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Pastor Andy Savage takes leave of absence, insists sex with teen was 'mutual'

by Tola Mbakwe

Andy Savage, a leader of Highpoint Church in Memphis Tennessee, has taken a leave of absence after he admitted sexual relations with a 17-year-old in 1998.

The church has expressed support for Savage and his family in a "difficult season" but maintains that an immediate a leave of absence was the appropriate action to take.

Chris Conlee, the lead pastor at the church wrote: "We want to maintain trust in both Andy and our church leadership that we are not only doing things right, but we are doing right things.

"To that end, we are engaging a qualified, independent, third party organisation to do a full audit of our church processes and Andy's ministry."

Last week Savage admitted involvement in inappropriate behaviour with Jules Woodson, after she detailed the incident in her blog last December.

In a statement on the church's website he added that he "accepted full responsibility" for his actions "deeply regret the pain I caused her and her family, as well as the pain I caused the church and God's Kingdom".

However, in an interview with conservative radio host Ben Ferguson on Friday, Savage insisted the incident which happened in Texas while he was a "stupid college student serving as a youth pastor" was "mutual".

He maintained while what he did was wrong, it was not illegal.

"I do not believe I broke the law. " he said.

Savage added during the interview: "I was 22, she was 17, which is a legal adult, a consenting adult, in the state of Texas.

"The atmosphere was very flirtatious. That flirtatious environment, continued... which led to... us making out, some heavy petting.

"It was a very... mutual, spontaneous, physical... moment and our hormones were obviously... very much in that moment and... she performed oral sex."

He admitted that right after the encounter; he knew he failed as a youth pastor and failed in his commitment to sexual purity before God.

More than 2,300 people have signed a petition in support of Savage, claiming he's "being wrongly portrayed" and people should "look at all the good he has done for God's kingdom".

On the other hand, a petition asking for Savage to resign from his position has gotten more than 2,700 signatures. It said "Andy Savage committed a crime and has admitted as much publicly. He should be disqualified from ministerial leadership".

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