Leaders of the Anaheim, California- based Vineyard Association of Churches last month voted to sever ties with the controversial Airport Vineyard fellowship in Toronto. The split, however, may not be permanent.

John Wimber, international director of the charismatically oriented Vineyard movement, flew to Toronto on December 5 to announce to John Arnott and other senior staff of the Airport Vineyard that the American Vineyard Board and Council had decided at its annual meeting to cut the association's ties with the controversial Canadian church. The congregation has gained global attention for launching what has been called "The Toronto Blessing," a Christian renewal movement born in January 1994 (CT, Sept. 11, 1995, p. 23). The Vineyard Association worldwide has 546 member congregations.

Formal separation: In explaining the action, Wimber, in an interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY, cited his earlier teachings that Vineyard churches must focus on "the main and plain things in Scripture." While in Toronto, Wimber was joined by Robert Fulton and Todd Hunter, two American colleagues, and by Gary Best, the Canadian Vineyard coordinator. The meeting lasted nearly three hours and ended with a request that the Airport Vineyard leaders review the association's decision, meet with Best, then respond to the American leaders the next day. However, two hours later, Arnott, author of the recently published "The Father's Blessing" (Creation House), wrote a brief letter saying that the Toronto staff had agreed with the move for formal separation.

The next day, December 6, Arnott sent a message via the Internet to four key supporters, saying the previous evening's meeting "was conducted very well, no anger or tension."

Richard Riss, one of the ...

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