Anaheim Vineyard church broke from its national network. Was the motivator God or greed?
In 2018, married pastors Alan and Kathryn Scott took over the Anaheim Vineyard church, which featured highly produced worship music during services attended by a congregation of thousands. It was part of the broader Vineyard religious movement. Four years later, they have changed the church’s name and broken off from the movement. No “grievance” is involved, the church’s board said in a statement posted in March. They’re simply following God’s will.
But former members of Anaheim Vineyard behind a new lawsuit say the move is one the Scotts had planned, and centers on the hefty assets of this Vineyard USA “mother church.” They’re alleging fraud and suing for $62 million in damages.
In late February, the Scotts had dinner with Jay Pathak, the national director of Vineyard USA, and another executive from the group. The couple gave Pathak a signed letter declaring their intent to withdraw their church from the national group.
In the weeks that followed, leaders of Anaheim Vineyard — the first of 500-plus churches that make up the Vineyard USA network — engaged in terse email conversations with Vineyard USA leadership looking to keep the church in its orbit, per documents reviewed by The Times.
Pathak wrote to the national board to ask whether the Scotts should be encouraged to leave the church. “Many of the above problems could have been avoided,” he wrote, “if Alan and Kathryn were simply sent out.” The board then proposed this idea to the Anaheim Vineyard board, whose representative responded that moving forward without the Scotts was “not an option on the table for us.”
The suit claims that Alan Scott exerted “spiritual manipulation and deception” over church staff and members, persuading board members who weren’t on his side to resign.
Vineyard USA’s board next sought to slow down the church’s withdrawal, but Anaheim Vineyard’s board held fast, repeatedly denying requests for a meeting of the two groups. By July, Anaheim Vineyard had rebranded as Dwelling Place Anaheim on its slickly branded YouTube page.
In November, nine former Anaheim Vineyard members filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against the new leadership. Those named in the suit include the Scotts and several board members. Jeremy Riddle, one of those board members, is a Christian musician and influencer with hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers.
The suit alleges “that the Scott Defendants always intended to remove Anaheim Vineyard and its $62,000,000 in assets from the worldwide Vineyard Movement.”
It continues: “They misled the Anaheim Vineyard Search Committee and board of directors during the hiring process by falsely stating they would never remove Anaheim Vineyard from the Vineyard Movement.”
According to the lawsuit, church attendance has “dramatically decreased” since the split.
In a statement on the Dwelling Place website posted a week after the lawsuit was filed, the Scotts said the saga had “caused strong emotions, but we didn’t expect individuals to attribute evil intent” in their hearts.
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