My Involvement With, And Deliverance From, The ‘Toronto Experience’
(First published March 1996, updated June 2006)
by Sally Richardson
My involvement with Toronto first started in July 1994. At that time, I was in a paid position of leadership in the Anglican church I attended, and on the church Staff Team.
In July 1994, the leadership of many churches in west London received an invitation to attend a meeting at a certain church in Acton, west London, which was a Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) church plant. The purpose of this meeting, the invitation letter explained, was for people to hear about and experience for themselves what was described as the “new move” of the Holy Spirit happening at the Airport Vineyard Church, Toronto and being known to some as the Toronto Blessing. The letter stated that various members of HTB had recently returned from Toronto and wanted to share all they had learnt there and then pass it on in ministry afterwards.
Several of us in leadership in my church, including myself, attended. I remember at the time feeling very excited because, if this was, as was being claimed, a new move of the Holy Spirit, then I wanted to be part of it and to experience everything that was on offer. Others in our party were a lot more careful and cautious in their approach.
We arrived at the church where the meeting was to be held to find it full – there were no spare chairs. Someone hastened to find some for us, and meanwhile, the meeting started. There was a great sense of excited anticipation in the air; so tangible was it, that it was almost electric in effect.
At that point, our chairs were brought to us, but owing to lack of space in the church, the members of our party could not sit together. We were therefore separated and given chairs in various locations round the church. I remember I was sitting in the aisle, at the end of a row, and very near the front.
The meeting started with praise and worship before the various people who had been to Toronto were brought to the front, and introduced, the notable exception being Sandy Millar, Leading Minister at HTB. Every person at the front was exhibiting various unusual manifestations such as jumping up and down like pogo sticks, jerking, laughing, convulsing, etc. As you can imagine, it was very difficult for these people to speak, and so the testimonies they gave were somewhat disjointed, to say the least!
Each person said that it was a “new thing” that God was doing, that it was a new move of the Holy Spirit, and that it was an empowering and anointing for ministry. We were then told that the time for ministry had come, and so, having invited the Holy Spirit to come, the various members of HTB and its associated churches began to move amongst the congregation, laying hands on all they could reach.
As I had a prominent position in the aisle, I was one of the first to have hands laid on me. Immediately, I went down on the floor, seemingly with some considerable force, and began to roll around on the floor, laughing uncontrollably. I seemed to be filled with an exceedingly great joy, which I felt I could hardly contain.
After some considerable time, during which I had been unable to stop rolling around on the floor laughing uncontrollably, I tried to get up and return to my seat. However, I felt very groggy and unsteady and could only manage to clamber halfway into my seat. As I did so, someone came up to me, laid hands on me and said, “Give her more, Lord, give her more!” I went down onto the floor once again, and the whole process of rolling around and laughing uncontrollably started once again. Altogether, this experience happened seven times in total – each time I tried to get up from the floor, someone would come along, lay hands on me, utter the now familiar words, “Give her more, Lord!”, and off I would go again.
Two particular occasions stand out in my mind as I remember that night and this particular meeting. On the first occasion, I had just had hands laid on me for the third or fourth time and had fallen on the floor. As I lay there, I was aware that my skirt had ridden up, and was somewhere around my waist, exposing my person in somewhat indecent fashion. However, in comparison to what was happening, this seemed so very trivial that I could not be bothered to put my skirt down. All I did was lie there, laughing uncontollably. Then someone came along and tugged at my skirt to pull it down and make me decent. At this point, I glanced up and saw that the person pulling my skirt down was none other than Sandy Millar. For some reason, I found this uproariously funny, and laughed the harder and the louder. I remember seeing, at the same time that Sandy Millar pulled my skirt down, that various people in the congregation were either lying down shaking and laughing, or staggering around, holding onto articles of furniture to stop them from falling as they went.
On the second occasion, I remember having clambered onto a pew, where I lay laughing and shaking uncontrollably. Once again, someone came up to me and repeated the now very familiar words, “Give her more, Lord, give her more!” Whereupon, I fell off the pew and onto the floor, where I lay uncomfortably wedged between my own pew and the one in front, having uncontollable hysterics yet again.
Eventually, it seemed, the meeting ended. By this time, my vicar and the local Baptist minister had come over to me and were quite literally pulling me up off the floor. I could hardly stand, and was falling, staggering and flopping about like someone who had had too much to drink. It was very obvious to my vicar and the Baptist minister that there was no way that I could walk unaided, and so of one accord, they took one arm each, and supporting me on either side, half led and half carried me out of the church. I was laughing uncontrollably still, but as we left the church, I glanced round to see what was happening. Some people were still lying on the floor laughing and shaking, and others were staggering drunkenly about. Yet others stood with vacant or bemused expressions on their faces as though wondering what to make of it all.
