Letter to the Leaders of the Alpha Course
From: Bayith Ministries (emailed to HTB on 12th November
Understanding of ‘Toronto’
Rev. Nicky Gumbel,
you know, January 2004 is exactly ten years since the ‘Toronto Experience’
(TE) appeared in Toronto. Despite
this elapsed time, some crucial questions on the subject still remain.
Because your church, Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), was at the forefront of
promoting the TE in Britain, we have sent this letter in the hope that you will
be able to assist the many people who received the TE but who do not fully grasp
what they were encouraged to involve themselves in.
(Your thoughts would also be of help should the TE recur.)
you yourself are very busy, but would it be possible for someone on HTB’s
leadership team to provide replies to our queries?
We will gladly place the full response onto our website (www.bayith.org)
as soon as we receive it. Many
thanks in anticipation.
1 – Hindered by prayer?
You rightly say that “The New Testament exhorts us to pray ‘always’
(1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18)”,
and, as you will be aware, other passages which teach us to pray without ceasing
include Luke 18:1 and Luke 21:36. In
light of these verses, can you explain why John Arnott – the head of the
church that dispensed ‘Toronto’ – said the following words at HTB in
1995: “Another thing that hinders [the TE] is, people pray all
the time… Our experience is, that will hinder substantially your
ability to receive… Pray on the way out; you can pray later”?
Do we not distance God from the proceedings when we stop praying?
2 – TE understandable?
Could you help us to appreciate why an HTB book quotes John Arnott as
saying “we read clearly that the natural mind does not
understand the things of the Spirit of God”
– when the Bible verse he is quoting (1 Cor. 2:14) actually refers to “the
natural man”? Would you
concede that this verse, especially when read in context, is demonstrably a
reference to the natural (i.e. unsaved) man, as opposed to the spiritual
(i.e. reborn) man? Would you
not further grant that, just two verses later, we are told Christians are given
“the mind of Christ” (see also Rom. 12:2; Isa. 1:18a etc)?
Given this, and the fact that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor.
14:33), would you agree that believers are supposed to be able to understand
God’s dealings with mankind? If,
as John Arnott also says in the same HTB book (and which is still on sale at
HTB’s bookshop), the Toronto Experience “doesn’t need to make sense” as
long as it “feels good”,
how can we ever know whether something is of God or not?
For example, hypnotherapy may feel good, but surely that does not
make it of God?
(Finally, what does all this indicate to you about John Arnott, and hence
the church he leads?)
– Was ‘it’ transferable or not?
HTB’s head man, Sandy Millar, appears to have denied that the ‘Toronto
Blessing’ was transferable from person to person,
yet surely HTB’s actual experience,
along with that of other Fellowships, was that the TE could be
transferred thus? Sandy himself
elsewhere admits that Toronto had human “origins”.
Indeed, certain guidelines which HTB helped to draw up refer to people
acting as “channels of this blessing”.
Do not these facts imply that the TE was transferred from those
origins, and through those channels?
Numerous other TE proponents taught that it was transferable,
or called it “contagious”.
How do you reconcile these things? And
can you possibly explain how a mortal man can transfer the Holy Spirit to
another – especially when, in your own words, “the Holy Spirit is … a Person”?
– Who were the origins?
As we have seen, HTB speaks of the human “origins” of the TE, yet HTB also
claims that believers don’t need to know about these people who introduced the
‘Toronto Blessing’ to the world.
Would you concede that the “origins” must be of some
significance? Who do you consider
to be the TE’s human originators?
– Origins okay or not?
Would you not agree that the Bible says we are to test “all things:
[and to] hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21)?
Would you accept that two key originators of the TE were Kenneth Hagin
Senior and E.W. Kenyon?
One problem for those of us who were encouraged to partake of the TE was
that some supporters of this outpouring were very much in favour of Hagin
and Kenyon (e.g. William deArteaga)
whereas other supporters of the TE were opposed to them (e.g. Mike Fearon).
