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Scandal in house of God: What church leadership must do

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Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of all Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

Both social and traditional media are agog with disturbing stories of men of God engaging in illicit sexual affairs and occult practices. And there seems to be no end to it, as the menace keeps rearing its ugly head in different forms. This is aside other alarming activities as ritual killings and 419, among other unprintable things discovered to be going on in some churches. Just what is happening in the House of God? What are the bodies constituted to supervise churches doing to curb these excesses? Is there anything the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) can do to save the Church from these scandals? CHRIS IREKAMBA (Lagos) and NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE (Abuja) report.

‘PFN/CAN Will Continue To Ensure Sanity In Christ’s Body’
(Rev. Dr. Felix Omobude, President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN),

Honestly, the church must continue to remain the ground and pillar of truth, and anything short of it is not good for us. I believe in Jesus’ parable, when He said: “A certain man went to sow wheat in his field. And when he slept, another person went and sowed tares.

When it was discovered that the tares had grown in the midst of the wheat, his farmers told their Master do we go and remove the tares, his answer was that they should leave it to grow together with the wheat until the day of harvest.”

Apparently, He must have had idea that some of these things would happen, so that on the day of harvest, He would separate the wheat from the tares. I think this is the sign of End Time. There are many and different people in ministry. And like every other profession, be it journalism or medicine, there are tares among the wheat. I’m not afraid, as it’s not a hopeless situation yet. It is the evil among the good, and the black sheep will continue to be there.

As for PFN and CAN, we will continue to do our best to ensure there is sanity in the body of Christ. We will look at it from the perspective of an in-house matter and do what we need to do.

John Cardinal Onaiyekan


‘This Is A Lesson Not Only For Pastors
But For Everybody’
(Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja)

FIRST of all, as a Catholic Archbishop of Abuja and the Cardinal of the Catholic Church, I have the duty to condemn all forms of sexual misbehaviour, though some are more condemnable than others.

For instance, fornication is wrong, but people hardly deem it as bad as rape. Similarly, those who sexually abuse others, not only through physical force, but also by moral force of authority are equally to be condemned. These include the office boss, who through all kinds of signals make it clear to a poor young girl working under him that her prospects will be better, if she accepts his advances.

Of course, the young lady can refuse, but when she does, she knows she should be ready to pay for the consequences. However, whether she agrees or refuses, the boss is still to be condemned.

Those claiming spiritual authority and who present themselves as moral guides have greater responsibility not to be found wanting in this regard. From that point of view, the interest the public, including the media, have shown in the issue at hand is not misplaced.

As a religious leader, I cannot but make the position clear that there is no way by whatever reading of the Bible or Qur’an you can justify a situation, where a so-called spiritual leader takes advantage of his position to abuse people, especially those that are vulnerable, either because they are minor or have social disability like poverty. We should be able to raise the issue generally across board and not concentrate on one category, even though each category has its own level of responsibility.

Coming down to what you called the church. Again, we are in difficulty there. Is the church the same thing as the pastors? It is at that level I would insist that we hold everybody accountable for his or her action and refrain from making general statements. We should not condemn the whole bunch, just because of the misbehaviour of one person or the other, no matter how highly placed.

Recently, we having been dealing with cases of high level Catholic leaders that were found wanting in this regards, so much so that we have had Cardinals being deposed by the Pope because of actions they allegedly committed or proven to have committed several years ago. The most glamorous cases always invariably dated back to when they were younger. So, when you hear the news that a Cardinal has been accused of rape, people wonder why a cardinal is doing this. They fail to ask, ‘when did it happen?’

However, the only thing one could say is, if you know you have this kind of burden of guilt, why accept great honours? Therefore, if a pastor has done something wrong, please hold him/her responsible. I won’t blame his church, even though he/she is the founder and General Overseer. I will not blame the whole church for it, as anybody can fall. This is presuming that the matter is proven to be true eventually. We must presume someone is innocent, until proven guilty, although the person concerned already knows whether he/she is guilty or not. The whole shouldn’t carry the burden of one man’s stupid action.

