My Experiences with the Toronto Vineyard
This letter was
sent to my [e-mail] list in July 2003 as a member asked a question
about the Toronto Vineyard Movement and the witness of the
Spirit. Much more detail could be added. But I think this gives
a fair picture of my thoughts about them.
Please feel free to correct me if I have said something incorrect.
I never took it upon myself to keep track of names, dates, and unessential
I lived most of my life in Toronto Canada on the West side
very near the airport (and the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship
-- formerly Toronto Vineyard). I grew up with all the pollution
and noise of the airport (planes flying over every two minutes,
and over the last few years with their chemtrails). I also
grew up in the Evangelical church--a Fellowship Baptist church.
But I did everything I could to stay away from my church,
because I was a wicked sinner and they were all hypocrites.
But I was familiar with the religious people in the city.
Later on, when I came to the end of my rope at 16, I started
going to a Presbyterian church that had a really ‘happening’
youth group. I was lured there for carnal reasons, and despite
the unholy entertainments and worldly dating, etc., I did see
a little truth here and there which lead to some ‘alter
calls’. I remember one YWAMer (Youth Within A Mission
person) was a speaker at a youth retreat. He said some convicting
things and lead many of us through an emotional call. There
were a few other times that year where I went forward to ‘accept
Jesus’ so to speak.
One other time was when the supposed ministry, I forget the
names of the people, but those who presented the video: Hell’s
Bells, The Dangers of Rock and Roll Music, came to our church.
After that I also went forward after deciding to forsake all
my evil secular music. I went forward but did not know Jesus.
I was very ignorant of the real Person of Christ our Lord,
even though there was so much talk about having Christ Jesus
as our intimate friend, etc.
There were other similar experiences which I have previously
shared but do not pertain to this subject. But I share all
this because this church was the most happening Presbyterian
youth group in all of Toronto. They had over 150 youth from
many other churches come to their weekly events and even Sunday
evening services. They had quite a program and would do many
creative things to entertain the youth. Supposedly there was
Many of the teens went off to Teen missions--all the ‘most
spiritual’ went--I never cared for it. Others got involved
This youth group also was active in local ministry. We went to the Mission
houses on the streets of Toronto and gave testimony. We preached there and
on the street. They (and myself, which I now regret) did mime and acting
both on the streets and in churches (we were very similar to the Vineyard,
and thus fit in). Also this church youth group became more and more charismatic
in its form of worship. This was much in contrast with many of the old people
in the church. The church at that time also had two services, one of which
was in a hotel which attempted to reach non-church people in a more contemporary
style. All this is pertinent to the Toronto Vineyard church.
This same youth group sometimes attended the Toronto Vineyard
(this was the early 1990’s). It was at THAT time downtown
and renting out a Catholic school I believe. It was a typical
pentecostal service in worship style, where people would sing
for a very long time. (I later felt that the music had a sort
of hypnotic effect upon the people.)
I will never forget what happened one time. I went with much
enthusiasm and full of faith. There was something major on
my heart and I was wondering if I would be called forward by
the minister to get a word from God. You see that often happened
where he would call people forward to give them a special message
‘from the Lord.’
I was seated between two of my friends who were very into
this church and worship. They were very expressive in worship
with their hands, and ended up being called forward as I mentioned.
Later they told me of their interviews with these ‘prophets’
of the Lord. I knew these friends fairly well, one of them
who was around that time a girl friend. But the message I felt
the Lord wanted both of them to have was to become sounder
in the word, which was the opposite of what was said to them.
I told them that.
I was very young in the examination of truth and discernment
of spiritual matters and was very enthusiastic. Thus I was
not a critic and tended to go along with that which seemed
to be the of the deepest devotion. I believe people looked
upon my friends, who were leading the youth in worship (one
of them still is this day!), as the most spiritual of the youth.
We were all consumed with worship and ministry. I had the reputation
of being the first to get to church and the last to leave.
At least these two friends, and I believe others, started getting
more involved in the Toronto Vineyard in its early days. They
took music lessons from them and attended more times than the
rest of the youth group did. So I did learn from them what
was happening in more details then simply by going to their
Then they told me of a NEW branch opening up on the other
side of the Pieson International airport in Missisauga. They
had been there and told me of what was going on. I believe
the Vineyard I first saw was much the same that Keith Green
attended. There was not much of the strange phenomena that
the Toronto movement was later known for (but the foundations
were there for them to foster). But then things started happening.
