A Tale Of Two Cities -TORONTO
[ Part 2 ] ... [ Part 1 ]
Nicky Gumbel is the man responsible for the phenomenal impact of the Word of Faith-rooted 'Toronto Blessing' in England. He introduced it to his church Holy Trinity Brompton (hereafter HTB), and HTB's central London status ensured maximum publicity, such that the English press were the first to dub the movement the 'Toronto Blessing'. Ken Gott of Sunderland Christian Centre and Terry Virgo of New Frontiers, among many others, are also attributable to a lesser extent. The massive deviation from Scripture that is the Toronto Experience (hereafter TE) merits a full article and the damage it has caused over the whole world is hard to fathom. Benny Hinn (see Vanguard no. 1 for full length article), was stirring up Toronto-style behaviour as early as 1991, when he commissioned Rodney to dispense 'holy laughter' to the people...
Inextricable from TE are the health-and-wealth heresies of the Word of Faith movement, and Rodney Howard-Browne is the kingpin of the movement. He (and therefore his antibiblical teachings) is fully endorsed as 'a slightly controversial man of God' by many British leaders, including Clive Calver, R T Kendall (Westminster Chapel), Gerald Coates (Pioneer), Bryn Jones (New Covenant) and of course Nicky Gumbel (HTB). Nicky Gumbel's backing of Rodney Howard-Browne is enough to cast serious doubts over his spiritual discernment, as hopefully will be demonstrated by the table below. First, Nicky Gumbel's testimony on how he received the Toronto Experience:
"We went to their house...where a group of leaders of their church was meeting...Ellie Mumford told us a little bit of what she had seen in Toronto...it was obvious that Ellie was just dying to pray for all of us...then she said, "Now we'll invite the Holy Spirit to come," and the moment she said that, one of the people was thrown, literally, across the room and was lying on the floor, just howling and laughing...making the most incredible noise...I experienced the power of the Spirit in a way I hadn't experienced for years, like massive electricity going through my body...One of the guys was prophesying. He was just lying there prophesying...[Gumbel returns to HTB, closes the meeting there in prayer]...I prayed "Lord, thank you so much for all you are doing and we pray you'll send your Spirit" and I was just about to say "in Jesus' name, Amen" and go out the door when the Spirit came on the people who were in the room. One of them starting laughing like a hyena." [video 3, talk 9, Alpha course.]
Elizabeth McDonald points out the unquestioning acceptance of unusual manifestations (1 John 4, etc.), and the fact that the prophesies were laughed at rather than listened to. (1 Cor. 14:29-33). The remoteness of this from that laid down as normative by the New Testament, is enormous.
Nicky Gumbel believes it is no coincidence that the present movement of the 'Holy Spirit' [Toronto Experience] has come at the same time as the explosion of the Alpha courses...
'I think the two go together. If you run an Alpha course - certainly the way we run it here [HTB] and encourage other churches to run it - there will be an opportunity for people to experience the Holy Spirit [TE] during the course, in whatever way is applicable to that particular church [including Catholic Holy Spirit theology, see previous Vanguard]. That inevitably leads to renewal [?]...
'We are now  nearly a year on from when the Holy Spirit fell with power on our staff meeting at Holy Trinity, Brompton. The power that we saw on that first occasion has in no way lessened. Indeed, if anything it has increased... [The reality is that now in April 1997 the TE phenomena at HTB have drastically diminished.
After John Wimbers implicit rejection of TE in his removal of the Toronto Airport Church from Vineyard Ministries, HTB and other churches in England quietly began to 'phase out' the more bizarre happenings. All the talk of coming revival has died down, but there has been absolutely no refutation, apology, climbdown or any other such recognition of error by HTB. The church has become dependent on the short memory and desire for new experiences that it finds in its congregation. Toronto is becoming just a distant impression of excitement to those who indulged in it. For those who were indelibly scarred, thrown out of churches for daring to question TE's biblical validity, called 'Pharisaical' and accused of 'the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit' simply by trying to read His Holy Scriptures and "search them daily to find if these things were so" (Acts 17:11) - for these, TE remains as a horrific precedent set which confirms that the most salient characteristic of the visible church is no longer a submission to biblical authority and a love for the Lord Jesus that the Bible proclaims. It is a wide-eyed and forgetful gullibility].
'God is just pouring out his love on people of all ages, from children to the very elderly. The children respond very naturally. They are not fazed by it, nor frightened at all.
This is misleading for two reasons -
1. Although Jesus commanded us to humble ourselves like children (Matthew 18:4), He also insisted that we "take heed that we be not deceived" (Luke 21:8). Because children may accept TE, this is in no way a biblical endorsement of the experience. Children cannot be expected to have a mature biblical discernment, insightful as they can be.