That is why this particular case that is trending should serve as a warning for us to be careful and not misbehave and think we can get away with it. If it is not exposed today, it will definitely come out later. And even if it is not exposed later, unless you have made peace with God, it will eventually come out at the Judgment Seat of God. This is a lesson not only for pastors, but also for everybody.

I used to be CAN President, and if you ask me, I would say this is none of our business. CAN is not set up to start investigating stupid actions of individual pastors. That is the business of their churches, and if the misbehaviour becomes a crime, then they face the consequence.

The laws and the law enforcement agencies are there. So, if a pastor is accused of rape, which is a crime, I don’t think it is CAN’s duty to investigate such pastor. The current CAN leadership is handling the issue in such a way that it does not put on itself what is not its responsibility. You cannot investigate, when you have no authority over the group. We are an association of churches.

CAN is not a mega-church with authority over every church. For instance, CAN has no business investigating anything in the Catholic Church. We will just tell them to hands off. There is what I consider the moral aspect— whether somebody has done something that is morally reprehensible for which he needs to be ashamed and repent. Then there is the other aspect of the law. If somebody commits a crime, the police are supposed to arrest and investigate; giving the person concerned his full right of self-defence and lawyers’ assistance before the case eventually gets to a judge. The nation has no moral laws, which is why a Muslim judge can preside over a criminal case of a Christian and vice versa. 

It is clear in the Constitution that the only thing CAN leadership can do is to reach out to the pastor concerned, advise him and try to help him out of his present predicament. But he should not expect CAN to carry the burden for him, because that is not CAN’s duty. CAN may also find a way of letting it be known that this kind of situation has a general negative implication on how people see the Christian faith and that this kind if thing is giving the Church a bad name.

By the time we finish with this case of COZA and start going into cases of parents abusing their children, teachers who are messing around with their students and husbands who are abusing their house helps, then we will begin to understand that there is a pollution that is going on in our society and a general sense of inadequate attention to proper sexual behaviour. This is a global problem.

‘It’s Not The Pulpit That Makes You A
Man Of God’
(Rt. Revd. Daniel Yisa, Bishop of Minna and newly presented Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Lokoja)

THE way we use that word ‘men of God’ is outrageous. Who is a man of God? The way journalists look at it is not the same way I define it. It’s not a question of dressing like a pastor or priest. It’s not a matter of climbing the pulpit that makes you a man of God. A person must first accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour.

Unfortunately, however, a man of God is taken as a title today. And several there are, who encourage people to take it up without knowing the meaning and what is expected of a man of God. So, it has become like business for some people. Indeed, it’s more profiting now than official businesses.

I am not a CAN official and so, I can’t speak for or say something on CAN’s behalf. I think what is paramount to the church is discipleship, which has to start from the individual. The Church is a collective body, and if Jesus had one Judas, you should expect the body to have several Judases in congregation. The emphasis should be on the individual disciple before we talk of the church. It is the individuals that gather to make up the body of Christ and you always have one or two that could be Judas.

‘Blocs In CAN Where Offender Belongs Should Investigate Him/Her
(His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, MCN)

IT’S a very serious problem, but all I know is that God judges His servants and every so-called pastor/man of God should examine himself whether he is still in the Lord. What is happening calls for thorough self-examination.

The body of Christ is a congregation of believers those who are born again, and washed by the blood of Jesus. I believe whether you are a member or pastor of any church, you should re-examine your stand with Christ because that is what is important. If Christ is your Lord and Saviour, and you acknowledge what He has done for you on the cross, it will be difficult for you to mess up. I don’t want to generalise, but there are pastors and there are pastors, irrespective of the denomination.

Satan is very powerful, and can lure anybody into temptation. Do you know you why we revere Jesus and worship God through Him? He was tempted but He didn’t sin. So, everybody, including pastors needs Jesus to withstand sin and temptation, as there are many things that can make a person to derail from this Christian race on earth.

