A scandal-racked Tennessee megachurch may no longer have an advisory board or board of directors after a key remaining member resigned Friday.
"Ron Phillips, pastor emeritus of Abba's House, resigned from the advisory board of Venue Church on Friday, citing the ongoing problems at the megachurch on Lee Highway," the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. "Phillips's decision to step down comes after weeks of controversy for the church stemming from a yearslong alleged affair between the church's pastor, Tavner Smith, and an employee. The resignation also raises questions about who is providing oversight or direction for the church."
In a four-sentence letter to Smith announcing his resignation, Phillips wrote: "You are a friend to me and my hope was to help you and your wife and daughters settle amicably your differences as well as preserve the church. Unfortunately it continues to snowball into more than the divorce. Due to these other things I must submit my resignation as an advisory board member. Be assured of my prayers and desire to see Gods best for you."
According to the Free Press, Phillips' resignation "may signal the church again does not have an advisory board or board of directors."
"During the Dec. 17 volunteer meeting, Smith revealed the church's board of directors quit over the alleged affair and the church operated for several months without any oversight," the newspaper reports. "The pastor told volunteers Phillips joined the board and was the 'main one' providing accountability to Smith."
Phillips' resignation came a day after secretly recorded audio of the Dec. 17 volunteer meeting surfaced. In the audio, Smith denied the affair despite video of him allegedly kissing the employee in a restaurant.
"Smith says on the audio that the church's board of directors quit over the alleged affair, and he acknowledged he paid for counseling, vehicles and vacations for people connected to the church without notifying church staff," the Free Press reported. "The pastor said he was 'great friends' with the employee but the two were not 'sexually involved.' When questioned by a volunteer, Smith said the two had kissed but never when they were living with their spouses. At the time, the two couples were only married 'on paper.'"
Smith's denial of the affair comes despite a report from a church member who said he visited the pastor's home with a group of volunteers in November, and found him alone with the employee. Smith was in his boxers, and the employee was wearing only a towel. Smith and the employee reportedly claimed they took off their clothes after getting food on them while making hot dogs and chili.
Venue, once among of the fastest-growing churches in the country, closed its campus in North Georgia in January, and has struggled to attract worshippers in the wake of the scandal.
"In January, a few dozen people were attending a Sunday service in Chattanooga, despite the church having around 150 chairs set up and room for hundreds more," the Free Press reported.
Listen to the audio in several parts below.