‘Expectation of the church is total abrogation of the objectionable regulation’
The controversy over the Financial Regulation Council’s (FRC) requirement that heads of churches or General Overseers (GOs) should retire after heading their organisations for 20 years and must not appoint a successor from their family members is still raging. The implementation of the rule caused the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, to step aside last Saturday, thereby putting pressure on other churches to do then same thing, until the implementation was suspended by the Federal Government. CHRIS IREKAMBA and ISAAC TAIWO report.
Government Should Not Meddle In Affairs Of The Church’Most
Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos)
First of all, I have not read the law under reference that stipulates the tenure of General Overseers (GOs) and all that, to know the details of its content.
However, there is a limit to which government can interfere in the Church’s affairs. The autonomy of the church should be sacrosanct, as it has the right to choose its leaders by virtue of existing constitution.
I, therefore, do not believe it is government’s responsibility to dictate to the church what to do, in terms of rotational leadership or the number of years leaders should spend.
The church should be left with the way and manner it wishes to run its affairs. I also do not condescend to the belief that it is government’s business to tell the church what to do at any point in time.
Every church has its own regulations and laws that determine the tenure of their leaders, and they have been applying that accordingly.
Government should not meddle or interfere in the affairs of the church.
‘Who Would Stipulate The Number Of Years A Sultan Would Spend?’
(Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche, Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria)
I want to believe that each church should be left alone to adhere to its constitution. Therefore, government should not interfere in the way and manner the church is run.
In the case of the Methodist Church, every leader has a stipulated number of years to serve, with the leader retiring at the age of 70. At the end of his tenure, another leader is elected.
In general, however, government should keep away from the church’s affairs and not interfere in the issues affecting the system.
The church is a non-profit organisation and so, should be left alone.
For instance, if the law should be applied to every religious leader, including those outside the church, what would happen to the Sultan of Sokoto, whose appointment is for life? Who would stipulate the number of years a Sultan should spend before a successor is appointed? If that one is impossible, why is it that it is in the church such law is being implemented?
Government should leave the church alone to direct its affairs.
‘Some Church Leaders Gave Government Opportunity To Interfere’
(Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese)
The Catholic Church is not in the drama, because of the existing structure. Government is given the opportunity to interfere because of the attitude of leaders in some churches, who personalise the church by using the appellation, ‘my church,’ while the right word should be ‘our church.’
This attitude attracts the interest of government, who deduce that there are some property in those churches they could look into and control.
My position is that if leaders in those churches were really doing God’s work, they would not give room for government to poke-nose into their affairs.
Let us also look at the law, which says that a General Overseer should quit after 20 years of service and that at the attainment of 70 years should not hand over to a successor, who happens to be a member of his family.
I support government on these conditions, because the church is not a private or family business. I would advise that the church follows the law.
For instance, if I were a General Overseer and at my retirement, I handed over to a relation of mine, then it is no longer “church,” but a private matter. But it should not be a family affair. There is sense in what government is saying, that a family member should not be appointed a successor.
Again, if one is running a school business and there is need for the proprietor to be away, would he just appoint a member of the family to take over or someone who has experience that would move his business forward?
‘Government Has No Business In Number Of Years A Church Leader Should Serve’
(Elder Israel Akinadewo, Prelate/Supreme Head of Motailatu Church, Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide, MCCSW)
There are many things for government to focus on, instead of turning its attention to the church.
The church is spiritual, and if government wants to dabble in the affairs of the church, it means it wants to be dictating to God.
Government has no business in the number of years a leader in the church should serve; that is the prerogative of God, Who puts him there. It goes beyond the strength of any government to want to be meddling in the affairs of God or what transpires between God and His servants. Therefore, government should get its priority right.
In any case, it has been insinuated that the sacked FRC’s boss had an ulterior motive, because there is no linkage between the church and financial institutions.
I would, therefore, want to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the right step by removing him from that sensitive position.
Every church has its internal arrangement as to how to choose its leaders and run its affairs. The church is expected to be guided and led by the Head of the Church Himself, Who is Jesus Christ, and not government. Otherwise, the church would be going carnal, and no longer under the control and directive of God, Who sets it up.
Buhari deserves commendation for acting promptly. The church should be left alone to handle and manage its affairs.
‘Pattern Of Church Administration Depends On Scriptural Standard Adopted’
(Most Rev. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of The AfricaChurch/President, Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN)
The issue of the Financial Regulation Council’s (FRC) requirement should be treated according to the order and structure of the church setting.
Though, many churches have their organisational arrangement, including their church head’s tenure as a life-time leader, while in some other denominations, there are guidelines and laid-down rules stipulated in the constitution for the tenure and organisational hierarchical ladder, which cannot be overruled by any faction of the church, unless the constitution is being reviewed.
In other word, the FRC’s order on the retirement of the GOs and their successors has to do with the latter’s structure than the former. And all these depend on the system and organisational structure adopted by each church organisation.
