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Toronto Blessing

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The Toronto blessing, a term coined by British churches, describes the revival and resulting phenomena that began in January 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard church, now the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF), a neocharismatic evangelical Christian church located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[1] Participants in the conferences and meetings sponsored by TACF have reported healings, incidents of personal transformation and a greater awareness of God's love. It has also been referred to as the Father's blessing, the Anointing, the Awakening, the River and the Fire.

Characteristics

The blessing has become known for ecstatic worship, including what is known as falling or resting in the Spirit, laughter, shaking, and crying.[1] "Holy laughter" was a hallmark manifestation and there were also instances of participants roaring like lions and making other animal noises.[2] Leaders and participants claim that these are physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence and power. One TACF teaching, the golden sword prophecy, has been spreading among charismatic churches.[3]

Some Christian leaders were enthusiastic about what they saw as a renewal in North American Christianity, while others saw it as hysteria and spiritually dangerous.[2] Critics referred to it as "self-centered and evil" and cited the strange manifestations as warning signs. Others defended the blessing as historically rooted in earlier revivals and as having positive effects in the lives of participants.[2] In his book, Counterfeit Revival, Hank Hanegraaff makes the case that the revival has done more damage than good, saying that Toronto was a matter of people being worked into altered states of consciousness where they obscure reality and enshrine absurdity.

History

The Toronto blessing began at the Airport church when pastors John and Carol Arnott were inspired by a revival in Argentina led by Claudio Freidzen and in South Africa.[2] They invited Randy Clark of St. Louis, Missouri to minister at the church in January 1994. Randy Clark had been influenced by the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, a South African preacher, founder of the Rodney Howard-Browne Evangelistic Association in Louisville, Kentucky, and the earliest known proponent of the "holy laughter" revival phenomenon. Clark preached at the Airport church for two months starting January 20 and introduced some of Howard-Browne's approach into TACF practice.

In that first revival service, there were about 120 people in attendance. Arnott recalled that most members fell on the floor "laughing, rolling, and carrying on".[2] During that first year, the church's size tripled to 1,000 members and meetings were held every night except on Mondays as the revival's influence spread. Reports of similar revivals emerged from Atlanta, Anaheim, Saint Louis, several Canadian sites, Cambodia, and Albania. It was common for visitors to carry the influence of the revival back to their home congregations - two notable British cases in point being Holy Trinity, Brompton and Holy Trinity, Cheltenham. Areas that have become known for Toronto Blessing type revivals worldwide include Pensacola, Florida, home of the Brownsville Revival, and Bath, England.

In 1995, the Airport church was released from affiliation with the Vineyard movement. The reasons for the disaffiliation were for growing tension over the church's emphasis on extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit and the Vineyard leadership's inability to exercise oversight over the revival.[1]

The peak of the Toronto blessing's 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. [4]

Popular culture

The Toronto blessing was referenced in the 2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Careless."

References

  • "Toronto Blessing" by M. M. Poloma, p1149–1152 in The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements ed. Stanley M. Burgess, assoc. ed. Eduard M. van der Maas. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2002, Zondervan)

Notes

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