Twenty years ago this Summer, the Church in England was gripped with speculation about revival. John Arnott, the pastor of Toronto Vineyard church, was apparently searching for “a fresh spiritual anointing” and attended a meeting led by Benny Hinn, a neo-Pentecostal “Faith teacher”. Benny Hinn’s particular emphasis is upon a powerful “anointing” he is able to bestow simply by blowing on people. Arnott and Hinn had known each other for many years in Toronto and at that time Arnott had “longed for a similar kind of empowerment” as Hinn demonstrated. A year later, Arnott was also attracted to the “holy laughter” ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne. Randy Clark, another key figure in the Airport Vineyard Renewal apparently received his anointing through Rodney Howard-Browne at Kenneth Hagin’s “Rhema” church. The unusual manifestations which occurred in Toronto, occurred after a visit by Rodney Howard-Browne. Subsequently, the manifestations of hysterical laughter, growling, shaking, and falling associated with Howard-Browne and Hinn’s ministry were experienced by others who visited Toronto from around the world including the UK. Advocates of the Toronto Blessing implied, or explicitly stated at the time, that they believed this to be evidence of revival. Speaking at a Wembley meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne on 13th December 1994, Gerald Coates testified, “This is perhaps the greatest outpouring of God in our land ever.” Evangelicals Now, (February 1995, p.9).
Now it is important to note that the noun “revival” does not actually appear in the Bible. The verbs “revive” and “reviving” are used, in the Old Testament, to describe the action of God following his punishment, and His people’s repentance (Psalm 80:18; 85:6, Isaiah 57:15; Hosea 6:2). In Psalm 19:7 it is associated with the Law of God and in many verses in Psalm 119 with meditating on the Word of God.
As the manifestations of hysterical laughter, animal noises and uncontrollable shaking were causing a good deal of controversy and division, in December 1994, I was asked to debate with Sandy Millar and Nicky Gumbal before the Church of England Evangelical Council on the significance of the “Toronto Blessing”.