Tanver Smith, pastor of Venue Church Chattanooga, Tennessee recently announced on social media that he is taking time off from pastoring after a video released by a former church member, Colt Chandler Helton, surfaced of him kissing a woman who was not his wife.
On January 5, he wrote, “I’m going to be taking some time to fill up, spend time with God, and get some counseling so I can come back rested, refreshed and ready for the year. I love you and I’ll see you in February.”
According to the Christian Post, several members left the church after confronting Smith about the allegations in May of last year. However, the church refused to address the rumors publicly. In an email the church wrote, “We are currently conducting our exit process with our staff members. We appreciate their service and value their feedback.”
In May Smith was in the middle of a message series called “Dirty Destinies.” In the message, he asked, “The question is not ‘Am I dirty?’ because I am…I don’t think we have any doubts about that anymore. I think we’ve been real about that over the last six weeks.” He continued, “Every single person in here is full of dirt. God did not choose perfect people. God only chooses available people.”
Smith established Venue in 2012, and by 2015 it was the 7th fastest growing church in America, with nearly 2,000 members attending service each week.
In addition to leaking the video, Helton has expressed skepticism of the church’s financial practices. In a Facebook post on December 19, he claimed that there were “zero elders or accountability.” He further asserted that church staff was told that the church had no money. However, according to Melton, Smith “had a new car every few weeks. And the shopping trips would blow your mind. From exotic dogs to shoe and jersey collections.”
In December, the church was planning to have two services, but now Venue will conduct services online according to the church website.