Fearon says that “Kenyon and Hagin’s work stems … nakedly from the occult”
and that “Their theology is basically deist … This is the very basis of witchcraft”.
What is HTB’s view of them?
Is HTB really ‘holding fast’ to that which is good in this
matter? And do you acknowledge that
the Pensacola ‘anointing’ has been shown to have been transferred
there from Toronto
(and via HTB)?
6 – Snap judgments?
HTB criticized some of Toronto’s detractors for making “almost snap
judgments” about it,
but would you not accept that HTB too made some fairly “snap” judgments
regarding it? Do you remember that,
within just hours of first hearing about the TE, you encouraged Sandy to invite
Eleanor Mumford to dispense ‘it’ among the congregation of HTB?
Do you recall that he quickly agreed and promptly invited her to minister
at HTB on the very next Sunday morning?
Do you further recall that he permitted her to repeat these activities at
HTB’s evening service that same day? Only
a short time afterwards, Sandy was writing that “We have begun to see an
astonishing outpouring of the Spirit of God”?
In his substantial letter, Sandy makes no mention that ‘it’ needs to
be tested, suggesting he has already made a final judgment that it must be of
God. Is not this at least a little
– Quality over speed?
Surely the main issue is not how rapidly a judgment appears to be made,
but the quality of the evidence offered in support of that judgment?
Is it not the case that many of the TE’s early detractors had a fine
knowledge of Scripture – and of Church history – and had been investigating
relevant individuals (i.e. those who ended up being the origins of the TE) for
several years before ‘it’ broke out in Toronto? Therefore, might not such detractors have been able to make
well-informed decisions quite quickly once ‘Toronto’ itself arrived?
– Judging God?
During a statement defending ‘Toronto’, HTB said “we shall continue to judge
this move of God’s Spirit along recognized New Testament principles”.
Presumably you would grant that this wording proves HTB had decided
‘it’ was a move of God’s Spirit?
If so, what was the point of “judging” something that HTB had already
determined was of God? How can anyone judge a work that they are convinced is from God?
– Judging the fruit?
When people tried to test ‘Toronto’ by comparing the lifestyles and
doctrines of its originators with the standards and judgments given in the
Bible, you complained that these researchers were tracing the “roots
for it, but Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you will know them’. I think
we should look at the fruit [of the TE] … Actually we must stop judging
Would you not agree that, when read in its context (see Matt. 7:15-23),
the passage you cite regarding fruit is clearly about people, not an
event? After all, the quote you
give is “By their fruits you will know them”.
Since this plainly refers to people rather than to an episode, would you
agree that it is thus not directly applicable to the TE itself?
Further, would you accept that it would be wise to obey God’s word and
to apply the test you cite to the people who originated the TE? Finally, if (as you suggest, despite a variety of Bible
passages to the contrary such as 1 Cor. 5:11-13,
John 7:24, and the whole of 1 John) Christians are not allowed to make judgments
about others, then how can we ‘know them by their fruits’?
Wouldn’t that require us to make judgments?
– Hurtful delay?
Is it not the case that HTB knew there was a chance the TE manifestations were
from the enemy? (Even some of the
TE’s earliest and strongest proponents admitted there appeared to be a demonic
In September 1994 John Wimber himself said “we can’t rule out the
possibility of demonic activity”.
Indeed, back in 1990, Vineyard’s Jack Deere “stressed
the possibility” of experiences coming from the
HTB has said “We must … judge these events by their fruit”.
Can you explain to us how this is supposed to work?
If someone is forced to wait months, or even years, to see the fruit
before deciding if an episode was of God or not, were you planning (in the event
that the TE was found to be from the wrong spiritual source) to contact
every person who had ever been given the ‘Blessing’ via HTB and offer your
heartfelt apologies and deliverance ministry?
Did HTB collect the names and addresses of all these people so that they
could be followed up? (And what
about those folks who accepted the TE at HTB’s urging but who happened to receive
it elsewhere?) Surely you must
judge such an event by its roots so that you don’t have to test it out
on human guinea pigs?
