The widow of Vineyard USA founder John Wimber, along with several former church board members, have hit Anaheim pastors Alan and Kathryn Scott with a $62 million fraud lawsuit nearly a year after the couple announced the church would break away from the charismatic denomination.
In a complaint filed Nov. 10 in the California Superior Court for Orange County, Carol Wimber-Wong and eight former members of the denomination claim the Scotts sought the positions of senior pastors of Vineyard Anaheim in December 2017 with the “deceitful motive of controlling tens of millions of dollars of assets and disassociating with Vineyard USA.”
In March, Scott, who, with his wife, Kathryn, had led the former Vineyard Anaheim church since 2018, announced the church would be disassociating from Vineyard USA without giving a specific reason for the decision. In April, the church was renamed the Dwelling Place.
The lawsuit called Alan Scott’s claim that he and his wife were called by God to leave the denomination an example of his “spiritual manipulation and deception.”
They alleged that in the Scotts’ job interview, the couple claimed they would “keep the Anaheim Vineyard in the Vineyard Movement worldwide and in the Vineyard USA.” The couple was hired, the lawsuit says, based in part on that promise.
But according to the lawsuit, the Scotts “always intended to remove Anaheim Vineyard and its $62,000,000 in assets from the worldwide Vineyard Movement.”
Prior to coming to the United States, the Scotts had led a Vineyard congregation in Northern Ireland but resigned from their positions due to dissatisfaction with the denomination.
The lawsuit cites a 2017 letter, written by Alan Scott, in which the pastor expressed his distaste for the Vineyard Movement and Vineyard USA, saying, “it’s not an environment where we would want to plant our lives or raise our girls.”
The couple, the lawsuit claims, only became interested in leading the Anaheim church once they learned how much money was involved.
“They had no intention of applying for the vacant senior pastor position until learning of Anaheim Vineyard’s substantial assets and knew that keeping Anaheim Vineyard in the worldwide Vineyard Movement was a material term of being hired as the senior pastors,” it says.
The plaintiffs ask the county to return control of the Dwelling Place to former board members and to block the Scotts from removing the church from Vineyard USA.
Vineyard Anaheim, planted in 1977 by the Wimbers, is widely considered to be “the mother church” of the Vineyard movement. Today, Vineyard is a network of over 1,500 churches worldwide.
The move to disassociate from the Vineyard movement was widely criticized by Vineyard Church leaders and members of the Wimber family. Wimber-Wong previously accused the Scotts of stealing their “brother’s house” and of “actions that are screaming dishonor.”
Jay Pathak, the national director of Vineyard USA, previously told The Christian Post that while Vineyard Anaheim was not the first Vineyard church, it was “undoubtedly the church through which the Vineyard movement was built, hosting conferences for Vineyard leaders at least twice a year through the 1980s and 1990s.”
“Thousands of pastors and leaders who call the Vineyard movement their family have had profound, life-shaping encounters with God at Vineyard Anaheim,” he said.
In a Nov. 22 video message, Pathak said Vineyard USA is not involved in the lawsuit and that the plaintiffs are acting on their own accord.
In a statement, church leaders also said Vineyard USA has also been “providing pastoral care and support to numerous individuals who have been deeply impacted by the situation at Dwelling Place Anaheim.”
“Vineyard USA remains committed to care for those who were affected by the decisions made by Vineyard leaders while members of a Vineyard church associated at the time with Vineyard USA,” it said.
During the church’s Nov. 20 service, Alan Scott addressed the recent lawsuit, claiming the Dwelling Place’s board of directors had attempted to resolve it in a “peaceful way, in a biblical way.”
“Despite our efforts in that, that just hasn't been possible,” he said, adding the lawsuit is the “result of our offering of obedience, and it’s our offering of obedience that gets us into these moments, and it’s our offering of obedience that takes us through these moments.”
“The days ahead in this will be challenging,” he said. “The desire of the enemy is always to cause division and to cause pain in moments like this.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org