Like long acronyms? Try the “Baptist International Conference on Theological Education” (BICTE). It meets every five years (last in Prague), in conjunction with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). This year’s meeting (the 8th) is in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where about a hundred theologians, pastors, and other interested folk are surrounded by a thousand or so party-happy vacationers at an aging but all-inclusive resort.

When all the Red Stripe beer and cocktails are included in the base price, some people — I’ve observed — have the same problem I do when faced with the buffet. It’s hard not to overdo it.

So, while others sleep off hangovers or bake on the beach or wait for the bars to open again, we Baptists are gathered in a conference room hearing papers on a Baptist understanding of the Holy Spirit.

On Friday, William Brackney of Acadia University read a paper on “Baptist Contributions to Theological Reflection on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.” Starting with Thomas Helwys, Brackney noted that Baptists have typically focused mostly on Christology, mainly echoing views on the Holy Spirit that reflect other Trinitarian groups and responding to others’ doctrinal discussions rather than sparking our own. 

Overall, Brackney said, Baptists have tended to undervalue the Third Person of the Trinity, but he expressed hope that further dialogue with other Christian groups on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit may bring more “variety and energy to the Body of Christ.”

Burchell Taylor, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church near Kingston, Jamaica, offered a paper on “The Holy Spirit and Social Justice.” Taylor called for a “Spirit-empowered praxis” that propels believers beyond the walls of the church to join the Spirit in the healing of creation and the promotion of justice and peace for the world.

Taylor advocated for greater emphasis on contextualization in training future pastors so they can lead their churches to promote social justice in their own particular context.

Saturday’s session will include four more papers on subjects ranging from “Baptists and Pneumatology: Atonement and Healing” to “The Holy Spirit in Corporate Worship.”

Stay tuned!

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