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Vineyard Anaheim Upheaval: Former Board Member, Founder’s Widow Speak Out

By Josh Shepherd
pete greig carol wimber wong Vineyard Anaheim
Former Vineyard Anaheim board member Pete Greig has released a statement following the announcement of Vineyard Anaheim splitting from the Vineyard denomination. Carol Wimber-Wong, widow of the late John Wimber, also released an open letter. (Courtesy Photos / video screengrab)

Former Vineyard Anaheim board member Pete Greig says he was “shocked” by the church’s recent and highly controversial decision to split from Vineyard USA, according to a statement released last Friday.

Greig, a popular author and pastor of a church near London, said when he joined the Anaheim board on January 19, there was “no mention (of) any plan to leave Vineyard USA.” Yet, he “subsequently learned that it had been discussed in other contexts prior to my arrival.”

Carol Wimber-Wong, widow of Vineyard trailblazer John Wimber, has also released a statement. In it, she accuses Alan and Kathryn Scott, pastors of Vineyard Anaheim, of stealing their “brother’s house” and of “actions that are screaming dishonor.”

She also accuses the Scotts of pursuing a plan in which “it appears it will only be you that will gain.”

The Roys Report reached out to the Scotts and Vineyard Anaheim for comment, but no one responded.

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Vineyard Anaheim has been a spiritual hub of the Vineyard movement since 1982, and the denomination’s flagship during decades of growth. On March 20, Vineyard Anaheim announced the church was “withdrawing from the Association of Vineyard Churches” in a statement from its seven-member board of directors. The church leaders provided no reason, other than “saying ‘yes’ to the Holy Spirit.”

Located in Orange County, California, the church owns multiple buildings on a 5.7-acre property estimated to be worth tens of millions. 

The announcement sparked widespread bewildered reactions from within and outside the Vineyard movement.

In a series of social posts, Rich Nathan, pastor of Vineyard Columbus in Ohio, the nation’s largest Vineyard church, wrote in part: “Where we find personal gain and glory, it’s likely selfish ambition and not the Spirit’s leading!”

Similarly, Andy Rowell, assistant professor of ministry leadership at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, tweeted about events at Vineyard Anaheim. “Erratic behavior by pastors like this is a warning sign that they have behaved and will behave without wise processes in other ways,” he wrote.

Pete Greig explains his resignation

Weeks prior to Vineyard Anaheim’s announcement, Greig resigned from the Anaheim’s church board, leaving many questions. His recent letter seeks to answer those questions.

As previously reported, Vineyard Anaheim lead pastors Alan and Kathryn Scott delivered a letter to Vineyard USA national director Jay Pathak in a dinner meeting on February 24, announcing the church’s split from Vineyard. But according to Greig, that letter did not have the full church board’s support. 

pete greig
Pete Greig (Courtesy Photo)

“This came as a complete shock and there did not appear to have been any due process,” stated Greig, who had heard from Pathak after the dinner. Greig said the Scotts then “requested the Board’s support,” but “I did not give my consent . . . Instead I urged Alan to slow down.” 

Having a working relationship with both factions, Greig said he met with Pathak in Denver, where Pathak pastors a Vineyard church, and sought to “broker better communication” between the boards of Vineyard Anaheim and Vineyard USA. Weeks of emails to set-up a dialogue followed, but the two sides could not agree to terms of a meeting. 

On March 6, Greig resigned from the church board but stated he didn’t want that decision “to be weaponised in any way against the Scotts.” He noted the Scotts’ faithful service in Vineyard churches for years, calling them “people who listen diligently to the Lord and simply seek to obey.” Greig also praised Pathak’s leadership, adding he had invited the Denver pastor to speak at a UK event.

Greig appealed to unity and confessed his own failings. “(I) deeply regret my inability to get both sides talking,” he wrote last week. “I am deeply aware of the shockwaves this decision has sent through the Vineyard family worldwide. God knows I have tried to help.”

The Roys Report reached out to Vineyard Anaheim for a response to Greig’s statement, but did not hear back. 

