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‘Extreme Betrayal’: Flagship Vineyard Church Announces Split from Vineyard USA

By Josh Shepherd
alan scott vineyard anaheim
Pastor Alan Scott preaches at the former Anaheim Vineyard, now Dwelling Place. A study has found Scott has a pattern of "spiritual abuse." (Video screengrab / YouTube)

The flagship congregation of the charismatic Vineyard movement, with over 2,400 churches worldwide, has announced its plans to split from Vineyard USA in a move Vineyard leaders are calling an “extreme betrayal.” 

Vineyard Anaheim Pastor Alan Scott announced in a statement on March 20 that the church board had decided to disaffiliate from Vineyard USA.

“We love the Vineyard movement and although our association has ended, our affection remains undiminished,” the statement reads in part. “We did not take this decision to withdraw from the Association of Vineyard Churches quickly or lightly, but reverently in the fear of the Lord.”

Late Vineyard leader John Wimber founded the charismatic church in 1977. He then led the movement from Vineyard Anaheim, beginning in 1982 until his death in 1997. With multiple debt-free buildings on 5.7 acres in Orange County, Vineyard Anaheim is estimated to be worth tens of millions.

The “mother church” of Vineyard offered no reasons for its departure beyond “a desire to say yes to the Holy Spirit.”

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The board of Vineyard USA has pressed for weeks to understand if any grievances or differences in theology are partly to blame—even as the global Vineyard “family of churches” reacts to what they call “an action of extreme betrayal.”

“The stated reasons feel highly insufficient to the magnitude and impact of the decision,” stated Vineyard USA in an FAQ document posted online.

“Given (the) speed at which it was executed, and the lack of transparent accountability in the process, we cannot see how this aligns with any scriptural account of how Christian leaders might honor one another.”

Since the late 1970s, what is now Vineyard USA has coalesced a voluntary fellowship of churches with shared charismatic theology and practice. The churches are financially autonomous from the association. Known then as Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim, the church hosted twice-annual national Vineyard conferences throughout the 1980s and 90s.

vineyard anaheim worship
Thousands participate in a Christian conference at Vineyard Anaheim in southern California. (Photo: D Watts / Flickr)

“Thousands of pastors and leaders who call the Vineyard movement their family have had profound, life-shaping encounters with God at Vineyard Anaheim,” Jay Pathak, national director of Vineyard USA, told The Roys Report via e-mail. “While it was not the first Vineyard church, it was undoubtedly the church through which the Vineyard movement was built.”

New church board resists meeting with national leaders 

Alan Scott has served for four years as Vineyard Anaheim’s lead pastor. He is married to singer-songwriter Kathryn Scott, known for writing “Hungry (Falling On My Knees)” and other popular worship songs recorded with Vineyard UK. The two moved from Northern Ireland to Orange County, California in 2017; and, about a year later, a pastoral search committee of Vineyard Anaheim approved hiring them.

alan kathryn scott
Alan and Kathryn Scott

The recent public announcement comes weeks after a dinner meeting on February 24 between the Scotts and Pathak, who had been national director for only seven weeks. At that meeting, the Scotts gave Pathak a three-paragraph letter announcing the church’s exit from Vineyard.

Weeks of tense dialogue ensued between the boards of Vineyard Anaheim and Vineyard USA, a series of emails obtained by The Roys Report shows. 

But the two boards could not agree on the terms of an in-person meeting. The national board wanted Vineyard Anaheim board members “to speak accountably and transparently” about the decision to disassociate, and asked them to do so in a recorded meeting. 

Vineyard USA board chairman John Kim asked pointedly in a March 19 letter to the church’s board: “What do you need to say in private about this decision that cannot be said publicly?”

The national board told Vineyard Anaheim that the local church’s historic ties to Vineyard are financial as well as spiritual.

“This church was built and paid for by the contributions of generations of Vineyard people, as well as by the donation to Vineyard Anaheim of the building that housed Vineyard Ministries International and Vineyard Music,” Kim stated in a letter co-signed by the rest of the national Vineyard board.

But the board of Vineyard Anaheim repeatedly rejected the national board’s request for a recorded meeting.

That board had several new members installed over the past year, the church acknowledged in a statement.

“It is not unusual for new senior pastors to request that all board members resign when they are installed as leaders,” the church’s statement reads in part. “We invited a board of notable and respected national church leaders to help us.”

Jay Pathak vineyard USA
Jay Pathak (Photo: Vineyard USA)

The church declined to confirm who its current board members are. But the emails obtained by TRR show the board includes one longtime board member who is not a church staffer, four church staff members, and two outside pastors.

