The proverbial shit is hitting the fan at a megachurch in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as droves of church staffers are turning in their resignation and publicly speaking out after the church’s lead pastor was allegedly caught on video engaging in a kiss with a woman who is not his wife.
Rumors have been swirling about Venue Church Pastor Tavner Smith having an affair with one of his long-term employees, spurring eight different church employees to turn in their resignation and confront the church’s lead pastor, according to a report from The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Pastor Smith is reportedly in the process of divorcing his wife, with whom he shares three children.
However, this particular alleged affair is not the only scandal Tavner Smith has been embroiled in. In a public post on Facebook, at least one former church member has very publicly aired their grievances with the Venue Church pastor.
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“I was hired by Venue church in its early days to set up its systems and structures and model anything an adult would experience on a Sunday morning. In hindsight I taught the ‘Iranians how to make nuclear weapons’ I gave a man who had very very bad intentions the ability to make a megachurch,” former Venue Church employee Colt Chandler Helton wrote in a highly critical, public Facebook post about Smith.
Helton went on to allege that the church was highly problematic, in a multitude of ways, including allegations of mental and physical abuse. “I witnessed the worship pastor slam his wife against a wall in the green room prior to going on stage,” he claimed in his post.
“There could not be a more dangerous man and or organization than Pastor Tavner and Venue Church,” Helton warned. “He currently has cheated on his wife with his assistant and lead worship leader. His staff have almost all quit and he refused to step down. This is in part due to no elder system or any leadership to force him out.”
Venue Church is a relatively new house of worship, founded in 2012, and named one of the “fastest-growing churches in the country,” just a few years later in 2015, with a staggering 1,000 or more attendees at their regular church services.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press goes on to report, “Smith would regularly post to social media pictures of himself in designer sneakers and clothes. Sunday services included light shows and congregants would provide a standing ovation when he came on stage. Along with the campus security team, a special team of armed bodyguards would follow Smith around.”
Speaking with the local publication, a former member of the church’s security team, Destiny Santos, claimed she was instructed to bar certain people from entering the megachurch. “Anyone that spoke bad about him or the church went onto this watch list with code names and explanations as to why they’re not allowed,” she revealed.
She went on to accuse Smith of regularly taking credit for work that didn’t belong to him. “All everyone ever sees is him giving away a check to this school on the news or volunteering at a soup kitchen or giving back here,” she revealed. “Newsflash: he didn’t do any of that. He shows up when the cameras get there. We did everything. Like we volunteered at the soup kitchen. We gave away the clothes to the homeless. We cleaned up the streets. We raised the money to give to the schools. We did this and we did that. And he just shows up, looks nice on camera.”
Now… Can we tax the churches yet?