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? 


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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

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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




18 comments:

Barbara Roberts said...

This is fantastic work, Amy!

Bravo. Dare I offer you a standing ovation?

I hope you or someone else has saved all the links you've given in this post to the WebArchive, in case any of the stuff there gets scrubbed.

For those who don't know how to save to the WebArchive, go to https://web.archive.org/ and paste the URL you want to save into the field on the lower right hand side of the screen where it says SAVE PAGE NOW.

Some URLs cannot be saved because the website has robots (don't ask me what that means). But most URLS can be saved. And once saved, the site as it was at the exact second you saved it will always be stored on the WebArchive.

So even if wicked people later go and scrub stuff from their own websites, they can't scrub the WebArchived version.

Bruce Jones said...

This blog was bought to my attention as you mention my name and offer a link to my Facebook page. I am not sure where you did you research, but your facts on me are inaccurate. I am not clergy, have never been clergy and have no plans to ever be clergy. I was never interim youth pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church. Never on staff at this church or any church.

I was a volunteer who along with other volunteers kept the youth program running while there was a search for a new youth pastor. I grew up in Younglife and for many years was a volunteer leader.

I also have NEVER covered up any sex crimes or sex abuse cases. For that matter, I have never covered up any crime! I am deeply offended that you indicate that I would be involved in such behavior. I kindly request you remove my name from your post.

If you would like to talk to me, interview me inquire on my knowledge of the events surrounding Andy Savage, I am happy to tell you what I recall.

Sincerely,

Bruce Jones

Amy Smith said...

"I was a volunteer who along with other volunteers kept the youth program running while there was a search for a new youth pastor." Then you were clergy on an interim basis. Not all clergy are paid. Some clergy are volunteer pastors.

Dee Parsons said...

Amy,

In my SBC church that I left over the mishandling of a pedophile situation which you know about, we always had a good chuckle about a statement by the former senior pastor about Doug Goodrich, now serving 13 years for molestation of kids in my former church. He was a seminary student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He worked with the teen boys in the youth program. He functioned as a leader for the boys. (My son, having inherited the good genes of his mama refused to go to his groups saying he was weird.)

Goodrich had a desk at the church. He was always introduced as the seminary student like that meant something. So, when he was caught with a boy, the senior pastor made a statement to the press stating that he wasn't a pastor, merely a volunteer like that let them off the hook or something.

Whenever sex abuse gets brought up, everyone claims *volunteer status* as if to say 'Don't look at me." Sorry. A church that allows volunteers to lead students and then pretends that they are "not really leaders" sounds just plain silly. I would bet that Mr Jones told people he led those students and saw himself as a leader. Now, it is inconvenient so the story changes. Man up. You were a leader-be that paid or unpaid.

Anonymous said...

Amy, Dee,

I hope you accept Bruce's invite to interview him.

Bruce,

It was Andy himself who [threw under the bus] indicated that a large group of leaders at Woodlands Baptist, both paid and unpaid, were involved in [a coverup] his disciplinary process 20 years ago:

Ben: ...she [Jules] tells her small group what happened, and that’s when you have to tell the real truth, the whole thing?

Andy: So, when I received the phone call from the group leader I immediately [laughs] called Larry, again, went and met with him in the church parking lot in the front seat of his car, shared everything that took place. When that, when that happened, everything went in motion to pull together the leadership of the church, both Larry Cotton, Steve Bradley the pastor, several lay leaders in the church, who were not on staff who represented the deacons and the personnel committee, key leaders in the church were brought together to put together a plan of action that I would, uh, steps I would take to walk through what was needed as a disciplinary process.

End quote.

Here's a cue card for the future: if you ever wake up and find your name on the Internet in association with a sexual abuser, by all means, join the conversation. First, express concern for the victim: put her welfare before your own reputation. If you think a blogger or journalist has the facts wrong, volunteer your own story [don't wait to be asked/interviewed]. How did you know Andy? How did the two of you both end up at Woodlands Baptist? Were you a member or volunteer there in 1998? What do you remember about the events surrounding this story? If you could go back in time, would you do something differently?

