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Problems Regarding the Toronto Blessing

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Problems Regarding the Toronto Blessing

In 1994, a small church was started near the Pearson International Airport in

Toronto, Canada. This small church would spark a revolution attracting over 300,000 people making a pilgrimage to visit the church every year. The revolution began on January 20, 1994, when the congregation became overcome by "spiritual laughter". This practice and others such as speaking in tongues, sounding like animals, shaking uncontrollably, and swooning occur regularly at the Toronto Vineyard Church. This phenomenon was called, the Toronto blessing (Gilley, 2000). However, the actions and philosophies associated with the Toronto blessing do not follow the teachings of Jesus and or the Bible, the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The manifestations that make the Toronto blessing attractive, accentuate personal emotions rather than focusing on God. The leaders of the church manipulate their congregations into their visions. The manifestations have characteristics associated with demon possession and altered states of conscience such as hypnosis. The Toronto Blessing for these reasons is considered spiritual quackery.

The manifestations related to the Toronto blessing are said to be caused by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Gilley, 2000). Rodney Howard-Brown, known as the father of spiritual laughter, describes himself as a "holy ghost bartender who dispenses the new wine of joy that leads people to be drunk in the spirit" (Gilley, 2000). The teachings of Christianity do not enable individuals to play the role of God. This man has ordained himself to be the dispenser of spiritual joy using the power of the Holy Spirit. The pastor justifies his actions by citing the second chapter of Acts, a book of the New Testament. In this chapter, the Holy Spirit fills all believers of Jesus Christ. Many people attribute their manifestations to their body being filled with the spirit. Christians do believe to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Gilley, 2000). However, the Holy Spirit does not take over people's bodies. God gives people free will to do what they please. He also does not control people such as actions where the Holy Spirit controls the body.

A prime manifestation of the Toronto blessing is speaking in tongues also called glossolalia. This manifestation was a spiritual gift given to the disciples to go over the world and preach the word of God. The disciples were to speak in tongues to people of all different languages. The people would understand in their own language, making ministering much easier (Dugan). Today, speaking in tongues is not used in the same way. Today, at Toronto Vineyard Church speaking in tongues is used in a completely different manner. At the Toronto Church, the whole congregation is encouraged to invoke the manifestation of speaking in tongues. The Bible warns of all the people of the church speaking in tongues It has no use for it if everyone is doing it as is advocated in Vineyard Churches such as the one in Toronto. Paul mentions in first Corinthians chapter 14, "I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (The Holy Bible, 1989). Paul believes people should be more concerned about ministering to others than speaking incomprehensible words. Even if one does believe in glossolalia, Paul believes at the most three people should speak in tongues with an interpreter (The Holy Bible, 1989). At Vineyard churches, the leader encourages the whole congregation to participate in glossolalia. Moreover, there is not an interpreter present to put to use the words spoken. The Bible rebukes the church in Corinth because they do not have an interpreter so the entire church does not profit from it (Biblical Tongues, 1999).

Along with tongues other manifestations in the Toronto Vineyard Church that are not even mentioned in the Bible, but are encouraged regularly. Many manifestations occur at the Toronto Vineyard Church, which includes holy laughter, animal sounds, weeping, animal sounds, and rolling on the ground. The disciples were not found in the Bible doing any of these from the power of the Holy Spirit they had received after Pentecost (Gilley, 2000). The Toronto believed they have specifically been blessed with these manifestations. However, they do not exclude other churches from the phenomenon; one can visit the Toronto Church and take the blessing back to their home church.

The founder of the Vineyard Churches John Wimber has reservations about spiritual laughter and no Biblical evidence for manifestations. While he admits to this he does not advocating testing the phenomenon with scripture (Smith, 2006). Wimber wants the people to listen to him as the ultimate authority. However, Christians should follow what God has specifically given to his children as approvable for reproof, for doctrine, and for correction (The Holy Bible, 1989). "John Arnott, the pastor of the Airport Vineyard Fellowship, tells his followers that they are not to even entertain the thought that they might become involved in any kind of counterfeit revival. Yet, the apostle John warned us to Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (Gilley, 2000). Many of the pastors at such churches as the Vineyard churches have seen small congregations of unenthused worshipers. The experience of the phenomenon of manifestations is attractive to worshipers (Smith, 2006). A quote from South African charismatic preacher Rodney Howard-Browne who influenced John Wibmer best summarizes why Christians follow teachings such as that of the Toronto Vineyard Church,

I'd rather be in a church where the devil and the flesh are manifesting than in a church where nothing is happening because people are too afraid to manifest anything. Every time there is a move of God, a few people will get excited, go overboard, and get in the flesh. Other believers will get upset, saying that could not be of God. Do not worry about it either. Rejoice because at least something is happening ... If someone comes in the meeting, rolls around on the floor, laughs in the Holy Spirit, and does it in the flesh, at least he's not getting drunk or taking dope (Gilley, 2000)

The manifestations that regularly occur at the Toronto Vineyard Airport fellowship have been studied by David Middlemiss. During worship, he examined attendants of the Toronto church make strange noises like



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