Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Not My Mr. Royal

Last Saturday, I noticed a tweet discussing #notmymrroyal. My friend Dee Parsons and I support these brave young ladies and their parents for speaking out. Dee will be adding her post on this story tomorrow at The Wartburg Watch.

I was angry. I am angry. As an abuse survivor advocate, I am angry over the injustice being perpetuated by a tone-deaf response by the administration of Hamilton Southeastern Schools. The principal of HSE High School is Matt Kegley.

FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) - The teenage victim of an alleged sexual assault is speaking out after the student accused of attacking her is honored by their high school.
Both students went to Hamilton Southeastern High School.
The boy was recently named Mr. Royal for winning a school-sponsored talent show.
The alleged victim says she was assaulted on a date back in September. She and her family filed a protective order against the boy and claim they alerted the school system, but say no action was taken.
“We have uprooted our lives and she is the victim and I have such a hard time understanding that why the victim and the attacker can continue to go on like nothing happened,” said the girl’s father.
They say they are touched by the support in the wake of the controversy. The alleged victim says she wants to share her story to help others.
“For four months I did not have a voice," she said Saturday. "For four months, nobody believed me, and I didn't really think that this case was really going anywhere and I was starting to give up on the idea that I was going to get justice,” she said. “Now I have a chance to have a voice and I know that there are so many girls that he has harassed, that he has assaulted, and they get a chance to get their justice too.”
Fishers Police and Noblesville Police are investigating, however at this time no charges have been filed in connection with the case.

On Monday, some HSE students showed support for the alleged victims, dressing in black in school hallways and in photos posted on social media.
They’re protesting a school talent show award, “Mr. Royal,” being given to a male student last Thursday even as the student is under investigation for sexual assault. 
“He sexually assaulted my daughter,” said the mother of an HSE student. “He forced her to do sexual activities that she was not comfortable with."
She is the second HSE parent Eyewitness News is aware of having made a complaint to police against the talent show winner. 
The first was last fall. A father alleges his daughter was raped. After the attack they got a stay away order against the same suspect. The order is still in force.
“I hear stories about him all the time,” says the mother of another victim who spoke with us Monday night.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. And I saw congratulatory comments and I was blown away by that.” 
That female student’s mother says the Mr Royal award and protests that followed in school and online moved her to come forward and report her daughter’s case to the the school and police on Friday. 
“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I feel so helpless.”
She and the father of the victim we spoke with on Saturday said they felt the school district had not moved swiftly with their complaints. 
“I was starting to give up on the idea that I was going to get justice and now I have a chance to have a voice and I know that there are so many girls that he has harassed that he has assaulted and they get a chance to get their justice too,” a student allegedly attacked last year told us.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Connecting the dots: Andy Savage, from Tennessee to Texas and back again

*This is a working document that has been updated as new information has become available. 

What we know from Andy Savage and his admission of sexual assault of Jules Woodson as a 17 year-old minor in his care as a youth pastor in 1998 - these are the pastors who knew and failed to report the assault to police when they first learned about the "incident" and over the 20 years since: Steve Bradley, Larry Cotton, Chris Conlee

Other names mentioned in the graph show the connection to Germantown Baptist Church, Andy Savage and Chris Conlee. Germantown Baptist Church was Savage's home church when he left for Texas and came back to Tennessee again. 

The other men mentioned in the graphic, whose paths crossed with Andy's, are currently or were pastors on staff or volunteer leaders at the respective churches. 

In addition to Andy Savage, two other accused sex abusers are mentioned with connections to Highpoint Church, Andy Savage and Chris Conlee. Tim Heinz is a registered child sex offender in Tennessee. Chris Carwile was reported to police for child sex abuse and subsequently lost his job with the City of Memphis.

Convicted child sex offender John Langworthy is linked in the list of names at the end of this post.