Meanwhile, we were going out through the church doors and into the car-park. Still, the two leaders were half carrying me, and when we got to my vicar’s car, they had to open the back door and deposit me like a sack of potatoes on the seat. None of the others, I noticed, had been touched in the way I had. I remember thinking, “Poor things – they HAVE missed out!”
When we got back to the block of flats where we live, I was helped out of the car and to the main entrance. I remember I could not open the door, and our next door neighbour’s son, who happened to be standing just inside, saw me and opened it for me.
He made an exclamation of astonishment and said I had obviously had too much to drink! I remember at this point thinking how grateful I was that our flat was on the ground floor, otherwise I would never have got up the stairs – our block of flats has five floors, and the local council has not seen fit to install a lift!
I staggered into our flat and into the sitting-room, where my husband was sitting watching television. He looked up at me as I entered, a look of amazement and astonishment dawning on his face. “Are you drunk?” he asked. “I thought you had been to a church meeting!” For some reason, I found this remark highly amusing, and collapsed on the settee, laughing uncontrollably.
My poor husband! He just did not know what to make of it all, and was very perturbed. Eventually, not being able to get any sense out of me, he went to bed, leaving me to it. I remember, during one bout of hysterical laughter, glancing at the wall-clock and seeing it said 2am. I must have fallen asleep sometime after that because I awoke, around 5am in the morning, in a stiff and awkward position on the settee. I still felt groggy, as though it was the morning after the night before. Before I became a Christian, I had had a drink problem, and used to get drunk almost every night of the week on a bottle of wine or several strong beers. This experience seemed no different, except of course, that I had had no alcohol!
After that initial meeting, it was as though I could not get enough of Toronto. Toronto was like a drug to me, and I needed my “fix”. The more I had, the more I wanted. I couldn’t do without it. It was like being on a permanent “high”. When I had been to a Toronto meeting and had been forward for yet another anointing, the effects on me were similar to when I had dabbled with drugs, especially cannabis, in the years before I had come to know the Lord. Cannabis had given me a light, floaty, dissociated feeling, and this was the same, except I didn’t have to pay for it!
One particular meeting, out of all the Toronto meetings I attended, stands out in my mind. This was the Times of Refreshing Conference at HTB in 1995, and at which Nicky Gumbel was taking one session. I remember, I was sitting with my friend Mandy just in front of the recording desk, when I began to jerk and shake and jump up and down from my chair. I didn’t seem able to stop myself, despite holding tightly to the back of the chair in front of me. The next thing I knew, I was jumping higher and higher each time. One or two others, I noticed, were doing the same.
At this point, Nicky Gumbel stopped speaking and said, “There are people here that God wants to anoint for a ministry of evangelism!” He beckoned for us to come forward, which we did, I being the first to reach the front. Nicky Gumbel laid hands on me and prayed for me, whereupon I collapsed in a heap on the floor. Later, at that same conference, John and Eleanor Mumford from the sw London Vineyard Church led a session. There was no preaching or teaching – instead it was mostly Eleanor Mumford sharing her testimony of how she had brought the Toronto Experience over from the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church (as it was known then).
It was following this that Sandy Millar stepped forward and asked all present (over1,000) to take their chairs, and stack them up against the walls so that ministry could begin. This having been done, he then invited the Holy Spirit to come. Immediately, order flew out of the window and complete and utter pandemonium reigned – people began falling like ninepins, including myself, laughing, screaming and making various animal noises as they went. Various anointings for various ministries were announced as the meeting progressed, and there was total chaos as people tried to make their way to the places where the various anointings were taking place, pushing their way through the sea of bodies lying prostrate on the floor jerking, convulsing, rolling and shaking. It was at this point that I experienced some stirrings of doubt and misgiving, but I quickly pushed them away and went off to receive my anointing or yet another ministry.
A few days after the Times of Refreshing Conference, I received a letter from a lady whose ministry I supported. She was writing in response to a word of knowledge I had had for her, and was sharing how that word had been pertinent to her circumstances at that time. She had enclosed with her letter various news and prayer letters from several ministries, including her own and those of Prophetic Word Ministries and Moriel. All, without exception, were about the Toronto experience, saying it was not a blessing at all, but a deception and a delusion and an alien spirit.
