The neo-charismatic movement Vineyard USA is troubled by accusations of financial scams made by former members of the denomination against pastors of the Church. Nine people, including the co-founder, have filed suit against congregation leaders, claiming they were manipulated by the couple who they say coveted the church's vast assets worth $62 million.
The case had created amazement in the Vineyard movement which brings together 2 congregations in 400 countries.
Last March, Alan and Kathryn Scott, the pastors of Vineyard Anaheim, announced, without giving an explanation, the departure of their community from the association of churches. In April, they renamed their congregation “The Dwelling Place” to comply with the obligation to change the name. Vineyard Anaheim, located about thirty kilometers from Los Angeles, was started in 1977 by John and Carol Wimber and was the mother church of the denomination created in 1982 in collaboration with pastor Ken Gulliksen.
Alan Scott had simply told the community that the Holy Spirit had asked him to leave the Association of Vineyard Churches when there was no theological difference or tension with the 'organization.
Scott had given no other reason for this departure and had affirmed that God's decision was incomprehensible, but that it had to be complied with.
“We don't really understand why, I really wish I could sit in front of you today and say to you: Here are the six reasons, here are our problems, here are our complaints,” the pastor had said during a service including Christianity Today got a recording. Scott had urged the faithful to exercise faith.
Faith pretext for a $62 million scam, according to the complaint.
But for the unhappy this is a big money story. Carol Wimber, whose husband died in 1997, and eight other members accuse current pastors of taking over the church to control assets consisting of an unmortgaged building worth $55 million and assets banks amounting to another seven million.
According to the plaintiffs who filed their case in Superior Court in Orange County, California on November 10, "the defendants concealed their true intentions, they sought to become senior pastors of Vineyard Anaheim with the intention of controlling tens of millions in assets and parting ways with Vineyard USA. »
The Scotts had previously led a Vineyard church in Northern Ireland and reportedly asked in 2017 what the congregation's assets were, but church leaders weren't alarmed as they said they weren't interested in the position in Anaheim. and want to change location. “This is not an environment where we would want to plant our lives or educate our daughters,” Alan Scott wrote to officials in May 2017, according to the complaint. However, nine months later, the couple claimed to have changed their minds about the move and said they wanted to lead the Church. They became senior pastors in January 2018.
According to the complaint, between 2019 and 2021, Alan Scott “slowly and methodically persuaded board members who did not blindly support him to resign” and did not report on finances.
For their part, the pastors affirm that if they understand the emotion generated by the break with the Association, they are hurt by the accusations :
"We did not expect individuals to attribute bad intentions to the hearts of Alan and Kathryn Scott." According to them “the accusations contained in the complaint could not be further from the truth. »
The couple also accuses the plaintiffs of having exposed ecclesiastical problems in the public square.