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Phyllis


Rodgerson Pleasants Tessieri


He said the 1900s witnessed a wave of “Pentecostal and Charismatic phenomenon and the movement made inroads


into


our churches.” Parachurch organizations and interdenominational as


Scripture Union, the


groups such Evangelical


Christian Union and the Student Christian Movement, many of which emerged in Nigeria in the 1950s, drew heavily on Pentecostal and Charismatic expressions and doctrines of the Holy Spirit. The 1970s, he said, “witnessed the full bloom of Pentecostal


tendencies


history and consultant/educator for local congregations and businesses, affi rmed that “people long for community, but fi nd their community through a web of connections.” She posited that “Baptist anxiety about and suspicion of manifestations of the Holy Spirit in worship and congregational life is nothing new” because “the 17th


century


English context out of which Baptists fi rst arose was rife with groups claiming the leadership of the Holy Spirit.” Early Baptists “rejected the Church of England and the Roman Catholic views that the clerical hierarchy and the monarchy had special access to the Holy Spirit.” Baptists also “dissented from more


radical Spiritualist groups who claimed the Holy Spirit’s authority for overthrowing the government, or that the ‘light within’ superseded Holy Scripture in discerning God’s revelation, or that the Holy Spirit so inhabited one leader that that leader had the authority to dictate how everyone else was to believe and live.” Early Baptists, Tessieri said, “did not expect the experience of being led by God or even the worship of God to be uniform. . . . Early Baptists were connectional, not conformists.”


Pentecostal Controversies among


Nigerian Baptists Resolved


S


olomon Ademola Ishola of the Nige- rian Baptist


Theological Seminary


and former general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), in his response to William Brackney’s paper at the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education, said Baptists in Nigeria struggled to come to terms with Pentecostal and Charismatic expressions and tendencies that were being manifested in Baptist congregations.


or practices among the young people,” including “the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the emphasis on speaking in healing and deliverance,


tongues,


prayers during worship and holding prayer vigils.”


These, Ishola declared,


simultaneous were


considered by Baptist leaders at the time as “un-Baptistic practices. Such practices, as far as the leaders were concerned, was to be stamped out of the Baptist churches and in the gatherings of our young people.” This led to long standing confl icts within Baptist churches, particularly between Baptist youth on the one hand, many of whom were students at tertiary institutions, and Nigerian Baptist leaders, pastors and missionaries on the other. “The response of the leaders of Nigerian Baptists at the time was outright condemnation and . . . combative against such manifestations of the Holy Spirit.” The head of the Baptist Students Fellowship (BSF), an American expatriate, was even deported from Nigeria in December 1977, accused of promoting Pentecostal


practices and “subsequently


regarded as a ‘security risk’ to the country.” Her deportation, Ishola said, was shrouded in mystery and was done “without the knowledge of the Nigerian Baptist leaders.” Pointing to a similar occurrence in Ghana at the time, Ishola said the speculation “was that the American missionaries who were cessationists were responsible for her sudden exit.”


Ishola said “the reactions by some


local Baptist pastors were swift as some banned the activities of the BSF and removed [BSF leaders and members] from leading Sunday schools, prayer meetings and choirs. Some churches even


banned


some student groups from using their church facilities for all their meetings.” Pentecostalism


was also African affecting


Baptist churches from another direction – indigenous


churches, which


were “growing and spreading in Nigeria and [other] West


African countries.”


This, Ishola said, “contributed in no small measure to our leaders’ reactions to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit held by the Pentecostals.”


The deportation and the clampdown on Pentecostal infl uences in Baptist churches and among Baptist student and youth groups resulted in a mass exodus of young people from Baptist churches in Nigeria. Many


The 1970s “witnessed the full bloom of Pentecostal practices among the young people”


of these youth joined “New Generation churches, while some started their own ministries and churches.”Ishola estimated that “close to 70 percent of the leadership of the New Generation churches in Nigeria are former Baptists who were either kicked out of their churches or simply left for where they could be utilized.” The wrenching within the NBC led


to much soul searching, especially after leadership of the convention fell into the hands of Nigerians, rather than American missionaries. In 1993, the NBC approved Statements of Faith and Practice of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, which included segments on the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the statement acknowledged, “Gives to Christians certain gifts for the equip- ping of the believers for ministry and the building up of the church of Jesus Christ. These gifts are varied and many.” Among the gifts, the statement affi rmed, “Are wisdom, teaching, tongues, interpreta- tion of tongues, administration, healing, miracles, evangelism, prophecy, stirring speech, giving, leadership and (Continued on next page)

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