MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Protesters held up a smattering of signs in an attempt to push forward what they called “Justice for Jules” outside Highpoint Church Monday.
“It’s time to stop being so concerned about the abuser and be more concerned about the abused,” said Kenny Stubblefield, a survivor of church sexual abuse and local activist.
It’s been three weeks since Jules Woodson wrote a narrative of her encounter with Pastor Andy Savage 20 years ago at their Texas church. She said the current Highpoint pastor was then her youth pastor. She said he offered her a ride home and forced her to perform oral sex.
“I was in shock. I didn’t understand what was happening," Woodson said in an interview with CBS News.
"I never sought to cover it up," Savage said while speaking from the pulpit January 7.
Savage got a standing ovation after that speech where he asked for forgiveness.
Stubblefield said he survived sexual abuse by a pastor from his former church in Collierville. He and others are now re-living the pain and shame.
“What they’ve said about the situation is that Highpoint is a safe place for abusers and a dangerous place for victims to come to. They should not feel safe there," he said.
“As long as they enable him to do what he’s doing in the ministry, you’re sending a horrible signal," said David Brown, another survivor who started the SNAP Network.
Savage is now on paid administrative leave while a church lawyer evaluates his work.
"I want them to fire Andy Savage today. It’s too late,” Brown said.
They wanted victims to know they’re here for them.
In response to the protest, Highpoint Church released a statement to WREG this afternoon:
"What happened to Jules Woodson 20 years ago in Texas was not only wrong but a violation of trust placed in church leaders. We are very sorry for the pain she has suffered.
Highpoint takes this situation very seriously. As announced earlier, Andy Savage is on leave of absence from ministry at Highpoint Church. We have engaged Scott Fredricks, a partner with the law firm of Cantey Hanger in Fort Worth, Texas for the purpose of evaluating the church’s actions with respect to Andy Savage’s ministry at Highpoint. Mr. Fredricks is a respected Christian attorney with experience guiding churches and other organizations through similar circumstances. His investigation, which should be concluded by the end of next month, will include a review of past and current actions of the church and its leadership concerning Andy Savage’s ministry, the impact of those actions, and advising Highpoint as we make decisions moving forward.
We respect and are thankful for that the rights of people to peacefully protest. We too are very sorry for the pain Ms Woodson has suffered and pray for God’s healing touch."