Pastor of embattled mega-church denies reports of church lockdown

Tavner Smith
Venue Church pastor Tavner Smith speaks at Venue Church on February 7, 2022. |

Tennessee megachurch pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church in Chattanooga has denied reports that his church is facing foreclosure less than a year after staffers quit following a rumored affair he had with a former church employee.

Smith assured subscribers on instagram that reports of the church being closed are “absolutely untrue”.

The post was an apparent response to a July 31 report in The Chattanooga Times Free Press that Venue Church had defaulted on its loan for the property at 6401 Lee Highway. A to remark of foreclosure and sale indicated an upcoming auction on August 24.

According to the notice, Venue secured the original $2.8 million loan for the property in 2019. Hamilton County recordings say the property is valued at $4.86 million.

“First of all, that’s absolutely not true. Venue Church isn’t closing,” Smith said. “Our amazing legal team has assured me that I can tell you with confidence that our Chattanooga site is going nowhere.”

“The best is yet to come for Venue Church. … It’s not over. We’re just getting started,” Smith added.

He invited his followers to come to the Sunday service, where he said he would “set the record straight”.

Attempts by the Christian Post to contact Smith and Venue Church were unsuccessful.

Venue Church, a non-denominational church with around 2,000 members, was rocked by scandal in December after Smith was accused of engaging in an extramarital affair.

Prior to the recent unrest, Venue Church had become one of fastest growing congregations in America.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained audio of a widely publicized Dec. 17 meeting between Smith and more than 100 volunteers at the fast-growing Venue Church after several employees quit the church over the alleged affair.

In January, a Facebook page critical of the church called “The place is NOT a churchposted images showing that Venue Church now only operates from the Chattanooga campus on Lee Highway.

Although Venue Church previously listed a campus in North Georgia, this location is no longer listed on the church website.

Around this time, Smith began a sabbatical after a video circulated online showing him kissing a church staff member who was not his wife, which caught the attention of national media.

Upon returning from that sabbatical, Smith confessed to his congregation that he was involved in an “inappropriate relationship” and asked for forgiveness.

“Before I preached a word today, I just came to say I’m sorry. So many things I said, did, didn’t say, ran from were wrong. , “Smith said, according to a recording of the excuses posted on YouTube by journalist Julie Roys.

“I have been involved in an inappropriate relationship. And I want to say that I am sorry for causing you any embarrassment, grief or confusion. I have hurt people and caused devastation that I know I can never bear back,” he added. “As a leader and pastor, I come to you to publicly acknowledge my mistakes and truly ask for forgiveness. It pains me to think that my pride and selfishness could have hurt someone.”

Smith and his wife, Danielle, who have three children, began divorce proceedings in May 2021.

In 2008, Smith was hired as executive student pastor at Redemption World Outreach in Greenville, South Carolina, a church led by Ron and Hope Carpenter. Smith’s website lists Carpenter as his mentor.

In 2012, the Smiths moved to Chattanooga, where they started Venue Church.

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