In 1 Samuel 8:6, when the elder of Israel went to Samuel and said: “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations,” Samuel prayed unto Jehovah.
From the above illustration, there had been no such submission to the will of God on the part of the elders, but as deeply as Samuel must have been hurt by this determination of the nation to take government out of his hands and his sons, still he left the decision to Jehovah.
The inference could be drawn from the early church successions, whereby the Apostle led the church until his demise. If the church believes and adopts same principle, I don’t think it has any effect on the state. The pattern of church administration depends on the scriptural standard adopted.
Government agencies have the prerogative of regulating all financial activities of the nation for checks and balances, but they should have respect for the church’s institution, since they are God institutions.
‘Regulation A Deliberate Attempt To Render The Church Impotent’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, General Overseer of Charismatic Renewal Ministries Worldwide)
The Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) regulation is draconian, to say the least. Government and its agencies should focus their energies on providing security and basic amenities for the social and economic well being of the people and stop meddling in church affairs.
The unrealistic nature of that regulation becomes very clear, when you consider a scenario such as this. A young man receives a call to begin a ministry, say at 25 years of age, after his national Youth Service. He invested the energies of his youth in the work, which gestation period is usually uncertain.
After 20 years of selfless labour, when the work is beginning to show signs of survival, and the young man is now 45 years of age, some government activist forces him to quit the church and abandon the call of God on his life. This does not make sense at all.
Spiritual work, to which church ministry belongs, cannot be tenured, like the civil service, and government should just steer clear of meddling in areas they have little or no understanding of how they works.
Going by this FRC regulation, ministers of the gospel must abandon their ministries at a time they are needed the most.
Every church has a constitution, which spells out, in clear terms, how their leaders emerge and how long they should serve. Given that such constitutions are statutorily presented to and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, the best government could do is to insist that churches follow the provisions of their constitutions.
The shockwaves that were unleashed on the nation, as a result of the purported resignation of Daddy G.O. in response to the FRC’s misadventure, achieved nothing good for this county.
At a time, when our venerable leader should be encouraged to rally the church and pray for the peace and progress of the nation, some overzealous, vendetta-seeking minion had the effrontery to embarrass him and the church in general.
Church leaders are chosen and ordained by God and government and its agencies must respect that.
The FRC’s regulation must be seen for what it really is: a deliberate attempt to hamstring the church and render it impotent by sidelining its frontline leaders.
I am not aware of any place else in the world, where such obnoxious regulation is in force. Not even in the heydays of communism did any government set a retirement benchmark for church leaders.
Experience has shown that wisdom in spiritual leadership sometimes develop with age, and as such, attaining certain age should not be a limitation in Christian leadership.
Take the Catholic Church, for instance, Popes are usually elected from among the senior citizens of the church. Hardly are there people, who became Pope in their 30s or 40s.
I am sure that every God-called leader knows when to quit. Let us leave God’s men in God’s Hand.
I am happy that government has taken some good measures in their damage management of FRC’s assault against the church. However, the expectation of the church is total abrogation of the objectionable regulation.
The church remains the conscience of society and Nigeria, as a nation, cannot afford to be seen as a country that muzzles the voice of the church.
I strongly encourage the President to send a Bill to the National Assembly to amend any regulation that will put the church in government fetters, even in the slightest sense.
Meanwhile, I commend Daddy G.O. for his unparalleled demonstration of humility, which is the hallmark of every true Christian leader. It shall be well with the church in Nigeria.
‘Everything About Church Should Be Left In God’s Hands’
(Archbishop Jacob Akpiri, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria/General Overseer of Christian Holy Ghost Bible Church, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State)
Have they asked the Sultan of Sokoto, who is the spiritual head of Muslims, to step down?
Also, Buhari is over 70 years, he has been a military head of state and even after retirement, he is back as President of Nigeria. He is supposed to step down because of his age.
When the Sultan of Sokoto steps down and Buhari does the same thing and then pave way for others come in, then we would know that government is serious.
By spiritual calling, God appoints His leaders in the church. God calls every genuine pastor or General Overseer. God is ruling the church and at a point in time, He picks His leaders and when He does this, you cannot control God’s appointment. No man has the authority to do that and whoever will try it is in danger of death sentence. The person will lose his job and credibility in society.
Adeboye is a man that God has called and put integrity in him and you want to control him? You will put yourself in danger.
This thing, they are saying can never happen; rather it could even lead to the split of this nation, because Christians will never accept it.
As I am the leader of the church by God’s grace, He knows when I will leave. If the church finds anything wrong in the man that God has appointed, it is the church that has authority to ask him to go, not an outsider.
Even the issue they raised about taxing churches, every member who works in government or private companies pays tax, including a commissioner, who is a member of a church. Do you want them to pay tax twice?
These are issues we are going to tackle. Whoever is against the church, we will resist it because in Bayelsa State, we are waiting for the confirmation and if that happens, we will be on the streets to protest against it. It will not stand.
