Prophets & Loss: The Aftermath of the “Toronto Blessing”

Standard

'Elijah slays the Prophets of Baal' by Julius Schnoor von CarolsfeldHere are comments from a formerly big cheese within the charismatic prophetic movement concerning the infamous “Toronto Blessing.” For years I have questioned this supposed revival, and now Andrew Strom, ex of the prophetic movement, delves into the backwash it left behind. Must reading for anyone who remembers the Kansas City Prophets days, the tentative steps of John Wimber toward Kansas City and Toronto, and lots of folks running around clucking like chickens or roaring like lions somewhere near an airport in Canada, eh?

All I can ask is, What is it about today’s charismatics that they can’t say, “We were wrong”?

Now before I—a firm believer that the charismata are still for today—get linked to by more anti-charismatic websites, let me also add that I can’t think of anyone in American Christendom who is saying, “We were wrong.” And that especially goes for Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and any other fractionalized form of Christianity who thinks, Only we fully possess the Truth, Amen. As the Scriptures tell us:

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God….
—1 Peter 4:17a ESV

Crow in a rich, citrus demi-glace, anyone?

{Image of woodcut of Elijah slaying the prophets of Baal by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld}

16 thoughts on “Prophets & Loss: The Aftermath of the “Toronto Blessing”

  1. Gaddabout

    As you know, Dan, I had some experience in the “renewal.” I didn’t think the crime was the experiential. I thought the crime was by assigning some extra spiritual significance to it. There were some very harsh prophetic words that came out of that I could not identify with, that I could not support. And then, when Vineyard broke with Toronto, there were some prophetic words that could have made me very bitter (if I had not decided to leave them at the doorstep).

    People have to learn not to heap their expectations on God. Sometimes He comes and ministers in great power, but that is not how He always ministers. If we are able to judge from history, that is how He rarely ministers. We have His word in the Bible and we are called to believe and walk in love and obedience. That’s enough for me, even if I never have that experience again. For many, sadly, that will never be enough.

  2. Matt (and anyone else reading),

    My apologies, first of all, if the post was a bit snarky. It is hard for me to write what I wrote, so I went to the extreme as a way of distancing myself from my own feelings about it all.

    As a hardcore Vineyardite in 1990 when a lot of this was breaking, I endured literal persecution on the campus of Wheaton College. Posters we put up in the student union were ripped up and spat on, profs grilled me to the Nth degree when they found out I went to a Vineyard church, and the mere mention of charismata sent other students into fits.

    The Kansas City Prophets junk hit while I was there and I was the de facto choice to be put through a sort of Spanish Inquisition trying to defend it. Truth was, I couldn’t, nor did I want to. John Paul Jackson had come to our church and said a ton of nutty stuff that made the Spirit in me squirm—that’s the best way to put it. So I was never on board. Then it was one excess after another, Paul Cain, the Toronto Airport Vineyard, and on and on.

    I am no spiritual giant, trust me. But I couldn’t believe that some of the leaders were trying to milk it all without asking if the real move of God was long over. Jonathan Edwards spoke of one of the revivals that broke out under his care saying in hindsight that they crossed the point where it should have been shut down. No one in any of these moves was asking the question, even when they were quoting Edwards for support for some of the odder manifestations! Quote him during, but ignore his insights afterwards. Made me crazy, I’ll tell you.

    I am not here to criticize genuine moves of God in people’s lives. God have mercy on me if I ever do! What I am extremely concerned about is the tendency in charismatic churches (including the Vineyard) to fail to regard the wounded that may be left in the wake of something that long ago burned out.

    I was at Sjogren’s church for many years and it always bothered me that bandwagons were sometimes jumped on only to have them hurtle off a cliff later on. People got hurt and no one ever admitted to the damage. Jackson said some freaky things that never came to pass and people lived according to that hope he placed in them. Then when nothing happened, it was like, “Oh well!”

    I’m treading on thin ice here, but I want to say that I think the charismatic movement in this country is dead, but people are still living for the experiences. We know where that leads. Now we’ve got guys like Rick Joyner trying to build a theology around the Arthurian myths. I mean, what’s up with that?!

    I’m glad Strom has spoken up. But where are the rest? That they have nothing to say and yet they’re keeping on doing what they’re doing…where’s the accountability?

    So if I crossed the line, I’m here to say I’m sorry. I just wish a lot of the people connected to the things Strom wrote about would get up and apologize, too.

    Thanks for writing.

  3. Dan, whatever “Toronto” amounted to, it is nothing compared to the meatgrinder I’ve been through. No, I don’t care to elaborate beyond that, because I don’t care right now to dig up musty old tombs. Suffice it to say that some people suffer for the Church, others because of it. I think I fell into the latter category.