In an earlier draft, Bart Lewis was mentioned. Bart is a pastor and "Global Digital Director" at Highpoint Church. On Linkedin he lists his first church work experience as "Germantown Church." What denomination is this? Is this the full name of the church? It is vague. Why not specify? A previous commenter stated that this was Germantown Methodist. In a search for "Germantown Church," there does not appear to be a church that simply identifies as Germantown Church. Why wouldn't a pastor want to be clear about his work experience? 


February 21 update: someone replied on Twitter with the link to the archived page listing Bart Lewis on staff as associate director of student ministries at Germantown Methodist. He was there from 2001-2003. Another archived link was found to show that Bart worked at a church planted by Germantown Baptist Church. He was the pastor to students and families at The Love of Christ Church in Memphis from 2003-2010.

In a series of tweets, Joseph Harrison discussed Bart Lewis and my post here. Joseph was adamant that Bart had no connection to Germantown Baptist Church. Before Joseph's tweets, I had already explained my post revision as evidenced above in the paragraph beginning with "in an earlier draft." 

How would Bart Lewis' connection to Germantown Baptist Church, now confirmed, "potentially alter" his life?

Highpoint Church appears to be a church plant of Germantown Baptist Church through Metro Bible Study, a bible study for college students and singles at GBC.

According to information found on Crosswave Radio about Christian recording artist Todd Agnew's career, Highpoint Church was started through the Metro ministry of Germantown Baptist Church.
So Agnew began traveling to Memphis to help with a city wide Bible study for college students and singles called Metro Bible study in the fall of 1999 at Germantown Baptist Church. During this time he began writing and introducing songs to the group which later became the songs on the record “Grace Like Rain.”  He eventually moved to Memphis to help plant a church, which developed through the Metro event called Highpoint Church
*Jules recalls Todd Agnew being at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now Stonebridge Church, when Andy Savage was there as youth pastor. After his time at Germantown Baptist and Highpoint Church in Memphis, Todd Agnew then moved to Austin, TX where he was at Austin Stone Church writing and recording songs with Austin Stone Worship. Austin Stone pastor Larry Cotton resigned last week. He was the associate pastor at Woodlands Parkway that Jules told about the assault by Andy. Larry blamed Jules, asking her, "So you're telling me you participated?" Austin Stone Church sent out the following message about Larry Cotton's resignation.

*Update 2/28/18: A comment on The Wartburg Watch about Todd Agnew and Andy Savage

Message from Larry Cotton:

Church family,

Over the last few weeks, after seeking much counsel and prayer, I want to be the first to let you know that on Thursday, February 15, I informed the elders at The Austin Stone Community Church of my decision to step down from my staff ministry leadership position. It has been my honor to be a part of what the Lord is doing here at The Austin Stone Community Church. I have been extremely privileged to serve with brothers and sisters whose ultimate goal is to see Jesus lifted high, and I will greatly miss working here. I know this is the beginning of a new season for me, and I have peace that God will use me for His glory.

Brokenness and sin have unraveled the fabric of our world, resulting in injustice, pain, and suffering. I am more convinced than ever that the only One able to mend the brokenness and unraveling of this fabric is Jesus Christ. To the best of my ability, with God’s power, I desire to be a man that He might use to mend this brokenness.

This is why I want to express again my deepest grief and sorrow for Jules Woodson and all those who were wounded by what happened in 1998. During my leave of absence, I have come to better understand the weight of my mistakes and my responsibilities as a church leader at that time. I wish I had known 20 years ago what I understand today. I now understand that I did not do enough to serve Jules and help her feel protected and cared for —I wish I had done more. I understand that I failed to report the sexual abuse —I wish I had reported to the proper authorities. Even though it’s impossible, I wish I could go back in time and correct these mistakes.

I contributed to the pain and suffering of Jules and others, and for this, I feel great sorrow. I can identify with the words of Paul in the scriptures that help me see--Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his perfect patience as an example for others who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Only Jesus can mend the unraveling caused by sin and weave in true justice, peace and healing.

I am praying for healing for Jules; that she might be comforted by the peace of Christ even in the midst of her pain. I hope for her forgiveness of me. I pray for The Austin Stone to continue to be a safe and Christ-honoring environment for men, women, students, and children to grow spiritually and flourish. And I thank you, my church family, for your continued love and prayers.

