Malibu Vineyard church, pastor go separate ways

Founder of Malibu Vineyard decamps, forms new church in Agoura Hills.

By Vicky Newman/Special to the Malibu Times

The senior pastor of Malibu Vineyard Christian Fellowship has abruptly departed his post and has formed a new church in the Conejo Valley.

David Owen, who founded the nondenominational church 12 years ago, told the congregation at the Aug. 1 service that he was “moving on,” said associate pastor Bob Wolff.

Congregants have joined Owen, whose son, Grant, ran the youth ministry, Wolff said.

“At first it was a little rough, a grieving period, because we’re supposed to be a family,” Wolff said of Owen’s departure. “We didn’t know there was a problem.”

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In a telephone interview, Owen refused to say why he left the church, other than saying that “the board hijacked the church” and he wanted to let the congregation know what was happening. On learning of letters sent to Malibu Vineyard congregants in September, which described “events of the past month” as a time of “transition” and “restructuring,” Owen said the church was “putting a positive spin on what happened.”

Bill Twyman, western regional overseer for the Association of Vineyard Churches USA, has been brought in to advise Malibu Vineyard leaders on the restructuring, Wolff said.

“The process [of restructuring] is normal,” Wolff said. “It helps if you have someone who has done this.”

Owen, a native of South Africa whose newest church will be the sixth he has “planted” in 31 years, said many people have joined him because they want a church they can relate to.

Congregants want more interaction with church leaders and a message delivered in a more natural environment, Owen said. “They want to get to know the people responsible for delivering the message. They want to talk to them, challenge them, not be told what they should believe,” Owen said.”

Owen’s new church, the Malibu Christian Center, is located at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, which enables a platform for the Vineyard tradition of a performing arts service.

The mixture of tables, chairs and couches where Sunday morning services are held offers more opportunity for conversation than traditional church seating, Owen said. Bible classes are taught two nights a week at the nearby Virtual World Café, and last Sunday, there was an outdoor communion and barbeque at a nearby estate.

Ninety percent of his members are new, Owen said. “They recognize that we’re not watering down the message, just changing the packaging.”

Owen’s split from the Malibu Vineyard is not unusual. The Vineyard Movement was established in 1982 by John Wimber, a keyboardist in the band of The Righteous Brothers, as an offshoot of the Calvary Chapel Movement, and there are estimates that 35 percent of the Vineyards’ congregations have been “adopted” from another denomination or group.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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