The “Toronto Blessing” 20 years later

By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

Interesting article from Christianity Today in my inbox this morning.

Time flies, and it has been 20 years since the revival broke out at the former Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. Now, the magazine has sent journalist Lorna Dueck back to Catch The Fire (Toronto) to see if there is lasting fruit.

You may find the article here. Some things that jumped out at me, which may jump out at you too…

1. Dueck writes that at the time, she felt compelled to allow herself to participate in what was going on. It made such an impact on her that she divides her spiritual life into before and after the events there.

2. James Beverley, author of a 1995 book on the “Toronto Blessing”, is now giving qualified support of its lasting effects:

Nearly 20 years later, Beverley strikes a more appreciative tone, emphasizing the positive and lasting impacts of the revival. “Whatever the weaknesses are, they are more than compensated for by thousands and thousands of people having had tremendous encounters with God, receiving inner healings, and being renewed.”.

Fair enough. But why does he say this? Beverley continues (emphasis mine):

“….The whole thing is an indication of how much people want to feel close to God and have a sense of his presence. This does not excuse or explain everything…. To know it in detail, you would have to inspect story after story, but there is no doubt that the vast majority of people have been helped, and there have been radical conversion experiences and radical renewal in many lives.”

Sitting on the other end of the country, I’d probably agree that some people may have been blessed.

But, assuming that Beverley is still in the Toronto area, well I am heartened by his frankness, although I find it a little dismaying.

You see in order to have a conclusive opinion, he’d have to do in depth interviewing and research.

And that would require work, and stuff.

3. In recent years, Dueck notes, Catch The Fire Toronto has aligned itself with the Revival Alliance. I recall the group from their efforts to clean up the crash-and burn of the Lakeland Revival, but Dueck doesn’t seem to.

We may recall that towards the end of Lakeland, Revival Alliance pastors came to Lakeland to “commission” Todd Bentley and bring him under their authority.

At first, Bentley tried to say that he was not under their authority, but eventually felt a need to apologize to the Revival Alliance for some reason. The video of his rhetorical acrobatics is still on YouTube, and is gone into in the linked post.

So the Revival Alliance has a pronounced interest in people being able to grab the spotlight through spectacular works.

Thus their interest in Catch the Fire Toronto, as the Dueck article explains:

When asked about unorthodox elements or exaggerated claims of spiritual power among members of the Revival Alliance, Clark responded, “Our unity is not based on doctrinal agreement. Our unity is based on the experienced presence of God and how it renewed us and our commitment to a gospel of the kingdom.”


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19 Responses to The “Toronto Blessing” 20 years later

  1. In addition to James Beverley now softening his stance, there was only a passing reference (in Beverley’s book title) to the “holy laughter” phenomenon as introduced by South African evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, who really kick-started the whole event. This, along with people claiming their tooth fillings turned to gold were among the more remarkable aspects of the revival, though it was never made clear to me why God would choose to ‘gift’ people with gold fillings when the silver ones seemed to be working just fine.

    Lorna Dueck claims she set her reporter/journalist agenda aside to fully enter into the experience. In some ways, this needs to a prerequisite for religious reporting. The inaccuracies come about when outsiders are parachuted into an environment they don’t grasp. Yes, there is a loss of objectivity, but I’d prefer a subjective report to one written by a fish out of water.

    As a Toronto native, I have still yet to visit the building. (We tried a year ago, but got hopelessly turned around near the Pearson Airport and had to be somewhere else.) I once interviewed a staff member of a prominent Bible college and asked what was driving so many of them to visit. She said, “We want to be able to say we were there when it happened.” I guess that’s why it ranked up there with the CN Tower and Ontario Science Centre as a tourist attraction: People coming to gawk. I stand by my decision to pass on this one.

  2. Christianity Today is either blind or purposely stupid since they didn’t tell the whole story as to what goes on Catch the Fire Toronto where people catch the demons from hell. As a pastor I have had to deliver many Christians from demons which they received when demonized ones at the Toronto Airport prayed for them!

    Why didn’t Christianity Today publish the following?

    – David Duchene APRIL 24, 2011
    I was banned from the “Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship” – now known as “CatchThe Fire” (some of the gold teeth stuff, etc. was happening there) ..because friends of the “pastors” slandered me as the “anti-christ”, I’m not making this up.
    When I protested they further slandered me as a “sexual pervert”, I’m not making that up either..when I produced Police Record Searches to prove the falsehood of their gross accusations and mailed a copy (registered) I was contacted by a Mr. Malatesta (head of security) representing “pastor” Steve Long and told not to trespass on “Catch The Fire” property.. That is not fruit nor behaviour produced of the Holy Spirit. These things I have written here are easily provable in a proper court with an impartial judge. I have asked for a Church hearing to correct the matter but they have basically “ex-communicated” me and have instructed the members of the “Church” to have no contact with me..further, when I moved from the Toronto area to return to Montreal to care for my aging parents they slandered me in their “pastoral” capacity to the “Pentecostal Assembly of Canada” (denomination) Church that I began to serve at.. it is still ongoing with me handing and mailing out Police Record Searches to any and all that may have believed their lie(s). It’s pretty sick

  3. Anton Hein says:

    Christianity Today has long been a fence-sitter, editorially. It never quite comes out and takes a strong stand, particularly not where issues of Christian discernment are concerned.

