Storm over faith healer town visit

Todd Bentley
Todd Bentley

PORTADOWN clergymen have voiced their opposition to the arrival of a controversial North American preacher who believes he can ‘cure’ ill people by kicking them in the face.

Canadian-born Todd Bentley, who caused uproar in the US by using methods such as choking people and pushing them over, has been invited to appear at the Christian Centre on the Tandragee Road next month.

However, several of the town’s religious figures have come out against his unorthodox methods.

The Christian Centre extended an invite to the preacher to appear in Portadown between September 3 and 5, following appearances in Norway and England.

But since news of Bentley’s appearance here became public there have been calls from political and religious representatives to ban him from entering the UK.

The self-proclaimed healer, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a child when he was a teenager, has provoked a maelstrom of publicity since footage of his healing events were uploaded to video-sharing site YouTube.

Pastor Johnny Brown, of Portadown Elim Church, stressed that while he firmly believes in healing, he does “not endorse” Bentley’s methods.

“We’re a Pentecostal church and we do believe in healing but it’s the character, the background (of Bentley) that concerns me. He claims to be Pentecostal but what we do (at Elim) is nothing like that. He is not Pentecostal and our church would definitely not endorse him.”

Pastor Brown added that he would be addressing the matter with his congregation. “We’re seeing miracles in our church all the time but it is not in his fashion. This guy will come in for three days and the pastors of local churches will be left to pick up the pieces.”

The Rev Jim Campbell, Rector at St Mark’s Church, said that he had watched some of the clips of Bentley on YouTube and had been left perturbed by the experience. “I watched some clips and there he is bouncing around. I can’t imagine Jesus would have done that. I can’t see anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus would have (performed healing) like that. It is completely out of my knowledge of what it ought to be.

“We do a healing service (at St Mark’s) on the first and third Friday of every month at lunchtime and it’s a very gentle, welcoming, peaceful environment and many people return and have found it to be a blessing and feel strengthened.”

Mr Campbell added that he felt Bentley’s methods could have a negative impact on vulnerable people. “In the clips that I watched I saw the audiences treat it as entertainment. The audience were laughing and that is not how the Holy Spirit works.”

Clips show Mr Bently kicking a polio-sufferer’s leg repeatedly while he asks the man if he feels himself being cured. Other shots show him hitting a man in the stomach with what he describes as his ‘Holy knee’.

The cleric, who is attached to the Fresh Fire Ministries Church in the United States, says during the footage that the Holy Spirit compels him to hit and kick those asking for his help.

“I was asked why the power of God isn’t moving and I said it’s because I haven’t kicked that woman in the face,” he says during the footage. “The Holy Spirit spoke to me, the gift of faith came on me and said, ‘Kick her in the face with your biker boot.’ I inched closer and I went bam! Just as my boot made contact with her nose, she fell under the power of God.”

His unorthodox methods have prompted clergymen from various Christian denominations to speak out against his visit.

The Portadown Times contacted Pastor George Elliott, who ministers at the Christian Centre for his response, however, he said he would not be commenting on Mr Bentley’s appearance at his church but added that he would be prepared to speak to the paper post-event.