MEMPHIS — A Christian publisher says it is canceling the publication of a book by a Memphis pastor who admitted to a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old high school senior in Texas 20 years ago.
Bethany House announced Monday afternoon that it is canceling the scheduled July publication of Andy Savage's book, The Ridiculously Good Marriage. The tweet announcing the cancellation said the book might still show up on some retail websites "for a short time until those sites update."
On amazon.com, where the book still shows available for pre-order as of Tuesday afternoon, the description calls Savage a "pastor and relationship coach" who "has been in the trenches of marital hardship."
Meanwhile, the victim, Jules Woodson, says that she is "disgusted" by Savage's public apology and doesn't agree that the matter was "dealt with" at the time as Savage suggested. Woodson has come forward with her story in the vein of others in the #metoo movement.
Woodson told her story in a blog post detailing the sexual assault. Savage admitted to the encounter in a post on the website of his current church, Highpoint Church in East Memphis, and addressed the congregation this past Sunday.
While not offering as much detail as Woodson, who said she thought Savage was taking her for ice cream after church on the way home, Savage admitted in the post and to church members that he "had a sexual incident with a female high school senior" while he was at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in a Houston suburb.
"I resigned from ministry and moved back home to Memphis," Savage said in the written statement that he read to church members, who gave him a standing ovation after his remarks. "I accepted full responsibility for my actions. I was and remain very remorseful for the incident and deeply regret the pain I caused her and her family, as well as the pain I caused the church and God's Kingdom."
Savage said he thought the incident, for which criminal charges were never filed, had been "dealt with" in Texas 20 years ago when he apologized. He said he told leaders at Highpoint about the incident before they hired him, and his wife knew about it before they married.
In hindsight, Savage says he knows more could have been done to help Woodson at the time. He said he "remains committed to cooperating toward healing."
Highpoint Lead Pastor Chris Conlee has expressed support for Conlee, also in a written statement on the church website. Before Savage addressed the congregation Sunday, Conlee told members "there was room to disagree but still respect one another."
"It's not just a right-and-wrong issue, though there was something definitely wrong," Conlee said.
After Savage received an ovation, Conlee said he knows members are supporting healing for Woodson as well as for Savage, who Conlee said God supports "1,000 percent."
Woodson could not be reached Tuesday, but she told The New York Times she saw the video of Savage's remarks to church members and the ovation and found it "disgusting."
She told the newspaper the incident had not been "dealt with," as Savage suggested, because it was not reported to law enforcement. She said she has made a report recently, but it's unclear whether the statute of limitations has expired under Texas law.
Woodson also said she decided to come forward with the story after she saw a USA TODAY story in December about Matt Lauer being fired by NBC because of sexual misconduct. She said she first contacted Savage by email, but decided to go public when Savage never replied.