Introducing the Word and Spirit Alliance
Pastor C.J. Rhodes
Founder of Word and Spirit Baptists
Several years ago, I served on a panel at our state Baptist convention annual session. The panelists were discussing “Bapticostalism” during our Congress of Christian Education meeting within the annual session. I recall one of the panelists being adamantly against the term, another seemed neutral, and I affirmed it, though not as passionately as I do now. The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International was the unspoken subject of this cordial debate. Though we were more than a decade removed from its founding, several Baptist pastors still felt the fellowship threatened the historic Black Baptist Church and confused gifts with the Gospel, as one notable pastor stated around that time. Honestly, it seemed at that time that my position was not only outnumbered, but also untenable in the convention. That was, of course, what some would have us believe. My experience during and after that session was that there were several pastors and delegates who secretly celebrated the fullness of the Spirit in their lives, or wanted to experience it.
They didn’t believe their understanding of the Gospel was incomplete, but did feel strongly that they were missing out on all God had for them. I soon thereafter felt I wasn’t alone in this awareness that Baptist polity and theology needn’t be in contradiction to a spiritual gifts affirming identity. As Pastor Dwight McKissic recently noted, cessationism isn’t an article of faith to which all Baptists must subscribe.
In prayers and dialog with pastors and preachers from around the nation and right here in Mississippi, we came to know that God was calling us to a reform movement within the historic Black Baptist tradition. Personally, I have a fondness for Full Gospel and other Bapticostal movements, and have gleaned more from them more than I necessarily disagree with. But I find it odd that so many churches, associations, and conventions have restrained the revival so many of know is just around the corner. In this sense, Word and Spirit Baptists emerged as a Facebook group to dialog about these matters, but was from its very inception seen as a reforming element among those of us who still hold Baptist identity and polity in esteem. We don’t see ourselves starting a splinter convention, but rather as a cross-denominational alliance of baptized believers who do not see biblical warrant to segregate Calvary from Pentecost.
This website, an outgrowth of the Facebook group, will highlight this “Bapticostal” thinking among thoughtful pastors, professors, and lay leaders all dedicated to seeing revival and reform within our traditions. I believe that we are simply making public what many whisper about, like Nicodemus visiting Jesus in the veil of night. It is my hope and prayer that this site will encourage each of you to go deeper!
- Pastor C.J. Rhodes
Word and Spirit Baptists is an idea whose time has come.
It emerges from decades of prayer, study, experience, and hope. Ours is a time marked by national chaos and global disruption, and an uncertain sound from many black churches disoriented by cultural and spiritual shifts in the religious landscape.
The Alliance thus comes forth in a moment where Christian leadership is essential. Because we know that there are many voices identified by Christian along the theological spectrum, we distinguish ourselves by holding together scriptural integrity and spiritual experience in a particular stream of black Baptist convictions.
With a high view of Scripture, and ready openness to the fullness of the Spirit’s gifts and leadership, Word and Spirit Baptist Alliance seeks to recover theological balance among and promote fellowship between African American Baptist and other like-minded Christian leaders seeking renewal, revival, and reform in their churches and civil society.
To lead in reviving black Baptist churches and denominations through a focus on holistic Holy Spirit-empowerment.
To promote spiritual renewal and church revitalization in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The values of Word and Spirit Baptists are grounded in scriptural authority and spiritual vitality demonstrated in the varieties of Baptist confessions over the last 400 years.
As Baptists, we take Scripture seriously as a trustworthy witness to faithful doctrine and ethics for all baptized believers in Jesus Christ and give it primary place in shaping our movement.
As Baptists, we cherish the leadership of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to Christ and enabling us to live for him, and depend upon all the Spirit’s gifts and fruit to live victoriously as worshipping and prayerful ambassadors of the Kingdom.
As Baptists saved by grace through faith, we are convinced that those who are truly justified go on to be progressively sanctified by the Spirit to conform us to Christ-like character in thought, word, and deed.
As Baptists committed to loving God with our minds, we dedicate ourselves to scholarly research and production for the sake of thoughtful and relevant ministry.
As Baptists empowered by the Spirit, we see no contradiction between personal piety and social protest against unjust systems, and endeavor to advocate for a liberated society in which all persons can flourish in beloved community.
As Baptists who know Christ’s kingdom transcends denominational and ethnic boundaries, we seek to work and witness with other believers who share our values.