When I look back, I cannot think of any reason as to why this lady saw fit to send these news and prayer letters except that the Lord had laid it on her heart to do so. Much as I admired the ministries of those who had sent them, I had great difficulty in accepting what they said about Toronto. The lady whose ministry I supported recommended a tape by David Noakes, so I wrote to him requesting a copy. Meanwhile, I was determined to know the truth of the matter, so I took a day off work and went for a walk by the river in Putney. Here, I found a quiet spot to prostrate myself before the Lord and to ask Him to show me whether these people were right or wrong in what they were saying about Toronto. I didn’t want them to be right, but at the same time I knew I needed to come into truth – Biblical truth – about the matter. I never thought to look at the Scripture references these ministers gave and check them for myself.
The following day, I had the day off work anyway, and decided I would go to Clapham Junction to do some shopping. I was going down Lavender Hill, when I noticed a Christian bookshop called Cornerstone.
I went in and immediately noticed a section of books on Toronto – unusually, books WARNING against it, not promoting it! One particular booklet, entitled “No Laughing Matter” by Stanley Jebb, particularly caught my eye. I picked it up, and began to look through it.
At that point, the proprietress of the bookshop came over and asked if she could help me. I asked her about the booklet, and she said she could really recommend it, as it went into great detail, with relevant Scripture references provided, to point out the dangers of the Toronto Experience.
I told the proprietress that I had been heavily involved in Toronto, and that I was trying to discover the truth of the matter as it seemed it might be different from what I had been led to believe. As difficult as it might be, I told this lady, I was duty-bound to find GOD’S truth on the issue. The proprietress urged me to take away the booklet and to look up the Scripture references therein for myself. Meanwhile, she told me, she would pray for me, and ask the Lord to bring me into truth.
The next day was the day my church’s Intercession Group met. The four of us in the group met as usual, and began to bring our church, its leaders, ongoing issues etc. before the Lord, and to seek His face.
After a break in prayer, the Pastoral Worker at the church said that the leadership of the church were considering sending our vicar to Toronto, and were going to bring it up at the next meeting of the PCC. The PCC meeting was a few days later.
I could not keep quiet, and told the others that I was having second thoughts about Toronto, and that perhaps we should therefore reconsider the decision to send our vicar to Toronto. I then showed the other members of the group the materials I had been sent.
With one exception, my suggestion was met with derision and scorn. “Who DID these people think they were?” they said. “How DARE they criticise a mighty move of God!” And I was just as bad for even CONSIDERING that they could be right!
We continued to pray, but I found it very difficult, as I no longer felt I was of one mind with the others in the group, and that we were praying at cross-purposes. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. It was then that the Lord gave me a picture of a broken down stone wall of the sort that are common in Derbyshire and the Peak District.
I brought this picture before the group and we asked the Lord what it meant. However, He seemed to be saying that He would show us later, so we left it there and continued to pray.
Upon returning home, I found that the postman had been and that I had received David Noakes’ tape. David had been to Toronto in October 1994 to experience what was happening there and to report his findings, and this was the tape recording what he had found there. I settled down to listen to it.
As David shared, I began to realise, through a witness in my spirit, that this was indeed the truth of the matter, and that Toronto was indeed a delusion and a deception. As David gave Scriptural references to back up what he was saying, I checked them for myself and found them to be true. (Up until this point, I had never checked the Toronto experience with the Word – rather, I had just yielded myself up to it and had chased one new experience after another).
Then a phrase that David used caught my attention. “The walls of scripture are being broken down”, he said.* Immediately, the picture of the broken down stone wall came back to my mind, and I knew instantly that this was that to which it referred. The Toronto proponents were taking Scripture out of context and were making it fit the phenomena, instead of rightly testing it against the Word.
David went on to say that, in his experience, anyone caught up in Toronto inevitably needed ministry because of the strong, very dark spirits behind it. I was very perturbed, and after praying, I wrote to David Noakes explaining the fact that I had been heavily involved in Toronto, but now come out of it, and asking him to pray for me.
Meanwhile, I had returned to Cornerstone, the Christian bookshop in Clapham Junction, where Ulrike , the proprietess, suggested I have ministry to cut me free from the Toronto spirit. I told her that I had written to David Noakes, whom she knew, asking him if he might minister to me and that I was awaiting his reply. She told me that she knew someone who would minister to me if I did not want to wait to see David.
As the days went by, I became increasingly friendly with Ulrike and her husband Brian, who owned and ran “Cornerstone”. Ulrike took me under her wing, and, like a mother of Israel, began to lead me in the way of truth concerning not only Toronto, but other false teachings as well. She also introduced me to “Intercessors for Britain”, under whose auspices at the time that I began to attend the Ladies’ Prayer and Bible Days which were then at Westminster Chapel and led by Pat Hughes, Patricia Gordon and Gay Hyde.
