Rodney Howard-Browne

  • Who: Rodney Howard-Browne is a charismatic Christian preacher, pastor and evangelist.
  • What: The Brownes pastor The River at Tampa Bay aka The River Church, a church he and his wife, Adonica Wyers, founded in 1996 in Tampa, Florida. According to its website the church has 3.000 members. The couple also heads up Revival Ministries International, which allows them to “travel about 46 weeks of the year, holding weekly meetings in cities across North America and around the world.” They refer to their meetings as ‘revivals,’ and say “their commission is to stir up the churches and the pastors, shake them out of their complacency, fire them up to press in deeper with the Holy Spirit, and then leave them to do what God has called them to do in their city.” [1]
  • Controversy: Howard-Browne’s meetings were long characterized by periods of so-called ‘Holy Laughter,’ a phenomenon in which people ‘spontaneously’ and ‘uncontrollably’ laugh during religious meetings — with laughter ranging from quiet chuckles to convulsive hysterics. The phenomenon was not introduced by Howard-Browne (instances have been reported as far back as the 1800s [2] ), but it came into prominence after he emphasized it during meetings, in 1993, at Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.

    The periods of laughter, often affecting entire audiences at the same time, are said to be manifestations of the presence or touch of the Holy Spirit. People under the influence of various manifestations often act as if they are drunk, which Howard-Browne and other proponents explain by referring to Ephesians 5:18 — a Bible passage that says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” — usually not quoting the rest of the sentence: “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”

    Rodney Howard-Browne has jokingly called himself “God’s Bartender” or the “Holy Ghost Bartender” — which he explains by stating the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘New Wine.’ Those who partake of it are, according to him, ‘drunk in the Spirit.’

    Howard-Browne is sometimes credited for having started the so-called ‘Toronto Blessing‘ at what was then called the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF). However, that controversial phenomenon saw its start during a series of meetings, in January, 1994, by Randy Clark, a preacher who had been influenced by Rodney Howard-Browne and who introduced some of Howard-Browne’s tactics in encouraging ‘Holy Laughter’ at TACF.

  • Statistics: Howard-Browne is criticized for being very specific about the ‘number of souls saved’ as the result of his ministry. He tells a South African newspaper, “I will number because I am on a quest to bring this harvest,” he said. “This week we broke all records; 3572 people saved just [by calling our prayer lines]. For the devil in hell, the demons are reporting a 9/11 every day because of the harvest of souls. He has watched HNN — Hell Network News — demons running around frantic, reporting total devastation! We’re toppling his kingdom. People are falling in love with Jesus all over again.” [3]

Rodney Howard Brown’s “Unholy laughter” – Video posted by Phil Johnson

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Footnotes

  1. As stated at the website of Revival Ministries International. Last accessed Friday, March 16, 2012 – 5:15 PM CET

  2. John Wesley viewed uncontrollable laughter among his audience as the work of the devil: Yung, Hwa (2003). “Endued with Power: The Pentecostal-Charismatic Renewal and the Asian Church in the Twenty-First Century PDF file“. Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 6 (1): 63–82.
  3. Rowan Philip, God’s bartender in good spirits, Mail and Guardian, March 16, 2012

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