I never did trace out all the origin and causes that lead to
the barking and falling and what have you. I had friends later
on who did look into such matters.
I say all this to say that I was not someone hostile to the
Vineyard denomination but was very much open to it. I had been
influenced positively by Keith Green’s ministry before
I was converted. I embraced his music after I gave up my secular
music. And I knew he had attended the Vineyard. It was Green’s
influence that introduced me to Finney which later lead to
my conversion to Christ. So I was by no means prejudiced against
it. And I was by no means biased against ‘the gifts of
the spirit’ either.
So I knew a good deal about what was going on. And I had much
experience about what was happening in my city as the Toronto
Vineyard--which later separated FROM THE VINEYARD and became
the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.
What happened in the city was similar to what first happened
in our church. The movement tended to appeal to the colder
or stiffer or formal churches and people rather than the charismatic.
Not that it was colder and stiffer, but that it attracted such
to become freer and expressive, etc.
Eventually I was involved in a counter-cult discernment ministry
in Missisauga (same city on the west side of Toronto). The
leaders had been former JW’s and recently formerly part
of Martin/Hank’s CRI (Christian Research Institute).
We spent most of the time reaching out to the cults. But there
were so many concerns about this Toronto Vineyard that we were
forced to look into it further and give a statement to those
apparently harmed and troubled by it. So we visited it with
an objective eye and reported what we saw. I believe our testimony
was used by CRI in their critique of the movement. I personally
had no contact with CRI. And I am glad as it was and is a sinful
organization [in my opinion] (I am not aware of what it was
like under its founder Walter Martin though).
But [I believe that] Hank is a sinful man whom I cannot trust.
I believe Martin's wife and many formerly part of the organization
thinks he is a greedy man who turned the organization into
a money making scheme more than a ministry. There is so much
more that could be said about the man and that ministry. All
this said to say that I think his opinions are worthless.
Anyway I visited this TACF while it was with the Vineyard and after it was
disfellowshiped from them. I still had no prejudice against them. But here
are some things I can tell you:
I remember many details about this group because I have often told people
down here in the States when they have learned where I am from and asked
me what was happening with that movement.
The first thing I should say is that their sermons were typically
Evangelical in the modern sense of the term. There were some
parts of their message that differed, which I will mention
shortly. But the essence of the message was what you would
find in many Evangelical churches today. That is, a typical
sermon. A form of godliness which denies the power of God.
I mean a message that should have led to a different conclusion
and result than what it resulted in. I mean further that they
would preach a form of holiness and freedom form sin, and deny
it on the other hand. ... The few other differences in the
message pertained to the boasting of their success. They repeatedly
attempted to deny this fact in their sermons and statements.
However, it had become a tradition every night to have everyone
stand up from the different parts of the world to say where
they were from and count such figures.
While that may appear to be harmless it was clearly inappropriate
in observing how it was conducted. I was amazed to see sometimes
that only 10% were from Toronto! People were flying in from
all over the world to ‘Catch the Wave.’ I even
heard they had deals with the airport and hotels. It was a
plague that infested the world.
Toronto is one of, if not the most multicultural city in the
world. Whatever happens in Toronto rapidly spreads through
the entire world because its members are related to every nation
under the sun. Thus the SARS [virus] happenings in Toronto
recently got people paranoid.
Anyway, there was excessive boasting of numbers by the Airport
Vineyard leaders. And there was a very superstitious drive
to get people to make their pilgrimages to Toronto. Eventually
the leaders were sent out to spread this wave of hype and folly.
But the message, or rather fanaticism spread mostly by people
who had come and fallen on the ground and brought back their
experiences and excitement to their dead churches. I believe
those most affected by it were the British. Now I am not against
excitement and revivals. But what were people excited about?
And what was the mode of their receiving it? I never forget
the first time I visited their church after these things were
in full swing. They had much time for people to testify of
how their former visit had changed their lives and their churches
I remember being shocked to hear this older couple share
about how they met ON THE GROUND! Yes they were slain in the
spirit and rolled on top of each other! Thus they began a relationship
that lead to marriage! And this was no accidental testimony.
The leadership knew their story and asked them to tell it!
Details of the Service:
The service began with their rock bands playing their music for
what seemed like hours--and perhaps was. After some time I
could no longer endure their music as it seemed hypnotic and
shallow. That is another subject.
