Rev. Dennis Bennett (1917–1991)
by Tony Copple
Dennis J. Bennett was an American Episcopal Priest, who, starting in 1960, believed that he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He was a seminal figure in the Charismatic Movement within the Christian church, probably influencing John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Church. Nicky Gumbel references Wimber in the Alpha Course as the one who explained to him that the ministry of Christian healing had not ceased with the deaths of the apostles.
In April 1988 Dennis Bennett was the speaker at the Spirit of Promise conference, held at Kingsway Baptist Church, Etobicoke, near Toronto. In the audience was Laurie-Ann Zachar. She was converted to Christianity at that conference, and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. She also received a set of the conference talks on cassette tape. Today she is my wife, and these teachings are a small part of the Christian materials she has brought into our relationship.
Every properly run Alpha course includes a Holy Spirit Weekend when participants have the opportunity to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and may receive gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, healing, tongues, discernment, etc.) Dennis believed that they would necessarily receive the ability to use their own prayer language, usually referred to as tongues. John Wimber felt that this might come later, and the Alpha course makes the point that there is no such thing as first-class Christians who speak (in tongues) and second class Christians who don't. Putting this issue on one side, Bennett, Wimber and Gumbel would be in agreement on the reality of Baptism in the Spirit and spiritual gifts including healing. It is therefore fascinating to be able to hear Dennis Bennett's teachings on these subjects. His book The Holy Spirit and You covers this ground in more detail. For readers who have done the Alpha course or are contemplating it, I would recommend listening to the three talks below. I found them enthralling, filling out my own understanding of these crucial matters, and giving additional evidence as to the authenticity of Alpha's theology.
There are churches that are uncomfortable with any kind of manifestation of the Holy Spirit in today's world, and such churches will tend not to run Alpha. If you are a member of one of those churches, these teachings may be completely new to you. Be assured that the teachings are 100% biblical, using nothing that comes from non-Bible sources, but using material clearly provided in the Bible for our enlightenment.
None of these talks has been edited.