I believe Jesus can help anybody who trusts in Him. We have no power of our own or immunity against sin, as we are only sustained by God’s grace. Saint Paul said, ‘we can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens us.’ Jesus Christ Himself said: “Abide in Me and I in you, apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Your relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters, and it is what determines our daily victory. So, I call on all pastors, irrespective of denomination, not to stand on their own. The arms of the flesh will fail us; only the Spirit of God can sustain us. I don’t believe CAN should go and investigate some of these things, because there are five blocs in CAN.

So, if a minister does something wrong, the bloc he belongs can look into the matter, investigate and caution whoever is involved. But for some of us that have well known structures you know your leaders, you know whom to obey; you know the rules and constitution that guide you, as well as the Bible. If anybody violates church rules, then the church discipline will be brought to bear on the offender. Jesus is the Pillar we need to lean on all the time, as we have no strength of our own.

I’m not underrating CAN, but supposing the person involved is not a registered member of CAN and his or her church is not registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)? How do you prove the person is a pastor? By their fruits you will know them.

Sometime ago, PFN investigated a matter and discovered that the person was not a member.

‘If You Have Grudges Against Any Pastor, Come To Us Or Seek Police Intervention’
(His Eminence, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)

IT is very unfortunate that we are hearing some negative stories about some pastors. What we are not sure about is whether they are true or not.

None of those so-called scandals has been brought to CAN and there is no way we can intervene in an issue we read from the social media. If anyone has any problem with any pastor, he or she should approach CAN leadership at any level close to them. We have CAN leadership in every local government, state and FCT.

We also have structures in all the six geo-political zones, with our headquarters in Abuja. We have an internal mechanism for reconciliation and mediation. It is wrong to condemn the whole Body of Christ for whatever bad a handful of our pastors have done or are doing.

Every religion or association has its own bad eggs, but CAN, as the umbrella body of Christians in the country will not tolerate any ungodly and unlawful acts among its members. The Bible is our manual and we have respect for the Constitution of the country. We appeal to those who use the social media to conduct trials to have a rethink. Instead, those who have grudges against any pastor can approach the Association or at best, seek Police intervention.

‘Don’t Put Yourself In A Compromising Situation, Have Self-Control’
(Most Revd. Nicholas D. Okoh, Primate, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)

THE church is supposed to be a strong moral institution, but the people who work there are human beings. So, if they fail to recognise that fact, they will fall.

Sometimes, it is the people who give them heightened impression that they are very great, that they are next to God. If they get that impression, they begin to behave anyhow. The truth of it is that everybody— man of God, woman of God is weak so, you must not put yourself in a compromising situation. You must watch, you must pray, you must be cautious and have self-control. Self-control is the gift of the Holy Spirit and if you have it, you will not fall, but if you let yourself loose and begin to say you are a man of God, that you have all the powers, you will fall before you know it. 

My counsel to people is that they stay away from tempting situations and allow God to help them through the Holy Spirit.

Then, you will not have problems. To church members, nobody is above error. Therefore, do not tempt the man of God by exposing yourself unduly inside or outside the church, or by going to them at odd hours or when they are alone. If you are going to give counsel, the usual practice is that somebody else be there and not just you and somebody’s wife in a lonely place. If these precautions were taken, scandals would be minimised. 

On what CAN can do, they don’t have the locus to intervene, unless privately they can invite the person concerned. And if the person concerned is willing and not proud, he will respond. But where the person is proud and arrogant, he will say, ‘what is your business? Did I come to your church? And CAN has no authority to arrest or jail anybody.

CAN can only give counsel, but cannot legislate anything, as it is a moral problem. And most people with that kind of attitude don’t even come near CAN. They feel big.

The Bible has already given a position: “Take heed to yourself, be careful about yourself, don’t think you cannot fall, he that thinketh he stand, let him take heed least he fall.” If you know that you can fall, then you will not fall. But if you think you cannot fall because you are a GO or a man of God or that everybody comes to bow down to you, then you will fall in a disgraceful way. Men of God, whatever pastor or Bishop you are, know that Satan is at work, and he can disgrace you anytime. That is why you must be careful, you must be prayerful, you must be watchful.


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