So I would enter near the end of that session. Then there
were the testimonies and preaching, etc. Finally there was
the grand finale which was what most people were waiting for.
As time went one from the beginning of the service onward
people gradually displayed the disfigured gestures and jerks
and expressions. And as time progressed these would increase.
Here an hysterical laughter for no apparent reason (perhaps
in the middle of a serious statement in the sermon), there
a great moan. Here a bark, there a jump and a dance. I can
hardly refrain from saying what it looked like. I had worked
with the mentally, emotionally, and physically disabled people
for 3 years full time. I could understand such things happening
with them, but not supposedly sound people.
In fact in one group home I worked in I believe all the other
staff were either leaders or attendees of this very airport
church. And the following was very troubling. We had clients
that were very violent who were on very powerful drugs to suppress
their ragings. These poor souls were now drugged up so much
that they were spaced out and could hardly walk. One of them
even had to have a helmet on all the time because of his frequent
falls because of the drugs. These poor souls with all of their
aggravated temptations to violence and perversions were allowed
to sit in from of the TV and watch worldly movies with violence
and immorality. Yes these Vineyard Christian leaders and attendees
sat right there with them and watched.
Eventually I had to leave the organization because I could
not put a stop to this and other unholy things being done to
these poor people. But they also took these poor souls to the
Toronto Airport church. And while they went forward and got
slain in the unholy spirit they allowed these clients to wander
around by THEMSELVES! At least one of them even came back speaking
in tongues in the same way everyone else spoke it.
These poor people were abandoned while their counselors were
supposed to be working. Vineyard people constantly acknowledged
that the Devil was prowling around and displaying himself also
at their meetings (when I confronted them about evil things
happening), but it was no problem to let such helpless souls
wonder around by themselves!
These people could have also either hurt people or fondled
them sexually. But this was not a problem for these spiritual
folks. Because if God was in control of their almost-out-of-body-experience
then he would take care of the oppressed. Yes that was supposed
to be all of God so don’t you dare speak against it!
Well as I said, the service progressed in weird phenomena manifesting
more and more until the end (that could last all night I was
told). The last stage of the service was the worst, and what
it was known for. In the earlier years they did not have the
space that they later did. But they would mostly all end up
going to the back of the huge warehouse ‘church’
behind the chairs where they sat, and gather to wait for the
great magicians to touch them with their magic wands. I say
that in all sincerity. That is the best way I can objectively
remember what I saw.
I believe at first the power was just in the main leader(s),
and then later others bought the supposed gift of the holy
spirit just as Simon once coveted in Acts 8.
I never forget standing there as the multitude waited for
John Arnott to come around. He walked around as if he had a
wand. He would supposedly bless people like a priest sprinkingly
‘holy water’. Their bodies would shake and convulse,
not in repentance but by some trance supposedly communicated.
“More” “More” “More” they
would chant. This would happen until they fell--and hopefully
there was someone behind to catch these poor deluded souls.
But I believe sometimes they would not fall to the ground
(some people hurt themselves, others got married!). I believe
as months progressed they fell much faster. I remember standing
there and sensing in my soul that this was a very evil man.
Not just a false deluded prophet who was ignorant, but someone
who seemed very evil. Perhaps I am mistaken but I remember
that he never came near me where I stood. I never remember
him coming my way all the times I went. I believe we looked
at each other and that was when I noticed him heading the other
way. I believe there was something especially evil about that
man, but that was not just a deduction because he was the great
leader of the movement and the one responsible for everything
happening. Anyway I cannot get into that here.
The kinds of things that happened are whatever you can imagine.
Some former CRI critic once joked about it that if any animal
was found in the bible that someone would try and act like
it there. And he spoke truth in what he said. That was the
rational. If it was in the bible it was worthy of imitation!
Mind you not everyone would have gone to that extreme. But
just about anything was PERMISSIBLE.
And it was worse than a lame excuse to say that where God
was, the devil was also moving, and therefore allow all manner
of demonic manifestations. Yes there were people convulsing
so violently I could not account of it as I did for most of
the others--I mean as self-induced. It was either the result
of drug activity or demonic possession. Yes people would later
claim that some of those people were demonic, and say some
smart remark that this was a place for them to be delivered.
But the fact was that people watching and passing such people
doing such things treated it as if it was of God, and not something
to be saved from.
