For more than a decade, Pentecostal Bishop T.D. Jakes has lived in the shadow of a Time magazine cover that asked, "Is this man the next Billy Graham?"
That was a loaded question, because of tensions behind the scenes between the multimedia Dallas superstar and many mainstream Christian leaders.
Now, this legendary preacher -- often listed as one of America's most powerful evangelicals -- has taken a big step toward convincing his critics that he is, in fact, an evangelical. Jakes has, after years of rumors about private assurances, publicly affirmed that he believes in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
The Rev. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle asked the question directly, during an interview at the recent Elephant Room conference at the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. This annual event brings together Christian leaders from a variety of backgrounds to discuss tough subjects. The interview transcript has been published by Baptist Press.
"So you believe," said Driscoll, that "there's one God, three Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit? You believe Jesus was fully God, fully Man?"
Jakes didn't flinch: "Absolutely."
That one word represents a significant change for Jakes, the leader of The Potter's House, a 30,000-member megachurch that serves as the base for his thriving work in books, Gospel music, social-justice causes and a host of other ministries. While the church is nondenominational, the preacher has long been associated with an unorthodox stream of faith known as "Oneness" Pentecostalism.
The ancient doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is one God, yet this God has been revealed in history as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a core doctrine that unites Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians worldwide -- including most who embrace Pentecostal and "charismatic" Christianity, the world's fastest growing Christian movement.