(RNS) — When leaders of a well-known Southern California congregation decided to leave the Vineyard USA — an influential charismatic movement — they knew the church would need a new name.
On Sunday (April 24), Alan Scott, co-pastor of the former Vineyard Anaheim, announced the church would now be called the Dwelling Place.
After telling someone in the pews to turn off their phone — because the glare was bothering him — Scott told the congregation that while church leaders had been thinking about a new name, there was no divine inspiration in the one they eventually chose.
“I wish I could say to that, on, whatever day it is, April the 8th or something like this, the angel of the Lord appeared to me and said, ‘Behold, this is your new name,’” he said. “But that didn’t happen.”
Instead, Scott told worshippers about the importance of names and shared several Bible verses, including one from the New Testament Book of Revelation about God dwelling among his people.
“It reminds us that God is making everything new,” he said, “that one day all of humanity and all of history ends up at the feet of Jesus and God’s dwelling place is with us.”
The low-key nature of the name change was a stark contrast to the way the church left the Vineyard after more than four decades. Founded in 1977, according to a history on the church’s website, the congregation was once led by John Wimber, who had helped grow the Vineyard from a handful of California churches to a worldwide movement, on the strength of his personality and his combination of Bible teaching and “signs and wonders.”
The Anaheim church had held a central place in the life of the movement because of its ties to Wimber and to the Vineyard’s worship music, which has long been popular outside the movement.
Then, in February, Scott and his wife, Kathryn, an influential worship leader, announced the church would cut ties with the Vineyard — giving few details except saying God told them to do it and cutting off any conversation about the matter.
That’s led to a sense of anger and disappointment among Vineyard churches.
“For many people it feels like a betrayal of a way of life together,” Caleb Maskell, associate national director of theology and education for Vineyard USA, told Religion News Service recently.
The Dwelling Place’s departure reveals some of the Vineyard’s institutional weaknesses — as its churches act mostly independently and most cooperation is based on the friendship of pastors rather than formal structures.
The Scotts have declined media requests for interviews about their recent decisions. Church leaders issued a statement saying that they “love the Vineyard movement.”
The church’s website does give a hint of the Dwelling Place’s hope for the future.
“In the future, we are going to plant churches and we are going to plant businesses,” reads the church’s “Our Story” page. “We are going to ordain ministers and we are going to ordain filmmakers. We are going to have schools of ministry and schools of industry. We are going to go where those before us didn’t have time to go or permission to go … because the story of the kingdom continues. It’s the story that brings life to everything everywhere.”