Margaret M. Poloma

Charisma and Institutions:

A Sociological Account of the 'Toronto Blessing'


Margaret M. Poloma, Sociology Department, The University of
Akron, Akron, OH 44325-1905 USA.  (

*Do not cite in publications without permission from the author*

     Paradoxically, although charisma has long been recognized
     as a factor in the rise and revitalization of religious
     movements, it seems to depart quickly once it has
     completed the task of institution-building.  Now it is
     more fragile than ever, for modern institutions are prone
     to favor efficiency and pragmatism rather than charisma's
     illusive spirit.  Charisma and institutionalization thus
     appear to be at odds, with charisma quick to take on
     routine forms that stem its free flow.  (Poloma


     The outpouring of the Holy Spirit that North America has
witnessed since the beginning of this century may be
characterized as a social movement struggling against the forces of
institutionalization.  From its Azusa Street days to the present
time, the pressing need for institutional norms, structures, and
resources have quickly controlled charismatic fires.  Although
those who experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during
the first decade of this century seemed to have intuited the dangers
of institutional forces for charisma, by the end of the second
decade institutional frameworks had been hammered into place that
threatened this fragile force.   The Latter Rain Movement of 1948
(Riss 1987) and its aftermath provided brief showers to revive a
Pentecostalism that seemingly had been reduced to "evangelical
tenets plus tongues," but the forces of organized Pentecostalism
contributed to restricting the impact of this short-lived

     It was the move of the Spirit in the mainline churches
during the 1960s and 1970s [which Richard Riss (1987) has suggested was
the beneficiary of the Latter Rain Movement] that earned the
designation of the "second wave" of the Spirit movement.
Although there is some evidence that the charismatic movement revitalized
some pentecostal churches (see Poloma 1989) and that it spawned
organizations in mainline churches to spread charismatic fires
(Synan 1987), charisma in these organizations often quickly
experienced the same paralysis that has threatened it throughout
history.   The development of institutional mechanisms so
necessary for the continuance and spread of the movement once again became
the very forces that restrict the free move of the Spirit.  As
Quebedeaux (1983:239) concluded after his analysis of the
mainstreaming of the charismatic movement:  "Not unlike other
movements of the Spirit before it, charismatic renewal had 'run
out of steam' by the late 1970s . . ."

     Recognizing this draught that had overtaken the charismatic
movement, church-growth expert Peter Wagner (1983) quickly
proclaimed a "third wave" of the revival--churches and persons
who were "open to the move of the Holy Spirit" but who considered
themselves as neither Pentecostal nor charismatic.   From the
Heartland of the U.S. where I watched the effects of the draught,
this so-called "third wave" simply appeared to be another facet
of the institutional taming of revival fires.   Some mainline
churches may have set up new "spiritual counseling" and "healing
services," but most of these practices bore stronger resemblance to
successful self-help groups or to quasi- professional counseling sessions
than to earlier charismatic outpouring.   Whether measured in terms of
prayer groups, attendance at charismatic conferences, charismatic
publications, or the growth of charismatic/pentecostal churches,
the original fire by mid-1980s appeared to have been reduced to
glowing but dying embers in the industrialized world.

     In the concluding chapter of my book The Charismatic
Movement: Is There a New Pentecost? (1982:239) which I completed just
before the draught took hold in North America, I wrote:

     The core issue for charismatic Christians is their belief
     and experience of Spirit baptism and the accompanying
     gifts, along with the role of the gifts in revitalizing
     and spreading orthodox Christianity.  The core issue is,
     in fact, a struggle against the seemingly inevitable
     routinization of charisma . . . .  Whether or not the
     charismatic movement can overcome routinization as a
     united body remains to be seen.  The strength of
     tradition and denominational beliefs, as well as the
     quest for doctrinal certainty and precision, may prove
     too strong for the unity in diversity that has been
     inherent in the movement from its Azusa Street days.

Charismatic revival fires appeared to be short-lived in modern
societies where they are quickly quenched by forces of religious
empire building, the predominance of materialistic and
rationalistic world views, and extreme individualism that
threatens corporate visions.

     When I heard tales of the so-called "Laughing Revival" and
then the "Toronto Blessing," I judged both from afar as last
gasps of a dying fire.  In November, 1994, I began to take a closer
look through repeated visits to the Toronto Airport Vineyard and
regular participation in an Akron Episcopal charismatic church that had
"caught the fire."   To my surprise, I began to see and
experience phenomena that I had only read about in the early history of
Pentecostalism, albeit in a milieu that was devoid of most of the
legalistic elitism that I observed in earlier stages of the
movement.  Nearly immediately I began to question how
institutional forces were interacting with charismatic fires.  Is it possible
for these two actors--charisma and organization--to work together in
a long-term revival?  Or would strong institutional forces shear
the wings of the soaring charismatic spirit?   These twin questions
prompted me to examine the "Toronto Blessing" through the lenses
of Thomas O'Dea's "institutional dilemmas," the same sociological
theory that I had used in earlier works (Poloma 1983, 1989).
What follows will provide some portrait of the organizational
components of the Toronto Blessing and a preliminary assessment of the way
they balance order with spontaneity, structure with freedom, and
stability with change.

    Charisma and Institutionalization in Sociological Context

     Charisma is the social psychological key that best assesses
the pentecostal/charismatic outpourings of the twentieth century.
Unfortunately, charisma is far from the primitive, unambiguous
concept that Max Weber intended.  It apparently had several
interrelated meanings in the writings of this sociological
master, leading to confusion in the works of his disciples and a common
parlance that is even less precise.

