Vineyard report warns of alleged 'culture of manipulation,' self idolization under Alan Scott

Alan Scott, pastor of Vineyard Anaheim, speaks on Sunday, March 20, 2022.
Alan Scott, pastor of Vineyard Anaheim, speaks on Sunday, March 20, 2022. | YouTube/Vineyard Anaheim

Causeway Coast Vineyard church in Northern Ireland has released an investigation report into spiritual and leadership abuse allegations against former paster Alan Scott, highlighting accusations of manipulation, narcissistic behavior and public shaming.

Scott, who led the large Evangelical church in Coleraine before moving to the United States and now pastoring the Dwelling Place Anaheim, is accused of claiming to discern "people's sins just by looking at them" and setting unrealistic salvation targets for church evangelists, the report by the firm TrustedHR states.

Commissioned by Causeway Coast and Vineyard Church United Kingdom and Ireland, the firm took statements and interviews with 37 respondents. The investigation began in response to letters received by church leadership in the U.S. raising concerns about former leaders. 

The Christian Post requested comment from Scott through Dwelling Place Anaheim. A response was not immediately received. This article will be updated if a response is received.

The report found that the allegations extended beyond Scott, stating there was a culture of competition and public humiliation within the church.

Despite some positive reflections on Scott's early ministry, the report paints a complex portrait of the past leadership.

More than half of respondents (60%) said they felt "'spiritually abused’ by Alan and his style of leadership."

"The mention of more blessing from God was being used to encourage people to serve more, which was seen as abusive behaviour," the report states. "Some stated that Alan would falsely idolise himself and that he appeared 'all-knowing'; multiple respondents stated that Alan would say he knows people's sins just by looking at them."

About 40% of respondents reported narcissistic behavior from Scott, seeking praise and even telling those who disagreed with him to leave the church. 

"People said that Alan was seen to be aggressive, shouted at people in
the church when alone, and exercised lots of power over others," the report states. "Although things have changed since Alan left, a few people think that some controlling behaviour from senior leaders is still evident within the church today."

Last week, the senior leaders of the Causeway Coast, Neil and Janet Young, the sister of Scott's wife, resigned. In an announcement, the church said the Youngs, who took over after Scott's departure in 2017, no longer agreed with the investigation or a formal statement issued by the church in July alleging spiritual and leadership abuse.

"[They] can no longer submit to the spiritual and structural authority of Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland and the governance of the CCV Trustee Board," the Oct. 29 statement from Causeway Coast on their resignation reads. 

Scott departed as senior pastor of Causeway Coast Vineyard in June 2017 when he moved to California. Scott was later hired to lead Vineyard Anaheim, Vineyard USA's then flagship church.

Under Scott's leadership, Vineyard Anaheim disassociated from the Vineyard Movement in early 2022 and became the Dwelling Place Anaheim. The Anaheim church's disassociation drew legal challenges.

In December 2022, Causeway Coast was made aware of "various concerns and allegations" raised about the leadership of Causeway Coast Vineyard under Scott from 1999 to 2017.

According to the report, more than a third of respondents said pastors, mostly Scott, were being too "numbers focused." 

"This included manipulating numbers in a few areas and exaggerating stories about the success of events and action taken by the church and its leaders," the report adds. "Confidential employee data, such as salary level, was openly linked to tithing and employees said they were challenged publicly by managers about their perceived lack of giving." 

Some respondents detailed practices of sharing embellished stories of healing as part of a drive for church growth. Claims also emerged of rewards for fulfilling these imposed targets, contributing to an unhealthy church environment.

Just under half of respondents suggested they were publicly shamed or that inappropriate comments were made about them, alleging their boundaries had been crossed. Some claimed these actions were "intentionally done to humiliate them, especially in staff meetings."

More than half of the respondents agreed there was a "culture of manipulation
from leadership at all levels, with people feeling they were being silenced and
forced to volunteer."

"Specific mention was of Alan, and sometimes other senior leaders, giving people a 'status' and additional influence over others as rewards for those that do their bidding," the report reads, saying there was much focus on "numbers of attendees,
healings, salvations etc. to obtain these 'rewards.'"

"There were questions asked about how trustees and church leaders were appointed, inferring potential nepotism, and not being representative of the wider church or the local community that the church serves."

The final report acknowledges the limitations of its scope, as it represents the experiences of those who chose to participate. However, it suggests that the behaviors and issues reported likely occurred to some extent.

In response to the report's findings, the church and Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland expressed sorrow for not meeting their duties and committed to implementing the recommended changes.

The report elicited responses from Vineyard USA, which recognized the efforts of the church and Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland in addressing the findings and providing care for the victims.

Vineyard USA said in a statement that while it had been unable to conduct a similar investigation in the U.S. due to non-cooperation, it had emphasized the consistency of the U.K. report with testimonies received since the Anaheim Vineyard's dissociation.

Vineyard USA also called for a thorough investigation into the leadership and conduct of Alan Scott at Dwelling Place Anaheim. It said it had encouraged community members to advocate for accountability and transparency regarding the allegations.

In November 2022, a group of individuals who previously attended Vineyard Anaheim filed a lawsuit against Dwelling Place Anaheim.

The filing alleged that Scott and his wife, Kathryn, engaged in "fraud and or negligent misrepresentation to the search committee at the time of their appointment in early 2018 by allegedly not voicing Alan's purported dissatisfaction with the 'Vineyard Movement.'"

The plaintiffs claim the church's board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by not opposing the disassociation from Vineyard USA.

Scott and his wife denied the allegations. In September, Dwelling Place Anaheim announced that a court found that the claims in the lawsuit had no legal merit but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their lawsuit.

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