On my second visit to the Ladies’ Prayer and Bible Days meeting, I was chatting to Ulrike during the lunch break when Ulrike came over to us. Ulrike introduced me to Patricia, and told her about my involvement with Toronto. Patricia then asked if I had had ministry to set me free. I told Patricia that I was awaiting ministry with David Noakes, but she lovingly but very firmly assured me that there was no time like the present, and that she, Pat Hughes and Gay Hyde would minister to me after the meeting. She went on to add that David Noakes, whom she knew and regarded very highly, would not mind at all, saying that the Lord had provided the opportunity for me to have ministry and that I should therefore make the most of it.
Before ministry began, Pat and Gay asked me some very searching questions such as, what had Toronto done for me, what good had come from it and whether, as many claimed they did, I had a greater hunger for God’s word.
Their penetrating, but nevertheless very necessary, questions made me realise that in fact the very opposite was true. Instead of having a greater hunger for God’s Word, I actually found it very difficult to pray, much less open my Bible. I honestly had not been aware of this until these three dear and very Godly ladies confronted me with it, so caught up had I been in chasing various spiritual experiences.
The three ladies first of all led me in a prayer of repentance after which, my having renounced my involvement with Toronto, proceeded to cut me free from the Toronto spirit. As they did so, I can only describe what then occurred as a heaviness going, a feeling of a large and very heavy blanket being lifted and a fog dispersing. It was as though I could see clearly again!
Later on, I did see David Noakes for ministry as the Lord had showed me that for me, Toronto was just the tip of the iceberg. Previous to becoming embroiled and entangled with Toronto, I had been involved in other false teaching and deceptive practices such as Restorationism and Name-it-and-Claim-it and realised I needed ministry in order to be released from the detrimental effects of these teachings. I saw David Noakes and his prayer partner in January 1996, and in the ministry that followed, I was wonderfully and gloriously cut free from the roots of all the deceptive practices and teachings I had taken on board in the past.
Since coming into the truth concerning Toronto and my subsequent ministry, I have had such a desire to walk in truth and holiness before the Lord, and to set no unclean thing before me. Nothing less than this will do. Since then there has always a “check” in my when something is not of God, even though there are occasions when I cannot find the reasons why in my Bible.
The Lord has also made it very clear to me that, having come into truth and having been set free (Gal. 5:1) that I am no longer to go to churches or associate myself with ministries where Toronto and indeed other false teachings, are promoted and accepted. This has meant that I have had to leave my previous church where I had worshipped for seven and a half years.
Toronto was in evidence there, as well as other false teachings such as Replacement and Dominion theology to name but two.
I thank God that, in the midst of this, He promised me that He had “prepared a place for me, a place where I would continue to be nurtured and fed and where the things that were now dear to my heart were practiced and taught.” In June 1996, he led me to this place, a little independent chapel in nw London where the teaching is sound, the ministry balanced and without excesses and where I received a warm welcome and became part of a close-knit church family. I AM used of the Lord there, but not in any of the supposed “anointings” I received when I was caught up in Toronto. I got nothing from these “anointings”, despite all their promises of equipping for ministry. Instead, I still have the gifts I have always had since being baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Sally Richardson June 2006
11 years on, and I am still at the same independent fellowship that the Lord led me to in 1996. It is a precious little fellowship where the things of God are faithfully taught and where the truth of Scripture is paramount. I am reminded that it was at Shavuot (Pentecost) 11 years ago that I first attended a service at this little church, and it was Shavuot last weekend. I owe so very much to the Lord, and am grateful too for those dear folk who prayed for me and helped me to come out of deception. Sadly, although our church has been extremely careful to uphold Biblical practice and teaching, much of the church has not, and in the last 11 years, I have seen error and deception proliferate and multiply.
The Lord has spoken to me much out of Ezekiel 13. Read it for yourself and you will see how relevant and pertinent it is to the situation in much of the Church in these days. When I look at verse 5, which reads YOU HAVE NOT GONE INTO THE GAPS OR BREECHES, NOR BUILT UP THE WALL (FOR THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL – parantheses mine) THAT IT MIGHT STAND IN THE BATTLE OF THE DAY OF THE LORD, it reminds me of David Noakes’ warning on that tape I listened to all those years ago where he said that the walls of Scripture were being broken down.* Much of the church is in ruins because of false teaching, false prophecies and deceptive practices, and yet they seem unaware of their wretched state. People tell me that Toronto is over, but it has surely left its legacy. So too, will the latest fads and teachings that many are so taken with, the latest being Purpose Driven.<
I can only pray for those caught up in false teaching and deception and especially pray that He might open their eyes and bring them out as He brought me out. Will you join me?