     Charisma was first used as a scholarly term by German church
historian Rudolf Sohm, who took it from the New Testament.  In
this initial scholarly use, the concept shared the same source as it
did for the present full-gospel community, namely, the Greek term
meaning "gift of grace."  Weber based his use of the term on
Sohm's but expanded it to include the connotation of magic:

     Not every stone can serve as a fetish, a source of
     magical power.  Nor does every person have the capacity
     to achieve the ecstatic states which are the
     preconditions for producing certain effects in
     meteorology, healing divination, and telepathy.  It is
     primarily...these extraordinary powers that have been
     designated by such special terms as "mana," "orenda," and
     the Iranian "maga" (the term from which our word "magic"
     is derived).  We shall henceforth employ the term
     "charisma" for such extraordinary powers (Weber

     Although believers undoubtedly would be distraught to have
their experiences identified with magic, as a sociologist I find,
with no pejorative intent, that Pentecostal charisma well fits
Weber's definition as "extraordinary powers."  The usage breaks
down, however, when Weber sets the magician apart from the
masses.  The "extraordinary powers" of healing, prophecy, tongues,
foreknowledge, deliverance, and other charismatic "gifts" may be
distributed unequally, but they are believed to be available to
all believers.  This is even more evident in the so-called "Toronto
Blessing" movement where the fire is often transmitted by unnamed
persons who are among the thousands of pray-ers through whom the
blessing has been imparted.

     In addition to "magical charisma" with its emphasis on
"extraordinary powers," Weber has identified a second type:
"prophetic charisma."  In Weber's words:

     we shall understand "prophet" to mean a purely individual
     bearer of charisma, who by virtue of his mission
     proclaims a religious doctrine or divine commandment.  No
     radical distinction will be drawn between a "renewer of
     religion"...and a "founder of religion"...Nor shall we be
     concerned in this context with the question whether the
     followers of a prophet are more attracted to his person,
     as in the cases or Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muhammad, or to
     his doctrine, as in the cases of Buddha and the prophets
     of Israel (1947:439-40).

     A "message" or "teaching" is thus proclaimed by someone who
also appears to be personally gifted with alleged "extraordin-
ariness" enabling the impartation of the religious message.  The
larger charismatic/pentecostal movement, while having a prophetic
message, has had no single prophet to deliver the message.  This
is even more true of the present revival for which the Toronto
Airport Vineyard has become the Azusa Street of the 1990s.  Although John
Arnott is the congregation's pastor, his presence is not as
central to this revival as William Seymour's was to Azusa Street.  The
"extraordinary powers" or charisma have been even more
democratized today than in the earlier stages of the movement during which
there was also great reluctance to accord pentecostalism's success to a
single person.  Much of this can be attributed to the larger
Vineyard Movement's emphasis on the priesthood of all believers.
Pastors and leaders are to be catalysts of empowerment who "equip
the saints for service," training and praying with all believers
to be instruments of the Holy Spirit.

     True to Weberian theory, I view charisma as a social
psychological phenomenon but one that is rooted in a collective
history and experience.  The charisma of the Toronto Blessing,
rather than being the property of person or office, rests in a
message that is accompanied by powerful experiences.   As with
the charisma of the pentecostal/charismatic movement that began at
the turn of the century, this latest wave represents a "protest
against modernity," being but one contemporary example of a collective
effort to bend the "iron cage" of a rationalistic one-dimensional
society.   It is charisma that has exploded into a global
renewal, one that began January 20, 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard
(TAV) small church of then 350 attendees located in a warehouse/
office compex just outside the Toronto International Airport.  It
is the handling of the dilemmas posed by this highly unusual
revival/renewal by the leadership of the Airport Vineyard that is
the subject of presentation.

          O'Dea's Five Dilemmas of Institutionalization

     Thomas O'Dea identified five institutional dilemmas that are
inherent in the process of the institutionalization of religion.
Each reflects the "basic antimony" or "fundamental tension" that
exists between charisma and institutional forces.  The tension
between spontaneity and stability which permeates the five
dilemmas is, according to O'Dea (1961:38), "a dilemma which involves
transforming the religious experience to render it continuously
available to the mass of men (sic) and to provide for it a stable
institutional context."  These five dilemmas of institutionalization
are:  (1) mixed motivation, (2) symbolic dilemma, (3) administrative
order, (4) delimitation, and (5) power. Each will be briefly reviewed,
noting some problems each generates and how these problems are being
addressed by leaders of the Toronto Airport Vineyard.

The Dilemma of Mixed Motivation:  Assessing the Message

     In the preinstitutionalized stage of the development of
     a religious movement, the classical form of which is to
     be seen in the relation between a Master and his
     disciples, the attraction of the followers and the
     motivation of the devotees are characterized by a certain
     single-mindedness.  This is not to assume that the
     religious movement does not satisfy complex needs for the
     adherents and converts. . . .But it is to assert that the
     religious movement in its charismatic moment makes its
     message and the attraction of its leader the main focus
     with respect to such needs and motives (O'Dea 1963:75)

     The Toronto Airport Vineyard (TAV) is decidedly (at the time
of this writing) in its "charismatic moment," although as with
earlier moves of the Spirit this century, the focus is on the
message and not the medium.   As already noted, the pentecostal/
charismatic movement has been a democratic movement in that all
believers are regarded as potential instruments for Spirit
action.  At TAV there is an active discouragement of any cult of
personality reflected both in the range of ordained and at times
non-ordained persons who are invited to preach at the evening
services and the strong team approach to the prayer ministry.
Visitors are reminded frequently that it is the Holy Spirit who
is moving in the service--not the preacher or the team pray-ers.
It was only on my third trip to TAV that I finally heard TAV's
senior pastor, John Arnott, preach.  Unless it is a time during
which a special conference is being held, visitors are never sure
which pastor from the staff will be hosting the service or who will be
preaching.  Introductions are frequently glossed over, making it is
difficult for the newcomer to easily determine the cast of TAV actors.

