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Tennessee Church Closes After Pastor Resigns Over Past Sexual Relationship with Minor

A Tennessee church whose lead pastor resigned in September for sexual misconduct has now closed its doors for good.

Chris Watts resigned from Life Change Church after The Tennessean published a story interviewing Valerie Swope, 19, who says Watts started an inappropriate sexual relationship with her when she was 16. She was a member in a youth group he led in Louisville.

MinistryWatch previously reported on his resignation and added that Life Change, founded by Watts in 2017, started as a Southern Baptist church but left the convention three days after Guidepost published its report on sexual abuse within the SBC.

By leaving the SBC, Life Change bypassed a review process that may have resulted in the church being ousted from the convention publicly.

Experience Community Church has already taken residency at the former church, celebrating its new opening October 17—just a month after Watts’ resignation.

The property is the third campus of Experience Community and will be absorbing many of Life Church’s former members. The first official service was held November 6.

In a Facebook post, Watts told former Life Change Church Tullahoma members they were in his prayers. “I know these past several weeks have been difficult and I am so sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced as a result of my past sin.”

He thanked the Board of Directors for their work to “keep the church moving forward.”

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He said it was “truly exciting” to see preparations for their November as he walked into the worship center of what is now Experience Community Tullahoma. He talked at length to Campus Pastor Joe Thompson, vouched that he was a Godly man, and concluded, “I am praying for Joe and the staff of ECCT as they continue bringing glory to God at 414 Wilson Ave. I want to encourage you to gather for worship with the Body of Christ that is the Experience Church Tullahoma and continue lifting up the name of Jesus! Everything happens for a reason, even the things we don’t understand.”

Main photo: Christian Watts, former pastor of Life Change Church / YouTube screengrab

Jessica Eturralde

Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.