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Winery USA founder’s widow, board members sue breakaway Anaheim pastors, alleging fraud

Pastors Alan and Kathryn Scott sing and pray throughout a service on the Dwelling Place, previously Winery Anaheim.(Photograph: RNS/Video display screen seize)

As pastors of a outstanding Southern evangelical church in Southern California, Alan and Kathryn Scott say they’ve all the time tried to do God’s will.

In 2018, that meant changing into pastors of the Winery Anaheim, the flagship congregation of the Winery USA, an influential charismatic denomination.

4 years later, the Scotts declare, God instructed them to guide their church out of the Winery and break from the denomination.

“We’re merely doing what we have been taught to do, which is to take heed to the Lord and reply when he speaks,” the Scotts said in a current message to their church, which was renamed because the Dwelling Place in April.

A bunch of church members — together with the widow of Winery founder John Wimber — and 4 former church board members disagree. As an alternative, they consider the Scotts took management of the church and its property, valued at $62 million, beneath false pretenses.

In a complaint filed Nov. 10 within the California Superior Court docket for Orange County, they alleged the Scotts misled the church board throughout their job interview and promised to maintain the church within the Winery denomination.

The board members, together with former pastor Lance Pittluck, declare they relied on that promise once they employed the Scotts. Had they recognized the Scotts deliberate to go away the Winery, in keeping with the criticism, the board members say they’d by no means have voted to rent the couple.

“Plaintiffs allege that the Scott Defendants all the time supposed to take away Anaheim Winery and its $62,000,000 in property from the worldwide Winery Motion,” in keeping with the criticism.

To assist their allegations, the plaintiffs cite a 2017 letter allegedly written by Alan Scott, describing his displeasure with the Winery motion.

Earlier than coming to america to additional Kathryn Scott’s profession as a musician and songwriter, the Scotts had been longtime pastors of a Winery congregation in Northern Eire. They left that church resulting from considerations in regards to the Winery motion, in keeping with the criticism.

“As I discussed after we have been collectively, we love every of the leaders, we simply wished they cherished one another nicely,” Scott allegedly wrote within the letter quoted by plaintiffs. “Since that is not the story in the meanwhile, it isn’t an surroundings the place we might wish to plant our lives or elevate our ladies. And so after 29 years of reference to the tribe, we’ve arrived on the painful conclusion that we cannot be a part of an area winery church within the subsequent a part of our journey.”

Plaintiffs additionally allege the Scotts weren’t fascinated with changing into senior pastors on the church till they realized how a lot cash was concerned.

The lack of The Dwelling Place has revealed weaknesses within the Winery’s denominational construction and management fashions. A community of about 2,500 church buildings worldwide, with 545 in america, the Winery has lengthy been held collectively by shut friendships amongst pastors.

These pastors have typically acted decisively, with little oversight— relying extra on their very own sense of God’s route reasonably than institutional processes. That has led some youthful Winery pastors to hunt a extra collaborative strategy to management.

The Scotts’ resolution to go away the Winery — and take the Anaheim church with them — caught nationwide Winery leaders abruptly. The church was led in its early years by John Wimber, a preacher and creator whose concentrate on indicators and wonders formed the early Winery motion and grew the Anaheim church into a big and influential congregation. The motion’s workplaces have been headquartered in Anaheim for years and the church typically hosted main Winery gatherings.

Carol Wimber-Wong, John Wimber’s widow and a longtime chief within the motion, can be a plaintiff within the lawsuit, which names the Scotts, worship pastors Jeremy and Katie Riddle, and a number of other present board members.

Plaintiffs have requested the county to return management of the Dwelling Place, nonetheless formally often called Winery Christian Fellowship of Anaheim Inc., to former board members and to dam the Scotts from taking the church out of the Winery USA.

Whereas the denomination had no formal course of to forestall a church from leaving, the velocity of that call appeared problematic.

“For many individuals it looks like a betrayal of a lifestyle collectively,” Caleb Maskell, affiliate nationwide director of theology and schooling for Winery USA, told Faith Information Service earlier this yr.

Winery USA leaders proceed to be involved in regards to the scenario, nationwide director Jay Pathak mentioned in a video update this week.

“We have been getting loads of distressing studies from former employees, and leaders that have been part of this church, that span over a protracted time period, that embrace the management of the church and board members from the church,” mentioned Pathak.

Pathak mentioned Winery USA just isn’t concerned within the lawsuit and that the plaintiffs are appearing on their very own.

Leaders on the Dwelling Place didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In a current video, the Scotts knowledgeable their congregation in regards to the current lawsuit however didn’t handle particular allegations, saying as a substitute that the church would reply in a respectful method. The Scotts additionally recounted their journey of leaving Northern Eire and coming to Anaheim and their love for the Winery. Alan Scott mentioned the thought of leaving the Winery hadn’t crossed the couple’s minds till God spoke to them.

He admitted within the video that leaving would show tough and that the couple anticipated folks to be upset and indignant.

“What we by no means anticipated for a second was that folks would query our motivations or intentions or assign some sort of evil and sinister motive to what we have been doing,” he mentioned.

© Faith Information Service

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