Ethics and The Future of Nigerian Church, By Adeolu Ademoyo
Dear Pastor Adeboye,
I write to you because of the serious state of the Nigerian Church today where many components of the Nigerian Church, Pastors and faithfuls, confidently and boldly, without any scruple and reservation, separate our Christian faith in God from ethics and truth.
This is an agony for me as an individual and as a parent because the separation of Christian faith from Christian ethics blurs the distinction between evil and good in a way that makes evil, the “gates of hell” and good, the gates of heaven, indistinguishable. To make the two indistinguishable through our practice disturbs a parent and me as a Christian.
The core of our belief is that we are God’s witnesses of truth of the incorruptible body of Christ. And we are called to proclaim and practically live this truth in the Gospel among the children of God.
But that core belief is under threat from some Nigerian Pastors and other components of the Nigerian Church. This has raised a fundamental ethical question about our faith because our faith does not allow us to be corrupt and to corrupt the Body Of Christ under any circumstance. When a man of God is openly adulterous with money and flesh and such man of God is covered and defended by the Church, and then we must begin to rally to save the truth of the Gospel and the Body of Christ. This is why out of frustration I am writing my second letter to you.
Sir, permit me to inform about what I have observed, as an ordinary and common member of the laity. I observed that when non-Christians and those who profess disbelief in God challenge us Christians, they are asking us most of the time to show them with practical examples in our lives and daily living and not ordinary words of mouth how we live the truth in the Gospel about the incorruptible body of Christ. We may disagree with the brusque and candid method with which they challenge us, but we may not disagree with the content of their challenge to us.
Having said this I will like to refresh your mind with the cases that bother me with which other children of God-Christians, Muslims, non-Christians, children of God who profess other faiths, theists and atheists who are equal before the eyes of God regardless of their beliefs have asked us to live the Gospel.
Dear Pastor Adeboye, you will recall Pastors Chris Oyakhilome, Chris Okotie, and Temitope B Joshua. The first two Pastors have been involved in what their wives variously called “un-becoming behaviors”. Un-becoming behaviors by adults will scandalize and pour agony into homes. Un-becoming behaviors by Pastors, will scandalize, harm and pour agony on the Body Of Christ.
It has happened in this case with respect to Pastors Oyakhilome and Okotie and the Nigerian Church actually kept quiet perhaps in cold complicity, perhaps under the view that one anointed cannot criticize another anointed borrowing your view in your defense of Pastor Oritsejafor and the ethical challenges he inflicted upon himself. But we will come to that later dear Pastor Adeboye.
So if marriage and family institutions are the center of the practice of faith because as we say parents are the images of God at home before children-both husband and wife have the faith and moral obligation not to engage in behavior which one of them will claim to be “un-becoming.”
Therefore, Pastors and priests as anointed have a faith obligation to lead the practice of marriage and the family by examples. If this faith analogy is correct as I think it is, then I am not sure that Pastors Chris Oyakhilome and Chris Okotie have led the faithful correctly-ethically and religiously on this matter, yet we members of the Nigerian Church who are the witnesses of the Body of Christ in Nigeria have kept quiet. But in witnessing the truth of the Gospel we need to remind ourselves of this faith obligation and we must speak out openly in defense of the faith and ethical body of Christ.
Leaving the intersection between our faith and family and private ethics, we encounter public ethics in the cases of Pastors TB Joshua and Ayo Oritsejafor the president of CAN who has been embroiled in a cash for arms money laundering scandal because of the involvement of the use of his private jet which is managed by a private company his church claims he has a “residual interest” in. Pastor Oritsejafor has also been accused of being morally duplicitous in not truthfully reporting the status of his private jet to Nigerians.
Under Pastor TB Joshua’s watch 115 people lost their lives when a six-storey building collapsed in his church SCOAN. The information is that Pastor TB Joshua in violation of Lagos state building codes allegedly raised the collapsed building to six storeys. TB Joshua called those who died under the circumstance of his alleged violation of the law “martyrs.”
Pastor Adeboye, what do you think? Do you think TB Joshua is correct? Do you think those who died are martyrs as Pastor Joshua called them? Is it Godly to violate the law as it is being alleged that Pastor TB Joshua did? Pastor Adeboye is it right to turn the Body Of Christ to a stock exchange to a seat of moneychangers as many of your brother Pastors are doing and you keep quiet? In your defense of Pastor Oritsejafor, you implied that those who disagree on ethical ground with Pastor Oristejafor, your brother Pastor belong to use your words “gates of hell”.
So, do Christians, the Children of God belong to the “gates of hell” if they remind you of this, the conduct of Pastor TB Joshua who thorough his act of omission or commission sent 115 human beings (majority of who are fellow Christians) to their untimely graves? Will “non-Christians” who are worried be said to belong to “gates of hell” too if they bring this before you? Aren’t these non-Christians children of our creator-God? Aren’t non-Christians equal and we all Christians before our creator? Pastor Adeboye, can you do what Pastor Joshua did?