     The emphasis at TAV is on a simple message--one of God's
love.  As Catholic theologian Peter Hocken (1995) has recently noted in
his reflection on the Toronto Blessing, this central message
"concerns the Lord loving his people, and that we have simply to
believe in the loving mercy of our God to receive and experience
this divine love."  The stance for receiving the Toronto Blessing
(as it has come to be known worldwide) is found in Jesus's
admonishment "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a
child shall not enter it" (Mark 10:15). The physical
manifestations (laughing, jerking, shouting, rolling, etc.),
understandably the focus of media reports about TAV, are regarded by
some simply as signs that the "Heavenly Father is playing with his

     With the outbreak of the renewal occurring only
approximately 18 months ago, TAV is still basking in its "charismatic
moment."  Although perhaps difficult to quantify, there is a spirit of
love that permeates not only the meetings but also the business
dealings that occur on the premises.  Despite the stress undoubtedly
generated by the demands of thousands of visitors each week, both
staff and volunteers are courteous and cheerful.  The motto
originally selected for this young church (founded by Arnott as a
"kinship group" in 1987 but which had no full-time pastor until
1992) is a good summary of the single-minded goal one readily
observes both in the religious services and the more mundane
contacts with pastors and staff:  THAT WE MAY WALK IN GOD'S LOVE
AND GIVE IT AWAY.  TAV has been blessed by the renewal and
remains committed to "giving it away" as a prime focus.

     O'Dea's theory suggests that TAV and the "Toronto Blessing"
will eventually it will go the way of other charismatic movements
where the single-minded goal is replaced by self interest (O'Dea
1961:304).  To date the single-mindedness is reflected in the
focus on a simple (yet profound) message proclaimed by a cast of
characters who are often "nameless and faceless."  Although
certain names are better known to followers of the Blessing--names such
as John Arnott, TAV's senior pastor; Randy Clark, the Vineyard
pastor from St. Louis, MO who led the first revival meetings; TAV
pastoral staff member Guy Chevreau, author of Catch the Fire; worship
leader David Ruis who has written some of the most popular Blessing
songs--to name a few--prestige and monetary considerations still take a
backseat to the joy of being able to serve in the spread of this
global revival.  If O'Dea's thesis is correct, however, the
institutional matrix with its statuses and roles will in time
intensify the desire for this-worldly compensations and thus be
"capable of eliciting another kind of motivation, involving needs
for prestige, expression of teaching and leadership abilities,
drives for power, aesthetic needs, and the quite prosaic wish for
the security of a respectable position in the professional
structure of the society" (O'Dea 1961:33).  As we shall
demonstrate in assessing the other dilemmas, the pastoral staff at
TAV seems intent on developing the needed institutional matrices with an
eye ever fixed on this goal of walking in God's love--and then giving
it away.   To the extent they are able to remain focused on this
goal in the development of an institutional matrix, perhaps the
forces of institutionalization need not quench the Spirit.

The Symbolic Dilemma:  Assessing the Medium

     The object of the apprehension of the "sacred" or the
     experience of the "holy" as well as the kinds of attitude
     involved in the response to the adherents must be given
     some form of objectified expression if they are to
     survive the moments of such experiences themselves,
     especially if they are to be communicated to others and
     transmitted from generation to generation.  Most central
     in this respect are those acts of worship which both
     express attitudes and place the worshiper in relation to
     the object of those attitudes.  Cult and its rituals are
     central to organized religious life, . . . (O'Dea

     On January 20, 1994, some 120 members of TAV met for what
was to be a four-day revival meeting in their church led by a
Vineyard Christian Fellowship (VCF) leader from St. Louis, Randy Clark.
Clark had been experienced a powerful renewal and refreshing
after attending the meeting of expatriate South African evangelist,
Rodney Howard-Browne.  Although already accustomed to charismatic
manifestations found in other Vineyard congregations, those who
attended the TAV revival meeting experienced a new intense level
of Spirit blessing.   Laughter, prostration, "drunkenness" and other
physical phenomena were the initial hallmark of the renewal, but
it soon became apparent that people were having profound internal
experiences together with the unusual external manifestations.
They were reporting internal change as well as outward excitement
(Roberts 1994:21).   Members were delighted with this fresh
outpouring and prayed that it might happen just "one more night."
This desire for "more" has birthed a nightly service (except for
Mondays) that has attracted hundreds of thousands of people from
around the world.  The dilemma under consideration in this
section concerns the need to objectify (to some degree) a ritual which
allows room for religious experience without engendering
inauthenticity or alienation.

     The premise upon which TAV operates is that the Blessing
comes from the Holy Spirit (although leaders are careful not to endorse
every manifestation as the work of God).  It does not rest upon a
particular preacher, pray-ers, ministry team, or even physical
place.  (Early in 1995 TAV moved from the warehouse facility to a
convention hall nearby to accommodate the growing number of
visitors with no noticeable impact on the Blessing.)  As John
Arnott has stated:

     Administratively, what we are seeing is a nameless and
     faceless moving of the Spirit.  It doesn't matter who is
     preaching.  Many different speakers have led the
     meetings, and the outcome is always the same.  After
     worship, testimonial interviews, and the preaching of the
     Word of God, the Holy Spirit comes and powerfully touches
     and transforms lives.  It is not a consequence of great
     or prominent personalities (Chevreu 1994:vii-viii).

     A ritual form, however, is provided as a stage for the
nightly visitation of the Spirit, and an analysis of this ritual provides
an important key to understanding the balance between charisma
and institutionalization still found at TAV.   The ritual entails
four main "actors," each of whose performance will be considered in
relation to this dilemma:  the host or master of ceremonies (MC),
the music ministry team, the preacher, and the prayer teams.

     Host or Master of Ceremonies

     The Master of Ceremonies (MC) is acknowledged to be in many
ways more important a role than that of the preacher's.  The MC
or host is almost always a member of the pastoral staff who is able
to guide meetings according to TAV priorities.  The MC usually does
not make an appearance until after the 40 minutes of singing and
worship is completed, coming on stage to play a seemingly minor
role of making announcements and guiding testimonies.  It is the
MC, however, who is there to assure that the service does not
become a "free-for-all," although to the first-time visitor it
may seem like just that!

