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Examining the "Toronto Blessing" - Chapter 1
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The "Toronto Blessing"

A Theological Examination of the Roots, Teaching and Manifestations, and Connection Between the Faith Movement and the Vineyard Church

By Stephen Sizer


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The Toronto Blessing : A Critical Reflection

This brief critique grew out of a series of papers produced for his own congregation on this perplexing and divisive issue. In these Stephen has concentrated on the theological roots of this movement, and the biblical hermeneutic used to justify the phenomena associated with it. These "Reflections" have been well received by a wide audience not only in Britain, but also in Ireland, France and the United States. Three of these have subsequently been published in the Church of England Newspaper, Evangelicals Now and by Banner Ministries.

In December 1994, Stephen was asked to debate with Sandy Millar and Nicky Gumbal before the Church of England Evangelical Council on the significance of the "Toronto Blessing". That same month he participated in a 24 hour Consultation on the subject under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance. He and Rob Warner drafted the agreed statement signed by those participating, which is appended to this booklet. In the Spring of 1995 Stephen contributed to a video entitled "Rumours of Revival" produced by Nelson Word. In the Autumn of 1995 he spoke on the subject at the Church Society Annual Rally at Westminster Central Hall.

It is his opinion that, based on the evidence, the theology and phenomena associated with the "Toronto Blessing" are not the work of the Holy Spirit, as is claimed, nor heralds revival, but instead reflect a significant departure from biblical Christianity and Evangelical orthodoxy, and has been the vehicle for the penetration of cultic and even occult teaching and behaviour into the Church of Jesus Christ.


The first responsibility of Christian pastors is to teach sound doctrine based firmly on the Word of God, under the illumination of the Spirit of God, in order that Christians become mature servants and children of God. In this we must take very seriously the command to, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2). Our aim must be to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

The reason we must make this our first priority is because today, in our generation, there is an ungodly attitude that regards "doctrine" almost as a dirty word. It is reflected in a preoccupation with experiences rather than with the careful study of the Word of God, as the means to discover truth, and know God. In the passage just quoted, Paul goes on in the very next verse to warn specifically that,

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim 4:3).
Iain Murray, writing of the 17th Century ejection of Evangelicals from the Church of England, observed that,

    The true cause of all religious disunity is the addition of man's teaching to the Scripture. Satan's design, in every age, ably abetted by sinful man's distaste for the word of God, is to mingle men's inventions with the institutions of Christ....

One of the most dangerous temptations for Christians in this present age, is simply to accept what respected friends and teachers say without question. Instead we must do what the Christians in Berea did with Paul's teaching, "They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

It is my contention that the wave of interest in what has come to be known as "The Toronto Blessing" reflects a subtle but significant move away from "sound doctrine". As shall be shown, the Scriptures are being neglected, distorted, and superseded by strange doctrines and novel teaching based on extra-biblical revelation. This has led to the uncritical acceptance of an existential theology compromised by worldly values. Under the guise of a supposed "move of God", a major paradigm shift is occurring away from the Biblical faith traditionally recognised and embraced by Evangelicals and into the realm of the cultic and heretical.

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Stephen Sizer is the Rector of St John's, Stoke near Guildford, and has been an Anglican minister for twelve years. Over the past nine years, as a result of the Lord's blessing, the church at Stoke has seen significant growth. Prior to ordination he worked as an evangelist with Agape, among university students. For many years he has travelled extensively to Eastern Europe and the Middle East to assist with Bible teaching conferences, evangelistic and ecumenical projects.

Stephen has contributed to the production of "Person to Person", an evangelistic video training programme produced by Agape, Bible Society and Scripture Union, as well as to a pro-life educational pack for Care Trust. He has assisted Trans World Radio with the script editing of material for broadcast to Europe and the Middle East. He has also co-operated with Garth Hewitt on several projects for the Amos Trust.

He is a trustee of the International Bible Society (UK), a director and trustee of Highway Holidays, a trustee of Family in Trust, and Good News in Guildford. In 1994 he completed a Master's degree in Theology through Oxford University, exploring the impact of Western Christianity and pilgrimages upon the indigenous Church of the Holy Land. He is now undertaking doctoral studies in the same field through Oak Hill Theological College and Middlesex University. Stephen is married to Joanna, and they have four children.

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