Hipster Pastor's Ex-Wife Sues Megachurch Rocked by Cheating Scandal

David McNew via Getty
David McNew via Getty

The hits keep coming for the Tennessee megachurch pastor accused of having an affair with a church employee.

As The Daily Beast reported earlier this week, Venue Church in Chattanooga is set to go up for auction at the end of the month, after defaulting on its $2.8 million mortgage. Now, embattled Pastor Tavner Smith is facing a lawsuit from his ex-wife, who claims the church missed its payments to her, too.

Smith and his wife, Danielle Smith, divorced last year as rumors swirled that the pastor was secretly sleeping with his female worship leader. Danielle, who co-founded the church with her husband and served as co-lead pastor and director of the women’s ministry, signed an exit agreement with Venue around the same time, according to a civil complaint filed in Hamilton County court on July 25.

According to the filing, the church agreed to make an initial payment to Danielle by Jan. 1 of this year and would continue to make monthly payments to her for “a specified period of time.” It also allegedly agreed to transfer the title of her car to her name only.

The suit claims the church failed to pay Smith the initial payment, as well as the monthly payments for May, June, and July. It also claims Smith sent Venue a demand letter on July 1 and a request for mediation on July 11, and that the church responded to neither.

A lawyer for Danielle Smith declined to comment. Venue Church did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The church has been under fire since at least December, when rumors of Pastor Smith’s alleged affair caused eight employees to leave the church. (The church's entire board of directors had previously stepped down over the drama.)

The pastor took a short-lived sabbatical that did little for the church’s fortune: Earlier this month, First Citizens National Bank announced it was foreclosing on the church building. Former members, who told The Daily Beast they believed the church owned the building outright, were shocked.

Smith promised congregants in a sermon on Sunday that the church would not leave its building, and that its legal team had “multiple options they are providing for us to stay here and make it through.”

As of last Friday, however, a lawyer for the bank told The Daily Beast it planned to proceed with the foreclosure.

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