     Until very recently the MC either solicited testimonies from
persons already known in some way to the pastoral staff or
requested them directly from an unknown audience.  Playing the
role of an interviewer, the MC understands the focus of the
testimony is to be on the fruits that may be coming through; i.e.
what God is doing in the person's heart.  Meanwhile the person
may be laughing, jerking, jumping, or involved in other bodily
manifestations.  These manifestations are acknowledged but
treated lightly.  Serious consideration of the physical manifestations
are always related back to some interior work of the Spirit.  In the
words of Steve Long, a member of the pastoral staff who
frequently hosts on Tuesday evenings:

     So we are not looking around to see who flopped on the
     floor the hardest and bring that person up and have them
     do something that is real humorous and entertain people.
     Our purpose in providing testimonies is to allow people
     to recognize that there are life-changes going on and
     that is the more important thing (Long 1995).

     The testimonies have an acknowledged purpose:  modeling
behavior for the audience.  On a typical Tuesday evening (after
the Monday evening break), a full 80 percent of the people in
attendance will be first-time visitors representing some 20 or 25
countries from throughout the world.  The message is that it is
acceptable to have these experiences, but that the real gift goes
on inside the person.  The manifestations have been likened to a
flashing light to indicate "Spirit at work."  The important story
to tell is what the Spirit is doing on the inside.

     I have seen the MC "pick up the pieces" when speakers (in
this case a husband and wife team) became "drunk in the Spirit" while
trying to give a well-prepared biblical message.  After the
husband succumbed to falling off the stool in which he was sitting to
stabilize himself, the wife endeavored to continue with her part
of the message.  Before long she tossed her notes aside saying, "I
guess the Spirit intends for this message to be given tomorrow
night" and then fell to the floor.   Without any fanfare, the MC
unobtrusively took charge and directed the music team to play
"Amazing Grace," which then allowed him to lead an altar call (a
normal part of each service) before all moved into the open-ended
prayer ministry.  Great care was taken not to stifle any possible
move of the Spirit by allowing freedom to the speakers while
moving the service along through the altar call to the time of
individual prayer.

     Music Team

     Music plays a vital role in most religious ritual, and it is
the music ministry team that calls the audience to worship.
Contemporary rock music (with the expected degree of
amplification) sets the mood for "making a joyful noise unto the Lord,"
during which many enter into the "collective effervescence" that Emile
Durkheim recognized to be the heart of ritual.  Praise and
worship of God is believed to be the medium through which the presence
of God is made manifest, as reflected in the oft-cited scripture
noting that "God inhabits the praises of His people."

     Jeremy Sinnott, the music pastor for TAV, is a gifted leader
who teaches a class on worship offered weekly to pastors and
others who may be interested in learning how to conduct TAV-style
worship.  Sinnott's definition of worship guides his actions:  "Worship is
a personal and intimate meeting with God in which we praise,
magnify and glorify Him for His Person and His actions.  It is the act of
freely giving love to God.  We meet God and He meets us" (Sinnott
1995).  He emphasizes that worship is "only for God's glory," and
all must be evaluated in light of that purpose.

     Although Sinnott insists that he does not want anyone "to
pick up a formula," there is an acknowledged normative structure that
has developed to ensure the smooth flow of worship.  For example,
the opening music tends to consist of decorative kinds of songs
that are electrically charged, often loudly proclaiming in song
what God is doing or about to do.  Then begins the process of
"bringing it down," moving toward quiet worship songs that allow
for the worshiper to enter into a time of intimacy with God.
Sinnott notes it would be "rude" to end worship and move into the
announcements on this note.  So the music is brought up a bit to
allow the move to the next phase (Sinnott 1995).

     The music team is also charged to play during the time
prayer teams are involved in individual ministry (immediately following
the sermon and the altar call).  The music chosen for ministry
time are "quiet intimate love songs to Jesus."  The intent is to keep
the music "relatively quiet to allow those who want to worship to
do so."  As more and more people are seeking nightly prayer at
the Vineyard, there is a greater emphasis on instructing people to
remain in a worshiping mode before seeking prayer.  They are
reminded that many people, without seeking the assistance of
prayer ministry teams, are ministered to during this time directly by
the Holy Spirit.

     Preaching in Ritual Context

     The Preacher/Speaker, usually regarded as the pivotal actor
in evangelical rituals, plays a somewhat less central role in these
charismatic services.  The speaker is encouraged to address a
biblical topic of his/her choice for a delivery lasting anywhere
from 20 to 30 minutes.  The quality of the sermons vary greatly
in both content and style.  As Catholic theologian Peter Hocken
reported:  "I heard John Arnott preach three times, and I found
these the more powerful messages.  Two nights I had pastors from
neighboring Vineyard churches, and these were not very profound
and somewhat rambling.  Some visiting Lutheran pastors from Germany
were not impressed!"  (I must confess to similar reactions.
Although I have been touched by God in some way by each visit, I
often find the substance of the message lost in sermons that go
beyond their allotted time.)  Meanwhile manifestations may be
underway--waves of laughter, weeping, an occasional shout--that
would be extremely disruptive in most other western religious

     Although for most evangelical services which tend to center
worship around a "lecture" (Kraft 1989) this downplaying of
preaching might be regarded as a weakness, nondescript sermons
might actually attest to the strength of charisma within the
nightly gatherings.  Not even the preacher/speaker is given a
preeminent place in the service.  I recall one evening when I
found the preacher particularly disorganized.  Tiring of the sermon
that he could not seem to bring to an end, I got up and walked to the
back of the hall and stood there looking over the people sitting
patiently through the young man's rambling.   Although I never
did figure out what the theme of his talk was, I did watch him (in
what seemed to be a quick shift) quietly invite men to come forward
because "the Lord wanted to teach men to dance in worship before
him."  I doubted that more than a few men would respond to this
quiet invitation, especially given the poor quality of his
presentation.  To my surprise some three quarters of the men in
the audience went toward the front of the auditorium and then filled
the aisles--and began dancing as music played.  I returned to my
seat--got "out of my head," moved with my heart, and began
dancing with them.  This rambling sermon moved into a beautiful time of
active worship that is not part of the normal ritual script.