A common particular was the very rapid shaking of hands, arms,
head, etc. How any could suppose this was something holy defies
my imagination. The people would continue doing such sometimes
over a half an hour. Again these were not the result of truth
being presented to persons under conviction of sin. It was
the result of people expecting something to happen, and for
the most part probably, self-inducing some venting of the body.
I remember standing there for hours observing this bedlam of
What stands out as my most distinct thought was that this
was as extreme as people could get in fulfilling the desires
of the flesh. This was not conviction of sin, even though some
people may have mended some ways afterwards. I had first hand
knowledge of people and how they lived after they were so slain
in the unholy spirit. I even knew some of the leaders.
I do not think anyone would need to say a word of critique
about the movement if only they visited it. It was so obviously
unholy that it needed no singling out of particular evils.
But what a horrible thing to see at such a place, that they
were promoting historical revivals and revivalists, and trying
to justify their experiences by quoting some instances where
people came under conviction and trembled under the fear of
God. Yes they had the fear of God back then. The Toronto Vineyard
had no idea what the fear of God was.
Here is another example:
On some occasions I saw what was most blasphemous of all. People
standing in a circle and motioning in such a way to each other
as if they were bouncing a beach ball from one to another.
They claimed that they would tossing the HOLY SPIRIT to and
from each other!!!
So many things happening in that place were so obviously
new age, but this was even worse! This they did not think was
a demonic manifestation. But certainly it was as bad as one
To quote the revivalists for them was utterly false and misleading.
I have many accounts and teachings from the same revivalists
that show they did everything they could to quiet people and
keep the emotions from taking over. They said emotionalism
and following impulse ruined revivals and displaced the truth.
They could have hardly imagined such a perverse movement as
And they must roll over in their graves to learn of such people
using them for such carnal justification. I stand appalled
at the whole thing. I am not afraid to rebuke the entire thing.
I realize that many people do not know much about it and do
not have an honest opinion about it. But I have seen enough.
I had no personal conflict or anything that could have made
me prejudiced against it. Nor have I made it any special priority
as to have been taken up by it and thus gone around speaking
evil about it needlessly. But as one who lived about 5 minutes
drive, and as one who has seen it cause numerous evils in churches
and in families (and much could be added here about the encouragement
of divorce and remarriage by such leaders, even while families
were still married!), I am compelled to give my objective observations
to those seeking spiritual direction in regard to them.
I know nothing about Brownville other than what people have
told me. I therefore have no opinion that anyone should consider
about that. I do not even know what has happened with the Toronto
group for the last five years or so. All I know is that the
whole thing was a sick mess that I could no longer visit.
I realize that this will be offensive to many people. Some may
even take the foolish attitude of saying we should not judge--judging
you all the while for judging--basically saying ‘never
say never’ when they just did. Some people have even
said, that was not what I saw. Well, I think people are so
enthusiastic that they are blind to so many obvious things.
I know what that is like. Some may say it is better now and
Well others told me that it had actually stooped so low that
some churches in that movement were actually VOMITING IN THE
unholy SPIRIT!!! as part of their worship! I never saw it as
far as I remember, but do not think it would have been out
of the ordinary in the places I stood.
For those who could care less about all the manifestations, and
could swallow their modern gospel, I will add one more thing
I just remembered (it has been a while since I have thought
of this movement). I remember that there was a spontaneous
cheering whenever people would testify of division happening
in their churches whenever this fanaticism was spreading like
gangrene in their churches.
This was not a holy response in these people. They were delighting
in division for its own sake, this was clear by the speed and
manner of their response. If they were delighting in the division
for truth sake it would have been much different.
Whatever the case, this movement had just about every indication of being
a false and even blasphemous movement of God. It is a sign of the ignorance
and sinfulness of our times. That people flock to such places AND REMAIN,
indicates that we have sunk lower than the dark ages.
I am glad the Vineyard excommunicated the Toronto movement. But
I am unaware if they have been welcomed back in the last so
many years. I have not concerned myself with denominational
politics for many years (it seems all the denominations are
in many ways joined in a monstrous web allowing sinners in
their fellowship). However, as I said in the beginning, the
Vineyard certainly was fair grounds for such a movement to
grow out of.
Whenever a group allows sin in its fellowship in any degree,
and/or allows for mysticism to displace sound reason and faithful
research and application of the bible, anything may result.
We are living in a day where eastern mysticism has been brought
in to destroy western science, religion, and holy society.