Greg Sherer, who is not on staff at Vineyard Anaheim, has been on the board since 2007. The Scotts are board members, too, along with worship pastors Jeremy and Katie Riddle, who led worship at Bethel Church in Redding for eight years. Banning Liebscher, founder and pastor of Jesus Culture in Sacramento, and Julian Adams, pastor of The Table Church in Boston, are on the church board as well.

UK-based pastor and author Pete Greig had announced January 23 that he was appointed to the Vineyard Anaheim board. However, Greig stepped down as of March 19, multiple sources close to the situation confirmed. The Roys Report reached out to Greig for a statement, but he did not reply. 

When The Roys Report reached out to Vineyard Anaheim for clarification on several details, a church spokesperson said the church had no comment. 

Vineyard leaders at home and abroad react

Vineyard leaders around the world are reeling. Tom Creedy, a UK-based theologian and blogger who attends a Vineyard church in London, said that the “history and memories” of Vineyard Anaheim make it a “special place to our movement.” 

The church’s decision “. . . feels like a spouse coming in to the kitchen unannounced and telling us they want a divorce, and here are the papers,” he stated via email.

Similarly, Costa Mitchell, who directs the Association of Vineyard Churches of South Africa, felt agony and heartbreak over the announcement, he wrote in a Facebook post.

“I have personally appealed to the Scotts for a conversation, just to understand, as a friend, without judgment,” he wrote. “But in the light of their complete refusal to do so with anyone, I have to say this decision (is) morally wrong. It is a betrayal of any decent understanding of Godly relationship.”

Others closer to home are also outraged. Christy Wimber, ex-daughter-in-law and ministry protégé of John Wimber, called the move “confusing” and “heartbreaking” in an Instagram post.

She also questioned actions taken by the Scotts in a statement that indicated longstanding frictions.

“The Scotts are very intentional,” she said. “Listen, I love them. They’re my brother and sister in Christ—but love and agreement are two totally different things . . . They’ve been very intentional to have that church.”

“We’ve got to remember that actually humility goes a long way and the ego is so powerful and we need to be so careful,” she added. “If it’s left unchecked, it can do a lot of damage.”

Creedy, who has written on the Anaheim church’s separation, expanded on those concerns.

“The Scotts haven’t shared what about being in the Vineyard would have stopped them from following the Spirit,” Creedy stated via e-mail. “Every Vineyard leader I’ve encountered, from small group leaders to national directors, is motivated to follow the Spirit. It doesn’t add up.”

In 2019, Alan Scott published his book Scattered Servants: Unleashing the Church to Bring Life to the City. At the time, Vineyard scholar Creedy gave it a glowing review. He now says it is “sobering” to observe what path the Scotts have taken.

“What they are doing seems to be the opposite of the humble, servant posture,” Creedy stated. “The sheer level of dishonouring that has happened here should raise alarm bells for anyone part of the church in Anaheim.” 

He pointed out how Vineyard Anaheim leaders have said they want to honor the church’s Vineyard heritage and be in continuity with it. But leaders across the Vineyard movement say the church’s words and actions have broken their shared fellowship.

“This sort of gaslighting is alien to the cause of Christ, and it’s arguably abusive,” he said.

Echoing the Vineyard USA board’s weeks of requests to the church, national director Pathak told The Roys Report via e-mail: “We believe there should be no gap between accountability and relationship.”

This story has been updated to accurately state when the Scotts began to serve as pastors at Vineyard Anaheim.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.



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30 thoughts on “‘Extreme Betrayal’: Flagship Vineyard Church Announces Split from Vineyard USA”

  1. “the board includes one longtime board member who is not a church staffer, four church staff members, and two outside pastors.”

    Is this the board of a for-profit corporation or a body of believers in Jesus?

    Boards packed with staff (who typically server at the pleasure of the pastor) and outside allies of the pastor seem to be a frequent feature in the churches whose questionable behavior lands them on the pages of this blog. Could it be perhaps that unaccountable leadership is bad practice… ?

  2. When someone refuses to talk during a separation, theres a good chance lawyers are advising it. Compare this also to insider selling of stocks. They seem to know something others dont and are positioning accordingly.
    Either that or they want to start a whole new denomination based out of that church by shedding the old ties. That seems pretty ill advised considering the bleeding it is causing.
    But then again it could be the result of some prophecy someone gave and they’re following it.
    Of course its all just speculation.

  3. “I have to say this decision (is) morally wrong. It is a betrayal of any decent understanding of Godly relationship.”
    There are SOOO many relationship corruptions – disobedient to the Bible- baked into the institutionalized form of church. They have “double honor” contrived into a paycheck, title, and ruling status. They have NO IDEA what “honor one another” is in the NT. They have no idea what godly relationship is.

