Crisis In The Assemblies Of God Church: Time For Christian Leaders To Intervene
The Former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, once called for provision to be made for the establishment of Christian/Ecclesiastical Courts during the Constitution amendment process by the immediate past 7th National Assembly . This legal luminary was clairvoyant to have reasoned that our conventional courts might not be able to handle spiritual matters.
In his letter to the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, Dr Olisa Agbakoba revealed that Islamic and Customary practitioners were well recognized and accommodated in the Constitution by the establishment of the Customary and Islamic court systems in Sections 260, 265, 275 and 280 but no corresponding provision was made for Christians to have their religious/ spiritual affairs adjudicated by persons adequately learned in Ecclesiastical laws/ biblical jurisprudence.
In view of this ,Nigerian Christians are forced to resort to Customary and High Courts which are manned by persons of little or no knowledge of Ecclesiastical law and jurisprudence .This legal luminary further pointed out that the none existence of a Constitutional platform for Christians to have their religious/ spiritual affairs adjudicated by persons adequately learned in Ecclesiastical laws/ biblical jurisprudence violates Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
Furthermore,he stated that,'Nigeria is a multi religious country and faith is personal. I believe matters of faith should not be contained in the Constitution as provided by Section 10 which prohibits state religion. But if we must retain customary and Islamic law systems, I have nothing against this, then provision must be made for Christian / Ecclesiastical Courts.' The senior advocate stressed that it might be an oversight that the present system violates Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits discrimination on account of religion. He ended his clarion call with a one week ultimatum to the then president of the senate to address the ugly situation , failure of which a legal action would be instituted against the 7th Senate but I am not sure if a legal action was finally instituted as threatened by the legal luminary.
This clarion call is now necessary as it concerns the recent happenings in the Assemblies Of God church where the leadership crisis that started about three years ago is currently before the Supreme court while crisis deepens as the days go by. Currently ,there are two General Superintendents with their respective loyalists in the church . The most recent of the ugly events accompanying this crisis in the church was the show of shame on Sunday ,19/07/15, in Enugu as two pastors of the church and their loyalists engaged themselves in fisticuffs at Mount Street Parish of Assemblies of God Church, Nigeria and the police were compelled to lock up the church premises.
The beauty of the church was slain upon the high places. How are the mighty fallen? Tell it not in Nigeria,publish it not by any media house ,lest the pagans and heathens rejoice,lest the non-christian faithful and unbelievers triumph. That fateful Sunday morning ,the church was turned into a battle field , as the two pastors and their supporters fought over who should take control of the parish.
This movie-like incident started when one of the pastors, Rev. Nathaniel Udeze, came with letters of posting and other court documents as part of preparations to be installed as the new pastor at the parish but he was promptly resisted on arrival with his team of supporters. Leading the opposition was current resident pastor of the parish, Reverend Amaechi Agbo, who along with his supporters, also vowed not to allow Pastor Udeze take over, accusing him of being an intruder .
Meanwhile ,the incoming pastor Udeze, said to have been very furious, insisted that he had been officially posted there by the leadership of the church under Rev. Professor Paul Emeka and that Rev. Agbo had been transferred to another parish since May 2015.On the contrary , Rev Agbo disagreed, insisting that he was still in-charge of the parish as he was yet to be formally written by Rev. Chidi Okoroafor’s leadership of the church, which he recognised. What a shame?
Also,as early as 7a.m that fateful Sunday , the supporters of both pastors arrived and started sharing different versions of Sunday school manual in preparation for the main service. There was ominous air blowing insidiously within the church premises and when the factional pastors arrived, the situation broke down completely as the pastors started shoving each other and shortly afterwards, members of the two factions engaged in fisticuffs degenerating into a free-for-all fight. The brawl in the church was similar to the ugly incidents we normally experience among our senators and House of representative members in the National Assembly,only that in the church the sick,aged,the suckling babies ,nursing mothers,newcomers ,the so-called born-again Christians and other salvation seekers were involved in the free-for-all fight.
It got to a point that in order to forestall further breakdown of law and order, the police had to intervene in a matter between brethren .The Divisional Police Officer, Dennis Ayara, who later arrived the scene, made frantic efforts to bring the situation under control through negotiation, but all to no avail. The police, therefore, cordoned off the church and put it under lock, while the leaders of the two factions were asked to report to the station. What a shame to these so-called church leaders? What will they preach to their members when the crisis is over? What are they teaching the newcomers and children among them ? What message are they sending to unbelievers living in the neighbourhood of the church ? There is no gainsaying the fact that judgement will certainly start in the house of God. I know some of them will allude to the incident when Jesus drove people buying and selling out of the temple ,does that teach us to use violence to resolve problems between brethren?
What are the roles of Christian Association Of Nigeria(CAN), Christian Council Of Nigeria(CCN) and Pentecostal Fellowship Of Nigeria( PFN) in resolving this type of crisis among brethren or they also polarised in this matter ? What are their roles in the clarion call for the establishment of Ecclesiastical/Christian courts in Nigeria? Christian leaders from all denominations should intervene immediately to resolve this crisis in the Assemblies of God church the same way early Christians held the First Jerusalem Council which resolved the crisis that nearly tore the early Christians apart.
Dr Paul John