Embattled megachurch Pastor Tavner Smith denies reports of church foreclosure

Venue Church Pastor Tavner Smith speaks at Venue Church on Feb. 7, 2022.
Venue Church Pastor Tavner Smith speaks at Venue Church on Feb. 7, 2022. | YouTube/Julie Roys

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 over a rumored affair he had with a former church employee.

Smith assured followers on Instagram that reports of the church shutting down are "absolutely not true."

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

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

"First of all, it's absolutely not true. Venue Church is not shutting down," Smith said. "Our legal team, who is amazing, has assured me that I can tell you with confidence that our Chattanooga location is going nowhere."

"The best is yet to come for Venue Church. … It ain't over. We're just getting started," Smith added.

He invited his followers to come to Sunday's service, where he said he would "set the record straight."

Attempts by The Christian Post to reach Smith and Venue Church were unsuccessful.

Venue Church, a nondenominational church of about 2,000 members, was rocked by scandal in December after Smith was accused of engaging in an extramarital affair.

Before the recent turmoil, Venue Church had become one of the fastest-growing congregations in America.

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

In January, a Facebook page critical of the church called "The Venue is NO Church" published images showing that Venue Church is now only operating from the Chattanooga campus on Lee Highway.

While Venue Church previously listed a campus in North Georgia, that location is no longer listed on the church's website.

Around that time, Smith began a sabbatical after a video circulated online showing him kissing a church staffer who was not his wife, which drew national media attention. 

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

"Before I preach a word today, I've just come to say I'm sorry. So many things I've said, that I've done, that I've not said, that I've run from were wrong," Smith said, according to a recording of the apology posted on YouTube by journalist Julie Roys.

"I was involved in an inappropriate relationship. And I want to say that I'm sorry that I put you through any embarrassment, heartache or confusion. I've wounded people, and I've caused devastation that I know I can never take back," he added. "As your leader and pastor, I come to you to publicly acknowledge my mistakes and truly ask for forgiveness. It grieves me to think that my pride and my selfishness could've caused anyone hurt."

Smith and his wife, Danielle, who have three kids, 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 launched Venue Church.

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