    I think about Christianity Today as the more reserved, older brother of Charisma — the ‘let us advertise and promote your aberrant/heretical theology to people unwilling or unable to apply Biblical discernment’ magazine. Apostles? Prophets? Anointings? Sure… here’s our media package.

    It does make one cringe. I remember when CT had a Seventh-day Adventist writer come out in support of the ‘Local Church’ — not the church around the corner, but the cult of Christianity associated with Living Stream Ministry (a movement also whitewashed, to the surprise of countless Christian apologists and countercult ministers, by the Christian Research Institute).

    Anyway… is everything born out of the Toronto Blessing bad? Probably not. As Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom would say, “God can hit a home-run even with a crooked bat.”

    But the movement has been such a birthing ground and hot house for troublesome issues in the Christian world, that I’m truly dismayed to see someone, anyone, come out in support of it.

  4. Hopesome says:

    The devil likes controversy of a kind that brings division among the people

    Jesus brought controversy into his hope and smacked out the demon bugging peoples ability to think clearly and ‘move’ accodingly;

    Its a continuous battle that only ends when both demon, devil, and the death they bring with them bow and surrender to the Lords will;

    The will of the devil is always to manipulate and control and then demand;

    Jesus knows him intimately but the devil – because of his pride – never ever knew the depth of how much Love it took to conquer and defeat both the devil and his deaths ( multiple because of his ‘knowledge of the world and its peoples.)

    Jesus blessing for Toronto was to protect it ………………

  5. Hopesome says:

    Mr Hiebert: Bentleys revivals and blessings were always at the expense of someone elses hope.

    Jesus’s revivals and blessings were always a denial of his own hope – because of his hope having to protect the greater good as he battled with the forces of darkness …..

  6. Bene Diction says:

    Hi Paul:
    I’m going to disagree a bit on your statement, “Lorna Dueck claims she set her reporter/journalist agenda aside to fully enter into the experience. In some ways, this needs to a prerequisite for religious reporting.”

    Sometimes, but not always, and with the way evangelicalism is going in North America, I don’t think any reporter is doing their followers any favours with puff pieces. I haven’t watched Lorna in quite awhile. After she did a fluffy interview with Franklin Graham (he was doing a Rock the whatever in Canada) and given the kerfuffle he had generated in the US at the exact time; her interview wasn’t reporting. It was appeasement to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada leadership. Her strength seems to be awareness pieces on social issues.

    I’m not saying every religious news story or interview has to be investigative/expose. But reporters like Jeff Sharlett and Sarah Pulliam Bailey can enter into an experience and not softball their piece or report like they are terrified of their advertisers. Far too much nodding to the consumer gods. Even Christianity Today can surprise me once in awhile with an investigative piece. Too few, but it can happen.

    Do we even have any serious religious reporting in Canada by evangelical organs? I haven’t seen any since Doug Koop left ChristianWeek, and broadcasters like Crossroads wouldn’t know how to do news if they tripped over it.

  7. fjc says:

    I think that being ‘banned’ from that organization is complementary to your character and intelligence

    To me it says that you are not one of the mindless sheep who are so lazy, mindless, or insecure that they find it easier to follow and believe blindly rather than question.

  8. Ubergenius says:

    Joined Vineyard in Columbus Ohio back in 1988. Saw a significant number of strange phenomena in the 80s and early 90s mostly at conferences for members. But Christ and teaching scriptures was central and phenomena were played down. In regular church meeting with non-believers in attendance these phenomena were rare bordering on nonexistent. However when friends started going to Torronto in 1994 and early 1995 their experiences were very different. Great initial experiences followed by troubling anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and doubts about their faith started to appear with several couples. In december of 1995 my wife and I met a pastor who had been trained in Toronto for the previous year. We had a great conversation for an hour and then he said he had to leave and asked if he could pray for us we agreed. He said a short pray and left. Immediately my wife said she felt like she was going to throw up. I felt nauseous as well. We also both felt a heaviness. When we prayed I say the word “Divination” pop into my head. We commanded the spirit of divination to leave in Jesus name and immediately the nausea and heaviness went away. We then prayed over the next several weeks for several of our friends who had attended Toronto. Their were signs of choking and gagging but most importantly the symptoms of loss of faith, sleeplessness, anxiety, and fear went away instantly. Wimber and Hunter recognized that something was off with Toronto within a year. Wimber started investigating Toronto within 6 months of the initial reports. Something seemed off about the focus from the start. Edwards, whitefield, Wesley all had phenomena occur during so-called revivals but refused to let those phenomena be the focus. Not all my friends that visited Toronto were oppressed by demons following their experience but of the ones that were it was always the same spirit of Divination. Clearly caution and discernment are the order of the day with Toronto and Bethel. And when someone like Todd Bentley shows up talking about an angel that was William Branham’s angel, just run!