    I can see why a church would want to remove the branding on their name and marketing. Branding DIVIDES one fellowship from another before the watching eyes of the world which is the OPPOSITE of what Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23. Believers are to demonstrate “perfect oneness” to the watching world but brand naming demonstrates DIVISION. Unfortunately, the Anaheim church still retains their brand name DIVISION as an INSTITUTION divided from the other local churches. This corruption is baked into institutionalism and they are blind about how to clean it up. Clean up demands a paradigm shift and they don’t want that. Status quo with institutional rules is required. Jesus’ commands are optional up against institution rules. EVERYTHING a pulpit and pew church does is controlled by institution rules, not Jesus’ rules. They ascribe an appearance of godliness to it, but it rejects the power of true obedience to Jesus. This corruption was not cleaned up at the Reformation so it continues just like the Papacy continues in the hearts of Catholics.

  4. This highlights one of the many reasons I could no longer be a part of a charismatic congregation. Where is the accountability when you can just say “the Spirit spoke to me and said follow me this way…”,…wait,…what? No one can offer another opinion because the Spirit spoke. You don’t speak in tongues? Well, you are second class because the Spirit is not in you. Whatever can be shaken is going to happen. Time to assess what you believe.

    1. Colin McKay Miller

      This lack of accountability has been called out. Columbus Vineyard pastor, Rich Nathan, tweeted, “God does speak today! But whenever a so-called “leading” is obviously self- seeking, fundamentally dishonest, lacking in accountable discernment, demonstrably hurts others and especially when money or power is involved, you can rest assured that it is NOT God who is leading!”

      Thank you for covering this, Roys Report!

      1. That is an outstanding quote, Colin. Thanks for sharing it.

        I sure wouldn’t want to have to answer for invoking the Holy Spirit as cover for an utter lack of transparency.

  5. Chuck and Janet Chillingworth

    My wife and I and our 2 kids went to the Malibu Vineyard from 2000 – 2002. It was the BEST church experience we have ever had….until it wasn’t. The church was ultimately destroyed under eerily similar circumstances of ego-driven decisions rather than caring for the flock and the kingdom of God overall. What once was so wonderful ended up damaging so many believers. This seems to be the pandemic the Church has to deal with now. A reminder that in the world system, the ends justify the means; in the kingdom of God, the means are the ends. The wow is in the how. I can tell where your heads at by what you do but I can tell where your heart is by how you do it. This action doesn’t pass the Spirit-filled smell test in our opinion.

  6. The sad reality of this situation is it demonstrates to the world (read this as unchurched) that the church (read this as the Body of Christ) is actually no different than the world. There is no salvation to be found in the church (a little c) – only in Jesus. The fixation on specific churches and denominations is exactly what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 1:12. Why does it matter if this church is part of Vineyard so long as they preach Christ. Until the Body of Christ overcomes their need for power (just like the world) then our ability to be a true light in the darkness is dimmed. Maybe this is one of the reasons we see so many people “deconstructing” their faith and leaving the church (little c) because the church no longer offers the light we seek…

    1. It matters because they’re clearly hiding something, and when you can’t be truthful about a major impactful decision, you’re not in a good position to carry on the work you are meant to be doing.

    2. Brad
      I appreciate your statement – to the effect that – the so called “church” of Jesus Christ is really nothing more than a bunch of religious ego-centric humans who slap the name of Jesus over their flesh….

      Pathetic…and true. I have appreciated the Roys Report for simply substantiating and detailing what is so painfully obvious to all of us.

  7. I would think at some point they have to announce to the congregation what is happening. I can’t imagine the congregation agreeing with this decision unless so many generations have passed that they do not remember the roots that they have been blessed with.

  8. “It is not unusual for new senior pastors to request that all board members resign when they are installed as leaders,” the church’s statement reads in part.

    That is a shocking statement. Classically, there’s congregational church government, episcopal, and presbyterian (by a committee of pastors and elders of different congregations). I didn’t know anybody admitted to rule-by-pastor, though Baptists, who are congregational, are often accused of being rule-by-pastor in practice. Even Willow Creek under Hybels and Harvest under Macdonald had the figleaf of rule-by-elders.

    Presumably there was no vote by the Anaheim Vineyard congregation to leave the denomination. I wonder if there was a vote by the Board of Directors that any nonprofit corporation must have to legally exist.

    Three things that make any church suspect are (1) keeping the pastor’s salary a secret, and (2) keeping the budget a secret, and (3) not having any oversight by a denomination, no way for members to appeal a disputed decision of the leadership to a higher authority.

