AN American faith healer who claims to cure people by kicking them in the face has been invited to preach in Portadown next month.
Controversial evangelist Todd Bentley has caused uproar in the US using methods which also include choking people and pushing them over.
Bentley is currently touring the US but is scheduled to preach in Norway and England before coming to Co Armagh on September 3.
Several internet videos of Bentley’s all-action stage routine show him demonstrating his techniques.
In one video he tells an enthralled congregation that the “gift of faith” comes upon him and guides his actions.
Referring to his treatment of a disabled lady at one event, the heavily-tattooed preacher said: “The Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said ‘kick her in the face — with your biker boot’.”
Mimicking a violent kick, Bentley added: “And just as my boot made contact with her nose, she fell under the power of God.”
In another he claims to have ‘chocked’ a Chinese man who came forward at a prayer meeting.
“I grabbed him by the neck and starting choking him and I said ‘come out of him Devil’, Bentley said.
He is due to speak between September 3 and 5 at The Christian Centre on Portadown’s Tandragee Road.
The 36-year-old preacher’s Fresh Fire Mission website lists further speaking engagements in Pakistan and Korea later this year.
An English MP is reported to have urged Home Secretary Theresa May to ban Bentley from entering the UK.
Speaking to the Daily Mail Labour’s Malcolm Wicks – who represents Croydon North where the preacher is due to appear at the end of this month – said he told Ms May: “His visit can do nothing but harm and I would be grateful for any measures you can take.”
In the same report, former Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who now runs a church education charity, said: “I think the Home Secretary should make enquiries and see if there is any threat to public order. If the police have any indication that violence will be used against people who may be ill or vulnerable, it will be for her to decide if police should attend.”
The Rev Chris Hudson from All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Belfast, said he has reservations about Bentley’s appearance in Northern Ireland.
The Rev Hudson said his main concerns were the people who then realise they haven’t been healed.
“There’s the sense that they don’t have true faith, and haven’t submitted completely to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
“I find that difficult because I think that could in a lot of cases be upsetting to people and make them feel worse off than they already are... I have difficulty with people who say that God will intervene to heal some, and not others.”
He said he had been to a more mainstream healing session some years’ ago at St Anne’s Cathedral, and has seen people practicing such healing across the world.
Although he is “agnostic” about whether real ailments could be healed by faith, Rev Hudson urged caution.
“These are things we all ponder and debate and discuss,” he said.
“There’s no definitive answer to it. This guy is coming along with a definitive answer to the unknown, and there is no answer.”
Four years ago News Letter journalist Sam McBride visited a church in the Tigers Bay area of Belfast where a close associate of Bentley’s performed a bizarre ‘healing’ service.
Crowds flocked to the Elim Christian Centre in 2008 to see Canadian Bobby Sullivan, who was alleged to have previously brought a boy back from the dead.
At the time, the reporter explained how members of the congregation who didn’t fall over when touched would be physically pushed.
Bentley’s profile on the Twitter social networking site describes him as, “an author, lover of Jesus, Christian preacher, biker and body builder”.