– Good shepherd?
HTB has stated that “Some of the manifestations … may be of the devil”.
But which ones does HTB believe may have been of the devil?
During your early Bible studies on the subject, did you not notice that all
the TE manifestations are listed in Scripture as being associated with apostasy?
See, for instance, Isaiah 29:9-10,13-14; 51:21-23; 56:9-11; 59:10-15;
& 63:6. (There are other
examples in Isaiah alone, and many further ones in other books.)
Why would God be so confusing as to give a blessing which shared the very
same signs as His judgment? Some
of HTB’s own colleagues implied that the TE could be a “demonic
Based on all this, the TE was potentially going to hurt recipients.
Is it being a good shepherd to expose sheep to something before it has
been properly tested?
– Safe judgment?
HTB has written that “just as you wouldn’t feel safe in founding a
biblical doctrine only on one verse, so it is equally unsafe to express
very settled views about manifestations based on only one visit to the
Firstly, these two concepts do not seem comparable to us, so could you
tell us what reasons HTB has for saying they are akin?
Surely a single experience can often be sufficient to make a right
judgment (e.g. you don’t need to drink bleach more than once to know it is bad
for you)? Might not one visit to a church elicit many dozens of
evidences for a particular Biblical conclusion? Did not Ezekiel need only one visit to the Temple court to
discern what was happening there (Ezek. 8:7-12)? Secondly, does HTB itself not base its view of
what the TE was on a single verse (i.e. Acts 3:19)?
Would you not further accept that even this verse is inappropriate, since
it declares that refreshing follows repentance, which is not true of the
TE? Would you concede that many of
HTB’s other doctrines surrounding the TE are also founded on only one verse
each – and invariably ambiguous ones at that?
(See our book Alpha – the Unofficial Guide: Overview for more
Besides, you yourself must surely have expressed “very settled views”
about the TE after only one visit with Eleanor Mumford, in order to
convince Sandy to accept her new ministry?
13 – A ‘thing’?
Three years after the TE hit, you called it a “move”.
Seven years after its arrival, you called Toronto a “thing”.
Could you be more specific? Proponents
of the TE have now had ten years to work out what was going on.
They also enjoy access to the lessons from hundreds of years of Church
history, plus hundreds of years worth of Bible commentary, in order to help them
do so, but would you agree that they remain very confused – and very confusing
– about it?
– Our dryness God’s problem?
You helpfully teach that “If we stay close to Jesus Christ through his word,
we will not dry up or lose our spiritual vitality”,
yet many of the church leaders who traveled around the world to get
‘Toronto’ admit that they did so because they felt spiritually dry.
Can you suggest why they did not simply deal with their ‘dryness’ by
staying “close to Jesus Christ through his word” instead of trekking off to
another geographic location? Would
you agree that they were trying to remove their ‘dryness’ in man’s
way rather than God’s way – and that, since they were actually opposing
God in this, it is unlikely that what they received was a blessing from
– A refreshing?
HTB often claims that the TE was a ‘refreshing of the church’.
But if this is so, why did it also get poured out on the unsaved?
And would you honestly say that the church has come out of it
‘refreshed’ (beyond the counterfeit refreshment that would have taken place
if, instead, we had all taken a course in hypnotherapy)?
If Christians are refreshed and revitalized through God’s Word,
why did we need the TE? And how
would you answer one of your own close associates regarding the TE who said
“If these are meant to be times of refreshment, how come many of the leaders I
have spoken to are already exhausted? Something must be wrong”.
– Any precedent?
HTB regularly cites Charles Finney and his ministry as a favourite precedent for
Are you not aware that, towards the end of his life, Finney said of his
followers, “the great body of them are a disgrace”?
Can you name any event in the Bible (or even any moment in the
history of the true Church) which possessed the same attributes as the TE did?
