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Vineyard Calls for Investigation of Pastor Who Left

An inquiry at Alan Scott’s former church found evidence of manipulation, narcissism, and spiritual abuse.
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Vineyard Calls for Investigation of Pastor Who Left
Image: Dwelling Place / Youtube screengrab

Vineyard USA is calling on a breakaway congregation to launch a “thorough, independent investigation” into allegations of misconduct, narcissism, and spiritual abuse.

“We pray for those who were hurt, harmed, mistreated, or in any way negatively impacted by their time under the leadership of Alan Scott,” the denomination’s statement says. National leadership is pleading with “current and former board members” at the Anaheim, California, church to “fulfill their legal and spiritual responsibilities.”

Scott has not publicly responded and did not reply to CT’s request for comment.

His Southern California church was founded by the late charismatic leader John Wimber and has long been seen as the “mother church” of the movement. Scott and his wife Kathryn took over Vineyard Anaheim in 2018 and then unexpectedly led the congregation out of the denomination in 2022. There was little explanation, beyond the claim they were following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“We don’t really understand why,” Scott said in a sermon at the time. “We don’t always know what’s on the other side of obedience.”

Some former members of the church, which is now called Dwelling Place, have sued for fraud, claiming Scott misrepresented his relationship to the Vineyard in an attempt to seize control of $62 million of church assets. The building is debt free and sits on more than five acres zoned for commercial use in Orange County.

Scott also may have been reacting to efforts to reorganize the Vineyard to provide more oversight and accountability. National director Jay Pathak, who took over in January 2022, had dinner with the Scotts to tell them about the direction he wanted to take the denomination—and ask them to play a role in increasing oversight—right before they announced their exit.

The turmoil from the separation prompted a number of people who worked under Scott at his previous church in Northern Ireland to come forward with complaints. The first was Luke Martin, host of a podcast exploring questions about the Christian life. He interned at Causeway Coast Vineyard as a teenager.

“It was okay as long as you were going along with what the leader was saying,” Martin recalled. “But as soon as you started to have doubts, which I did, about what he was saying, then that wasn’t appreciated. At best, you were told, ‘You’re not in touch with the Holy Spirit.’ … At worst, you were told you were working for the Devil. Literally.”

Others spoke out with similar stories. The church’s former business manager told The Roys Report that Scott claimed powerful spiritual insight and then used it to manipulate and dominate the staff.

“He told us that he could tell what our sins were before meeting us,” Donna Finney said. “He would also declare regularly that we were likely to dream about him, and if we did, he represented God in our dreams.”

Causeway Coast and Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland hired a human resources firm to conduct an independent investigation. The final report, released earlier this month, said there was convincing evidence of manipulation, narcissistic behavior, and spiritual abuse.

“Some stated that Alan would falsely idolise himself,” the report said. “An incident mentioned by more than one respondent, regarding Alan specifically, included him stepping off the stage mid-service and clapping himself—inferring he was not receiving enough praise.”

Investigators heard from dozens of people in Zoom interviews and written statements, some stretching to more than 10 pages. The majority were negative. Twenty-three people said they felt spiritually abused. Nineteen said they were manipulated and nearly 30 left the church feeling rejected.

Former staff said Scott cultivated a “culture of honour” that left “no room for questions or disagreement.” In one instance, pastors were made to physically bow down before Scott. He also occasionally referred to himself as the “God-appointed” leader.

Those who crossed him told investigators that they were berated privately. Ignored publicly. Or humiliated in a staff meeting or in front of other church members.

Scott also created a culture obsessed with numbers and encouraged staff to compete with each other for increased attendance, salvations, and healings. He pit the staff from two services against each other, former church members said, asking which could report the best statistics. According to the investigation, that led to exaggeration and lies. Church leaders inflated attendance accounts to win Scott’s approval, sometimes by as many as 100 people.

Scott did not participate in the investigation to respond to the accusations.

The pastors who replaced the Scotts, Neil and Janet Young, initially offered an apology to those hurt by the church, but then said they did not fully agree with the report and stepped down.

The investigation acknowledged that “not every incident could be independently verified.” The report, however, said there were enough overlapping stories and mutually confirming accounts to provide evidence of a clear pattern.

“There is a strong likelihood that most of the examples of the behaviour and issues raised did take place as described,” the report said.

The denomination in the US sees a pattern too.

“The findings of this UK report are consistent with the numerous testimonies that were brought to Vineyard USA since the dissociation of the Anaheim Vineyard in February 2022,” the statement said. “Vineyard USA continues to pray for those who have been impacted by Alan’s leadership and will continue to work towards greater structures of accountability.”

Vineyard USA set up a confidential tip line last year and received more than a dozen reports about the Scotts in one month. The stories include “allegations of spiritual abuse, manipulation, purposeful exaggeration, deception, humiliation,” and “dismissive, over-spiritualized, and controlling language.”

Denominational leaders said they reached out to the church but were rebuffed and ignored.

Scott’s only public statement was made to his congregation in May 2022.

“Some people are saying some things,” he said. “It’s what people do. People talk.”

He described himself as “a lamb among wolves” and said he was blessed when people insulted him, like Jesus promised in Matthew 5:11.

He urged the church not to be angry on his behalf.

“God is doing something too precious here for us to allow that,” Scott said. “Continue to be who you are, people of his presence, called by his Spirit.”

In a California court, meanwhile, a judge agreed to dismiss the fraud suit against the Dwelling Place on the grounds the government cannot interfere with the hiring and firing of clergy or the internal administration of a church.

Judge William D. Claster invited the former members of the congregation to revise and resubmit their case, however. Reviewing the allegations, he noted that “if everything alleged in their complaint is true, the Court understands why they would be upset.”

The complaint was amended to make the argument that “this civil action arises from a secular and nonecclesiastical dispute … regarding fraud.” The next hearing is scheduled for December 15.

January/February
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