Heal or heel?

"Heal or heel?" Continued...

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

The Outpouring eventually ended in scandal, with Bentley admitting to an inappropriate relationship with an employee and to alcohol abuse.

Regarding Bentley's fall from ministry, Tuplin said, "God uses who He chooses to use. God used Todd to heal me." Nonetheless, Tuplin admits that he is concerned to see Bentley back in ministry now. "What he did is very hard to justify, restoration or not."

Tuplin and Gaila Smith are not the only two who claim to be healers themselves. Gina Weatherby, a 48-year-old personal trainer from San Angelo, Texas, says she was healed from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine-this time at a women's conference where Bentley "was ministering" in February 2008. She said that her pain has "gone away" and that she now is involved in healing ministry. How does Weatherby feel about Bentley's fall? "As a minister myself, it makes me very humble. It's a reminder that anyone can get caught up. Especially when God is using you, it's hard not to get caught up in it and believe you're special."

So do the stories prove that Todd Bentley is either a healer or a fake? Does it mean anything that less than a year after the conclusion of the Outpouring two people on a list of 13 "healings"-a list provided by the ministry itself-are dead, and most of the rest don't stand up to questions?

Michael Brown says it does matter. Brown is the author of Israel's Divine Healer (Zondervan, 1995), considered one of the definitive examinations of how healing takes place in Scripture. He personally believes in supernatural healing, but he also says a healthy skepticism about most healing stories is a sign of wisdom and discernment.

Brown said the fact that this list was presumably the best Bentley's ministry had to offer an appropriately skeptical public is a cause for concern. "If you're going to make claims of healing on a very public, even international, stage, you'd better have your documentation in place," Brown said.

"God is sovereign," Brown said. "He can and does heal. But our experiences should not shape our theology. Instead, our theology should be the lens through which we evaluate our experiences. And our theology should be based on Scripture."

Bentley's stage was and continues to be huge. Supporters claim hundreds of thousands of people attended the Lakeland meetings, and Bentley healed hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Many still stand behind Bentley. Lynn Breidenbach, who served as a spokesperson for Bentley during much of the Outpouring, refused to talk with WORLD for this story, but she now has a spokesperson of her own, Permelia LaLonde. LaLonde said, "We don't regret our time there at all. We saw many miracle signs and wonders. The Lord knew what was going to happen, but he chose Todd anyway. And there are still fires burning all over the world. How can you argue with that?"

After Bentley stopped leading the Lakeland meetings, he announced that he and his wife Shonnah had separated. At that time, the board of Fresh Fire announced that he had entered an "inappropriate relationship" with a "female member of his staff" and that he would "refrain from all public ministry" until he had received counseling.

In November, the Fresh Fire board said that Bentley was "not submitting" to the counseling and restoration process and that he was guilty of adultery. Bentley relocated to Ft. Mill, S.C., where according to statements he is undergoing a "restoration process" under the direction of controversial charismatic ministry leader Rick Joyner. On March 9, 2009, Rick Joyner announced that Todd had remarried-to the same "former employee" with whom he had had the inappropriate relationship.

Bentley has refused media inquiries, and Joyner did not return phone calls for this story. But in a statement Joyner admitted that Bentley's remarriage was "wrong and premature," but he said that Bentley's restoration process would continue.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren is vice president of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.


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