As a reader here I am happy to give you the benefit of the doubt. That said, please consider that Andy lied to a lot of people in 1998, and most of us think he is lying now. Perhaps the better part of your ire should be directed his way.







Bruce Jones said...

Amy,

My offer stands,interview me if you like. I was a volunteer who stepped in when the youth pastor (Tammy - do not recall her last name) suddenly resigned. I believe this was in 1995. I did this because I had young boys about to enter the youth group and had experience as a Younglife volunteer. Trying to work full time and coordinate youth group activities plus be a father and husband was taking a toll on my marriage, so I informed the church I needed a break. The church brought in Andy Savage as a paid staff member to lead the youth group that summer. At that point I completely stepped away from any youth involvement. @Dee there is nothing inconvenient in facts.

@Anonymous I was never an Elder, Trustee, Deacon or anything else WPBC. I was not part of the group that was consulted when this all came up. I could likely tell you who these people are and I do know they were not all men.

I will say Amy is indeed making be a victim of her slander, implying I was part of some cover up of sexual abuse when that is simply not true.

@Anonymous,n as for your cue card advice, that has nothing to do with Amy slandering my name without knowing the facts or even talking to me. My intent in responding to her blog is to correct her facts.

Dee said...

Bruce

"I will say Amy is indeed making be a victim of her slander, implying I was part of some cover up of sexual abuse when that is simply not true."

This statement is evidence that you have been hanging around churches with weak theology for far too long. You misuse the world *slander* which is common for some people in churches that have pastors who cry slander for anyone that speaks an inconvenient truth. Slander is the deliberate telling of a lie in order to bring harm to another. Amy did not lie. You are not named as a pastor. You are named as part of a *connect the dots* of who was where and when and whose paths crossed. That is quite clear to me.

Here is a post I wrote that might be of help as you seek to understand what slander really involves both legally and biblically. You will see that the Bible basically agrees with the legal definition in the United States. I really enjoyed seeing what the Bible had to say. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/03/18/slander-or-an-inconvenient-truth/

Amy Smith said...

Bart Lewis is a current pastor at Highpoint Church, specifically "Global Digital Director," whatever that means. The first commenter mentioned Bart. His Linkedin profile lists his first church employment as Director of Student Ministries at Germantown Church 2001 – 2003.

Bruce Jones said...

Dee,

I can get my arms around I am something these people have in common, despite the very misleading headline. As I am not nor have ever been 'clergy'. However, you are pretty wrapped up around the axle of religious organizations and churches to think my statements have anything to do with churches I attend and their theology.

For your benefit you can actually google words and dictionary definitions pop up. So you do not have to attend church to learn what words mean:

slan·der.

NOUN
1.the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation: Compare with libel.

"he is suing the TV network for slander"

VERB
1.make false and damaging statements about (someone):

"they were accused of slandering the head of state"

synonyms: defame (someone's character) · blacken someone's name ·

tell lies about · speak ill/evil of · sully someone's reputation · libel · smear · cast aspersions on · spread scandal about · besmirch · tarnish · taint · malign · traduce · vilify · disparage · denigrate · run down · slur · badmouth · dis · trash · derogate

In my opinion Dee, Amy's graph above is certainly misleading as she does not separate me from 'clergy sex abusers', 'cover up' vs. is someone with something in common. this fits Websters definition of slander whether you like it or not. I do not know most of the people named above, but I suspect Amy is is equally brazen (a disrespectful boldness) with some of their names.

Dee said...

Bruce

Thank you for your definitions and synonyms. I love synonyms and wish I had time to read every last one.

However, I disagree with your application. This chart simply mean that these are the people who have crossed paths with Andy Savage. I knew it the minute I saw it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think you were a pastor.

This has got you all upset. Why is that? People say thing about me all the time. I have compiled them under a list called "What the world is saying about The Wartburg Watch." It has provided me with many hours of mirth. ( synonym: merriment, high spirits, cheerfulness, cheeriness, hilarity, glee, laughter, gaiety, buoyancy, blitheness, euphoria, exhilaration, lightheartedness, joviality, joy, joyfulness, joyousness via Google)

I suggest you do the same for yourself. It will help the stress that you are experiencing.