The ethical and religious challenges Pastor Oritsejafor put himself and the Nigerian church into have become part of our history. You know them. So I will not repeat them. But I find your defense of Pastor Oritsejafor puzzling. Dear Pastor, this is what you said sir.
“Pastor Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor is a man of God I trust and I can personally vouch for him. I believe on the issue of his aircraft being chartered and the purpose it was used for he had no prior knowledge. I’m sure God will continue to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail in Jesus name. One anointed cannot attack another anointed. A pastor cannot attack another pastor. Touch not my anointed is what God said. Some Nigerians have questioned the use of Pastor Oritsejafor’s private jet by the Federal Government to convey the money to South Africa, accusing him of involvement in money laundering.” –Pastor Adeboye
Pastor Adeboye you rested your defense of Pastor Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor on the following grounds.
Dear Venerable, you interpreted as “gates of hell” the legitimate ethical concerns of Nigerians with respect to (i) the moral duplicity with which Pastor Oritsejafor has presented his private jet to the public, (ii) the commercialization of a jet meant for priestly duties, (iii) the involvement of a jet which was supposedly donated by anonymous donors for priestly duties in ferrying cash for arm, (iv) the fact that the activities in the private jet violated Nigerian and South African laws.
Your second defense rests on the fact that “one anointed cannot attack another anointed.” Your final and third defense rests on what you said God said about the anointed. And that is “Touch not my anointed is what God said.”
Dear Pastor Adeboye, with due respect to your call by God to shepherd his people in his vineyard, your defense of Pastor Oritsejafor has raised the dis-connection of Christian ethics and Christian faith in the Nigerian Church to a tragic and frightful proportion. As a Christian I think that this is a serious agony for the faith. I am genuinely worried. If we disconnect the incorruptible body of Christ from our faith, if our priests and pastors cannot stand by the truth, who else will, who else do we turn to?
When we remove all interpretations Pastor Oritsejafor has two questions to answer. Sir, these are the questions you failed to ask. Is he using a jet supposedly meant for priestly duties for business purposes? Why will the private jet of a Pastor be involved in what is clear case of money laundering or and illegal arms dealing even when the money has now been returned by South Africa? Why will the private jet of a Pastor be involved in arms deal? Being a religious counselor to President Jonathan, is Ayo Oristejafor also a government contractor?
These are legitimate questions. In the name of our faith we cannot deflect this by your defense that the anointed cannot attack another anointed. Your defense may be interpreted to mean that we Christians are turning the Body Of Christ to “padi padi Pastoral business” where I un-ethically scratch your back and you un-ethically scratch my back. And we then praise the Lord thereafter. I am not sure this is the way of our God. I am not sure that this is the truth in the Gospel which we are called upon to proclaim ceaseless without season and with joy. I am not sure that this is the way to defend the incorruptible body of Christ.
Like most Nigerians, I grew up in a deeply religious family. Son of Nigerian parents who traveled all the length of Nigeria-serving the Federal Republic of Nigeria- our parents imbued one thing in us. It is called ethics. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not touch public money. Thou shall not covet another man’s property. Thou shall not worship another god-money. It was an ethic embedded in our family’s religious life.
But Dear Pastor Adeboye, with your unsuccessful defense of your brother Pastor Oristejafor who is ethically challenged, where is this Christian ethics in our Christian faith today? What is the future of the Nigerian Church if we separate Christian ethics from Christian faith? Where is the future of the Nigerian Church if we know the Bible but we do not live the truth of the Gospel? Pastor Adeboye can there be God without ethics? Can there be a Christian faith without Christian ethics? Can there be Christianity without the incorruptible body of Christ? The ethical conduct of our Nigerian Pastors is worrisome, it passeth all understanding.
I am in pain. I am in agony at the conduct of our Pastors and the Nigerian Church as I commit this to you in defense of our Christian faith and the ethical and religious Body Of Christ.
Pastor Adeboye as I close this letter to you, I commit the eternal word of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel to you so that you place this side by side your recent defense of your brother Pastor-Ayo Oritsejafor on the ethical challenges facing him. Mathew 21: 12-13 our Lord Jesus Christ says, “…It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves…” And he drove them, the thieves out of his father’s house. Pastor Adeboye, how do you understand this part of the Gospel of our Lord?
Please put this in your prayers and meditation. May our God give you, Pastor Adeboye and all of us- Pastors, priests and the laity, all Christians the genuine faith, the courage to defend the truth in the Gospel and speak the words of the incorruptible body of Christ truthfully without fear or favor even if we have to say this to our brother Pastors in defense of Christ.
God Bless you Pastor Adeboye.
Adeolu Ademoyo firstname.lastname@example.org Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. He is also a member of the editorial board of Premium Times.