     Prayer Teams in Action

      Prayer teams are perhaps the best example of the alleged
"nameless-faceless" characteristic of the TAV's ministry.  Those
involved in praying with people who come forward for prayer are
generally lay persons--and less often pastors--from either the
Vineyard or more often from neighboring churches or from distant
churches who have passed the necessary Vineyard screening.
Although there are clear rules in place about who may minister
and how this ministry is to take place, the emphasis is not on
"control" as much as on providing a "safe place" in which
strangers may receive prayer ministry.

     One Vineyard practice that was in place before the renewal
began was people praying for one another.   In these early days
of the TAV revival, the leader would encourage one person to pray
for another during the service for the Blessing.  As visitors began
to flock to the services, it became quite apparent that many people
did not know one another and that it was quite possible for
someone seeking prayer to be emotionally and spiritually hurt by an
untrained and insensitive pray-er that no one knew.  It was this
concern for the well-being of those coming to the TAV that
numerous rules were established regarding who could pray and a training
program established for prayer teams.  Visitors have been
instructed not to accept prayer from anyone not wearing a white
or pink badge.  White designates a person who is visiting but
approved to be part of a prayer team; pink badges indicate persons who are
regular members of TAV prayer teams.  Badges have another
designation--blue dots.  Those with blue dots have gone through
training and a measure of inner healing in their own lives; they
have been approved as pray-ers for either sex.  Those without
blue dots are to pray only for those of their same sex (Raycroft

     The practice of having attendants ("catchers") behind
persons being prayed for similarly is designed for the creation of a
"safe place."  Many persons were falling to the floor in very crowded
quarters with the potential for serious injury.  The male
assistants normally are able to catch those who fall so that they
do not land on top of one another.  At times, however, the Spirit
moves before a pray-er reaches a person or while a corporate
prayer is being offered and scores begin to fall without attendants
being in place.  The intent of the catchers is not to ritualize falling
to the floor but rather to balance the safety factor with a
maximizing of freedom to experience the Spirit moving in this

     Those on the prayer team are instructed to pray in accord
with the leadership's perceived vision and purpose of the Toronto
Blessing.  Again there is little room for an individual star to
shine with long prayers and extensive counsel.  Most commonly the
pray-ers speak ejaculatory prayers for the person being prayed
with.  "Come, Holy Spirit, fill her"; then "Go deeper, Lord" or
"Increase within him" are common short prayers that are offered.
One such prayer, "More, Lord" has come to be known
internationally as the theme prayer of the Toronto Blessing.  Often persons
being ministered to, who are encouraged to remain in worship and may
have their eyes closed, never even see the faces of members of the
prayer teams.

     The host, the music ministry, the preacher/speaker and the
prayer teams thus work together to maintain a common goal--to
give freely the Blessing bestowed on TAV.  Although an offering is
taken at each service, the low-keyed manner in which it is done is both
a reflection of the intent not to hype people during the service
as well as the desire to give the Blessing away.   TAV has a loosely
structured ritual that remains open to charisma, and it is
through these rituals that the fire is being spread around the globe.

The Dilemma of Administrative Order:  Assessing the Structure

     Max Weber showed that charismatic leadership soon
     undergoes a process of routinization into a traditional
     or rational-legal structure made up of a chief and an
     administrative staff.  There is an elaboration and
     standardization of procedures and the emergence of
     statuses and roles within a complex of offices.  One
     important aspect is the development in many cases of a
     distinction between the office and its incumbent, which
     has become characteristic of the bureaucratic structure
     of the modern world. (O'Dea 1961:35)

     The charisma found flowing at TAV descended into a small
organization inadvertently structured to quickly birth the larger
institution that has come to be a focal point of an international
renewal.  Certain offices and institutional structures were
already in place on January 20, 1994 when the Spirit first fell.  Less
than two years earlier, John Arnott had assumed the role of full-time
pastor of the church he and his wife, Carol, had founded in 1988.
During the four years during which Arnott had been a part-time
pastor, he and his wife had worked with members of the fledgling
congregation, mentoring them with prayers for "inner healing" as
well as in developing their leadership potential (Roberts 1994).
Some of these persons were positioned to take on important roles
as TAV quickly grew to a staff of 6 full-time and 3 part-time
pastors, with a total of 34 persons on the payroll by early 1995.  Those
who had been prayed with and counseled for inner healing in turn were
able to pray with the many people who began coming to TAV to
experience the renewal.

     TAV's affiliation with the rapidly growing Vineyard movement
provided support and a network of external resources for
developing an administrative order conducive with the spirit of revival.
Led by John Wimber, the Vineyard (a new denomination in-the-making)
began with Wimber's California church in 1978 and now has grown
to include 470 churches in 25 countries (Francis 1995).  Its
administration is a loose network that has thus far been neutral
when not in full support of the Toronto Blessing.  Supportive
pastors from Vineyard churches world wide (but especially around
the Toronto area) have made possible the nightly meetings by
providing music teams, speakers, prayer teams as well as some
financial support.  Involvement from area non-Vineyard churches
also has been actively encouraged, as Arnott and TAV leadership
emphasize that this is not a "Vineyard thing but a God thing."
Unlike earlier revivals upon which Weber and O'Dea based their
observations, the Toronto Blessing fell upon a well organized
church positioned to move into a bureaucratic structure as the
need arose.  This administrative structure has been expanded greatly
since January, 1994, and there is always the ever-present danger
of overelaborating the structure in such a way to quench charisma.
One potential for overelaboration comes from the conferences that
TAV sponsors around the globe, especially in the United States,
Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

     Conferences have been a mainstay of the charismatic
movement, replacing the camp meetings of earlier revivals.  The intent of
the conferences is to "spread the fire" of revival, and that seems to
have happened to some degree or another wherever such conferences
have been held.  There is the danger, however, that sponsoring
conferences may become an end in itself now that the
institutional machinery has been set in place to offer them.   Conferences
regularly sponsored at TAV attract a larger crowd than the 1,000
to 1,200 who attend a normal nightly meeting.  For the present,
however, the enthusiasm once found at camp meetings and
conferences of the "second wave" of the charismatic movement is very much
alive at TAV.