I do have a question for you, Bruce. Are you the guy who blamed Jules for her molestation or was that another Bruce?

Amy Smith said...

Bruce,
We have screenshots of you blaming and shaming Jules.

Bruce Jones said...

I guess your interpretation of blaming and shaming is similar to my definition of slander. We might as well agree to disagree. You disagree I was slandered above and I disagree I blamed or shamed Julie despite what your screen shots show.

First I wasn't there so I only have opinions. My opinions are that I did not believe she was molested, I believe she consented and she was of legal age. This belief is because I knew her as a teenager.

I do question her motives and timing given she just emerged from bankruptcy. I also believe her mother begged not to get the authorities involved, but my belief is hearsay as I was not present when this happened. I was not at all involved at all with the WPBC decision on how they handled what happened. I was never a deacon, elder, etc at WBPC, but you should contact those people if you have not. Happy to give you the names. My final comment is I never condoned what Andy did and do believe he was very wrong. He was the authority and even if she consented which I believe she did, he had no right to allow what happened to happen. Whatever, that means today is not for me to say.

@Amy and Dee you clearly have a lot of passion on this topic of abuse in religious organizations. I have none. I do not mean that to sound harsh, it is just not something on my radar screen. You can argue it should be, but I have passion for other things for other reasons and my energy goes there. You do not have to agree with me, just telling you my opinion.

@Dee, I suppose it got me upset because it upset my wife of 34 years and if she is upset, then I am upset, regardless of the reason. She is a saint whom I do not deserve!

Dee said...

Bruce

It is men like you who cause women who have been abused to stay inside of their shell. This is exactly why women don't come forward. Your comment is filled with vitriol and stupidity and I will be using it in a post with your full name since you have seen fit to post if in public in this forum. I have a screen shot.

I don't care if you lived with Jules and made her oatmeal every day! She was 17 and he was her youth pastor at 22. You are going for the "Jules, the teenage Jezebel" defense which that is despicable and shows your utter inability to show empathy for a victim. When are the comments about what she was wearing going to be submitted.

Sorry, that dog won't hunt. A youth pastor must never, ever, ever have sex with a student in his ministry. This is beyond wrong and should have been reported to the police no matter who begged what. And I would be very careful here. An elderly lady can be manipulated into *remembering.*

But, it doesn't matter. This situation is case closed. If you want to give standing ovations to youth pastors who abuse their office by having sex with a student, then do so. It speaks volumes to both your understanding and character.

As for bankruptcy, where is the request for money here? How dare you bring up personal matters that have no relevance to what is going on. Look at you. You totally lose it when your name is simply mentioned as being around Savage in the past. Yet you say this about her? What kind of a man are you?

You are a despicable individual who is going after a victim who has been in pain for years. You may not be a sex abuser but you sure sound like a typical male abuser by your uneducated and unChristian comments. Looks like you have not been taught well at your church. Given the theology I have seen spouted by your BFFs, I am not surprised

As for you wife, I am a woman who has been married to my husband for more years than your wife. It is time for your wife to pull on her big girl panties and deal with it. You were simply accused of *being there* and you were. When you play in the public eye, you pay in the public eye.

Bruce Jones said...

sorry you feel that way, God Bless you regardless

Anonymous said...


To Amy Smith (while I'm sure you won't respond)

I'm sure you won't "approve" this comment since you don't approve validity. So, I'll be sure to screenshot it before I click publish comment so that I can put this on Twitter.

Many of us would like to know why you deleted a comment from someone (not anonymous) who provided concrete evidence and contact info for Germantown Methodist Church so you could call and verify the past employment of Bart Lewis?

In addition, why would you NOT also delete the comment from someone who posted anonymously and incorrectly assumed Bart Lewis' worked at Germantown BAPTIST Church?

Because Bart listed Germantown Church on his page, doesn't give you (who apparently thinks justice is all that matters) the right to falsely and incorrectly say things that you already know aren't true.

Did it ever occur to you that years ago when Bart created a LinkedIn profile that the name Germantown United Methodist Church may have been too many characters for that field at the time?