    1. My thoughts too. The pastor/s are employees of the church and there to serve, not to ‘lead’ (whatever that means).

    2. Absolutely! It is NOT normal for the board to resign when a new pastor comes in. The board CHOOSES the pastor, along with the congregation. It’s not even the way corporate boards work–they choose the CEO and they can fire him. Demanding resignations is something a leader does to SUBORDINATES- a US President does it to his cabinet, a CEO may do it to his vice presidents.

  9. This aligns with what we have historically seen in American evangelicalism since the early 19th century. The operative word is “fragmentation” caused by autonomous individualism that demeans any proper accountability to the historic confessions of the Church (think Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, et al.) and to one another within the Church. Instead, what we find are megachurch fiefdoms that traffic in dominating leaders and measure themselves by budgets, people in seats, and how many we can get to align with the “vision” of the leader. And we wonder why there is so much hostility to the Christian faith? Our congregations are not business enterprises nor are they to be dominated by the “vision” of a strong-willed leader. Sadly, Pentecostalism which sees itself as a movement where the Holy Spirit can shape individuals and congregations to reflect the Christ-centered teaching of the New Testament has abandoned its heritage and modeled itself after corporate America. What is especially tragic is that this is not the way of Christ and people and congregations are being deeply harmed.

  10. If the Scots and the Riddles “heard correctly” then my prayer is that God would give me “understanding”. On the other hand, if the Scots and the Riddles are acting in an impure manner, then my prayer is for God to grant them hearts of repentance. I do not have full details to their side, so I can only go by what I read or hear on internet, and by reading and discerning with the Word of God.

  11. it is often said “Follow the money.” but if they keep the books and even the names of the board members a secret I guess it isn’t very easy to follow the money. The best thing to do in my opinion is to shine a light on these situations so that the members of that congregation can make a choice to either demand transparency or if they wish blindly follow their local leadership regardless of accountability.

  12. Interesting piece. Fairly sure that the Scotts moved from Northern Ireland, not ‘northern Ireland; just as they now live in the United States of America, not the ‘united States of America’. These things matter, especially in that part of the world.

  13. I appreciate you covering this. I have been a member of the Anaheim Vineyard since it met a Canyon High School and John Wimber played keyboard during worship. I met Christ there, my wife, our child was dedicated and grew up there. We stayed through the decades through all the highs and lows. For me and my family…..this feels like an utter betrayal and that our church has been abducted. We ignored the occasional snide and catty comments from Alan Scott regarding Vineyard prior to his arrival. But this!!??………..We do not worship a history, a building, or John Wimber, we worship our King. Pastors have a duty to shepherd the flock but for me, my family and long-time congregants it feels like the ultimate self-serving betrayal.

  14. Vineyards are run anti-congregationally, more like an episcopal system. But does the Anaheim congregation support this move? If so, then this pastor isn’t being a renegade. Maybe their polity convictions changed.

  15. July 1990
    I just graduated from college got in the car and headed west. I’m sitting in this beautiful new church and I can’t stop dancing. I’m not at a midnight dance club but I’m @ the 6:00pm night service @ the Anaheim Vineyard.

    The song the worship band is singing is “His Banner over Me”. It’s the 1st contemporary worship song I ever heard.

    And this is the place where I met Jesus. The Lord took me by the hand & led me in a beautiful dance. He introduced himself to me and I responded by making Him my Lord and Savior, taking hold of his hand never letting go.

    Sometimes the dance got unsteady & I would lose my balance & fall, but when I looked up, Jesus was right there still holding my hand, He never let go.

    I became a member of Anaheim Vineyard that night. I joined the worship dance team and became one of the choreographers for that ministry.

    For 4 years I worshiped and studied the Bible under John Wimber. I’m not a bible scholar nor do I have any comment about this unfortunate situation. I truly am sorry to see the hurt everyone is in. I’ll be praying for the new leaders and the entire congregation @ the Anaheim Vineyard.

    The one comment I would like to make is, that night back in July of 1990, Jesus showed me that He is the best Dance Partner I ever had!