2. In actual fact, many children have been terrified by the TE:
"We had a visit from the pastor of Loughborough. His arm shook all the while he preached, really irritating me. He related all his experiences to us, then prayed for us all. Again, people were on the floor, laughing, crying, shaking violently. He then prayed for our son, David, who was five. David started to stagger backwards. He walked over to me looking like he was drunk , saying that he felt funny. That night in bed he started sobbing and getting distressed. I ran into his room. He was sitting up, his eyes wide open. He said, 'Mummy, there's a lion roaring in my room'. It felt like a cold knife go through me. I thought, 'What does he know about lions roaring?' This seemed to be one of the themes of this blessing. I asked him if he was really sure. Could it have been a car going by that sounded like a roar? This upset him even more and he insisted there was a lion roaring. I called Sebastian and together we prayed. Before we said 'Amen' he looked up and smiled. 'It's gone now mummy,' he said, and went back to sleep instantly!
We decided then not to allow the children to be prayed for" (from a remarkable and chilling testimony of a family afflicted by TE, and finally ejected from their church. Accessible on Internet at http://www.niksula.cs.hut.fi/-ahuima/toronto/emma.html)]
'...We need to unite. We need to encourage one another, encourage whatever God is doing in different places, not try to put our experience onto any other church. Let us be thrilled by what God is doing, wherever he is doing it. There has been some comment which is not altogether helpful to unity. Let us drop that and get on. It is wonderful that the movement of the Spirit will always bring churches together. He is doing that right across the denominations and within the traditions. Locally we have always worked with all the denominations, and all the Alpha conferences go right across the board. We are seeing Roman Catholics now, as well as Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, United Reformed, Pentecostals and members of new churches. Nobody is suspicious of anyone else. Everybody is working together and I believe that is what the Spirit achieves. The Spirit brings unity to the church. People are no longer labelling themselves or others. I long for that day when we drop all these labels and just regard ourselves as christians with a commission from Jesus Christ. A disunited church, squabbling and criticising, makes it very hard for the world to believe.'
[This is an astonishingly clever half-truth. Yes, we must encourage one another (e.g. 1 Cor.14:3). Yes, unity is imperative (Eph.4:3). But there is a subtle pressure in this paragraph. A pressure to accept that 'God is doing something' even when that 'something' is more akin to New Age mysticism, Catholic idolatry or High Anglican syncretism. Nicky Gumbel's lawyer skills cause him to style it in such a way that anyone who disagrees appears churlish and hypercritical. 'Why not be thrilled? Don't be so negative.' We should be shuffling our feet and looking at the floor now. But this simply is not the right question. The question is one of TRUTH. Is this TRULY God's Spirit? Is this TRULY the proclamation of His Son, as revealed in the written Word? Negative and positive are neither here nor there. What is important is truth - right or wrong. Sometimes 'right' can be very negative - see all OT prophets! Sometimes 'wrong' can be very positive - "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14).
Unity is useless without truth. This is not a concern to the empire-builders of HTB. They do not worry about flies in the ointment like 'truth' and 'biblical discernment'. It does not bother them that millions have died over the centuries at the hands of a Catholic church which, far from becoming more biblical over the years, has deviated more and more from anything resembling true christianity. The Spirit does bring unity, but He also convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement, and leads us into all truth (John 16).
Nicky Gumbel concludes that finding out the origins of a religious movement is pointless, and trots out that all-covering mantra - 'do not judge'. On the contrary, the true kind of discerning judgement which is required here we are commanded to exercise - "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things" (1 Cor.2:15)...]
'People have been trying to trace human roots for it, but Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them". I think we should look at the fruit. The fruit is the test, but there are people wanting to make the roots the test. I have not had the opportunity of meeting any of the people who are supposed to be the roots. We are praying not for the spirit of 'X' to fill people but for the Holy Spirit to fill them. I think it is irrelevant that so-and-so is linked with so-and-so, who once met so-and-so, who was into something that wasn't very good. Actually we must stop judging one another.
'We are not doing anything differently from the way we have done it before [!!]. The only difference is that we are seeing people having more powerful experiences of God. God is sovereignly choosing to pour out his love on the church and on individuals. We are simply praying for God's Spirit to come. Jesus said, "How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to all who ask it?" That is all we are doing. We are asking him to give the Holy Spirit: more of his Spirit to people. And we are seeing him do it. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!'"
