Venue church files for bankruptcy after pastor’s sexual misconduct allegations

A megachurch in Tennessee filed for bankruptcy and revealed millions of dollars in debt after a scandal over the pastor Tavener Smith’s alleged sexual misconduct, federal court filings show.

The Chattanooga Venue Church Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Its bankruptcy filing shows that the church owes more than $3 million in mortgage, auto and credit card debt.

According to the filing, the church’s assets are less than $5 million, not even including the $4.5 million church building.

Tom Bible, an attorney representing bankrupt Venue Church, did not immediately respond. Lloyd’s Report (TRR) asked why the church decided to file for bankruptcy.

However, filings show that revenue has fallen significantly over the past two years. TRR.

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A revised list of guaranteed debts shows that the venue church still owes the building $2.77 million.

The Bible Reportedly Told Chattanooga free press The church intends to pay off the debt in full, even if that means selling the building.

This is a different message than Smith delivered in less than three weeks. He had promised to leave the church intact. TRR Previously reported.

The filing also identifies for the first time a former church board member who reportedly resigned in 2021.

Venue Church was reportedly a former member of the Association of Allied Churches (ARC), one of the largest church planting organizations in North America.As TRR previously reported, the ARC is known for reviving and re-platforming morally corrupt pastors. Current and past her ARC member churches, including Venue Church, have faced multiple financial or sexual scandals.

ARC Associated Church AssociationsThe ARC’s style of church governance places the responsibility of senior pastor on other megachurch pastors, commonly referred to as “supervisors.”

Ron Carpenter of Redemption Church of San Jose, California, served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Venue Church. His two other board members were Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Benny Perez of ChurchLV in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ChurchLV is an ARC member church and Perez is a member of the ARC lead team. Furtick’s Elevation Church is not a member of the ARC, but reportedly follows the ARC’s governance model.

Carpenter is linked to ARC, but is not officially affiliated.

Carpenter founded the Redemption Church in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2018, in April 2022, ARC lead John Gray, who was on his team, took over his Redemption Church and renamed it the Relentless Church. Now repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, Gray is embroiled in a legal battle over property with Carpenter.

Another former Venue Board member is Ron Phillips, Senior Pastor of Abba’s House in the Chattanooga area. The filing lists him as a director from his September 2021 through his January 2022. free press reported that Phillips had resigned in early February.

Months after Phillips resigned, Venue Church sold the LED display wall to Abba’s House for $40,000 on June 20, according to the bankruptcy filing. On that same day, filings show that Venue Church paid Tavner Smith a total of $15,000, with $10,000 in repayment of the loan and $5,000 as a pass-through from Abba’s home.

The transactions took place on the same day, but there is no clear connection between them.A bankruptcy attorney for Venue Church did not immediately respond. TRR asked for an explanation.

What rises must fall?

Smith launched Venue Church ten years ago. In just three years, attendance at six Sunday services has ballooned to 2,000, making him the seventh fastest growing church in the country.

Venue Church purchased the current building in late 2019. During his COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the church received more than her $3.1 million in earnings. This includes a $141,691 loan forgiven through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Venue Church Foreclosure
Recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation, Venue Church is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Photo by Google Street View)

However, in late 2021, Smith was accused of kissing a woman who was not his wife.Eight church employees resigned over the allegations, TRR Previously reported. Smith then took a short sabbatical earlier in the year and returned to preaching a month later.

Attendance reportedly plummeted since the scandal erupted. The bankruptcy filing shows that last year’s earnings fell to just over $2 million. Also, as of August 23, Venue’s earnings this year are less than his $600,000.

Liabilities include car loans, credit cards, vendor invoices, and back taxes.

According to the bankruptcy filing, Venue Church’s bank account is currently under $500. Other non-real estate assets include $180,000 or more in furniture, office and cleaning equipment, musical instruments, audio/visual and lighting equipment. The church also owns a Ford F-150 and a Chevrolet Suburban, both with about 110,000 miles.

In addition to the mortgage, the church’s debt includes approximately $53,000 owed on two vehicles, plus another $12,000 debt carried over from a previously owned vehicle that was in the water. ing.

The venue also owes approximately $8,000 to the City of Chattanooga and more than $2,200 to Hamilton County, according to the filing. It’s for taxes and stormwater fees, according to government records.

The bankruptcy filing shows that credit card debt has reached nearly $90,000. Debts to various business vendors and Tavener-Smith’s ex-wife cover the church’s remaining debt.

Smith’s ex-wife, Danielle Smith, who also worked at Venue Church, sued the church in July, alleging breach of contract, according to Hamilton County Circuit Court documents.

In her court filings, she alleges that Venue Church owed her monthly payments under the eviction agreement, but missed the last three months of payments. The church was supposed to transfer ownership of her car to her name only, but claims it didn’t.

The amount Venue Church owes Danielle Smith is not listed in the church’s bankruptcy filing or Danielle Smith’s court complaint. Tavener-Smith, in prose on behalf of the church, denied the allegations of breach of contract.

This article has been updated to correctly include the submission date and location of the Redemption Church in South Carolina instead of North Carolina.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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