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    Charismatic leader John Wimber dies, founded influential Vineyard churches


    John Wimber, one of the most colorful and controversial leaders of the charismatic movement in the U.S., suffered a massive brain hemorrhage Nov. 16 while recovering from triple bypass surgery, and passed away peacefully the following morning in the presence of his family. He was 63.

    Wimber was a pastor with Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel movement, but left in 1977 over a theological disagreement. He founded what is now the Association of Vineyard Churches, which has 450 congregations in the U.S. and 250 more around the world.

    Wimber took the name for the group from another Calvary Chapel affiliate founded by Ken Gulliksen, whose church was then called Vineyard Christian Fellowship. When Gulliksen joined Wimber, he brought the name with him. (Gulliksen has since left the Vineyard Movement and now pastors an independent church in Los Angeles.)

    Wimber, who had been a keyboard player with the Righteous Brothers, went on to become an international conference speaker, worship songwriter, best-selling author and spiritual leader to the worldwide Vineyard movement. He was also the senior pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship for 17 years (1977-1994).

    Wimber was a frequent newsmaker, most recently for “cutting free” the Toronto Airport Vineyard in a doctrinal dispute. Wimber taught “signs and wonders” classes at the School of World Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary, and led Vineyard rallies around the world.

    Southern California broadcaster Rich Buhler, who was a close friend of John Wimber and also helped to produce his radio show, “Equipping the Saints,” for nearly a year, told British journalist Dan Wooding, “I’m going to miss him. He was an inspiration to me as a very real and down to earth yet powerful and intelligent Christian. He inspired multitudes of people to serve Christ and to seek the Kingdom and I will remember him also as a person who inspired those same multitudes to get very serious in ministry to the poor.”

    Buhler, who runs Branches Communications in Orange, added, “He was known for his ‘Power Evangelism,’ but the Vineyards had multiplied millions of dollars for the poor as he talked about ‘doing the stuff.’ This was one of his favorite phrases and he would say that this was what Jesus would do. He meant, of course, things like evangelism, casting out demons and feeding the poor. That was the Kingdom ‘stuff’ to John. Just a week or two before he died, the Anaheim Vineyard took an offering of $750,000 for the poor. That was something he didn’t get as much publicity for.

    “The other thing I liked about John was he was very candid and down to earth. He didn’t like being an over powerful person. He liked just being John. He was disarmingly honest in both private conversation and public discourse. He would talk about what was going on in his personal life. I can’t tell you how many times we in the church sat in the congregation and learned about the struggles in his own life. He never held himself up as a standard for people to focus on. John Wimber just did ‘the stuff!'”

    – E.P. News

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