Brownsville Revival similar to one in Toronto

The Pensacola News Journal/November 19, 1997
By Alice Crann

Pensacola -- People frequently compare the Pensacola Brownsville Revival to the "Toronto Blessing."

Both draw thousands of people from around the world.

Both have been in existence for some time Brownsville's revival started in June 1995 and Toronto's in January 1994.

Both promise an emotional and physical encounter with God.

Both regard dramatically uncontrollable behavior as evidence of salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

A number of people who question the methods and theological fundamentals of the Brownsville Revival see indications that it was planned and modeled after what is going on in Toronto.

The Toronto revival occurs at the Airport Vineyard Church, an independent charismatic church near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. John Arnott is the pastor and revivalist.

The Toronto Blessing traces its origin to the signs and wonders philosophy of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard faith, and to evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, the exponent of the "holy laughter" concept.

"Vineyard philosophy holds to a sound Christology but is steeped in psychology, inner healing, visualization, deliverance and occult-like experimental practices," said Albert James Dager. He heads an independent, nonprofit and nondenominational Christian watchdog organization based in Redmond, Wash. that analyzes Christian messages in the media.

The Toronto Blessing is known for behavior so bizarre it appalls even people whose worship normally encompasses the manifestations of talking in tongues and falling down under the power of God being slain in the spirit.

In Toronto, behaviors that are called manifestations include: uncontrolled laughter, roaring like lions, crawling on all fours and barking like dogs, and flapping arms like eagles.

"In Toronto, any manifestation is allowed to occur at any time," Dager said.

"Whether during worship time, sermons, prayer or whatever might be taking place, if someone begins to exhibit laughter, barking, roaring, or other manifestations, it is allowed.

"At Brownsville Assembly of God there is at least a semblance of order in that the manifestations occur at the time of 'impartation' the laying on of hands by either Steve Hill, John Kilpatrick or other members of the prayer teams."

The prominence that the Toronto church gives the manifestations prompted its dismissal in 1995 from its denomination the Association of Vineyard Churches. The Toronto church has changed its name to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.

Toronto Blessing advocates say the manifestations are caused by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Critics say that mass-producing physical responses, at the instruction of a preacher, puts man more in control than God.

Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute in Southern California, describes the Toronto Blessing as an "extremely dangerous road to the occult."

When news of the strange goings-on in Toronto began to spread, people from across North America and abroad flocked to that church.

Many took the news of their exciting experience back to their churches, including Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican church in London that is now drawing thousands and promoting manifestations on a scale equal to the Toronto and Brownsville revivals.

But the Brownsville Revival leaders Kilpatrick and Hill have consistently denied that their revival is a by-product of the Toronto Blessing.

Critics of both, however, say that Brownsville's roots are found deep in the Toronto Blessing.

"The basic idea behind impartation is that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is transferable," Hanegraaff said. "Therefore, through touch, people believe it can be imparted from one person to another a sort of 'Have Holy Spirit, Will Travel.'''

Hanegraaff is author of "Christianity in Crisis," which won the Gold Medallion for excellence in Evangelical Christian Literature, and "Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places."

Hill, who does most of the impartations at the Brownsville Revival, received the Toronto Blessing impartation through a touch at Holy Trinity Brompton.

Holy Trinity Brompton was the center in the United Kingdom for the spreading of the Toronto Blessing the pastor there having also received that impartation while attending the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church.

And followers of one of the Toronto Blessing's most colorful figures, Rodney Howard-Browne, visited Brownsville before revival began there. Howard-Browne is a South African evangelist who calls himself the "Holy Ghost bartender."

The Brownsville leaders are now taking the impartations on the road around the nation. Last year, Kilpatrick solicited donations from churches around the country to pay for a $310,000 motor coach in which he travels.

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