Widow of Vineyard trailblazer speaks out

Four days after Vineyard Anaheim’s March 20 public announcement, Carol Wimber-Wong—widow of the late John Wimber, founder of Vineyard Anaheim—wrote that she considered the withdrawal an “exclusive and alarming decision” in a scathing public letter. 

“Alan and Kathryn, you speak with your mouth that you want to honor our Anaheim Vineyard history, but your actions are screaming dishonor!” stated Wimber-Wong.

john carol wimber
John and Carol Wimber (Photo: Vineyard USA)

She contrasted the current transition process with how she and her late husband separated from Yorba Linda Friends Church in 1976 and planted Vineyard Anaheim. According to Carol Wimber, she and her husband left the Friends Church with the blessing of the Quaker leadership.

“I heard mentioned that John would have made the same choices as Alan,” wrote Wimber-Wong, who married widower Ken Wong a few years after John’s death. “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!”

She summarized the process at the time as mutually agreed-upon with their local church. “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?” 

Pastor Ron Citlau worked on-staff for two years at Vineyard Anaheim starting in 1995 and has remained in contact with longtime church members. Citlau, who today serves at Calvary Church in Orland Park, Illinois, has blogged often about church governance and recent upheaval at Vineyard Anaheim. 

“Few people can speak with authority about the heart of the Vineyard, and Carol Wimber is one of them,” said Citlau in a phone interview. “She doesn’t just speak willy nilly. Rather she is thoughtful and passionate. These are moral claims that she’s making.”

Alongside her letter, former Vineyard Anaheim board members David and Robin Denuzio, as well as longtime church leaders, Bob and Penny Fulton, also posted statements

The Roys Report reached out to Vineyard Anaheim for a response to Wimber-Wong’s letter, but did not hear back. 

Vineyard leaders worldwide bewildered, church silent

The church in Anaheim, which is expected to announce a new name in the coming weeks, has not publicly acknowledged the transition during its past two Sunday services. 

Meanwhile, several key figures in the Vineyard movement and wider evangelical church have spoken of their puzzlement at how events have unfolded. 

Theologian Geoffrey Holsclaw, who is also a Vineyard pastor in Michigan, wrote an in-depth analysis of the Anaheim church board statement that cites more than a dozen Scripture passages. He concluded: “A ‘discernment’ of the Spirit’s leading done in secret and then declared to others is not biblical, and is therefore not really Spirit-led.” 

Similarly, Costa Mitchell, former director of Vineyard South Africa, published a 1,200-word op-ed in a leading UK Christian media outlet. He opens it with the provocative statement, “The mother church of the Vineyard movement has not left the building, it has left with the building!”

The longtime Vineyard pastor writes at length on the Anaheim church as “a family home” full of “sacred memories,” and that the sudden split from Vineyard reflects a breaking of trust. 

However, in an FAQ response online, Vineyard USA notes that the local church owns the Anaheim property and that their church board is accountable for decisions regarding it. In a forward-looking statement to The Roys Report, Vineyard USA leaders said they will continue their “work of starting and supporting local churches who are connected to one another.”

ron citlau calvary church
Pastor Ron Citlau (Photo: Calvary Church)

For Citlau, who reports to a board of elders and whose current church recently dealt with a year-long process to change its denominational affiliation, one sentence stood out in the Vineyard Anaheim board statement. 

The board wrote: “It is not unusual for new senior pastors to request that all board members resign when they are installed as leaders.” Earlier reporting noted that the Scotts installed an entirely new board over the past year, except for one longtime member who remained.

Having pastored for 16 years, the Illinois minister questioned this church polity. “I’ve never heard of wholesale change of a board right up at the beginning,” said Citlau. “I’ve heard about it regarding church staff, and I could imagine over time that a board would gradually change.”

Citlau warned that the latest move by Vineyard Anaheim, and also what’s happened at Hillsong, show a need for better leadership and governance within the charismatic movement.