  10. Cobbled Stones says:

    Gordon – thanks for the post. We viewed it a few days ago when I shared I recently underwent laser surgery for a retinal tear, and for the life of me I would warn Stacey against this furious head shaking, if for no other reason that how absurd it looks. I’ve pondered how those outside her base can take Christianity seriously when behavior such as this is circulated worldwide through the internet and makes a mockery of the gospel.


  11. Cobbled Stones says:

    “The will of the devil is always to manipulate and control and then demand;”

    Hopesome ..

    You’re talking about the church, not the devil. The concept behind churches is to re-produce – first and foremost – like any good bacteria or virus – and secondly to ensure the survival of your species.

    To do this, you must control your environment, manipulate your supporters, and demand more and more … sometimes it means believing the absurd.

  12. keijo leppioja says:

    Thank you to the Lord for Toronto revival with enjoy still today and glory to God and we desire more like that today around the world with outpouring of the HOly Spirit in miracles and in trusting to Jesus blood victory to be saved from sin and my high dreams is that see the angels on the earth in that time and alot healing to the people in pain thanks and bless and pray,keijo sweden

  13. Patti says:

    If anyone is confused about the workings of the devil at revivals I recommend The book War on the Saints by Jesse Penn Lewis.
    Everyone’s comments here so far hold credence. I spent a week at the Toronto Blessing in 1995. I experienced everything. I later denounced the power that I received to ‘bless’ and heal other people because I believe that it was counterfeit. Later I was delivered from a spirit of scorcery. At the time of deliverance I was not thinking at all about a connection to the counterfeit but low and behold I’ve never had that strange power to knock people over or fake heal again.

  14. Rick Hiebert says:

    If I may add to Patti’s comment…

    You would want the *unedited* and *unabridged* version of War On The Saints by Jesse Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts to understand what Patti is getting at.

    Almost always, War On the Saints is edited or abridged in order not to offend charismatics. This was explicitly admitted in one paperback edition that I saw.

    The original (of 1912) also examines the very new Pentecostal movement and has pronounced issues with its theology. Penn-Lewis is controversial in turn, so how better to make everyone “happy” than by editing War On the Saints. So the book frequently is.

    I was lucky to be first introduced to War On The Saints by seeing it in a small American public library, which had the full, unedited original version in a reprint. I copied down the publisher information–it was apparently one of those tiny publishers with a post office box address that only printed books when they had so many orders–and my hardcover of War On The Saints came from them.

  15. Rick Hiebert says:

    This site complains about the edited versions of War On The Saints, so this should be the 1912 original…

  16. Rick Hiebert says:

    My edition was printed by “Thomas E. Lowe.” A reference online alludes to a fight to prevent the Lowe edition from being printed. I guess that may be mentioned in a preface in my book, but it is not at hand.

  17. keijo leppioja says:

    Hello from sweden and great blessing over you all in grace and joy, for the lord are so amazing God who will make again today ,what he has done in Toronto 20 ago and here too we expecting great things to happen in Scandinavien with the Holy Spirit to move strong over us by Christ,thanks and bless and joy,keijo sweden

  18. Cheryl Thomson says:

    Greetings to Pastor Gordon Williams who is an indefatigable soldier for the Lord Jesus Christ. My own pamphlet from 1994, “Not Just A Memoir of the Vineyard”, I guess is still a few places on the web to read (free), and it gave a personal background to the major players and events which vomited forth The Toronto Blessing 20 years ago. Yes, vomited. Dueck and Beverley, whom I also interviewed, were cowardly ‘enablers’ of this abomination from the very beginning, swallowing the pollutions of the superficial cover stories peddled by the Arnotts. Ubergenius and Patti in their comments have shared the same fallout we and our friends did during that period, and so many of our warnings fell on deaf ears. I don’t believe I know Mr. Dechene, but the leaders of The Toronto Blessing have smeared others, even to the extent of some ridiculous lawsuits on their part. Thanks also to Bene Diction and Paul Wilkinson. The biggest disappointment to me personally was the telling non-responsiveness of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada when all this came about. Today, I don’t believe the Christian faith even exists in Canada any longer, except as a deeply conflicted and crippled remnant of what it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.

  19. MeMe says:

    I was at the TB in 1995 and God blessed my socks off. In fact, my socks are still off that’s how much He blessed me there. However, by 2000 or so heresy flew in on the wings of Emma and some other angels who loved to drop gemstones and feathers on people, so the river because a trickle. But oh my the River was a mighty awesome river…It changed my life. God changed my life there. I fell in love/obedience with God there. Praise God for the TB.

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