The irrational is exalted as spiritual; the more irrational
one’s approach to spirituality the more they are deemed
spiritual. This is exactly what the eastern guru and religions
suppose. The quest is to contradict reality and manipulate
Need I tell anyone that this is what is also happening in
the sciences? The absurd is the real. Feeling is better than
fact and proposition. Getting is better than giving. From the
cradle to the grave all areas of society are being influenced
by this satanic delusion. Even our language is trapping us
into this philosophy. Our only hope is the past. We need a
foundation, and that is Christ the Lord. No, not the Jesus
Christ of the Hindo or Muslim or modern Evangelical. But the
historical Jesus who really suffered as a man, and who is the
very Creator of the world. Who is Jesus Christ? Your answer
depends on your philosophy of examining truth, feelings, the
world, and the bible. Simply adopt a false philosophy and your
Jesus will be someone else. One has even said that ‘what
you think with is more important that what you think about.’
It determines what you will think about.
The witness of the spirit is something few people can even know
properly, because they have been hypnotized by the tv, schools,
churches, etc., to think absurdly, irreverently, shallowly,
and selfishly. Every impulse is supposedly the Spirit leading
them this and that carnal way. Oh how many have misplaced the
devil for the Holy Spirit and vice versa! God told me this
and god lead me there. But it is just not so. God really told
these people to give up ALL their sins and ALL their sinful
entanglements and ALL their sinful relationships and dependencies
upon sinful churches and friends, and follow Him with ALL of
their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies (not leaving out any
part of the person). Just as a man who is frozen cannot tell
when harm is done to his body, so we cannot discern all the
evils we allow when our hearts are embedded in this world’s
How can such a man feel the gentle voice of the Spirit speaking
as in the summer breeze? Indeed, it is all opposition and the
devil to him. Most people stomp out the voice of the Spirit
because He speaks only the truth. AND WHO WANTS 100% TODAY?
Most can only go so far, they cannot endure the hardship of
persecution for standing against the worldliness in the professing
The Spirit indeed speaks to our innermost souls the truth. It
is not sophisticated or flashy or fleshly in manner. He tells
us what we need to do to follow God in truth. No He does not
direct every decision we make like a robot, but allows us to
make mistakes and improve and learn. He is there to make and
keep us holy, not infallible.
There is a particular set of denominations that have utterly
grieved the Holy Spirit by their excessive focus upon Him and
their continual allowance of false prophesies to be made. Such
people are largely beyond reach and so deceived because they
suppose God is directing their every decision, all the while
they fellowship with people who, and also make their own prophesies
that turn out to be their own imagination. But in truth the
Holy Spirit is sent to teach us about the holy character of
Jesus Christ, to exalt Him (not the prosperity people I need
not mention), and to show us how to abide in Him as holy people.
The witness of the spirit is not merely knowing there is another
spirit guiding your soul. It is a holy spirit guiding us as
a holy father would his tender children.
Of course there is almost no example of a holy father for
people to compare this with here in America. The witness of
the Spirit is not without the fruit of the Spirit. No man has
the Holy Spirit without being holy. That should be obvious.
Yes the Spirit convicts people of sin and does relate to the
ungodly. But what I am getting at is that there is no Christian
witness of the Spirit without us having the fear of God, an
unselfish heart, and thus we will manifest a childlike faith
in God as well as a passionate zeal for truth and justice,
etc. Not that we make ourselves such. We must be born of God.
There are so many things that could be said about this subject.
As time goes on more and more delusions pile upon this generation
that make it harder to hear the voice of God. For the more
attached we are to the world, the duller we are to God. It
is not that we seek to escape the physical elements of the
physical earth as the eastern mysticism tends towards. But
we need to see that the spiritual worldliness of humanity has
ensnared us with so many vain physical pursuits and unholy
relations that we are dull to the righteous direction of the
There is so much more that could be said but this is now the
eighth page and I fear that I have gone on too long.
Much could be said about direction to real Christians in regard
to the witness of the Spirit, and many of the works I have
attempted to produce cover that subject. But we are in a day
where most of the people who are even conscientious and concerned
(most are not) in the church don’t even know the Way
And until this changes and the fear and law of God come back
to the professing church, we need to focus on such things.
God bless everyone in the Truth,
Rick (Alethea In Heart, Fenwick, MI)
For more historical information about the Toronto Vineyard roots see: The "Toronto
Blessing": A Renewal from God?
Cross+Word Articles on the Toronto Blessing