Florida Outpouring: Bentley to be humbled for a season
Posted: 21 Aug 2008 @ 00:00
TODD Bentley, the revivalist behind the Florida Outpouring, has resigned from the Board of Fresh Fire Ministries, and has agreed to “refrain from all public ministry for a season”, after it emerged that he has had “an inappropriate relationship” with one of his staff.
Reported healing miracles at Mr Bentley’s church in Lakeland, Florida, drew huge congregations and an online following. It elicited comparisons with the Toronto Blessing of 1994, and spawned other Outpourings, including Dudley in the West Midlands (News, 4 July).
A Canadian by birth, Mr Bentley is married to Shonnah. News that the couple had started divorce proceedings in Canada came out piecemeal, first in a letter from the board of directors on 12 August, asking for prayers for Mr and Mrs Bentley as they were “presently experiencing significant friction in their marriage, and are currently separated. We want to affirm that there has been no sexual immorality on the part of either Todd or Shonnah, nor has there ever been.”
Three days later, the directors said: “We have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff.” They apologised for the pain that many would feel.
The Revd Stephen Strader, who invited Mr Bentley to lead the revival that sparked the Outpourings, said Mr Bentley had deliberately kept him “out of the loop” for his own protection. He reported that Mr Bentley had had another similar relationship, three years earlier.
Advocates of Mr Bentley’s ministry in Britain sprang to his defence this week. The Revd Dr Mark Stibbe of St Andrew’s, Chorleywood, said in an open letter: “It is very important at this time that those watching — especially Christian people — keep a proper perspective on this tragic situation.
“The most important thing to say is that Todd’s marital difficulties in no way undermine the integrity of the outpouring of the Spirit at Lakeland, nor the salvations and countless healing miracles that have happened there and in many other places since April of this year. God uses imperfect vessels.”
Dr Stibbe continued: “Todd has never hidden his weaknesses, both past and present. He has given hope to literally thousands of believers all over the world who don’t feel perfect, but who want to be used by their Heavenly Father.”
Trevor Baker, pastor of the Revival Fires Church in Dudley, alludes to Mr and Mrs Bentley’s separation in a statement on the Dudley Outpourings site.
“There are areas of Todd’s life that have resulted in the breakdown of his marriage that he is willing to address. . . Now it is time for all of us to maintain the Outpouring and see it increase in our personal lives,” he said.
Mr Bentley has announced that he will end his Florida Outpouring on 23 August. Other Outpourings are promised throughout North America and in Britain. A planned gathering in Birmingham in September has been postponed because of renovations to the National Exhibition Centre, where it was to have been held.