The Toronto Blessing and ACNA

ACNA’s Report of the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders (link) was made public in June, 2016. I haven’t seen much discussion of the report since it appeared, but I haven’t paid much attention either, so maybe I missed something. Different authors contributed to this report, reflecting the “three streams” makeup of the ACNA. That being the case, it is more of a descriptive document, outlining how each “stream” sees history and theology. Statements in the report should not be construed as endorsed by ACNA necessarily, but, they do show where different groups are coming from.

One stream of ACNA is the charismatic stream. (I am using the stream terminology under protest!) I grew up in a charismatic environment, but soured on the whole thing around 1997 given the crazy goings on of the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival. You can read a great summary of this time here. For example:

While he is happy to “marinate” Christians in the Holy Spirit, he complained when God began bringing “animal sounds” and “strange prophecy” to the party. When the Almighty allegedly asked, “Would you like Me to take it away?” Arnott quickly acquiesced.

Arnott’s assumption that God was more interested in evangelism than experiences led to another unexpected revelation as well. As he preached salvation messages, he began to sense a “quenching of the Spirit.” He went to the Lord in prayer and asked, “Well, why, why is this hard, like I would have thought you would have liked it if I’d have preached on that.” To his astonishment, the Lord replied, “It’s because you’re pushing Me.” And then God said, “Is it all right with you if I just love up on My church for a while?”

Better than reading about it, watch this:

I was therefore a bit surprised (but just a bit) to see the charismatic section of the ACNA report praising the Toronto Blessing (page 177):

The Toronto Airport Vineyard Church gave rise to a revival know as the Toronto Blessing in early 1994, which has been one of the most controversial movements in the Charismatic renewal. The press and associated media helped promote the impression that it was primarily characterized by such manifestations as laughing, falling, shaking and crying, earning it criticism that the movement was merely strange or even demonic. Such manifestations and the controversies they caused led to the fellowship and its leader, John Arnott, being released by the parent organization, the Vineyard under John Wimber. It is now known as the Toronto Airport Church Fellowship (TACF). Not all were critical though, citing similar manifestations mentioned in the Bible, credible sources like the journals of Jonathan Edwards and records of other revival movements. If a tree is judged by its fruit, one must consider over 9,000 new converts, marriages healed, bodies restored and lives transformed by the preaching and teaching of God’s word. There was also good measurable fruit in the area of mission, manifested in the ministries of those who participated like Heidi and Roland Baker, whose work with orphans in Mozambique is legendary. Recipients of the “Toronto Blessing” have planted over 10,000 churches, seen over a million conversions, and have expanded their work to include ten African countries. Over time, an estimated 55,000 churches have been affected by the “Blessing” as people visited Toronto and then returned to their home churches, many of which were Anglican or Episcopal, where similar renewal ensued.

The ACNA report should be analyzed by all interested parties in ACNA for a better understanding of where we are all coming from.

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