I love you all dearly.
Larry Cotton


Message from the Elders:

Church family,

As you recall from our communications to you beginning January 5th, an allegation was made against Larry Cotton regarding his response to the reported sexual assault of a young woman by a youth leader at the church where he was on staff in 1998. Given the seriousness of the allegations, we placed Larry on leave of absence, and engaged the attorneys at MinistrySafe to conduct a thorough investigation.

During this season, Larry has been prayerful in seeking after the Lord for wisdom and clarity as to how to honor the Lord and act in obedience to God’s word. As a result of much prayer and counsel, Larry has communicated to the elders on February 15th that he desires to step down from his staff ministry leadership position at the Austin Stone Community Church, effective immediately. In recognizing and grieving for his errors of the past, Larry is illustrating the kind of Christlike character we know and affirm in Larry today.

As a church, it is our desire to help him seek forgiveness from those who were hurt and foster any reconciliation that might be possible in the future. Even though he is no longer on staff, Larry does remain in good standing as a partner of our church. Through this process, we have affirmed our belief that Larry did not intend to cause harm, but we understand and support his decision in light of the consequences of his actions. We are heartbroken for Larry and we will deeply miss his presence on staff, as well we are committed to shepherding and caring for him and his family.

We invite you to join us in praying for compassion, wisdom, and discernment as we journey forward. We have also already begun the process of working with MinistrySafe to review our policies and update training for all of our staff and leaders on preventing and reporting abuse. We continue to remain committed to ensuring the safety of victims and advocacy for individuals who have suffered abuse.  We strongly urge you to report to Child Protective Services or appropriate criminal authorities if you suspect the sexual abuse of a minor.

If you have further questions or concerns, please contact your campus leadership. We would love to hear from you.

Grace and peace,
The Elders of The Austin Stone Community Church

end update


A Memphis megachurch pastor received a standing ovation during a church service on Sunday after he admitted that he had engaged in a “sexual incident” with a high school student 20 years ago in Texas.
The admission by the pastor, Andy Savage, came several days after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1998 when she was 17 and he was the youth minister at a suburban Houston church. One night, Mr. Savage offered to drive her home from church but first took her to a wooded area off a dirt road and had her perform oral sex on him, the woman, Jules Woodson, wrote in a blog post detailing her story. 
On Sunday, Mr. Savage did not tell the congregation at Highpoint Church what took place in 1998, but he said that he had sinned, taken responsibility for it and never kept it a secret from church leaders. He said that before Ms. Woodson took her story public, he believed that the episode had been “dealt with in Texas.”

Highpoint Memphis

Highpoint Collierville

Germantown Baptist Church (Was Andy Savage ordained at GBC before he went to TX?)

Stonebridge Church

Andy Savage

Chris Conlee

Sam Shaw

Bruce Jones

John Jackson

Tim Heinz

Chris Carwile

Scott Payne

Steve Bradley

Larry Cotton

Hal Kitchings

John Langworthy

Friday, January 26, 2018

Doug Wilson's Christ Church sends letter reprimanding a woman who revoked her church membership

I was contacted by a friend of this woman who shared this letter. I have been given permission to post.

A preface from the recipient of the letter from Christ Church:

Initially,  this letter was shared without consent from a secret Facebook group with out permission.  This was not a local group. I've since given permission , selectively,  to be shared while protecting my identity.  Here are some important clarifications:  I love my husband and he is not violent.  I am safe as are my children. I want to seek outside counseling to work on marital issues. 

I appreciate the concern from the Christ Church community, but I revoked my membership in October.  

I do not have an attorney.  I do not have a go fund me account. I do not have a Twitter account. I am not in control of what is shared or said on the internet.
I do feel this is an over reach of the church but I'm thankful for the time I've spent there and hope to keep friendships despite differences. 

Doug Wilson is the lead pastor of Christ Church. The letter was signed by Mike Lawyer, pastor of discipleship and counseling.