“We know the leadership formula for disaster,” he said. “The real question is, are we going to keep letting churches that we care deeply about have these solo leaders who are gifted, who end up exploding?” 

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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13 Responses

  1. This,the Hillsong, as well as our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters situation is very distressing. I can understand why people want to go with an Independent form of Church Government. To be sure, being independent has its accountability challenges. All of a sudden, the House Church movement seems to be a rather attractive concept. The church today is nothing more than a form of business, a franchise concept (ala ARC) and/or a political special interest group. Pastors are media stars and political commentators. May the day of the Mega Church come to a close – and soon!

    1. You are right, but it’s time to get over the “distress” and believes to learn that God has instructed the OPPOSITE of these manipulative demands of titled, paychecks, ruling leaders OVER the saints who are not merely stupid sheep. Laity can be taught to play that role and t think it’s godly, but it’s sinful. I used to be duped and think it’s godly. The God opened my eyes to see the bogus translation and exposition by ALL clergy. It’s SYSTEMIC to EVERY pulpit and pew oriented church. There is TINY bit of obedience by a TINY few of the saints, and God is using them DESPITE the corruption of their SYSTEM.

      The “house church” concept, resolved ALL of these institutionalized disobedience. But not all house churches practice the full reformation. The flesh is still in every house church believer, but AT LEAST the SYSTEMIC DEMANDS of the clergy vs laity division of God’ people are broken. Here is an abbreviated summary of my fixes to pulpit and pew.
      1. 100% of the giving goes beyond the givers – Meeting in homes is free. Leadership is “free of charge”. 1Corinthians 9:18; 2Corinthians 11:7
      2. 100% one another communication – Heb.10:24,25
      3. 100% mutual relationships- no power pyramid with titles – “you are all brothers” Matt 23:8
      4. 100% reproducing leadership – everything a leader does is “entrusted” to “faithful men” 2 Tim. 2:1,2; Luke 6:40
      5. 100% intergenerational meeting – never send the children away; they can participate fully in every way with the Holy Spirit inside them. Matt. 19:13
      6. 100% demonstration of being “perfectly one” as Jesus prayed so the world will know Jesus is “perfectly one” with the Father. John 17:20-23 No more brand names division. No more clergy – laity division.

  2. I’ve been reading these articles, and I still haven’t seen it explained how this couple can singlehandedly make an entire congregation leave an association. It reads as it the Scotts own the Anaheim Vineyard, like they’re proprietors of a pet shop. If no one in the congregation supports the decision, the Scotts will end up preaching to an empty building, won’t they? How are Vineyards governed? Why is the congregation okay with this?

    1. “We” are NOT ok with this. It was communicated to us first via the Scotts on a Friday night via e-mail, and then confirmed by another e-mail signed by the “VA Board” three weeks later. Our congregation had no input on this.

    2. The congregation can be observed if you watch the Sunday service YouTube videos or livestream, the Prayer and Worship live or YouTube, investigate the 4 times the Pantry’s giving out food and prayers.
      He is welcome to volunteer or attend in person.

  3. Wondering if Vineyard USA is divided as to “progressive”, but purely conjecture on my part – sorry. There is at least one Vineyard Church (thinking Ann Arbor) that was confused about marriage and not agreeing with biblical marriage of one man and one woman.

  4. Hmm, interesting news about my childhood church. Not sure how to feel, as I haven’t been in Anaheim Vineyard since adulthood. The one good thing I learned growing up there was corporate prayer–people actually giving a darn and praying for each other. God moved through that. He really did. Sad to see things go this way.

    However, this church ignored my father’s domestic violence, believed his slander against my mother, spread gossip from him about her to the staff, and…oh, here’s the kicker…counseled my aunt not to leave the husband who was brutally beating her, and because she stayed due to getting no help from this church, her husband was ultimately able to take off with the kids to Frisco and run them through his in-home prostitution ring. Needless to say, as adults, they are messed up for life now. I would like to personally thank the minion Vineyard pastor who counseled my aunt to stay and take a beating, but I don’t know his name or if he is even on staff.

