Tennessee Megachurch Defaults on Building Payments, Property to be Auctioned
The building that housed a Tennessee megachurch is set to be auctioned off from the steps of the local courthouse Aug. 24, just six months after a video surfaced allegedly showing its head pastor kissing a woman who was not his wife.
A notice of foreclosure that appeared in The Chattanooga Times Free Press said Venue Church has defaulted on payments on the more than $2 million the church owes on a property at 6401 Lee Highway in Chattanooga, its main campus.
The notice says Venue bought the property from Hal Properties, a Tennessee limited liability company, on Sept. 10, 2019.
The church began to crumble after a video surfaced in 2021 allegedly showing head pastor Tavner Smith kissing a staff member while he was still in the process of divorcing his now former wife Danielle. Smith announced in January 2022 that he would take a month-long sabbatical to get counseling and “spend some time with God.”
The couple’s divorce was finalized in December.
Eight church employees quit after confronting Smith about the video, and more staff member and volunteer resignations followed, per the Times Free Press. Then other former employees began to come forward, sharing concerns about Smith and the way he ran the church.
When Smith returned to the pulpit in February, he apologized to his congregation for having an “inappropriate relationship” and admitted he had “caused devastation I can’t take back.”
Smith moved to Chattanooga in 2012, starting Venue in his home. He had previously been the executive student pastor at Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina.
In 2015, Venue was cited as one of the fastest-growing churches in the country by Outreach Magazine and LifeWay Research.
The church began holding its services online early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in February 2022, Venue closed a satellite campus about 20 minutes away in Ringgold, Georgia, that met in a rented space.
Smith is still listed as lead pastor on the church’s website.
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