Spiritual Sounding Board: elders at Doug Wilson's Christ Church put woman in abusive marriage under church discipline

The Wartburg Watch archived posts on Doug Wilson

Monday, January 15, 2018

Andy Savage on the Ben Ferguson Show

Transcript Comparison for the Ben Ferguson Show with Andy Savage WREC 600AM
Live on radio Thursday, January 11, 2018 4:00pm CST – fair use for analysis & critique


UPDATE: This post was originally published in the early morning hours of January 15th, 2018.  Later that day, at 1:23 PM, Ben Ferguson tweeted that he asked his producer to upload the interview with Andy Savage again, this time with "all the commercials included."  These newly uploaded files contain the clips that were omitted in the original upload to the 600 WREC site.

Audio of The Ben Ferguson show live on Monday, January 15, 2018 addressing the edited Andy Savage interview:


Two sound files published on web and linked by Highpoint Church Friday, January 12, 2018

*This transcript comparison does not include breaks and the host’s lead-in/lead-out from breaks unless otherwise noted.

BF = Ben Ferguson, host of the Ben Ferguson Show, a friend of Andy Savage

AS = Andy Savage, teaching pastor of Highpoint Church, Memphis, TN, who has admitted to a sexual ‘incident’ with a 17-year old girl in his care in 1998 while on staff as the youth pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now known as Stonebridge Church.

FIRST FILE. Published Version is identical to Live Version for the first 10:37

10:29 Last words where transcripts match:

AS: “Reiterated to her the partial confession”

BF: “This is how many hours after the …

AS: “Same day”

BF: “So you’re talking the next day after this happened, you’re meeting with the mom of Jules”

AS: “Yeah”

10:39 Transcript of the Live Version that was edited OUT of the Published Version (0:20) [see omitted clip #1 below]

BF: “All right, welcome back, it is the Ben Ferguson Show, um, Andy Savage, Highpoint Church, who is on with me today, um, and we are talking about, um, this issue, where a young girl in Texas, 17 at the time, um, has come out and said that 1) the church didn’t handle this correctly... ”

10:39 Continues after edit where transcripts match again

BF: “… um, 2) that you guys had an inappropriate relationship, um, it is brought up the bigger issue here with churches and leadership and everything else, Andy is here telling 


Published Version is identical to Live Version for first 15:45*

15:45 Last words where transcripts match:

BF: “…people believe it was still a crime. That, y’know, you were a pastor. Uh, one said he is disqualified from ministry. Um, should you quit? Should you resign? Uh, why are you still in the ministry? Are you gonna leave the ministry because of all this?”

Transcript of the Live Version that was edited OUT (1:23) [see omitted clip #2 below]

AS: “Um, uh, Ben, I did resign, um, when this happened. Twenty years ago, I resigned my position, I stepped away from ministry completely, for a season, um, and I engaged a redemptive process in my life. Uh, I maintained relationships, uh, with key pastors and counselors in my life, I maintained relationships with, uh, transparency, and uh, openness with people, uh, that uh, were trustworthy leaders in my life, uh, and I have rebuilt a life where I have changed, um, to the degree that the lessons I learned through this experience, um, allow me to help people in a way, um, that I-I never would have any other-other way.”

BF: “A lot of people are saying the only reason why you’ve been able to help people, and again, I say this bluntly, because I think it’s important, because you didn’t fully disclose this to the membership at Germantown [Baptist Church] when you were there, the membership at Highpoint [Church] when you were there. That this has been somewhat omitted from your ministry. Is that, is that a fair, way to put it, because a lot of people found out about this, that there was even an incident in Texas, because of a newspaper article, or they came to church on Sunday morning.”

AS: “I have, uh, over the years, been very willing to share, um ...”

16:05 Continues after edit where transcripts match again for just 10 seconds

AS: “… elements of this story, uh, through my sermons, through my teaching, uh, and, in more detail with specific individuals um, uh, as …”

16:15 Transcript of the Live Version that was edited OUT (2:05) [see omitted clip #3 below]

AS: “As opportunity would, uh, would deem helpful. Um, uh, but, but no, I did not, uh, broadcast this information to the entire congregation.”

