Venue Church has shuttered its North Georgia campus, the latest fallout after weeks of controversy surrounding the megachurch's leadership and direction.
The church rented space in the Gateway Business Center off Cloud Springs Road in Ringgold since 2016, during a period when the megachurch was a rising star in the evangelical space. A year prior, Outreach Magazine and LifeWay Research listed Venue as one of the fastest-growing churches in America.
Kathleen Combs, facility manager for the Gateway Business Center, confirmed Wednesday the roughly 30,000-square-foot space is available and Venue ended its lease agreement at the end of January.
The campus in North Georgia offered live music for worship, though often streamed services from Venue's flagship campus in Chattanooga, just 5 miles north. Both the Chattanooga and North Georgia campuses offered two services each Sunday.
The church's name is no longer perched on the awning over the entrance and a billboard on the side of the building, which previously announced worship times, has been removed. Signs taped to the building's entrance read, "Venue Sunday services are at the Chattanooga campus only."
The presence of the North Georgia campus has also been scrubbed from the church's website.
Venue Church declined a request for comment from the Times Free Press, though a member of the ministry's operations team referenced Galatians 6:1 - "If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (ESV)" - before ending the call.
(READ MORE: Former members question culture of Venue Church, a Chattanooga megachurch in crisis)
The closure of the church campus is the latest news after weeks of scrutiny from people connected to the church, as well as national and international media attention on the church's leadership.
Venue went virtual in early 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the same time, longstanding concerns about the church's leadership under Pastor Tavner Smith began to boil over with rumors the pastor was allegedly having an affair with an employee.
Some staff left over the controversy while church leaders denied the rumors. Divorce proceedings between Smith and his ex-wife Danielle began in May 2021.
In late 2021, just weeks after Venue announced it was reopening its North Georgia campus, video circulated on social media of Smith allegedly kissing the employee in a restaurant in North Georgia.
On Dec. 17, during internal calls for Smith to step down temporarily, eight staff members quit, less than 48 hours before the church's Christmas service. A meeting for volunteers was held that night, during which more people cut ties with the church.
Staff that stayed, or were hired after, described the events involving the staff that left as an attempted "insurrection."
Since then, the church has been the focus of sometimes mocking national and international media coverage. On Jan. 5, Smith announced on Instagram he would be on sabbatical until February. A few dozen people are attending Sunday services at the Chattanooga campus, a significant drop from the hundreds who previously would attend a given service.
Previous staff, volunteers and members described an organizational culture focused on growth and money with little patience for dissenting views. There was an intense focus on tithing as Smith preached a version of the prosperity gospel, the belief among some protestant Christians that material wealth is God's will and can be increased by giving to the church.
The megachurch has received the public support of Ron Phillips Sr., pastor emeritus of the Hixson-based megachurch Abba's House. Phillips preached at Venue on Jan. 23 and was identified as a board member and overseer of Venue.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.