Hipster Megachurch in Shambles Over Pastor’s Alleged Affair by Emily Shugerman
I actually blogged about this before, (Link): here.
If I am understanding the reportage correctly, this news story involves a married man who had an affair with a married woman. It’s so important to mention this, because a lot of people – I’d say maybe both in and out of the Christian culture – assume that SINLGE (un-married) adults “hit on” married people and entice them into affairs.
I’m an unmarried adult who is tired of that odious trope.
I periodically see news items about married people who have affairs with other married people, or married people who “hit on” single adults.
Also, if you’re a single Christian, and if you’re exposed to Christian teaching about dating and marriage which suggests that you have to achieve some kind of perfection, level of godliness, or whatever, before God will allow you to get married (I saw this sort of teaching from Christians in the 1980s and 1990s), news stories like this one demonstrates that no, God does not with-hold spouses from imperfect, flawed people.
If God permitted this clown to get married – this church pastor who committed adultery – he won’t withhold a spouse from you.
Also, marriage, contrary to what the “marriage pushers” in Christianity promote, does not always, or necessarily, make a person more ethical, loving, or responsible. If it did, this pastor douche would not have strayed from his wife, and the douche-ette he slept with would not have slept around on her spouse. But they both did. Which means, marriage did not magically conform them to some higher standard.
The drama has unfolded like a soap opera, with rumors, a parade of employee exits, and a suggestive videotape.
by Emily Shugerman
When volunteers at Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, arrived at their pastor’s house last November, they were hoping to raise his spirits with a surprise visit.
Instead they got a shock: Pastor Tavner Smith was alone with a female church employee—she in a towel, he in his boxers.
The charismatic 41-year-old hurriedly explained that the two of them had been making chili and hot dogs and gotten food on their clothes, according to one volunteer who was present.
But, as the volunteer put it, “I don’t think none of us was that dumb.”
“If she dropped chili on her clothes, why are you in your boxers?” she recalled thinking. “Was y’all like, throwing chili at each other?”
For the volunteer, the scene confirmed something she had long suspected—that Smith, then married with three children, was secretly carrying on an affair with the employee, who was married to another church staffer.
Smith has denied any affair took place, but rumors about it have nonetheless led to something out of a daytime soap opera, involving two divorces, one secretly recorded video, and the departure of nearly all the church’s full-time staff.
And former staffers, members, and volunteers told The Daily Beast they are still struggling to come to terms with the maelstrom that left one of the country’s fastest-growing mega churches in shambles.
…By 2015, Venue was on Outreach Magazine’s list of fastest-growing churches in the country; by 2020, it had campuses in two states and pulled in nearly 2,000 people on a given Sunday.
…Once the neighbors got to Venue, there was another message waiting for them: Donate, donate, donate. Attendees said Smith preached over and over about tithing, or the practice of giving a portion of your income to the church every week. Many churches address tithing as a suggestion, but attendees said Smith treated it like an obligation.
…The message appears to have worked. Financial records for the church itself are unavailable, but property records show the building alone is worth $4.9 million. A child support worksheet in Smith’s divorce proceedings lists his monthly income as $16,666. According to other divorce records, Smith and his ex-wife owned three houses in and around Chattanooga worth $981,330 combined, and maintained a real estate investment account worth $20,000.
But it was the beginning of the pandemic when things really started to change. In early 2020, the usually clean-shaven Smith started growing out his hair and beard, getting new tattoos and piercing his ears. The most noticeable change was how much time he started spending with a certain female employee….
…Slowly, however, members started noticing a trickle of long-time staff members leaving the church. First was a campus pastor who’d come from South Carolina, one former volunteer recalled. Then—according to multiple former members—a number of full-time staff exited at the end of 2020.
Smith and the female employee continued to spend the bulk of their time at church together, while Smith’s wife became increasingly scarce. But whenever anyone confronted the two about the rumors, they denied anything was going on.
…In January 2021, Smith announced to the congregation what many staff and volunteers already suspected: He and his wife were splitting for good. He said the board had asked him to take a break from preaching and attend six weeks of counseling. But two weeks later, according to multiple former attendees, he was back at the pulpit, claiming God had told him to return.
As the situation at Venue deteriorated, Smith’s sermons took on an air of desperation.
He started calling people out in public for not donating enough and spoke frequently about not associating with “the enemy”—which some took to mean the people who had left the church.
The final straw for some was a 16-week series Smith hosted called “Dirty Destinies,” which centered around people in the Bible who had done terrible things but later recovered.
You can read the remainder of that (Link): here (Daily Beast)