By Gbenga Osinaike
The recent retirement of Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye as the overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God Nigeria has generated a lot of reactions among clergies and lay people.
Adeboye had told ministers and pastors of the church on Saturday January 7 at the Redemption camp; hours after the Holy Ghost Service that he was retiring from his position as the General Overseer of the Church in Nigeria but that he remains the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Worldwide.
The action according to him was informed by the Financial Regulatory Council code of conduct which stipulates that the heads of organisations that are non-profit should not exceed a period of 20 years though the FRC act made available to Church Times stipulates 10 years as maximum for heads of these organisations.
Pastor Adeboye had put in a period of 36 years as the general overseer starting from 1981 when he took over from the founder of the Church, Pa Josiah Akindayomi.
He was then a lecturer at the University of Lagos and had been in the church since 1973 when he surrendered his life to Jesus.
Though he had put in far more years than what the council recommended, it is believed that his retirement from the Nigeria face of the church was a subtle way of taking a background seat and watch the church grow before his very eyes.
The decision from the press statement credited to his Personal Assistant, Pastor Leke Adeboye who is also his biological son was in compliance with the 2015 Financial Reporting Act.
The FRC Act is to the intent to ensure corporate governance in Not For Profit Organisations and to ensure smooth transition in these organizations for the benefit of the organizations
A section of the act posits, “The need for corporate governance in NFPOs is hinged on good governance and orderly succession in view of the volume and type of funding they attract. Urged on by humanitarian concerns over either glaring poverty and neglect, or economic mismanagement of some countries, donors have made significant donations directly to relevant NFPOs in the hope that they would engender greater mission fulfilment, donor value, and greater beneficiary satisfaction and trust than those given by Governments”
The act which came into being in 2015 is gradually being enforced in Churches since they fall under the NFPOs. The founder or leader of any organization that falls into NFPOs is also expected not to take a sit-tight position. The act reads: “The Founder or Leader of a NFPO occupies a special position in the Organisation and is committed to the success and longevity of the NFPO. Accordingly, a Founder or Leader should not take on too many responsibilities in the organisation or have an indefinite term in the running of the organization”
The FRC code then recommended a period of 10 years for the leader or founder to run the organization or a period not later than age 70. This is expected to ensure that the life of the organization is guaranteed and also to ensure proper accountability.
Pastor Adeboye’s quiet retirement from the headship of the church in Nigeria is however in agreement with the recommendation of the FRC code. The action will go a long way to inform what would happen in the Church in days to come.
The FRC code is however not expected to deny the founders or leaders of organization their role as counselors and protectors of what they founded. It is intended to ensure that they don’t become abusive and dictatorial thereby making the organization lose steam.
Many church leaders and stakeholders have however reacted to the decision of Pastor Adeboye to comply to this code. A lawyer and legal counsel of the Lagos Chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Tomi Vincent described Adeboye’s decision to retire from the headship of the church in Nigeria as a welcome development noting that his decision will go a long way to inject new life to the organization and move it forward.
While noting that the action came as a shock he said, “I can say Pastor Adeboye’s action speaks of his wisdom. He has displayed a lot of maturity in the matter and has created a leeway for the further expansion of the ministry. There has been a lot of worry about a succession vacuum but with this decision that has been put to rest. “
He said the bulk of the work of the church and presence of the church is in Nigeria. If you take away Nigeria, you would have taken away RCCG. The truth also is that the church in other climes like in the UK and the US has been independent all the while. So his being elevated to the status of the General Overseer of the RCCG worldwide is to enable him provide spiritual guidance for the church”
While debunking insinuation that Adeboye’s decision was taken in a hurry, he said, “From what I know he has been shopping for a successor about seven years ago. So what is happening now is not new. The beauty of it is that as a pastor he will now re-fire and take time to pray more and be involved in more spiritual activities than before. I believe he will never retire from spiritual work. What he is retiring from is the administrative work and schedules”
Vincent who has a lot of pastors as his clients said it would be impossible for anybody to replace Pastor Adeboye in the real sense of the word. “We are all unique and we all have our talents. So it is not possible to replace him. He needs to be around to help his successor and guide him through. The new G.O in Nigeria will need that support. But for Pastor Adeboye he will still have to keep preaching and teaching the word till he dies. But his being alive is good for the smooth operations of the church.”
While describing the Financial Regulatory Council Act as a code for effective corporate governance he said, “Any organization registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission is expected to comply with the code. It will assist greatly in governance. It is a good reference point in case anything happens.”
He explains, “Government may not come and force churches to comply with the recommendation of the code but when something goes wrong with the church that has legal or financial implication, it will be a quick reference for the law enforcement agencies and it could be used to nail the church. That is why it is advisable to follow the recommendation of the code.”
He then stressed that ministry should not be seen as a personal property adding “it is about time leaders started abiding by the rule of law in their corporate governance.””
The President of Church Growth International Ministry, Dr. Francis Bola Akin John in his immediate reaction sees the development as a welcome one noting however that the church should not have waited for the FRC law to do what is right and proper. “What we are witnessing will go a long way to help the church. I have had cause to share with some church leaders the need for them to provide a smooth transition in their life time rather than wait in the place of power without no definite date.”
While noting that some pastors in the past have taken such bold steps of retiring from the church they founded he said, “What Pastor Adeboye has done will give room from younger people in the church to come up and exhibit their talents and capability. When people are not given responsibility you may not know what they can do.
Dr. Akin John who has been in at the vanguard of leadership training for church leaders and who has held conferences for pastors in Africa, Europe and the US said the fact that pastor Adeboye has retired from overseeing the Nigeria RCCG does not mean an end of his ministry. What has been done is to relieve him of the load of work that will distract him. Now he can counsel better, guide better and be more involved in mentoring.”
Though his successor is not somebody that has the kind of popularity that is expected, the presence of Pastor Adeboye will make him sit up and learn the ropes easily. “Now Adeboye can mentor him and guide him. He can also undertake the mentoring of other potential leaders in the church. The church will still need him around.”
The Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Pentecostal Felllowship of Nigeria, Bishop Sola Ore however believes the action of the FRC has some negative implication for the church in general. “Since Pastor Adeboye has retired it will be difficult for the church in general to seek for further understanding of the act and negotiate a further amendment.
“What it means is that once somebody is 10 years as the G.O he has to go. The case of Pastor Adeboye is understandable in the that he is not the original owner of the vision of the church. He stepped in to succeed the founder. But there are ministries whose original owners are still alive and who still need the input of the founder for a long period of time”
Ore however believes Pastor Adeboye has nothing to lose by abdicating the headship of the church in Nigeria adding that “the FRC code will help curb undue infiltration into the church. “When people know that they will have to give account and that their activities will be checked they will not rush to establish ministries and churches.”
The General Secretary of the PFN Rev Toyin Kehinde and General Overseer Agape Generation International Church corroborated Bishop Ore’s position adding however that the church is different from the corporate environment. “It is difficult to start implementing laws that may not be suitable for our environment. This could apply to big organisations but the truth is that there are organisations that are struggling even at their 10th anniversary. So what we are having now may not apply to all organizations in the real sense of it.”