BF: “Are you sorry for that, to, to the, to – and I say this, forget everybody else, I’m talking about the people at the church, are you sorry that you didn’t be more transparent? Do you feel like you misled them by, by not broadcasting this, as part of your story?”

AS: “No, I believe I was honest and transparent with the leadership at Highpoint, um, and I think that was, uh, the right place for that information to exist.”

BF: “Let’s talk about the-the real issue, and that is, there are um, people that have started petitions to get you to force you out, to resign. Um, there are people that think that honestly you should be dead, uh, milder than that, there are people think you should be in jail. Um, if I was sitting in, y’know, in the chair you’re in right now, I think there’s a large part of me that would think, ‘Why don’t I just resign, and just go away?’ Um have you thought about resigning in the last week since all this became so public, where it’s on the front pages of literally every newspaper in the country?”

AS: “Yes. On several occasions in the last few days, I have wanted to quit.”

BF: ‘Have you offered your resignation?”

AS: “I did.”

BF: “When?”

AS: “On, uh, Sunday [January 7, 2018], I offered to Chris [Conlee] that I would resign, if that was in the best interest of our church”

BF: “What did he say to you then? I mean, because most people would think that it was a ‘no brainer’ um, you have all this turmoil, and you’re resigning. Yes, I’ll take that resignation and run with it.”

AS: “That would certainly be the easy thing to do. I cannot speak for him. I can speak about him. Uh, Chris [Conlee] and the leadership at our church, uh, believe, uh, what we have said, since we started the church, we believe in a perfect place for imperfect people. Um, we believe, that, um...”

16:15 Continues after edit where transcripts match for the last 7:04.

AS: “… uh, some of our greatest sins and failures, um, all of our greatest sins and failures, can be overcome...”

Omitted Clip #1

Omitted Clip #2

Omitted Clip #3

Full Interview Part 1 (original upload)

Full Interview Part 2 (original upload)

The deletion of the comments discussing Andy's restoration process is significant.

Many readers may not be aware of the process, since it is generally not made public.  It may help church members to understand and ask how has Andy Savage legitimately been restored to ministry?
After a major fall involving sexual misconduct with a flock member some churches will choose to pursue restoration.  Biblically, they should not, because the Pastor can never again be above reproach, but many still do.  But there are high standards before a restoration can take place.  
1) After such a major violation of trust, the restoration process would be both lengthy and rigorous.  Andy could not have gone through it at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, because he left the Woodlands and returned to Memphis at the conclusion of the investigation.  WPBC had no further spiritual authority over Andy.  They are also 570 miles away from Germantown.  It would be up to Andy's home church of Germantown Baptist (GBC) to oversee his restoration and future conduct. 

2) Andy states that he did not tell anyone at GBC about the "incident".  His excuse was "they never asked".  Regardless of the excuse, Andy's claim is that no one at GBC leadership knew of his sin/crimes.  

3)  Even if someone at WPBC had offered oversight for restoration, this process could not be completed without them speaking to Andy's then current home church, GBC.  It is imperative to the restoration process that the church with the spiritual authority over Andy be in charge of the oversight process.  Having some "mysterious" unnamed wise men speaking into his life is not a restoration process. 

4)  Andy could not have completed his restoration process and have continued to conceal his sin/crimes to GBC while simultaneously becoming a pastor at GBC.  This is an extremely egregious concealment as it gravely endangered the young members of the flock there.  No true wise counselor or godly pastor overseeing Andy's restoration would have ever gone along with this concealment as part of the restoration.  They would have demanded to speak with GBC leadership before Andy returned to ministry, to ensure that safeguards would be in place for the good of all involved. 

5) How could Andy have received spiritual restoration from Chris Conlee,  the one man in Memphis who claims he knew about Andy's sin/crimes upon is return to the city. Chris didn't become a pastor until he planted Highpoint in 2002. Up until then, Chris was pursuing a career in golf. http://www.highpointmemphis.com/chris-conlee