     The administrative dilemma, at this point, demonstrates a
fine balance between institutional expansion and flexibility.   Those
involved in TAV leadership are still in awe of all that is
happening and are trying to "go with the flow" of the river of
renewal.  The reception of charisma usually begins with such
recognition that it is as fragile and often an illusive gift.  As
the administrative order proceeds along its natural course, the
institution comes to be regarded as the "gift of grace," often
with an expressed theology that charisma was needed to establish the
organization (e.g. church, television ministry, missionary
outreach, etc.) but that it is now the organization's
responsibility to carry out its designated task.

     A medium is needed to allow for the healthy flow of charisma
into the administrative order (c.f. Poloma 1983, 1989).  I would
like to suggest that prayer, especially in its more intuitive
forms of meditation and contemplation, can provide such a conduit
(Poloma and Gallup 1991; Poloma and Wernet-Beyer 1995).  Prayer played a
central role in TAV before the revival began, as may be
illustrated by John and Carol Arnott's setting aside every morning "for
personal prayer, worship and reading of the word" for a year and
a half before the revival fires broke out in their church (Roberts
1994:64).  With the increasingly heavy administrative demands of
revival, however, this vital link of prayer can be easily
discarded or become perfunctory.  For now it is maintained through
regularly prayer times for visitors desiring to intercede for TAV, before
nightly services for the prayer teams, and weekly for pastors and

     The very success of revivals often leads to a sense of
pragmatism and expediency in the realm of administration that
jeopardizes charisma.  The need for administrative order can
silence the prophets and quench the slow process of seeking
divine guidance in decision making.  It remains to be seen if
administrative dams will be built in an effort to control this
now free-flowing river.

The Dilemma of Delimitation:  An Assessment of Relativization

     In order to affect the lives of men, the import of a
     religious message must abe translated into terms that
     have relevance with respect to the prosaic course of
     everyday life.  This translation is first of all a
     process of concretization.  It involves the application
     of the religious insight into the small and prosaic
     events of ordinary life as lived by quite ordinary
     people.  In that process the religious ideas and ideals
     themselves may come to appear to be of limited prosaic
     significance.  Concretization may result in finitizing
     the religious message itself.  (O'Dea 1961:36)

     The dilemma of delimitation deals with the balance between
the need for concrete definitions versus the substitution of the law
for charisma.  As we have seen in examples provided in the
discussion of ritual norms, rules and regulations have been
quickly put in place at TAV.  Although persons may laugh, weep, roar or
shake during the service--even during the preaching--tambourine
playing by someone in the audience is discouraged (due to
acoustical problems).  Visitors may freely walk around during the
two to two-and-one-half hours of service before individual
ministry begins, but actions that indicate a deliberate call for self
attention are actively discouraged.  Cameras and camcorders are
allowed to be used, but no filming is permitted of any individual
during ministry times.  Rules such as these that are visibly in
place seem to be carefully weighed in light of the impact they
may have on the move of the Spirit.

     Leaders are encouraged to deal gently but firmly with
individuals whose non-normative demonstrative behavior may be
causing difficulties for others to worship.  While laughing,
weeping, and shouting have come to be normative at the Vineyard,
there seems to be some reservations about dancing.  If a person
begins to dance in front of the stage during worship time, s/he
may be asked to move to the back of the auditorium.  Leaders are
aware that such dancing may be the move of the Spirit--or it may be a
person's need for undue attention.  The test is the response of
the person.  As has been noted in several teaching tapes, "If it is
of God, the person will respond graciously.  He just wants to be
worshipping God and will not care if it is at the front or back
of the auditorium.  On the other hand, if the person simply wants to
draw attention to himself, such behavior should be discouraged
during worship time."

     The danger inherent in this dilemma, however, is more than
the development of such normative strictures.  It entails the loss of
the main message in the midst of such developing structures,
norms, and ideologies.  Or, to put it another way [as paraphrased by
Mathisen (1987:304)], there are "the dangers of watering down the
original versus rigid literal adherence to it."  Thus, according
to O'Dea (1961:36), the message of a religious revival can be
"relativized" in two ways:  by "emasculating the extraordinary so
as to render it commonplace" (watering down) or "by insisting on
literal observances despite very different social and cultural
conditions" ("literal adherence").

     TAV, reflecting wider Vineyard thought that the so-called
extraordinary is in fact ordinary, suggests that what has been
experienced to date is normal--and that it is just the "hor
d'oeuvres" with the main course yet to come.  While what is being
experienced in revival is regarded as "ordinary" in this context,
it is not "ordinary" in the larger instrumental-rational culture.
I recall sitting next to a woman enjoying the sense of the
Spirit's moving during the prayer time following a TAV service.
The woman on the floor in front of us was kicking her feet wildly;
three young Asians were lying to the left of us laughing
uncontrollably; a prayer team member was doubling over as being shocked
with an electrical current as he prayed for a middle-aged man.  The
woman next to me began to chuckle and said, "Isn't this really crazy
when we sit here thinking this is normal and what goes on outside
these walls is really not normal?"  Sitting there in the midst of
seeming chaos, there was an undeniable peace that cannot be readily

     There appears to be little fear that what is being
experienced--neither the manifestations nor the more prized
"inner work"--will become commonplace.  For one thing, the experiences
are not limited to TAV but are being experienced in churches
throughout the world.  On a recent visit to a small nondenominational
church in Cleveland, Ohio that has "caught the fire" from TAV and has
its own meetings three nights a week, a missionary from Alaska was
the evening speaker.  Having just left TAV earlier in the day he
commented, "I was blessed in Toronto, but it was nothing like
what I just experienced in the prayer room here before the service
began.  Brothers and sisters, there is a power here tonight."
There is a belief and hope that what is happening at TAV will
become "normal church."