Rodney Howard-Browne is the universally acknowledged lynch-pin of TE. There will hopefully be an article on his teaching in a forthcoming Vanguard, so watch this space. Some important facts about him which cast a shadow over the whole Toronto business:
Some Characteristics of TE
This is an extract from a letter written to Pentecostal ministers, which lists eminent Pentecostal ministers who have denounced the Toronto Experience
David Wilkerson, probably the most respected Pentecostal preacher in the world, seen by many world wide as a true Prophet of God (and who is experiencing a genuine move of God with many Drug Addicts, homosexuals, and prostitutes being saved in Times Square Church in New York which has grown to astronomical proportions to the point that no theatre or church building in Manhatten can accommodate the crowds any more) - denounced the laughing revival as a deception and a false revival, and warned no Great Awakening would come from it.
Augustus Topi, General Superintendent of the largest, most successful, and fastest growing Assemblies of God in the EEC in Italy banned Toronto as a spiritual counterfeit and also barred any Assemblies of God cooperation with Benny Hinn.
Chuck Smith, founding Pastor of Calvary in Costa Mesa near Los Angeles - the largest Pentecostal church in the developed world, rejected Toronto, and Calvary Chapel radio stations warned against it.
Jacob Prasch, the Pentecostal Evangelist to the Jews and Messianic Bible Teacher documented how Guy Chevreau intentionally misquoted Jonathan Edwards, Daniel Rowland and others, demonstrating that contrary to popular myth, the excesses of Toronto manifestations were preached against by the leaders of past revivals, and by convincing exegesis demonstrated Toronto as the Churches equivalent of Israel's Golden Calf.
Dr George Wood, the General Superintendent of The Assemblies of God in the USA (the largest in the world with 2.5 million adult members) published a nine page report denouncing Toronto as carnal, pseudo Pentecostal, and warning of the Gnostic theological orientation of its leading proponents. Dr Barry Chant, the leading Pentecostal academic scholar in Austral Asia warned how Toronto advocates were falsely claiming that figures of church claiming endorsed Toronto style manifestations, when even a cursory reading of their writings shows the opposite.
Thomas Chakko, Pentecostal evangelist to the Hindus warned that many Toronto manifestations are simply the Kutelini Yoga manifestations that many former Hindu believers were converted out of and stated categorically that Toronto was Eastern Religion and New Age infiltrating the western church.
Philip Powell, former General Secretary of the Assemblies of God in Australia demonstrated how verses being used to justify Toronto manifestation were being distorted out of all exegetical context. Elim minister, Dr James McConnell (whose Whitewell Tabernacle in Belfast is considerably larger that Kensington Temple minus it satellites) after seeing the videos of Rodney Howard Brown and Kenneth Copeland taught his congregation that these men were going to hell and denounced Toronto as Satanic.
Whilst the ignorance of these people may be excusable, for Nicky Gumbel to advocate these testimonies as sound is certainly not.
The experiences discussed are inextricably linked with the TE. At HTB, during a meeting where the TE was manifesting, I remember watching Sandy invoke the Spirit after a service where Christ had been distinctly unpreached. 'More power, more power, more Lord, more of your Spirit,' he intones. What does he mean? Where in the bible are we commanded to do this? 'It's coming, it's coming, it's coming', he continues, his eyes roaming the ranks of eager recipients. Then someone in the corner starts to 'manifest', shaking and shrieking. 'It's here!' exclaims Sandy.
Although TE devotees are fond of repeating that 'the manifestations aren't important, it's what goes on behind them', the reality is that they identify the spirit's 'arrival' with the physical phenomena. I politely asked Sandy how he thought the Holy Spirit had arrived. He said that people were experiencing phenomena. But if we want to look at physical phenomena being a gauge of spiritual reality, then all the Toronto antics can only lead us to think of demonic activity, when we remember the shaking and shrieking of the New Testament demoniacs. For them (though they will protest otherwise), the fruit of the Spirit is not practical, sacrificial, Agape love but warm feelings of acceptance and happiness; not joy but uncontrollable ecstasy and laughter; not patience but massive hunger; not kindness but dissociation; not goodness but incapacitation; not faithfulness, for they know no Christ to have faith in; not humility, but a craving for more and a self-centredness; not self-control but wild abandonment.
The teachings of Mr. Nicky Gumbel must be viewed with utmost caution, testing everything from the Word of God. Alpha's associations with Rome and Toronto mean it must be avoided at all costs, and not recommended as a genuinely evangelical course.
What must we do?
a) Pray for Mr. Gumbel and all those involved with Alpha, Rome and the Toronto deception
b) Exhort from the Scriptures the above, persuading them to return to Jesus and His written Word, thereby to experience the fullness of the Holy Ghost
c) Warn any interested in Alpha, Rome and Toronto as to how they misrepresent our Lord, and provide biblical alternatives.
"But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Jude 17:25
God bless and keep you, Neil Richardson
The author recommends to the reader the following two books;
Alpha: New Life or New Lifestyle? by Elizabeth McDonald. A biblical assessment of the Alpha Course.
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Appeared in Issue2 -- January 1998