For instance, Adeboye stepped aside as RCCG’s General Overseer in Nigeria, but he is still the General Overseer worldwide. General Overseer of the world and General Overseer in Nigeria, who is the head? Adeboye is still the head of RCCG. Some people don’t understand spiritual matters.
I am sorry for whosoever initiated this development. He will regret it; you will see the result later.
Right from the Bible days, no one has succeeded in fighting the church, and that is why come 2019, the church will be out to sensitise its members on the need for everyone to register and whosoever would go against the church, we will vote the person out.
Everything about the church, including a successor, is a spiritual affair. For instance, when Apostle G.B. Nubere of the Greater Evangelism was about to die, he did not pick his wife, children or even senior pastors that were very close to him. Instead, God directed him to appoint a junior minister, who was not a state pastor, but was in a local church, to take over from him.
Before he died, he called the Board of Trustees and told them that God had directed him to pick a successor to take care of the church after his departure. He told them the person and warned that nobody should announce it until after his burial.
As the burial finished on a Saturday, the following day being Sunday, they were about holding their thanksgiving service, when it was disclosed and the people were surprised. I witnessed it.
Today, Greater Evangelism is growing faster than ever before, because God directed His church on what to do.
So, it is a spiritual matter. If God says it is your son or wife that should take over from you, He has spoken. God knows how to pick a person. Everything about the church, we should leave in God’s Hands. If you pick another person without hearing from God, the ministry will collapse. But if you allow God to do His work, nobody will regret it.
To appoint a successor is by God’s divine direction. By Go’s grace, I am also a church founder and God has told me who will take over from me. I am watching the person closely and he is a junior minister.
There are other senior pastors that are very close to me, but they don’t know about it. The person is not related to me. If God says this is the person to take over, and you deviate, the ministry will not succeed.
So, we must be very careful about who takes over from us. It is not a physical or political thing, but divine direction from above.
‘Is Government Living By Standards Being Set Up For Religious Bodies And NGOs’
The National Ameer of the Muslim Congress (TMC), Dr. Lukman Abdraheem, said: “I am indifferent to the provisions in the Financial Regulation Council’s stipulation of a maximum tenure of 20 years for heads of all registered churches, mosques and civil society organisation (CSOs), because it is an amalgam of good, bad and ugly items.
“Transparency and accountability in management of religious establishments are good provisions. But is government living by standards being set up for religious organisation and NGOs?
“Government wants religious body to come out with information on how they spend their money when there is no transparency on how government runs its own affairs.
“The advent of religious bodies running schools, university and so on is due to the failure of government to provide basic amenities for the citizens.”
He said the provision does not affect his organisation, as the span of leadership is not more than 10 years.
National Ameer Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Dr. Saheed Ashafa, said: “FRC’s stipulation does not portend danger to the way MSSN operates.
“Normally, we operate under a registered organisation and expect certain regulations to bind our operations. We are non-profit making organisation and we don’t even have any leadership schedule that enjoys a span of up to 20 years.
“Our span of leadership is two to three years, which is renewable only once. So, you can only serve for maximum of six years.
“We operated basically for humanitarian purpose, and being faith based, we support any stride that intends to prevent all forms of self-aggrandisement and exploitation.
“It is our belief that the regulation is to foster decorum in management of resources and relation with people.”
Founder of Islamic Mission Organisation (IMO), Alhaji Ayo Adeyemi, welcomed the FRC stipulation, saying religious bodies were not meant to be profit-making ventures.
“If you turn it to a profit-making venture, then you must be prepared to pay tax to government.
“If you hide under religion to establish business enterprises, then government must not fold its hand.
“We are all witnesses to what is going on in our society, where there are lots of absurdities perpetrated under the name of religion. If government decided at a point to wake up and workout a system whereby religious organisation could be supervised, to me, it is a welcome development.
“IMO is not a profit-making organisation. If it affects us, we are ready to comply. We will not fight it because we did not see it as fighting war, as some people believed.
“People misrepresented it as a fight against religion. It is not; it is meant to clean religious management.
“Government should not forget that religion and education are interwoven. When religion came to Nigeria, it came with education. Religion was introduced to us as far as the missionary concerns education.
“Establishment of school by religious bodies and teaching people is part of religion. There is no way education can be separated from religious organisation.”
National President of Nasrul-Lahi-Fatih Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Sheikh Abdullah Gbade Akinbode, said: “If there is a law restricting the tenure of religious leaders, then government should evaluate people’s opinion first before implementing such law.
“To me, I welcome the FRC law, because accountability is paramount to every religious body. It does not affect the constitution of NASFAT, as our span of leadership is two to three years.”
The Chief Imam/Head of Mission of Ansar-ud-deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdurahman Olanrewaju Ahmad, said: “If the federal government is implementing the law, it is to ensure accountability and transparency of finances of non-governmental organisation.”