Several voices in Christian media have taken and digested the forthcoming details of a 20-year-old incident in which Highpoint Church pastor Andy Savage sexually abused a then-teenager on a drive home from a church function. Now, people like Janet Mefferd, Ed Stetzer, and others are publicly questioning Savage's fitness for office per the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3.
Stetzer, an accomplished author, columnist, and church planter, vowed later last year to be a voice against sexual abuse, especially in the church, proclaiming that "the church must lead, not merely follow along, in support of all who have endured abuse, neglect, and injustice."
After being confronted in an email by Jules Woodson, the woman alleging the abuse, Pastor Savage elected to confess the “sexual incident” to his church this past Sunday. Savage did not deny any of the story and apologized for his role in it. In response, the church gave him a standing ovation which Stetzer believes was "wrong".
"First," Stetzer said, "no one should ever receive a standing ovation when it comes to alleged abuse—unless it’s directed at a victim with the courage to speak out."
"The second reason [the standing ovation] is perplexing to me is that, as Woodson notes, 'He’s lying about how he handled it,'" Stetzer continued. "While Savage announced that he apologized to her, her family, and the church, Woodson writes, 'He never came to me, the church told him he couldn’t talk to me and they told me I couldn’t talk to him.'"
Janet Mefferd, host of a nationally syndicated radio show, said in a recent Facebook post how Savage's confession message and his protection from his lead pastor Chris Conlee, disgusted her.
"Such dodging, minimization and corporate PR (a stone prop? Really? Oh, yes, really!). They even had 'soft, longing' mood music playing as the lead Pastor, Chris Conlee, set the stage for it all. Way to manipulate the sheep and the situation, fellas," Mefferd wrote. "You certainly wouldn't want people actually thinking critically about the fact that Savage spun the sexual assault as a 'sexual incident.' Or the fact that Conlee said: 'We want to be unified, and we want to take the time for people to work through this, to heal in their own way.'"
"So the 'brokenness' must be broadened to everyone in the congregation in order to deflect attention from the predatory behavior of the one pastor who's on the hot seat? No, this is about what Savage did to Woodson. Period," Mefferd asserted.
Citing 1 Timothy 3, Mefferd continued to explain that Savage is now biblically disqualified from church leadership: "Based on the biblical qualifications that a pastor MUST be above reproach and have a good reputation with outsiders, Andy Savage is disqualified. It doesn't mean he cannot be forgiven or restored, but it does mean he's done as a pastor. And the stonewalling and enabling here is, quite frankly, disgusting."
"If Savage is truly repentant, for the sake of Christ and the reputation of His church, he would have stepped down," Mefferd concluded. "This congregation has a right to be morally outraged. The fact that they were manipulated into giving him a standing ovation makes me sick."