Comment Of The Day: The Pastor’s Confession

There was a lively and contentious debate on Megachurch Pastor Andy Savage’s 20-year-old encounter with a 17-year-old girl. There were several extensive comments, and I may yet post one from the pro-Andy camp to balance this one, by johnburger2013.

Here is his Comment of the Day on The Pastor’s Confession

There are at least 3 creeps in this story:

A. Megachurch minister Andy Savage. This incident as revealed by Jules Woodson clearly demonstrates that Savage knew what he had done to Woodson was, at the very least wrong and immoral. He has a crisis of conscience and seeks absolution from the Lord God Almighty. Good for him. I suspect that God would have said, “Hey, jerk. Apologize to her, make it right, and never, ever use my name in vain. Go away.” He told her not to discuss it with anyone. Nice guy, that. Nothing in the story reveals that he tried to make amends to her; on the contrary, everything points to him trying to cover up what he did to her.

I would not even rate his statement as an apology, though. Note the buzz words:

1. “As a college student”: Hey! I was young and impetuous, and my hormones got the best of me.

2. “On staff at a church in Texas”: I was nobody important at the church, just a young buck hauling stuff for the church way over there in Texas.

3. “More than 20 years ago” : It was a long time ago. The winds of history have clouded my memory. Don’t judge my sexual assault of a 17 year old girl by today’s standards; things were different back then! Come on!

4. “I regretfully had a sexual incident”: I forgave myself, and you know what the Good Book says about sin, repentance and forgiveness. The Lord has forgiven me, so you should, too.

5. “With a female high school senior in the church.” She was a senior and not some under-aged school girl. Besides, she was like an adult.

6. “Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules”? Unfinished business? What does that mean? Unrequited love? A bad date you need to make right? Does the good pastor mean, “I thought we forgave and forgot; I guess not.”

7. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago.” There he goes with the 20 years ago stuff again. Why don’t we just move on. Remember: he did not say this to her on the phone or in person but on a NATIONALLY televised prayer/worship service. He tried to pull a Jimmy Swaggart or a James and Tammy Baker. (Que: Sound of bombs dropping and whistling right before detonation.) So, let me get this straight. He assaults a 17 year old, tells her to keep it quiet, and then 20 years later, he further humiliates her on national television about some unfinished business. What a jerk.

8. “I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.” Wow. That is mighty nice of him. Great guy.

B. Larry Cotton, an associate pastor of the church, tells her to keep quiet so they can handle it internally. I wonder what, if anything, they did to Savage. (Yeah, I know – nothing; hope springs eternal). Cotton is corrupt. He cared more about the church’s money stream than the despicable actions of a member of his ministry against congregant. Slime.

C. Savage’s New Congregation. Why on Earth are they applauding Savage? Have they lost all sense of right, wrong. morality, ethics, or propriety? That he took some responsibility for what he did? For further humiliating someone by naming her in public all the while proclaiming his faith in the Lord? Good grief.

* * *

According to Torah and most western biblical tradition the Third Commandment* forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. Most think it terms of using God’s name in a curse. It is more profound than that, though. Because of the greatness God;s name, any use of His name that brings dishonor on Him or on His character is taking His name in vain. In the Hebrew Bible, the commandment is directed against abuse of the name of God. For instance, bringing dishonor on God’s name was done by failing to perform an oath or vow taken in His name (Leviticus 19:12). One who uses God’s name to legitimize an oath, and then breaks that promise, shows a lack of reverence for God as well as a lack of fear of His holy retribution. It was essentially the same as denying God’s existence. (For a nice discussion about this, check out https://www.gotquestions.org/Lords-name-vain.html, from which I have quoted above.)

That has been carried into Christianity in that, even though Christian tradition holds that Jesus freed us from “the law”, He did not free us from God’s laws. Jesus summed up His commandments as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” See, 9 Mt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18.

Savage and Cotton, and to lesser extent the applauding congregants demonstrate utter contempt for that Commandment. Savage and Cotton failed this young, impressionable congregant. Savage took advantage of his position, his authority, his standing in his church and used it as a weapon against her. He has brought scandal to his church (which supposedly represents God’s will on Earth). Cotton abused the girl’s trust by trying to over it up. Both are disgraces and should be run out of town on a rail.

Additionally, those idiots applauding should have a reality check.

jvb

*Yeah, I know. Those rules are really old, given to us by Mose . . . erm . . . Charlton Heston in that movie from the ’50’s, and are now considered antiquated, pedestrian, and just plain silly. But, go with me for just a bit.

4 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

4 responses to “Comment Of The Day: The Pastor’s Confession

  1. Well done, JB.

    Jack, in fairness though, I think that 4 groups coalesced in that discussion:

    1) Andy is completely wrong in his conduct, obviously, and the girl is completely blameless.

    2) Andy is completely wrong in his conduct, but the girl has a certain level of misconduct here as well, just not enough in comparison with Andy’s to warrant real comment, given the power disparity.

    3) Andy isn’t as wrong as originally assessed, but still VERY wrong, and the girl shares a certain level of the blame.

    4) Then an extreme minority that feels Andy, though wrong, acted wrongly after being led on by a girl who should share alot more of the blame for this episode, even if in the balance, Andy’s conduct is a bit more wrong than the girl’s.

  2. Matt

    Ethics requires us to wait until all the relevant facts and circumstances are known before condemning other human beings. In rushing to judgment without waiting for certain key facts, you put yourself in the awful position of being unethical and being the only creep in this story.

    Andy Savage apologized to Jules Woodson back in 1998 immediately after the inappropriate sexual conduct. I’m not sure what he could have done to “make it right” as you suggested. You should clarify what you mean by “make it right” because I doubt there is anything he could have done to make his inappropriate actions “right.”

