Vineyard Christian Fellowship

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Vineyard Christian Fellowship

The Association of Vineyard Churches, or Vineyard Christian Fellowship, is a young denomination with roots in the Jesus movement of the 1960s. Its theological roots are evangelical, stressing a personal relationship with Jesus. The Vineyard seeks to combine the practical aspects of Evangelicalism with the supernatural characteristics of Pentecostalism. The Vineyard's emphasis on the spiritual gifts of healing and prophecy may lead to the characterization of this church as a Pentecostal denomination. Where it differs from classical pentecostal denominations, however, is that the Vineyard does not place the same emphasis on baptism in the Holy Spirit as evidence of sanctification and on speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of that baptism. The characterization of the Vineyard as anti-establishment in policy, therapeutic in ministry, and highly individualistic make it one of the fastest-growing Protestant denominations in the U.S. and abroad.

The Vineyard was, and to some extent still is, symbolized by its first leader, the late John Wimber. Wimber was an aspiring musician in the early 1960s when he had a conversion experience. In 1974 Wimber and his wife, Carol, became active members of a Friends (Quaker) church in Yorba Linda, California. The Wimbers and other future Vineyard pioneers met for Bible study and prayed for the sick. Sensing that their charismatic style of worship would not be accepted at the Friends church, the Wimbers left and joined Calvary Chapel.

Meanwhile, in 1974, a Jesus movement convert named Kenn Gulliksen started a church in West Los Angeles called the Vineyard; he "planted" seven more over the next eight years. In 1982 Wimber, then head of Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, left the church following a disagreement over the overtly charismatic nature of worship at his church. Wimber joined Gulliksen's Vineyard, and in 1982 the Vineyard Christian Fellowship celebrated its first meeting. The growth of the Vineyard overwhelmed Gulliksen, who relinquished the leadership to Wimber.

In its short seventeen-year history, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship has experienced its share of controversies. The best-known occurred in 1994, when the Toronto Airport Vineyard church in Canada experienced charismatic manifestations as part of the "Toronto Blessing," with church attendants laughing and barking along with experiencing more traditional charismatic manifestations, such as prophetic utterances and healing. Worried Vineyard leaders did not view the animal-like manifestations as biblical. In 1996 the Toronto Airport Vineyard and the Association of Vineyard Churches split.

The Association of Vineyard Churches experienced perhaps its biggest loss in 1997 with the passing of its founder, Wimber. Plagued with serious health problems, Wimber stepped down as the senior pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard in 1995. In November 1997 Wimber died, leaving Todd Hunter as national director. The post-Wimber transition proceeds as the church continues growing, to more than six hundred churches worldwide.

See alsoDenomination; Evangelical Christianity; Healing; Jesus Movement; Liturgyand Worship; New Religious Movements; Pentecostaland Charismatic Christianity; Toronto Blessing.


Miller, Donald E. Reinventing AmericanProtestantism:Christianity in the New Millennium. 1997.

Wimber, John. Power Evangelism. 1986.

Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh