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

(RNS) — 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 steer their church out of the Winery and break from the denomination.

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

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

In a complaint filed Nov. 10 within the California Superior Courtroom 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 depart the Winery, in line with the grievance, the board members say they might 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 line with the grievance.

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

Alan and Kathryn Scott give a recorded video response to the Winery lawsuit just lately. Video display screen seize

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 on account of considerations in regards to the Winery motion, in line with the grievance.

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

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

RELATED: The Vineyard was built on friendship and shared values. Then a leading pastor split.

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

The Scotts’ resolution to depart the Winery — and take the Anaheim church with them — caught nationwide Winery leaders without warning. 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 had been headquartered in Anaheim for years and the church usually hosted main Winery gatherings.

John and Carol Wimber. Photo courtesy Vineyard USA

John and Carol Wimber. Photograph courtesy Winery USA

Carol Wimber-Wong, John Wimber’s widow and a longtime chief within the motion, can also 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 referred to as Village 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 pace of that call appeared problematic.

“For many individuals it seems 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 12 months.

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

“We’ve been getting plenty of distressing reviews from former workers, and leaders that had been part of this church, that span over an extended time period, that embrace the management of the church and board members from the church,” stated Pathak.

Jay Pathak gives a recent video update for VineyardUSA. Video screen grab

Jay Pathak provides a latest video replace for Winery USA. Video display screen seize

Pathak stated Winery USA is just not concerned within the lawsuit and that the plaintiffs are performing on their very own.

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

In a latest video, the Scotts knowledgeable their congregation in regards to the latest lawsuit however didn’t tackle 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 stated 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 troublesome and that the couple anticipated individuals 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 type of evil and sinister motive to what we had been doing,” he stated. 

RELATED: Former Vineyard Anaheim becomes the Dwelling Place

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