  16. Warwick Thorpe

    Given this comes right alongside the exposure of the leadership of Hillsong for the unbiblical and corrupt thing that has always been I am convicted by things the Lord made plain to me in my scripture study and prayer. The so called Toronto revival fell on so many churches and left them shipwrecked or worse bigger but now adrift into one fake thing after another. Wimber meant well but so much of his teaching is easily shown to conflict with the scripture and quite frankly between Vineyard and Hillsong that provided the soundtrack to the Toronto nightmare it doesnt surprise me to see both being shaken at once. The Lord impressed on me that while everyone can see Babylon coming closer the church has forgotten history and Nahum. Judah was supposed to see what happened (Assyria) to the ten tribes of Israel and repent but instead ignored Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and more to do even worse … exactly what the churches that rejected Toronto have done since 1995 learning nothing.. Babylon is coming as a result. But the first job for Babylon historically and scripturally is the destruction of Assyria as Nahum spoke it. God sent Tornonto as judgment and the wider church repeated Judahs sin learning nothing…. I will not be surprised if this is just the beginning of God avenging his Shem against it lest anyone think it was him in it that led his people further and further from him with an arrogance most of the comments here plainly recognise at work. Lord save as many as you still can, sorry Lord, we cried out but no one would listen

  17. The pride the pretense, the elevation over man; the power; false presumption regarding the Biblical spirit of prophecy with Jesus totally obscured. “Tip up to me” worldly pyramid structure. False apostles and prophets most all. Driven by the profoundly deceptive spirit of antichrist while totally disregarding the Biblical spirit of prophecy. A continuous stream of unchecked false prophesies abounding.
    The USACL is NAR. ( United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders) All group think minus Jesus lusting for power and influence over the world system. And of course money. Minus Jesus.
    God says to the top apostles: “You adulteress, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity toward God. Therefore whoever becomes a friend of the world makes themselves an enemy of God. ( James 4:4)

    The false apostolic prophetic movement urgently needs to renounce allegiance to the world system of politics and embrace the gospel of the Kingdom and New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

    Many are unwittingly falling away from Jesus Christ minus discipleship under JESUS. It’s a cultic religious spirit which values worldly influence under false apostles and prophets.

    Been involved since mid eighties and still fellowship with. Good brothers and sisters. It’s the false deceptive declarations by the top apostles abounding.
    USACL- NAR is just like PAC MAN gobbling up Churches via money offered.

  18. If he cannot give Anaheim people strong reasons for withdrawing from VUSA so that they can decide if his actions are proportionate and reasonable, if he takes the wealth and estate of VA away from the original vision, how is it that he doesn’t simply decide to form a Bethel styled community elsewhere in Orange County and let VA stay with what they have always been, even if that means rebuilding again? Is the Scott way really how the Holy Spirit would lead a Christian pastor?

    All cultic leaders start off in these same ways before splitting away and becoming unaccountable demagogues or benevolent dictators, and frequently collapsing disastrously. Maybe the old denominations got church organisation and leadership badly wrong, and maybe Vineyard sought to rectify this by loosening the culture and by modernising worship – but somehow both models are flawed without strong fail-safe devices, answerability to the “membership” and regular review and analysis of what the leaders are doing.

    Accountability, transparency, openness is a vastly healthier model. Accountability to a strong, frank, experienced and independently minded leadership team. Transparency in making clear to all the reasons for church development and change. Openness to all the faithful members of the church. This style would help all Vineyard and similar progressive churches to grow properly, develop real leaders, and discourage any genuine pastor from getting too far ahead of his flock. Nor would it circumvent the leading of the Holy Spirit: rather it would ensure His working out of God’s plans and help to avoid stealing the church from those who love it and have spent their lives in it and given their money to it.

  19. I was Vineyard for 20 years. Under the original John Wimber design, it was really good. Prior to this I was under the covering and teaching at The Church on the Way pastored and anchored in my Jesus walk of 40 years by one of the greatest and most anointed bible teachers of the century, Pastor Jack Hayford. Balanced, Spirit filled, and full of wisdom and God’s authority. I am not a rookie. This new Vineyard Reset and monastic mindset and Rule of Life do not fit my life in Jesus. However, I will speak frankly with respect.
    Why cannot Pastor Scott move according to how the Spirit of God is leading him? Very harsh words spoken that Anaheim Vineyard was betrayed by Pastor Scott.
    Did not John Wimber step into a fresh call? YES, he did. Ohh, in those days it just curled the hair of many, no? As I see it no one betrays anyone who is seeking, finding and led by the Spirit. Apostle Paul was led by the Lord into unknown and unchartered territory. Did he not go because he was opposed? NO! To condemn Scott is in itself a betrayal. Can they not leave without the Vineyard’s blessing? Hmmm. No matter how brief an explanation Pastor Scott gave, bless him anyway! Why should they not be able to go in grace? Hmmm.
    So. to all those who are truly hurt, may the Lord heal you. To those who are angry, lay it down. God is on the move. He is light and He is life. Bless the Scotts, so be it! Jesus is still on the throne. FOREVER!!

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