Toronto blessing

From Academic Kids

Also referred to as "The Father's Blessing", "The Anointing", "The Awakening", "The River", "The Fire".

The Toronto Blessing is a term coined by the British press to describe the "revival" and resulting phenomena that began in January of 1994 at Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship, now known as Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF), a neocharismatic evangelical Christian church located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Participants in the conferences and meetings sponsored by TACF have reported healings, incidents of personal transformation and a greater awareness of God's love.

At TACF Revival services, worshippers have exhibited unusual behaviours that they attribute to an encounter with God and the “fire of the Holy Spirit”. The most common described behaviours include hysterical laughter (or “holy laughter”), physical spasms or jerks, falling to the floor under the Holy Spirit's power (aka “slain in the Spirit”) and speaking in tongues. Other less common behaviours include manifestations that resembled roaring like lions and barking like dogs. At one time the TACF website described it thus: “The Toronto Blessing is a transferable anointing. In its most visible form it overcomes worshippers with outbreaks of laughter, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling, 'drunkenness,' and even behaviours that have been described as a 'cross between a jungle and a farmyard.'"

TACF pastors John and Carol Arnott were initially inspired by the revival in Argentina. As a result of their spiritual hunger for revival in Canada, they invited Randy Clark of St. Louis, Missouri to minister at TACF in January of 1994. Randy Clark had been greatly impacted by the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, a South African preacher, founder of the Rodney Howard-Browne Evangelistic Association in Louisville, Kentucky, author of The Touch of God, and the earliest known proponent of the “holy laughter” revival phenomenon in modern times.

The Blessing has proved immensely popular and in recent years, many Christian travellers have come to the TACF to experience it for themselves. Some estimates are as high as 300,000 visitors. The experience is usually deeply affecting and people are often said to leave the services with a renewed zeal for their faith and an overwhelming desire to spread the message. Some visiting pastors have been so affected by the experience that they have taken the message back to their own flocks, sometimes radically transforming the way that services are conducted in their own churches. Areas that have become known for Toronto Blessing revivals worldwide include Pensacola, Florida and Bath, England.

Deep divisions have formed in the evangelical charismatic community over the validity of the Blessing. Many traditionalists believe that the Blessing is not “of God” and is, in fact, the work of Satan who is physically present during the proceedings, speaking through the pastors and manipulating entire congregations through his demons. They stress that the experiential nature of the services, the emphasis on “feeling the moment” rather than relying on the word of God as well as the similarities between the worship systems of the Blessing churches and pagan Wicca ceremonies and Kundalini practices is proof that the Blessing is a deliberate attempt by the Devil to distance believers from God’s true path.

The practice is hotly debated on the Internet and in Christian journals and programs with the doubters expressing fear that Satan has been given free reign to run unchecked through formerly Christian communities. The fact that it can seemingly overtake a whole congregation when the "fit" is on them, spreading almost virally from one person to the next adds urgency to their fears. Some leaders even liken the coming of the Toronto Blessing to a spiritual war, with the Devil gaining ever greater numbers of deceived swooning soldiers by the day.

Believers object just as strongly that it is a revival or renewal of God’s true church, where the Holy Spirit manifests in a way that is directly tangible to the participant. They maintain that it is the coming of a new era, where the new leaders will be raised to prominence and people will be drawn to connect to an experience that is truly Godly. God is ready to be present and alive in the world again, they claim, and the true believers are the ones who can feel his presence among them.

Neutral observers point out that this type of phenomenon is not at all new. Nor is the resistance to the movement by the average churchgoer who may be unfamiliar with religious experience per se. The ability of charismatic leaders to condition mass numbers of people through suggestion is a well-documented psychological phenomenon.

The perennial resistance to these experiences by conventional organized religion was summarized by Carl Jung in his observation that (organized) "Religion is a (psychological) defense against the religious experience".

The argument is that the Blessing churches use all the same techniques honed over the years by everyone from faith healers to "lounge act hypnotists": soothing speech, repetition (eg: songs with only one lyrical line sung for up to 40 minutes at a time), suggestion and granting permission to lessen inhibitions (eg: telling participants to just “let go” and “feel what God is trying to tell you”). They argue that participants know what to expect when attending a Blessing church and simply act out the programmed suggestions, or fall in line with the behaviours they see breaking out around them.

The peak of Toronto Blessing prominence in the Christian community occurred in the mid to late 1990s. Since that time it has faded from public view, although the proponents of Discernment Ministries would suggest that these kinds of events are simply part of a wider theological cycle that has existed continually throughout modern era Pentecostalism / Charismatism.

Studies at the University of Virginia have pointed out that "the beliefs of... the Toronto Blessing are aligned exactly with those of the Latter Rain revival", [1] (http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/Latrain.html) which indicates that the phenomenon is not unique, but part of an ongoing and cyclical pattern.

In more recent times, the Golden Sword Prophecy from TACF has been spreading amongst Charismatic churches.

See also

Criticisms of Pentecostal and Charismatic belief

External links

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