     This line of thought, of course, has its own problems.  The
difficulty of maintaining the free flow of charisma can be noted
in the comment-question of newscaster Peter Jennings (1995) during a
recent interview of Vineyard founder John Wimber:

PJ:  It has been said, Mr. Wimber, (I think by someone) that you
     need the mana of signs and wonders for the Vineyard Church to
     survive.  Is that a fair comment?

JW:  I believe the Church of Jesus Christ needs that today.  I
     think we are outdone!  We can't spend the money on theater
     that the theater can.  We can't entertain better than
     television can.  We are not better spokesmen; we are not
     better philosophers; we can't counsel better than the
     counselors do.  What do we have to offer?

     When it first started happening to us, Peter, I was just
     reading the Bible to the people, and people started falling
     down and shaking and laughing.  And it has been going on 17
     years now--sometimes with great force and power and sometimes
     with much less.  It has its seasons.

     This first facet of the dilemma of delimitation appears to
be dealt with paradoxically by acknowledging the "waves" of renewal
forces with their natural ebb and flow while at the same time
expecting even greater moves of the Holy Spirit.  There is a
seeming recognition that accommodative forces have always limited
human expectancy of the power of the Holy Spirit.  As John Arnott
(1994) commented on the account of Jesus's healing of the blind
man that was followed by a pharisaic debate, "It is amazing how blind
we can become simply due to religious rules and regulations."
Like many religious social movements that preceded it, the larger
Vineyard Movement and TAV actively seek to keep the "rules and
regulations" at a minimum.

     The second problem posed by delimitation is one of
"insisting on literal observances despite different social and cultural
conditions."  In making some reflections "as a chronicler of the
Charismatic Renewal and as a Catholic theologian," Peter Hocken
(1995) suggests one door through which such literal adherence may
enter when he notes how some of the emerging theology reflects
"the world of Baptists, Pentecostals, and independent Charismatics,
and would not be satisfactory to anyone from a tradition with a
stronger ecclesiology."  Hocken continues:  "I also felt the
biblical justification for "manifestations" was too much locked
into an Evangelical mentality that has to find biblical
justification for every detail of contemporary Christian life."
This problem of universalizing the evangelical experience is also
reflected in TAV's tendency to link the "Toronto Blessing" with
the First Great Awakening rather than in focusing on the very
different social and cultural conditions into which it is being poured.

     In dealing with this dilemma, TAV is between a rock and a
hard place.  Nearly all of its support (and its own Christian thought)
comes from the orthodox sector of Hunter's (1991) "culture wars,"
which he defines as tension between the "impulse toward
orthodoxy" and the "impulse toward progressivism."  The battle lines have
been drawn and thoughts rooted in the progressive sector are suspect
in revival circles.  Although many of the leaders seem open to
prospects of integrating aspects of modernity which have been
eschewed by their pentecostal predecessors, care must be taken
not to fraternize too much with progressive thought. . . .

     Although the Toronto Blessing is alleged not to be a
"Vineyard thing," it is easier to fit into the new independent
charismatic church mold than to keep the delimitation dilemma alive
with progressive dialogue.  Proponents may make the same error as their
pentecostal predecessors and write off the "old wineskins" of
liberal denominationalism, but this perspective also seems to place
limitations on the revival.  On the other hand, TAV has already
been under considerable attack from the orthodox watchdogs.  It is
one thing to welcome progressives onto Toronto turf, but it is
another to enter into dialogue with them (as David duPlessis
quickly learned when he began his dialogue with the World Council
of Churches).

     What these illustrations and examples all point to is the
danger of trying to satisfy critics (particularly within the
orthodox evangelical community) at the expense of freedom to
explore creative ways of conveying the simple message of God's love
and His desire to bless His Church.  Both the larger Vineyard
movement and TAV have allowed "the walls to be knocked off their
God-box" (to borrow a phrase from Guy Chevreau), but if history is
any teacher, new ones are easily built.  TAV is at risk of falling
into the trap of delimitation by focusing on the conservative
fringes of Christianity and in reining in charisma to please this
potential constituency.

The Dilemma of Power:  Assessing Socialization and Accommodation

     The religious experience exercises a strong attraction
     upon those whom it affects and draws to become adherents
     of its insights.  In Otto's terms, its content has an
     aspect "which shows itself as something uniquely
     attractive and fascinating."  Moreover, the propagation
     of a religious message in the world religions is
     generally one that involves an invitation or "call" to
     interior change. The "interior turning" or "conversion"
     is the classical beginning of religious life.  With the
     institutionalization of the religious viewpoint such a
     conversion may be replaced by the socialization of the
     young so that a slow process of education and training
     and related character formation substitutes for the more
     dramatic conversion experience.  (O'Dea 1963:84)

     The attraction of the Toronto Blessing remains fresh and
strong at this point in time, with children as likely to feel its
impact as the old.  The youth at the Episcopal church I attend
regularly were the first to "catch the fire" of revival at their
mid-week meetings.  These young people now take over one special
revival service a month where they may be found ministering to
and praying for young and old alike.  Their testimonies of personal
experiences reflecting the Toronto Blessing reflect the same
struggles and joys of adult conversion experiences.

