we are unable to investigate and seek justice to the full extent of what would we normally would in such a case,” the statement from the DA’s office read.
While Woodson cannot pursue legal retribution against Savage, more than 2,550 people have called for Savage’s resignation or firing from his position as teaching pastor of Highpoint Church by signing a petition on Change.org. Lead Pastor Chris Conlee published a statement on the church’s website shortly after the story of Savage’s sexual assault went viral, saying that he and the church will stand by Savage as he has displayed admirable character during his tenure in Highpoint Church’s ministry.
Savage issued a public apology and addressed the incident openly to his congregation Jan. 7, saying that he was truly sorry for the pain he caused Woodson, her family, and the church, that he was committed to working toward reconciliation and healing, and that in 1998 as now he has never tried to cover anything.
Dr. Steve Stone, founder and former pastor of Heartsong Church, told Memphis Local that the Savage controversy has provided churches an opportunity to reevaluate how they view and treat pastors and how they address the uncomfortable issue of sexual assault.
“I imagine a lot of eyes are on Highpoint,” Stone said. “I hope they are talking. I’m afraid some congregations would be too shy or afraid to deal with these kinds of matters but they are crucially important.”
“Sometimes pastors are set up to be better than everyone else in the eyes of the congregation. When it turns out they are kind of like every other people, congregations can get very disappointed. It could be far worse,” he added.
Highpoint Church issued an update Thursday, saying that while the leadership continues to support, they have mutually agreed that Savage will take a leave of absence effective immediately while a third party conducts an audit of Savage’s ministry and the church processes.
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