Today at Highpoint Church: When a Worship Song Is Blasphemous

Today at Highpoint Church: When a Worship Song Is Blasphemous January 7, 2018

Screenshot-2018-1-7 Pastor Andy Savage Faith Story The Church at Schilling Farms

If you haven’t yet read Jules Woodson’s horrific sexual assault story, you can do so here and here.

To summarize, Jules was taken in a car under false pretenses by her youth pastor, Andy Savage, and sexually assaulted in a remote location. When she alerted her pastors at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now mini-megachurch StoneBridge, she was shamed and silenced. Andy was ceremoniously let go and sent home to Memphis. Since then, he has risen to a level of evangelical prominence, publishing books, releasing podcasts, and taking the role of Teaching Pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis.

Along the way, he has been protected by a circle of good old boys, who knew, but have held this secret inside.

I wrote about it in my last post, The Andy Savage Story; however, you might not have seen it, as those defending Savage and his protectors have convinced Facebook that it is spam.

Jules’ story broke this past week, and Andy and Highpoint Church have responded in this morning’s services. In case you’re wondering, this is what using God’s name in vain looks and sounds like.

They both reiterated Andy’s repentance for what he calls a “sexual incident” with a teenager that happened 20 years ago, but proved they simply don’t get it. What Andy did as a 23-year-old Youth Pastor was a crime. It was not an unfortunate indiscretion made with a consensual adult partner. His pressuring her for oral sex, according to Texas statues, is a 2nd-degree felony, and the false pretense under which he drove her to the desolate area could raise other implications.

Over and over again they said,

Hey, don’t throw stones.

And despite their claiming otherwise, it was a blatant, disturbing case of gaslighting, minimizing, and victim shaming.

Their repeated offers to care for Ms. Woodson in her personal pain were tinged with undertones of a different flavor:

Seriously woman, what has taken you so long? We thought you’d have gotten over it!

This was 20 years ago! It’s over and done!

Why are you bringing this up now? Aren’t we just supposed to forgive each other?

Ouch! You people stop throwing stones!

They just don’t seem to get it. This wasn’t a youthful indiscretion, it was a crime.

Beyond the legality of it, as people who claim God’s call to ministry, they ought to recognize the grave pastoral abuse that it is. He preyed upon one of his students, someone under his care, a child with whom he was trusted, a teenager with a budding faith to whom he claimed to represent God almighty.

Just before Lead Pastor Chris Conlee began his statement today, the worship team led by Josh Maze (known among Highpoint regulars as, and I am not making this up, “Jizz”) led the congregation in this commercial “worship” song, One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture.

With primal, orgasmic wails, the vocalists assaulted the congregation with these words:

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
This one thing remains
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Because on and on and on and on it goes
Before it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains
This one thing remains
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me

Unfortunately, for Savage’s victim, the church has failed, given up, and run out on her.

Remember, brothers and sisters, when I told you that worship and justice belong together?

Remember, dear ones, all the times I’ve said that worship IS ethics?

Andy and Chris, cramming these lyrics in your congregation’s collective mouth, couching them as “worship,” right before feeding them the pig slop of denial is an ethical atrocity. Going to such great lengths to maintain your Lowpoint Church branding and personal reputations is not only plastic and unconvincing, it’s idolatry. Sanctimoniously parroting your quasi-biblical catchphrases while offering a seminar in corporate crisis management is a rejection of your calling as ministers of the gospel.

It is bad worship.

It is blasphemous.

It is gross malpractice.

It is a litany of lies, proven by our own words and actions.

It is a masturbatory, self-preserving, self-worshiping, self-referential pursuit.

It is worship that is about the self. I don’t care how many butts are in your seats. I don’t care how many campuses you have. I don’t care how many podcasts are downloaded, how many books ordered, or how many propagandists you manufacture.

Worship is ethics. And what you called “worship” today certainly was worship, but it proclaimed a false gospel. The gospel of saving face.

Saving asses is more like it.

While the self-promoting evangelical megachurch celebrities, world famous in Memphis, Austin, and the greater Houston metro offer their pious and plastic PR statements, there is a victim left in your tracks.

And your McCongregation gave her attacker a standing ovation today. That is repugnant. Reprehensible.

Blasphemous.

I don’t wish ill for Andy Savage and his family. I want him to own up to the gross injustice he’s continuously committed all this time, humbly face all legal consequences, and to never serve in pastoral ministry or with children ever again.

I don’t wish ill for those who have kept his abuse silent, either. But they have demonstrated themselves unfit for ministry. They have let their people down in the worst way imaginable.

But Andy, Chris, Steve Bradley, Larry Cotton et al. are not the victims here.

Perhaps Andy really feels sorry. Perhaps he really is repentant to the extent he knows to be. But the dog and pony show that took place today was a pathetic parade of posturing, and the mob at Highpoint today ate it all up. Andy is NOT the victim. He is hurting, I’m sure, but the hurt has come at his own action. His is the hand holding the rock, not his critics’.

Whatever the great state of Texas may say, there is no statute of limitations on pastoral abuse.

Highpoint, you had the chance to take responsibility. But you passed.

You had the chance to demonstrate true compassion. But you didn’t.

Your name has been in the headlines. The story has gone viral. Highpoint Church, Andy, Chris, you had the chance to demonstrate what true, ethical, just worship looks like. But with vain lyrics, a few tears, and a standing ovation, you bowed down at a false altar of your own making.

And gave it a standing ovation.

And the injustice goes on, still.

20 years and counting.

Photo:
Vimeo screenshot

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