    Mr. Savage was wrong ethically and morally in his actions with Jules Woodson that night. That is not in question. The question is whether he was legally guilty of sexual assault. Ms. Woodson said at the time that the sexual contact was consensual and admitted that she was 17 years old, which was the age of consent at that time. I do not believe that the clergy provision was part of Texas law in 1998 when this occurred. Thus, Mr. Savage could not be prosecuted under Texas law in 1998 and cannot be prosecuted now even if she had not consented because the statute of limitations has run.

    Mr. Savage asked Ms. Woodson not to reveal his actions that night, which was an awful thing to do. But, she did not comply. She revealed it to her parents and Associate Pastor Larry Cotton. Mr. Cotton said the church would handle it internally since Ms. Woodson said the sexual contact was consensual. In other words, Mr. Cotton had no reason to file a criminal complaint based on Texas law at the time.

    Mr. Cotton did prohibit Mr. Savage and Ms. Woodson from communicating or having any further contact. Then, he fired Mr. Savage. Mr. Cotton’s actions seem appropriate given the facts and circumstances at the time. He should have reached out more to Ms. Woodson to help her through this traumatic and inappropriate physical relationship, but we do not know for certain whether he didn’t do that. Based on the available facts and circumstances, Mr. Cotton’s actions do not reveal his to be a creep as you alleged.

    If Ms. Woodson had been younger than 17 years of age or Mr. Savage had used his greater physical strength or coercion to force Ms. Woodson to give him a blow job or if he had ripped her shirt off, then he would have been guilty of sexual assault and Mr. Cotton’s actions would have been insufficient. However, that is not what happened given Ms. Woodson’s own comments about the sexual contact that night.

    Ms. Woodson’s parents did not file a criminal complaint with the police, which they could have if they felt Mr. Savage had sexually assaulted their daughter. Ms. Woodson did not file a criminal complaint, which she could have done on her own. She did not until well after the statute of limitations had run. Also, she did not say no when Mr. Savage asked her to unbutton her blouse and to give him a blow job. She did not have to comply. She could have simply said “NO!” and “take me home right now!” She could have also used that line that causes every young man to quake in his boots: “I will tell my father.” Her inaction does not absolve Mr. Savage of his unethical and immoral behavior, but it does give us some indication of whether her response to his requests were consensual or not.

    Those congregants of High Point Church as not “creeps” as you alleged. They merely were clapping because Mr. Savage admitted his inappropriate actions towards Ms. Woodson and repented. That takes courage…much more courage than a popular ex-President had in 1998 or a famous movie director had in 2018. Mr. Savage could have always denied the allegations as those who committed those types of offenses normally did back then. See ex-President Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein. It would have been her word versus his word. He would likely have been fired by the church and no sexual assault charges would likely have been filed either. But, he did not deny the inappropriate sexual conduct. He admitted it instead.

    As a side note, in Bill Clinton’s case, the 49 year old President of the United States asked for and got a blow job from a 22 year old intern named Monica Lewinsky. He also did something inappropriate with a cigar. However, no one filed sexual assault charges against him and there was no evidence except for a semen stain on a blue dress. He denied it until the blue dress proved otherwise. And yet, most of the public said it was “just a consensual relationship and was no body’s business but theirs.” And, that inappropriate sexual conduct was revealed in 1998 too.

    Mr. Savage, Mr. Cotton, and the congregants of Highpoint Church as not “creeps” as you allege. Mr. Cotton and the congregants did what they thought was appropriate at the time given the facts and circumstances available to them. Also a 43 year old Mr. Savage has done what he thought as appropriate at the time based on the facts and circumstances as he understood them.

    A 22 year old Mr. Savage and a 17 year old Ms. Woodson engaged in inappropriate sexual activity. A 38 year old Ms. Woodson now makes a claim for the justice that she should have sought 20 years ago. In doing so, the 38 year old Ms. Woodson may have done a good thing if it helps others come forward that were similarly mistreated by Mr. Savage. That would reveal Mr. Savage as an unrepentant male like Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein. If no such others exist, then the 38 year old Ms. Woodson, in acting now, has merely hurt the innocent Mrs. Savage and 5 boys. If that is the case, then Ms. Woodson is the only creep in this story.

    You are not a creep for your angry rant and rush to judgment. However, your actions reveal that you might want to brush up on your ethics.

    • 1.) “The question is whether he was legally guilty of sexual assault.”

      Nope. That’s not the issue at all. This is an ethics blog. I love it when commenters cite ethics and then resort to law.

      2) That kind of an apology—do what you want, and then say, “Gee, sorry,” is not an apology, but a dodge. I regard it exactly like as scene in Animal House.

      3) How could he have made it right? Easy: allow the victim to report it, confirm the conduct, and accept the consequences.

  3. Dolly Patterson

    Screw you Evangelical pastor who pretend to be saints and are really fucking shits who minimize your evil deeds! The Gospel is about forgiveness so why don’t you have the integrity to admit that you sinned severely and stop pretending to be so righteous!

    Fuck you Bill Gothard and Bill Hybels, Andy Savage and all the rest of you male, white, self righteous Evangelical “heroes”. Fuck you.

    I personally was sexually abused as a 14 yr old and w/i 2 weeks of that abuse went and confronted my abuser who apologized and changed his life forever. We both lived a story of healing, redemption and grace although I deserve the credit for having the courage to make this happen…..I rode my bike to a pay phone and brought many quarters to pay for the call so I could confront him. I am proud of myself. He knew exactly what I was talking about when I confronted him (at his home on the phone in front of his wife). He confessed his sin to his wife and all 3 of us were confrontational and honest and eventually healed.

    Screw you Evangelical abusive chicken shits!

    Dolly Patterson
    Redwood City, CA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.