Tavner Smith, lead pastor of Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, denies allegations that his church faces foreclosure and will be shutting down. Venue Church’s North Georgia campus was shuttered in January as the church has dealt with various controversies, including Smith’s involvement in what he has called an “inappropriate relationship.”
“Hey guys, I just wanted to come and address a lot of the things that you’ve seen in the news that have been written and put in video form and typed about the foreclosure of our building and Venue Church shutting down,” said Smith in a video posted to his and Venue Church’s Instagram accounts.
“First of all,” said Smith, “I wanted to say it’s absolutely not true. Venue Church is not shutting down. Number two, our legal team, who is amazing, has assured me that I can tell you with confidence our Chattanooga location is going nowhere. There have been so many rumors, there’s been so many things that have swirled around in the past year that I want to set some things straight this week.”
Venue Church’s Past and Future
Tavner Smith returned to the pulpit at Venue Church in February 2022 after a sabbatical he took following allegations he was having an affair. In November 2021, church volunteers showed up at Smith’s house to find the pastor in his boxers with one of the church’s female employees, who was wearing only a towel. In December of that year, a video surfaced showing Smith kissing that same woman in public. Smith and his now ex-wife had begun divorce proceedings earlier in May, and their divorce was finalized that December.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that leaked audio of a December meeting between Smith and church volunteers reveals the pastor denied having a sexual relationship with the employee, who was also married, but said they planned to pursue a relationship once their divorce proceedings have concluded.
Several staff members resigned in December. In January, Smith announced he was taking a sabbatical to “fill up, spend time with God, and get some counseling.” The church’s North Georgia campus closed on January 31, a little less than a week before the pastor returned from sabbatical on Feb. 6. During his Sunday sermon, Smith admitted to an “inappropriate relationship,” but not to having an affair. Smith has also been accused of financial misconduct, living a lavish lifestyle and preaching a prosperity gospel.