Beverley is still reluctant to identify the more extreme phenomena of laughing, crying, "birthing," or roaring as straightforward manifestations of the Spirit of Christ. He interprets them as signs of deep pain and a need for emotional and spiritual comfort. "The whole thing is an indication of how much people want to feel close to God and have a sense of his presence. This does not excuse or explain everything.... To know it in detail, you would have to inspect story after story, but there is no doubt that the vast majority of people have been helped, and there have been radical conversion experiences and radical renewal in many lives."
That renewal has had far-reaching and long-lasting effects. One of many famous visitors to the revival was Nicky Gumbel, best known as the leader of Alpha. The Guardian reported in 2000 that "a quarter of a million agnostics have found God through Gumbel." And they reported that "the Toronto Blessing was the kick-start Alpha needed."
"I don't talk about it now," Gumbel told The Guardian. "It divides people. It splits churches. It is very controversial. But I'll tell you—I think the Toronto Blessing was a wonderful, wonderful thing."
Beverley thinks the harshest criticisms of the movement were always overblown. "This has largely been a great movement because it has led people to Jesus. There are dangers, and the revival could have been even better than it has been if its leaders had controlled some of the movement's weaker elements. But overall, I have never worried about the Toronto Blessing as a dangerous cult-like movement. I am happy that the renewal has lasted two decades."
His remarks hint at something of a shift in his own evaluation of the movement. "My concerns have changed a bit. I regret saying that they did not give enough attention to Jesus. I think that was too hard. The leaders and the people—they love Jesus. We all do not give enough attention to Jesus."
I ended up attending for a week in the Toronto revival's early days. On those nights I was prayed for I spent a few hours of my own in "carpet time," the Catch the Fire term for what happens when people are knocked down, "slain in the Spirit," and leave mysteriously strengthened and renewed in their love for God.
The 20th anniversary contained all those same elements. Not much has changed in the Arnotts' attitude and approach. The love of John, now 73, and Carol, 71, for their staff, congregation, and visitors seems unforced and unfeigned. They still see themselves as "stewarding what God is doing."
During the anniversary meetings, the Arnotts welcomed international Vineyard Church leader Blaine Cook to the reunion stage. In 1996, the American Vineyard Board and Council decided to cut the association's ties with the Canadian congregation. At the time, John Wimber stated that the Toronto revival needed more emphasis on "the main and plain things in Scripture."
At this reunion, the two distinct churches apologized for any hurt the separation may have caused, emphasizing their shared love and respect for God's work in their organizations. Vineyard pastors around the world now engage with the "Revival Alliance," a group that includes the Arnotts, Bill and Benni Johnson, Randy and DeAnne Clark, Georgian and Winnie Banov, Che and Sue Ahn, and Rolland and Heidi Baker—all global charismatic leaders of movements that expanded as a result of the Toronto Blessing.