    Yet, I survived it all. (“Grace hath brought me safe thus far�”). But you know what? After all these years to think about it, and having studied some the history of revivals, I am more convinced than ever before that one of the things the Church desperately needs nowadays is less of its usual stone-hearted unbelief and more of the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, with all of the gifts that only He can bestow�yes, the whole kit-and-kaboodle and in spades, so much that every mind is boogled and every knee bows, or better still, everyone falls flat on their faces, shouting “Glory!”.

    But I don’t know if such a revival will ever happen. For all I know, I may be living in the “Last Days of Laodicea”. But I can hope.

  4. Oengus,

    I hear ya. I’m bored senseless with the intellectual assent that comprises so much of the Christianity I run into. All in the head, none in the heart, and drier than the Mojave. And folks can;t even tell the difference—that’s the worst part of it. We could have revival and I’m not even sure people would known what it was they were experiencing!

    But I will not be cynical. That’s what I keep telling myself.

  5. Gaddabout

    You didn’t cross the line with me. I feel lucky, because I came into the Vineyard immediately after those guys had been shown the door and Wimber apologized for the ridiculous emphasis on prophecy. I only learned about this as we were first applying for Vineyard membership in 1993, and I was assured it was in the past.

    Needless to say, I was stunned by the carelessness of other churches during the “renewal.” We were very conservative by Vineyard standards of the day, but as I found myself more and more in agreement with Wimber, I was equally uncomfortable with others who were doing the same. Thank God for James Beverly, who was a great assist in helping me seperate the wheat from the chaffe, so to speak. I was actually on a “renewal/revival” e-mail list that included some of those prophets. It didn’t take long for many Vineyard members to seperate.

    I’ve got a couple of personal stories about Paul Cain that I care to not share here. Some I confirm as amazing. Others … well, you can read his confession on his personal site. Paul lived much of his life in Phoenix, where I spent 30 years, so I have some unique insight into him. Maybe another day I can share.

    • IWanthetruth

      Gadabout,

      Are you still out there reading blogs. I have a question to ask you regarding your days at Toronto. If you see this please respond.

      Thanks

  6. Dan:

    First of all, thanks for the trackback.

    I constantly ask myself the same question as to why can’t the charismatics say “We were wrong.”? The answer is very simple but also complex. If this was to happen the other mainline denominations would not be there with love and forgiveness. They would be waiting at their doors with a ‘I told you so’ attitude.

    Also, there is a mentality that if we were to ever admit that we were wrong, then that is equal to admitting Christianity is wrong and therefore lose the chance to win souls

    ####################################

    Gaddabout mentioned that “There were some very harsh prophetic words that came out of that I could not identify with, that I could not support.”. I agree wholeheartedly. I especially remember the infamous Bob Jones / Rick Warren Civil War Prophecy where they compared the revival churches to the union soldiers and everyone else to the confederate solders (grey uniforsm represented the carnality of the mind, racism towards the rvival churches, etc).

    He also mentioned that “And then, when Vineyard broke with Toronto, there were some prophetic words…” I remember those and remember after Wimber died with the brain hemmorage that the Toronto Blessing people called it God’s judgement for touching the anointed and blame the lack of focus and clear directive in the Vineyards today on Wimber’s split from the Toronto Blessing.

    ##############################

    I remember when it hit the Vineyard I once attended, the pastors went to a service in Indiana and came back with ‘a refreshing’ and then one of the big names of the movement was speaking weeks later. They mentioned the ‘manifestations’, etc and here was the actual logic used to justify everything.

    You know, we have these manifestations, the Great Awakening had these same manifestations. The Great Awakening is seen as revival and anointed. And therefore, since we both have the same manifestations and the Great Awakening is anointed, the Toronto Blessing is anointed.

    Then they mentioned some preacher who spoke out against the Great Awakening and how he’s been forgotten in History and Johnathan Edwards has not. Therefore, sonce Edwards withstood the test of time (and of course, the Toronto Blessing is like the Great Awakening), the Toronto Blessing is equally as anointed and the detractors will be forgotten in history.

  7. I hit the send button too soon.

    It came, and I did receive some inner healing. Our elders were discernive enough to stop the animal sounds. I remember when it ended and the Vineyard seperated from Toronto. It was over the animal sounds.

    Later on I learned via a magazine article that Arnott wrote a book about the Toronto Blessing that wanted Wimber’s endorsement. Wimber refused until the animal sounds issues were deleted from the book. The pre-release copy was sent back to Wimber after the deletions and Wimber wrote a forward. The book was released with Wimber’s foreward and the animal sounds chapter placed back in. That made Wimber furious and the Toronto church was kicked out of the Vineyard and the Vineyard never regained it’s focus.

    In fact, the Vineyard I attended was so ‘lost’ that it later on embraced the New Apostolic Reformation (Wagner, Jacobs, sheets, Haggard, Pierce, etc) and I got out quickly.

