A three-day conference is underway in Arlington, Texas, to teach Baptists and other Christians what Scripture says about the Holy Spirit.
Recent debates on charismatic practices within the Southern Baptist Convention prompted the Rev. Dwight McKissic to open "A Baptist Conference on The Holy Spirit" on Friday along with a host of speakers lined up to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in the church.
McKissic, a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), was recently involved in a controversy at the school where he had mentioned in a chapel service of experiencing private prayer language. The sermon sparked debate among Southern Baptist leaders, most of whom do not engage in or accept charismatic practices, and the video recording of the service was not posted on the seminary's website, as was regular practice.
When SWBTS voted to ban charismatic practices, McKissic, who pastors Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, said he saw the decision as a step toward a clear stance on the issue in the Southern Baptist Convention. The denomination has not adopted a formal position on spiritual gifts, which McKissic is proposing for.
Months out of the controversy, McKissic and other like-minded Baptists realized many believers do not quite study who the Holy Spirit is, according to Veronica Griffith, minister of communications for Cornerstone. McKissic thus had a "burning in his heart" to host a conference to "educate people on the person of the Holy Spirit."
For the Arlington pastor, speaking in tongues and other spiritual gifts is tradition in his family of believers.
And he's backed by a group of Southern Baptist pastors who are proposing to draft resolutions to present during the SBC's annual meeting in San Antonio this summer.
One of the pastors expressing strong support for McKissic is the Rev. Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist in Enid, Okla., and a board member of the International Mission Board, which bans missionaries from speaking in tongues in private. Burleson is scheduled to speak on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Great Commission at the Arlington conference on Friday.
Over 650 people from around the country are expected to attend the Apr. 27-29 event, themed "One Body, One Spirit and One Hope." Attendants include evangelicals, the majority of whom are Southern Baptists as well as charismatics. The conference will address the different belief systems within Baptist life, including the charismatic, continualist, semi-cessationist, and cessationist viewpoints of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The goal of the conference, McKissic clarified, is to not to get everyone "on the same page" but to help people understand and appreciate various Baptist viewpoints, he said.
"We are praying that God will pour out His Spirit upon us as we gather as a body of Baptist and evangelical believers with diverse viewpoints," stated McKissic. "We're also praying that we will leave this conference knowing more about the Holy Spirit as a doctrine, but more importantly we will also ask the Lord to pour out His Spirit upon us at this conference so that we will all fellowship with the Holy Spirit as a person."
This is the first time McKissic and Cornerstone are hosting an event on the Holy Spirit.