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Tullahoma pastor resigns after story highlighting prior abuse allegations

Tullahoma pastor Christian Watts resigned from Life Change Church on Wednesday September 14, 2022 after a report by The Tennessean brought the story of Valerie Swope to light.

Watts has admitted to a relationship with Swope when she was 16 and he was a youth pastor at a Southern Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky. Ms. Swope initially reported what happened in 2002 before going more public with her story in 2019.

Watts announced his decision to step down from Life Change Church in a post on Facebook.

“I have peace in this moment because of his resignation, that he will no longer be a pastor at this church,” Swope said in a statement. “My heart goes out to Life Change Church who have been blindsided with difficult truths and I pray for their healing and protection.”

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According to Swope, her case was investigated by Louisville police in 2019. Though a felony in Kentucky today, prosecutors determined they couldn’t charge Watts for his actions back then because of the laws at the time.

Swope has shared her story with Southern Baptist pastors, minister, and officials at the local and state levels, as well as advocates and other survivors.

Life Change Church left the Southern Baptist Convention in 2021 after investigators with Guidepost Solutions concluded a third-party investigation into SBC leadership and revealed details about convention leaders failing to support abuse reform measures.

The Tennessean helped with this article.

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