    Dan. I do not think you crossed the line. Someone is now talking.

  8. Totem,

    I like what the Vineyard accomplished early on. Keith Green was an ordained Vineyard pastor and Leonard Ravenhill and John White were on board in those early days. I have deep respect for all those men.

    A few things have hurt the Vineyard over the years:

    * They fell into the Latter Rain stuff.

    * They saw what was going on at Willow Creek and many individual Vineyards jumped into the Church Growth movement. That Wagner and Wimber were at Fuller together made this inevitable. As a result, the denom has had a hard time deciding whether they’ll go after the fringe of the charismatic movement or they’ll turn the Vineyard into a Third Wave version of Saddleback or Willow Creek. This is not to say that some Vineyard churches are not toeing a nice, even line, but not as many are—at least not since I first came on board.

    * Wimber did not groom enough solid successors to replace him and the church lost focus right after his death.

    That’s my take from being in Vineyard churches from 1989-2004.

  9. Hi Dan,
    I may have you wrong but I think you were referring to Andrew Strom as a big cheese in the movement. He wasn’t. He came into it very late and fell out with them pretty quickly. The thing is the concerns and info about the KC prophets was all available before he packed up and left NZ to join them. I mean even I knew about it and churches here in NZ had tried the “Toronto blessing” and found it was not something lasting and, as one pastor confided to me, it went hand in hand with an increase in sexual immorality in the churches which embraced it.
    Andrew Strom makes some good points but he isn’t anyone of much sway here in NZ – I think partly because he does the lone ranger thing too much, and partly, to be honest, because while he points out the faults elsewhere we don’t see him really using discernment in some of his own choices. He could have spotted the KC prophets error a mile off.
    As I said, he was very late to that and only briefly involved with them. I’m glad he saw it for what it was once he got there – but he could have saved himself the trouble in the first place.
    Some honest thoughts from me.

  10. Thanks, Catez, for more background on Strom. He only entered my radar in the last two years, too, so I wondered how I’d missed him during those heady prophetic days.

  11. Robbymac

    Re: Dan’s last comment

    Wimber had actually groomed a replacement — Todd Hunter — but Todd quickly discovered that the rest of the Vineyard old boys’ club was mostly concerned with getting back to the good old days (whatever those days were), and Todd left after only four years, saying “I don’t want to be the caretaker of the Wimber Memorial Museum”.

    Berton Waggoner was a safe, middle-of-the-road replacement after Todd, but there’s been a serious lack of leadership and direction for the movement, so various Vineyards have run very independent directions.

    As for the Latter Rain comment, yes, some Vineyards have definitely been polluted by it, but that’s mostly (IMO) because they didn’t have the historical knowledge of how destructive it was, that classical Pentecostals did. Numerous Vineyards have since try to distance themselves from those influences, although many are still connected to the Prophetic movement, which is rife with it.

    Although I don’t attend a Vineyard at present, I would definitely become a part of one that was doing what the Vineyard was supposed to be about: the radical middle between charismatic and conservative evangelical, sans hype.

    I appreciate Andrew Strom’s comments on his website, but I also note that he has many “prophecies” of his own, that don’t sound much different than the KC guys.

    James Beverley was my Philosophy of Religion prof at seminary; great guy, very wise, gracious.

  12. Tom

    For an admittance of wrong, look at MacArthur’s explanation of his reversal on the Doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. By the way, in your July post about MacArthur, you asked why people are so enamored with him. I didn’t read any comments that layed out anything very positive about this great gift from God to His Church. So… I posted one if anyone would like to track back and read it. Feel free to contact me personally if you’d like. Amazingly, I commented about Toronto in passing (by accident for you non “hardcore Calvinists) only to find that it was a subject on your most recent post… Ahhh… God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). And arent’ we glad of that!

    By His grace and for His glory,

    Tom

  13. Michael

    Hi, I just came across this posting doing research on the Todd Bentley/Lakeland meetings. One thing I would like to comment on is that John Wimber and the Canadian Leadership Team did try to reign in the folks at Toronto. My pastor at the time was on the Canadian Leadership team dealing with it. Wimber recognized that it was going too far, and tried to counsel John Arnott and encouraged them to quell the excesses. Unfortunately, we all know what happened. They didn’t. Now, 14 years later, it’s happening all over again in Lakeland. Now, as in ’94, no one is listening. How many are going to get hurt this time? How many more churches will be ripped apart?

  14. Michael

    Very hard indeed. I wonder how many others are going to get hurt over this? At the time the TB hit, I know people were excited and thinking, “Wow! This is really cool.” The thing is, what transformation took place in that city, and in Canada as a whole? None.

    I see these people flock to these conferences, and get their “fix”, like some junkie, then when the party leaves, they go from place to place sowing seeds of dissension, until they can have their next “fix.” Very sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.