Also, did you happen to see if there was a time stamp on when Bart Lewis last updated his work info? And that date would be way before any of this happened?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Smith - Go after the guilty people all you want. But don't tear down the innocent. At the very least get your facts straight before you cast peoples names out there.

Am I against your fight? Absolutely not.

But, do I question your motives and tactics: YES absolutely and I would say your tactics are borderline if not actual verbal and mental abuse with how you're go after some innocent people. In your process, you're also abusing social media and digital means to bully innocent people.

These are innocent people who have never committed a crime of any nature. They just woke up one day, went to work, and found themselves employed by an organization who also employees an alleged abuser. The way you treat these people is wrong, it's sinful, and it hurts them.

What do you expect those people to do? Quit their jobs now? How are they supposed to feed their families? Pay their bills? They're only guilty of being an employee in an organization at the wrong time.

- There's at least 2100 mentions, retweets, replies, or shares on twitter in the last 3 weeks (even more if I kept counting back) that connect back to something that you'd originally tweeted, wrote on your blog about, etc. etc.

- BUT 35% of those 2100 mentions, retweets, replies, or shares negatively referenced or even mentioned a completely and obviously innocent person. Bart Lewis is a great example of the 35%. Germantown Church thing? Are you serious? Multiple people have told you that your info isn't right. Did you check it?

For example, here's a tweet I found from back in January where Bart Lewis tweeted:

"Why can't someone announce just before the president speaks to hold all applause until after he's done? #StateoftheUnion #SOTU"

You replied to Bart Lewis: "If he confesses to sexual abuse, I hope they don't give a standing ovation like your church did. #metoo #churchtoo #justiceforjules

This makes you look like a jealous high school girl who had their boyfriend stolen by their BFF. More importantly, it makes it hard to believe you're in it for the healing. Are you into healing peoples abuse by using tactics who hurt and damage innocent people lives? Is this not also a form of abuse?

- So, I think it's a reasonable question to ask you: How do you explain that behavior / tactic that you're laying out there against the innocent people?

I pray you'll consider what's being said here.

Poesy said...

Regarding the comments of Anonymous

I don't understand why they are so indignant. If it is such an issue, Bart needs to clarify his work history. It isn't Amy's job to call around and chase down his employment history. His resume is his resume. If it's left open to interpretation, you have to ask yourself why. To my mind, it doesn't warrant further comment.

It's obvious that this person(s) knows Bart Lewis. Perhaps it's even him. But whoever you are, your anger is misguided. Amy and others that are seeking justice are not your enemy. Your anger should be directed at Chris and Andy. They are the ones that are refusing to respond to their critics; choosing rather to allow subordinates to bear the brunt of public inquiry.

There are times in each of our lives when we have to examine ourselves and make choices. Often these choices are difficult. Often one has to decide if integrity is more important than a paycheck. If you're being asked to do something that is against your conscience, you have a choice to make. Either you stand up and confront those that ask you to compromise your morals, or you choose to be silent. You cannot claim innocence when you stand idly by and allow them to hide and dodge questions from their critics and congregation. If you don't stand up for what is right, you are complicit in their actions. Ask yourself: Do Andy and Chris deserve my loyalty when they stay silent and leave me open to scrutiny?

You're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Are you willing to go down with the ship because you're not brave enough to jump into the sea? The way I see it, the ship is sinking regardless. You may end up without a job anyway due to the way Chris and Andy are handling this situation. The leadership they have demonstrated is abysmal and embarrassing. Outside your church community, they are a laughingstock.

They don't care about you. They're only looking out for themselves. They are cowards that hide instead of doing the right thing; all because they want to maintain their power and position. If they were truly about doing the Lord's business, they would admit their failures and step aside for the good of the church. Ask yourself: Why are they holding on so tightly? Do they feel that they are so intrinsic to the workings of the church that it cannot function without them? If so, you need to recognize that you're dealing with someone who is not after God's own heart, they are after their own.




Anonymous said...

Don't forget Hal Kitchings was senior pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist from 1997-2002. That's another John Langworthy dot to connect.