Pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has admitted to and apologized for having an “inappropriate relationship.”
According to The Christian Post, for months, Smith had been accused of having an adulterous affair, but he and his staff repeatedly denied the claims. On Sunday, he admitted to his congregation that the claims were true.
“Before I preach a word today, I’ve just come to say I’m sorry. So many things I’ve said, that I’ve done, that I’ve not said, that I’ve run from were wrong,” Smith said, according to a recording of the apology posted on YouTube by journalist Julie Roys.
“I was involved in an inappropriate relationship. And I want to say that I’m sorry that I put you through any embarrassment, heartache or confusion. I’ve wounded people, and I’ve caused devastation that I know I can never take back,” he added. “As your leader and pastor, I come to you to publicly acknowledge my mistakes and truly ask for forgiveness. It grieves me to think that my pride and my selfishness could’ve caused anyone hurt.”
The apology came after reports found that attendance had fallen at the church and at least eight church employees had quit.
In December, a video surfaced of Smith kissing a female church employee who was not his wife. He was also reportedly “caught half-naked” with the same employee at his home when church volunteers visited him.
Smith claimed that they “had been making chili and hot dogs and gotten food on their clothes,” but one volunteer told The Daily Beast that she didn’t believe his story.
“I don’t think none of us was that dumb,” one volunteer told The Daily Beast. “If she dropped chili on her clothes, why are you in your boxers? Was you all like, throwing chili at each other?”
Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published leaked audio of some 100 church volunteers questioning Smith at a December meeting about his relationship with the church employee.
Smith and his wife began divorce proceedings last May. They have three children.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.