     The dilemma of power at present is less of a problem of
socialization than it is one of desiring legitimacy, especially
from those in the orthodox Christian sectors.  TAV leaders seem
less concerned about acceptance from the secular world (a tendency
identified by O'Dea as part of this dilemma) than of acceptance
by the evangelical community.  The irony of the present situation is
that TAV has received a fairer treatment by the secular press
than by many sectors of the religious press.   Although its leaders
desire legitimacy from the orthodox sector of the culture war, it
is the progressive sector that often has been more open and less
critical in its reporting.

     TAV could easily fall prey, however, to "the subtle temptation
for religious leaders to avail themselves of the close relation
between religion and general cultural values in order to reinforce
the position of religion itself" (O'Dea 1963:84).  In the "culture
war" between orthodox and progressives being waged in the western
world, the larger evangelical movement has taken a decidedly
conservative stance.  This is particularly true in the United
States where evangelicalism has come to be identified with right-
wing Republican politics representing the "general cultural value"
for a large sector of Americans.  The cosmopolitan flavor of
Toronto and the steady influx of pilgrims from around the world may
buffer TAV from such an American ideological take-over.

     In addition to the power play that is an ongoing temptation between
a revival movement and the larger culture, the more immediate power
problem is an internal one.  From the beginning there has been
the inherent danger of a struggle between the larger Vineyard
movement and TAV.  Mike Bickle (1994), pastor of a Vineyard in Kansas
City, hinted at such a potential struggle during presentation at the
1994 "Catch the Fire Conference":

     I have a tremendous appreciation for John Wimber.  You
     know when you are in a denomination or association of
     churches and you have been on center stage of world wide
     renewal for years--and when the Spirit of the Lord begins
     to do something different is one of the side branches--
     usually in history, the guys who have been on the center
     stage come up with a hundred reasons why they think it is
     not good or healthy or balanced or sane or of God.  But
     when John and Carol Wimber saw this thing they said,
     "Blessed be the name of the Lord.  Let us be learners and
     partakers."  My heart was so blessed.

Despite Bickle's upbeat stance, rumors of a major split in the
Vineyard movement persist.  To date, however, disagreements are
played down.  Wimber himself seems to be taking
middle-of-the-road position that neither endorses nor condemns the
TAV revival.

     TAV shares with the larger Vineyard movement a flexibility
that has facilitated the rapid growth of Christian Vineyard
Fellowships in North America and in England.  Coming out of the
youth drug culture and eager to attract young people who have
been "turned off" by existing churches,  Vineyard leaders have worked
to sort out the "essentials" of Christianity from the cultural
trappings and have not been afraid to experiment with the new and
novel.  This openness sometimes been criticized by more
established evangelical churches, yet it also created a milieu where the
Toronto Blessing could happen and find acceptance.

     Most problems that have been identified with the dilemma of
power, including socialization of new members and accommodation
to the larger culture, pose no particular difficulty as long as the
revival rains continue to fall.  The thousands who flock to TAV
each week may come as believers or as curious but there are no
coercive powers available that can impart the blessing.   Most of
the socializing process occurs through family, friends, the news
media, and the internet.   Testimonies much like those given
nightly at the Toronto Airport Vineyard are repeated in local
churches, personal conversations with family and friends, and now
on the internet.  The testimonies are the catalyst drawing the
thirsty and the curious to this river of refreshing.

                     SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

     The Toronto Airport Vineyard is at the center of a larger
renewal movement that is clearly still in its "charismatic
moment."  Burned by the adverse publicity generated by the scandals
that rocked televangelism in 1987-88, these inheritors of the fresh
charisma once enjoyed by earlier Pentecostals and Charismatics
stress the "nameless and faceless" traits of the present
movement.  Where charismatic fires are allowed to burn, however,
there is necessarily potential for destruction as well as for renewal.

     I have discussed five major dilemmas which have the
potential to silence any religious revival.  The dilemma of mixed
motivation centers around the need for single mindedness.  A potential
pitfall is a rise of clerical leadership that would seek to harness
charisma for personal power and prestige.  The symbolic dilemma
focuses on the transmission of the charismatic moment through
ritual.  Its nemesis is the possible development of inauthentic
and alienating ritual practices.  With the dilemma of administrative
order looms problems of institution building.   There is an ever-
present danger of over-elaborating institutional structures in
ways that jeopardize charisma.  The dilemma of delimitation is two-
pronged, one of which is laden with the danger of watering down
the original message and the other with rigidly adhering to laws that
kill the spirit.  Trying too hard to please the orthodox sector
with excessive normative regulations and rigid doctrines will
quickly quench revival fires.  The dilemma of power, although too
early to assess, has been considered briefly in light of
unhealthy internal friction and inappropriate external alliances.  Where
charisma exists, there will always been institutional dilemmas.
It is important, however, that the solutions are supportive of and
life giving for the "charismatic moment."

     As I have attempted to illustrate throughout this
presentation, TAV remains committed to not quenching revival
fires.  Leaders exhibit a thoughtful and watchful stance on potentially
problematic issues as they not only encourage the flames of
revival at TAV but seek to spread the fire to other local churches
through teachings and conferences.  Ultimately, however, charisma is a
mysterious and fragile gift.  In the words of the David Ruis'
song "Sweet Wind":

     There's a wind a-blowin'    All across the land
     A fragrant breeze of Heaven    Blowin' once again
     Don't know where it comes from
     Don't know where it goes
     But let it blow over me
     Oh, sweet wind
     Come blow over me.

     Charisma, despite its problems, is still welcome at TAV as
well as other renewal sites that have developed around the world.
The practices discussed in this paper have made TAV and TAV-like
meetings a suitable home for this "gift of grace."  Whether the
wind keeps blowing, however, is beyond the power of TAV leaders.
True charisma remains a fragile and illusive gift that cannot be
manufactured.  Once given, however, it can be either nurtured or
stifled by institutional norms and structures.   How long the
Toronto Airport Vineyard and other benefactors of the Toronto
Blessing are able to stay the forces of institutionalization
remains to be seen..


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