In ongoing discussions about the “outpouring” in Lakeland, Florida a number of people have mentioned as a criticism of Todd Bentley that he talks about an angel called Emma. For the first time this evening I have seen some evidence of this. Ian Matthews lists this as his number one reason for being suspicious of Todd’s ministry, and he gives a link to an article which Todd wrote in 2003. Ian says that Emma
apparently ministers in his revival meetings.
But what does Todd really have to say about Emma? I quote in full the section from the article with the only mentions of Emma:
EMMA, ANGEL OF THE PROPHETIC
Now let me talk about an angelic experience with Emma. Twice Bob Jones asked me about this angel that was in Kansas City in 1980: “Todd, have you ever seen the angel by the name of Emma?” He asked me as if he expected that this angel was appearing to me. Surprised, I said, “Bob, who is Emma?” He told me that Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out. Within a few weeks of Bob asking me about Emma, I was in a service in Beulah, North Dakota. In the middle of the service I was in conversation with Ivan and another person when in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, “Here’s Emma.” I’m not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Khulman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young-about 22 years old-but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life.
She glided into the room, emitting brilliant light and colors. Emma carried these bags and began pulling gold out of them. Then, as she walked up and down the aisles of the church, she began putting gold dust on people. “God, what is happening?” I asked. The Lord answered: “She is releasing the gold, which is both the revelation and the financial breakthrough that I am bringing into this church. I want you to prophecy that Emma showed up in this service-the same angel that appeared in Kansas city-as a sign that I am endorsing and releasing a prophetic spirit in the church.” See, when angels come, they always come for a reason; we need to actually ask God what the purpose is. Within three weeks of that visitation, the church had given me the biggest offering I had ever received to that point in my ministry. Thousands of dollars! Thousands! Even though the entire community consisted of only three thousand people, weeks after I left the church the pastor testified that the church offerings had either doubled or tripled.
During this visitation the pastor’s wife (it was an AOG church) got totally whacked by the Holy Ghost- she began running around barking like a dog or squawking like a chicken as a powerful prophetic spirit came on her. Also, as this prophetic anointing came on her, she started getting phone numbers of complete strangers and calling them up on the telephone and prophesying over them. She would tell them that God gave her their telephone number and then would give them words of knowledge. Complete strangers. Then angels started showing up in the church.
I believe Emma released a financial and prophetic anointing in that place. That was the first angel that I have ever seen in the form of a woman. Some angels I’ve seen seemed like they were neither male nor female. However, Emma appeared as a woman who was like a Deborah, like a mother in Zion. When she came, she began to mentor, nurture and opened up a prophetic well. The people in the church began having trances and visions and the pastor began getting words of knowledge and moving in healing. That congregation also saw more financial breakthrough than they had ever seen before.
What can we make of this? First, Todd, as quite a young Christian, was told about Emma by the respected leader Bob Jones. Soon after this Todd saw a vision which he understood to be this same Emma. So if this is an error, it is Bob’s error, only taken on second hand by Todd. This is the same Bob Jones who last week prophesied over Trevor Baker in the YouTube clip which I linked to before.
Second, this angel is seen to distribute gold dust. But I note that this is a vision of an angel, and presumably the gold dust is also visionary, not literal. In the vision it is clearly symbolic of the generosity which came to this congregation leading them to make a large offering. So there is no call for the mockery I have seen that people should collect the gold dust to raise money for the poor. In fact it seems that Todd’s meetings bring in plenty of money for his work for the poor quite apart from the gold dust.
Third, it is an unwarranted generalisation to write that Emma “apparently ministers in his revival meetings” on the basis of an account of just one occasion when she turned up at a meeting. There is no indication that Todd ever saw her again. I have seen no suggestion that she has been reported as ministering at Lakeland.
So, what is the issue here which has made this such a stumbling block for Ian and others? Is it the idea that angels have names? But that is biblical: the angels Michael and Gabriel are named in Scripture. Is it the apparently modern form of this angel’s name? Well, Emma is a modern name I think, but it might well be an adaptation of the Hebrew word AMMA, which means “cubit”, or AMA “female servant”, both of which would be appropriate names for an angel – “cubit” being suitable for the measuring angel of Ezekiel 40-47 and Revelation 21. Or is the problem that this angel is apparently female? Well, I accept that there may be no explicitly female angels in the Bible, but arguments from silence like that are very dangerous. Or perhaps the problem is simply that Todd is seeing angels at all? But since the apostles, Philip, Cornelius, Peter and Paul did (Acts 5:19, 8:26, 10:3, 12:7, 27:23), why shouldn’t Todd?
Of course the underlying issue here may be that Todd is claiming in any way at all to hear from God and to be in touch with the spiritual realm. For Bible deists that is of course a problem, and maybe that is Ian’s real problem. I took the term “Bible deist” from Jack Deere’s book Surprised by the Voice of God, in which, as I wrote then, Deere
explains how he moved from the position that God speaks only through the Bible to an expectation that God speaks to his people today, if only they will listen to him.
So, does Ian reject (in the words of his second objection to Todd) because of
The Gnostic overtones of special knowledge and revelation
any claim to hear God, or only Todd’s claim? If only Todd’s, what makes him special? If any such claim, then is Ian declaring himself a cessationist and Bible deist? If so, this seems to sit oddly with one of the core values of his church:
We are open to the renewing, empowering and transforming work of God the Holy Spirit.
Surely anyone who is truly open in this laudable way will be open to the possibility that God is really speaking to and through Todd Bentley.
As for Ian’s last objection,
The seeking after ‘blessings’ – it seems to distract from the ‘business’ of being the body of Christ to a needy world
– I have more sympathy here. There certainly are some blessing and revival junkies making a lot of this just for themselves. Todd can’t stop them turning up, but he doesn’t encourage them. What he does encourage is people visiting Lakeland and then taking his anointing back to their home churches. This is certainly happening in some places. This anointing is intended to equip Christians to be more effective as the body of Christ to a needy world. So let’s stop carping about it and seek the equipping for ministry which God is offering.