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Angie Golding, 50, claims she was denied confirmation unless she signed up for the Alpha course, which she says is a "brainwashing" exercise where participants speak in tongues, make animal noises and then fall over.
She has left the evangelical St Marks in Broadwater Down, Kent, with 14 members of the congregation and founded a church at home in Tunbridge Wells. Those being confirmed this summer are attending the course as well. The Alpha course is an evangelistic initiative begun by Holy Trinity Brompton - perhaps better known now for its promotion of the Toronto Blessing.
The official history of the Alpha Course begins 16 years ago when a member of HTB, Charles Marnham, set up an informal home group to present answers to basic gospel questions.
The final weekend away is a vital part of the course - and this has attracted the most criticism, as it gives a chance for the leaders, if they are so disposed, to present the Holy Spirit in an experimental fashion to a captive audience.
The course always ends with a Supper laid on to which more non-believers are invited, and so the process continues. Whatever else can be said about the Alpha Course, it has been a runaway success. In there were just four courses involving people; in there were fewer than 10 courses being held in Britain.
Now there are an estimated 3, being run regularly three times a year, more than of them overseas.
These are being run by every denomination, including Catholic. One difficulty in pinning down the problems with the Alpha Course is that each church running the course will use the materials in a different way. Thus it is feasible, in theory at least, that a church might avoid all controversy and simply use the course to preach the gospel to unbelievers.
This does leave unanswered the question - why does any church need to buy a course to be able to preach the gospel? However, there are deep concerns. Below I present some thoughts on the Alpha Course by a Christian i who grew alarmed when viewing the course materials.
It is a personal view but I believe it speaks for many.
Alpha certainly starts by preaching the gospel; the first three talks on Video One focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the three talks on video Two which cover fundamental steps for new Christians, such as 'How can I be sure of my faith?
But as the course progresses, some of the talks tend to wander off into lengthy accounts of HTB's experiences of the Toronto Blessing and associated ministries, novel exegeses of various Biblical passages common amongst pro-Toronto preachers, calls for unity despite truth and an over-emphasis on the Holy Spirit, all of which are less than helpful, to say the least, to potential Christians.
Clearly the aim is to bring as many into God's Kingdom as possible but by the end of the course I cannot help feeling that the Toronto Blessing may have been the greater beneficiary. I experienced the power of the Spirit in a way I hadn't experienced for years, like massive electricity going through my body One of the guys was prophesying.
He was just lying there prophesying. Thus, they are initiated into the Toronto Blessing without a whimper of protest amongst them. I think the two go together. In view of the similarities of emphasis and content between the two, I'm not sure that it can.
Alpha also promotes, as does the leadership of the TB, 'unity' between Protestants and Roman Catholics, with no consideration, or perhaps realisation, of the unreconcileable doctrines of the two Churches, and so another concern is its trend towards ecumenism.The Alpha Course is a course that has been used by many as a way to attempt to introduce the false doctrines and practices of the Third Wave into mainstream denominations.
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