    So, yeah, mixed feelings. Maybe it’s time the whole thing came tumbling down. It was inevitable that the back-biting, gossiping culture among the staff would reach critical mass. If you think I’m exaggerating, my Mom remembers John Wimber at the pulpit saying he hated coming to his own church because of all the gossip in the halls.

  5. Why does anyone care deeply about the downfall of a heretical church that is the enemy of the cross of Christ? I care about the thousands of lost, mislead, people who have been deceived now for decades. Unbiblical theology and doctrine always leads to unbiblical governance and polity. Deviant doctrine always breeds deviant followers.

    1. John, i guess you can have your opinion. but i was very blessed to attend several of the Late John Wimber conferences. it was great. and will take those meetings with me to the grave. YOU are not right though in saying that they are a Heretical Church. where is your Scripture???. i might guess you would think that J.MacArthur is a great teacher? I do not.

  6. From the article the stated offense seems to be that they left with the building. Yet the article also states that the local church owns the building (which makes practical sense). I don’t see how that is “stealing from your brother’s house”. It is more like the brother making a false accusation.

    Beside it is not the brother’s house. It is the Father’s house. It belongs to the Father, it is neither brothers’ flock nor thier property. It should all belong to the Father and if a congregation is meeting in the building it still belongs to the same Father, regardless of which brother is leading the congregation.

    From the sound of what is in this article, it looks like those siding with Vineyard USA are more interested in owning the building than caring for the church.

    1. As a former member of a Vineyard church, I find your comments to be uninformed.
      The Scotts have only pastored the church for about 4 years.
      When someone comes in and takes over a very large church with a building that is central to that church history, not to mention worth tens of millions of dollars, and makes a rash, hurried, move like this, it is reasonable to ask questions.

      If they no longer wanted to be a Vineyard church the honorable thing to do would have been to go and plant another church as Wimber did. Not to use a loophole to lay claim to a valuable property.

      The whole situation can be covered in religious language, like, it’s father’s house. And, we are being obedient to what God has told us. But, I believe that to be only religious language and lacks truth in such a situation.
      We can call out bad behavior in the church, like Hillsong, Mars Hill etc and attempt to stop bad and abusive situations or we can cover it in religious language. We can follow the word of the bible and forget the real heart of God. Remember, Jesus called out the religious order of his day for this very thing.

      I would ask you to reconsider what is going on here. This is bigger than the Vineyard. This is more signs of a failing church governance system.

      1. Good word, they should have resigned, started their own church and bought their own building.

        The gave this new pastor this church in good faith. Many people have sowed at the Vineyard Anaheim and were saved and blessed.

        Seems like stealing to me?

        They don’t want to be controlled. submit yourselves one to another Ephesians 5:21

        I would be ashamed to do this to the Vineyard for their generosity.

        In summary, this is a corporate take over, sad. He is Risen

  7. Wow, thank you John.
    I was wondering, probably beginning seven years ago as part of a Holland Classis RCA task force “Ministering with and to Our Gay Neighbors”. The seven of us were asked to read two books recommended by a seminary professor, Chuck DeGroat: 1) “Compassion without Compromise” by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau, and 2) “A Letter to My Congregation” by Ken Wilson, a Vineyard pastor. The “Motto?” of the RCA at that time was “Transformed and Transforming” and Book 1 spoke to the power of God in transforming hearts! Book 2 was about transforming minds to accept and affirm homosexuality. Most of our small group favored Book 2, only one (1) exception and this was time for me to leave the RCA. Pastors Barr and Citlau and the churches they pastored have left the RCA.
    Chuck DeGroat is, I believe, still within the RCA. He is quite likeable in conversation, but I much dislike his theology. I have not read his book about “Narcissism”, but I would nearly consider it an autobiography. But as a Christian each of us should beware of the god of Self.
    John, thank you again. Sadly, in my opinion, because of heretical hierarchy the RCA is a heretical church – as well as many other Reformed denominations.

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