The widow of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, has accused Alan and Kathryn Scott of stealing their “brother’s house” and of “actions that are screaming dishonor” after the pastors of Vineyard Anaheim announced the church would be officially disassociating from the charismatic denomination.
In a letter addressed to the leaders in the Vineyard movement, Vineyard USA, Vineyard National Board and the Anaheim Vineyard Board, Carol Wimber-Wong said she wanted to “clarify a few things and give my thoughts concerning the alarming and exclusive decision to disassociate from Vineyard USA.”
“Alan and Kathryn, you speak with your mouth that you want to honor our Anaheim Vineyard history, but your actions are screaming dishonor!’” she wrote.
“‘The economy of God’s kingdom is quite simple. Each new step will cost us everything we have gained to date ... a disciple is always willing to take that next step.’ These are the words of my late husband, John Wimber. You continuously quote him for your own purpose. He was speaking of what he gave up when he left his earlier life to follow Jesus. And in your new plan, it appears it will only be you that will gain. I fear that you have lost the privilege to quote John Wimber any longer.”
Vineyard Anaheim was planted in 1977 by John Wimber and is widely considered to be “the mother church” of the Vineyard movement, which today is a network of over 1,500 churches worldwide. Wimber died in 1997.
Jay Pathak, the national director of Vineyard USA, 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 March, the Scotts, who have led Vineyard Anaheim for four years, announced the church would be officially disassociating from Vineyard USA without giving a specific reason for their decision.
An official statement posted on the Vineyard Anaheim website states that the church’s leadership “heard the invitation and direction of the Spirit (through scripture, counsel, prophecy, evidence of grace, and circumstance) to do what we have always done: take another step of faith and risk.”
“It is clear to us that this new step lies outside the Vineyard movement,” the statement reads. “We wish to clarify that this is not a rejection of Vineyard values, theology or praxis, but our best effort to respond to the distinct calling on our church at this time, and a desire to say yes to the Spirit.”
The church, located in Orange County, California, owns multiple buildings on a 5.7-acre property estimated to be worth tens of millions, according to The Roys Report.
In her letter, Wimber-Wong called the decision to disassociate “abrupt” and said it was “made in secret.” She reflected on how when she and her late husband separated from Yorba Linda Friends Church in 1976 and planted Vineyard Anaheim, they did so with the blessing of the Quaker leadership.
“I heard mentioned that John would have made the same choices as Alan,” wrote Wimber-Wong. “Or, that he dealt with the Friends Church the same way. Let me make myself perfectly clear: John Wimber was a man of deep integrity!”
“We agreed to leave, but not until we received their blessing to go. ... What we ‘took’ from them was their blessing that they bestowed upon us. It never entered our minds to take their building! What sort of mind could do something like that, steal your brother’s house?”
In March, Pathak revealed the Scotts informed the denomination of their decision to disassociate three weeks ahead of the announcement and sent an email to their church less than 24 hours later.
Despite Vineyard USA’s requests for dialogue, the Vineyard Anaheim board “refused to sit down” for an “on-the-record” conversation “on the grounds that such a conversation would not be ‘relational’ or ‘honoring’ but could only be ‘structural and legal,’” he said.
“We disagree wholeheartedly. We do not believe that there is a dichotomy between relationality and accountability in church life, any more than there is in a marriage or a family,” Pathak said.
Since Vineyard Anaheim’s announcement, numerous Vineyard pastors and former leaders have expressed their dismay at the decision.
In a letter to Vineyard Anaheim’s board, David and Robin Denunzio, former Vineyard Anaheim board members, said they were “deeply saddened” and “completely blindsided” by the move.
Rich Nathan, pastor of Vineyard Columbus in Ohio, the nation’s largest Vineyard church, wrote in part: “It is much easier to believe that someone is ‘led by the Spirit’ when the leading involves a loss of status, money, power or position! Where we find a Cross, Jesus is there! Where we find personal gain and glory, it’s likely selfish ambition and not the Spirit’s leading!”
Christy Wimber, John Wimber’s former daughter-in-law, said in an Instagram video that though the move is “confusing,” she’s “not at all” surprised.
She reminded viewers that while the decision is “heartbreaking,” Vineyard Anaheim is “just a building.”
“That church is not a sign of what God’s doing in ‘the Church’… God is much bigger than a church and a couple of people … humility goes a long way, and the ego is so powerful and we have to be careful. … if it’s left unchecked, it can do a lot of damage.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org