In other words, do you know of a single precedent for a genuine
outpouring which: (a) was hindered by prayer, (b) was transferable, (c)
increased when the teaching decreased, (d) produced manifestations which
are all associated with hypnotism and apostasy,
(e) was not a revival, (f) was Spirit-centred rather than Christ-centred,
and (g) was rooted in doctrines and people who were plainly occultic?
(We come from a Pentecostal background, yet we know of none.)
– Not hypnotism?
You have said “I’m not hypnotizing anybody … I don’t know anything
But isn’t that a somewhat naïve position?
We hope this doesn’t sound ungracious, but does a person have to study
electrical engineering before they can accidentally electrocute themselves?
Indeed, would it not be sensible to obtain some knowledge in order
to help ensure this doesn’t happen? Would
you acknowledge that a number of people have pointed out that the manifestations
and practices associated with the TE are effectively identical to
Would not the wise response be to learn a little about hypnosis so as to
ensure that your techniques haven’t inadvertently been drawn from a corrupt
source? Do you not recall Hosea
4:6a, where God warns “My people are destroyed for lack of
To be expected?
HTB has “often” indicated that it believes the Church today is the “end-time
Would you not agree that the Bible repeatedly tells us that the
‘end-times’ before the return of the Lord will be characterized by grievous
deception and apostasy among many believers (Matt. 24:3-5,9-13; 2 Thess.
2:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Luke 21:7-8,16-17), and that it will see “lying
signs and wonders” from within the professing Church (Matt. 24:23-27; 2 Thess.
2:8-12)? You called the TE “wonderful”
and you were still describing it as a “wonderful thing” five years
Likewise, Sandy has regularly referred to the TE as “wonderful”
or “unusually wonderful”.
Is not the frequent use of this particular word quite ironic, in view of
the Lord’s sober caution to us that “Many will say to me in that
[last] day, Lord, Lord, have we not … in Thy name done many wonderful
works. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye
that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23)?
19 – Helping the hurt?
Would you not accept that some recipients of the TE were unquestionably
damaged by it?
You have said, regarding ‘Toronto’, that you “don’t talk about it
but isn’t that letting down those people who were affected and who need to
know what happened to them? A lot
of people trusted the HTB leadership. Do
you not owe them more? If the TE
was of God, why not keep proclaiming and explaining this truth? Is your silence not a tacit admission that the fruit of the
TE, far from being true revival, has actually been greater confusion and
hypocrisy, less obedience to God’s written Word, and increased immorality in
the church (not to mention a growth in unrighteousness and pagan religions in
the wider country)?
– Just more intense?
Would you agree with your close associate Michael Green that the TE was merely
of what had already been taking place in your circles for a long time?
After all, Sandy has claimed it was simply a “more vivid” version of
something that had been going on for years,
and you yourself have said “the only difference is that we are seeing
people having more powerful experiences”.
If it was happening for years beforehand then surely it is continuing
to happen, albeit in a less “vivid” way?
If the TE is effectively still going on, can we ask why you do not
talk about it now? Is it, perhaps,
in order that people who doubt the TE will not be so suspicious of the ‘less
powerful’ version being spread around today?
– Alpha related?
If, as you imply, a ‘milder’ form of Toronto has been present at HTB since
the eighties, would it not be fair to assume that the modern Alpha Course is at
least partly a tool for bringing people into the TE?
Would you accept that numerous Alpha statements promote Toronto-type
experiences and that many official testimonies reflect this?
Can you tell us what the essential differences are between the
manifestations on Alpha’s ‘Holy Spirit weekend’ and those from
‘Toronto’? Even if the “more intense”
experiences are not frequently seen on Alpha now, what fundamental difference
does this represent? Is it not
simply a return to the subtler version from HTB’s past?
Would you not agree that they have been shown to have identical roots?
Are they not from the same spiritual source?
very much for your time. There are
quite a number of other such questions on this subject, but we wanted to send a
manageable letter to enable you to reply as soon as possible.
Please see our book
for further problems with the TE (and for our personal conclusions about them
all, as well as our own current recommendations for folks who received it).