By Gbenga Osinaike
Controversial Christian apologist and Secretary National Christian Elders Forum, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel has warned that until the Christian Association of Nigeria is restructured to truly represent the yearnings and aspirations of lay Christians, Christianity would continue to suffer setback in Nigeria.
He made the observation at the annual conference of the Catholic Men’s Guild which held at the Muson Centre, Lagos on June 16.
Emmanuel who is known for the controversial apocalyptic message that went viral in 2015 prior to the elections that brought President Mohammadu Buhari to power, told the gathering that the trouble with CAN is the consequence of the overbearing attitude of the clergy and their penchant to entrench the denominational mindset among Christians.
While tracing the problem in today’s church to the kind of Christianity that was introduced to Nigeria, he said, “Looking at the history of Christianity in Nigeria, it would appear that the early missionaries, though Godly servants of Christ and well intentioned, brought “denominations” to Nigeria and not the Body of Christ. This was the unfortunate consequence of the Colonial era during which Christianity came into the country.”
He noted further that almost all the denominations in Nigeria were reporting to different foreign powers. “The Catholics were reporting to Rome, Italy, the Anglicans reported to England, the Methodist reported to Wales, the Lutherans reported to Germany, the Baptist reported to USA and so on. Given such diversity in command structure, the attitude of competition grew amongst brethren. It was on this foundation that the Nigerian Church was birthed.”
This faulty foundation according to him gave rise to the strong denominational leanings of the churches which later informed the establishment of CAN to foster unity among the churches. Unfortunately, Bosun noted that since the establishment of CAN the clergy who were entrusted with the unity of the church have failed abysmally.
He said, “42 years after God entrusted the management of CAN into the hands of the Clergy, so “THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE”, we need to ask Church leaders some questions. These questions should be considered by Church leaders of all ranks and titles. 42 years after CAN was established and entrusted into the hands of the Clergy to manage and provide leadership, with the mandate “that they all may be one”, is the Nigerian Church united? How come 42 years after CAN was established, the Nigerian Church is more divided today than it was in 1976?”
He noted further, “When CAN was formed and the Clergy took over the reins of management, Christians were not murdered with impunity, Churches were not burnt and Christians were not IDPs in their own country. So, we can safely conclude Christianity was in a fairly stable condition in 1976. 42 years down the road, could the Nigerian Clergy explain what happened to the Nigerian Church?”
He wondered what the clergy were looking at when Nigeria was Islamized through the country’s membership of OIC in 1986 and the inclusion of Islamic law and jurisprudence in the Constitution of Nigeria in 1999.
Emmanuel added however that “Christians relate to each other as brethren at non-Church Fellowships but discriminate and ostracize each other at the Denominational levels?
He cited the example of the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International which is made up of Christians from various denominations. “The President of the Full Gospel might be Catholic and the Vice President might be Pentecostal while the National Secretary might be from White Garment Church. In the Fellowship, they would pray and fast together, plan programs and execute them together, contribute funds and manage it well. The only thing that matters to Christians at the various Fellowships is Romans 8: 9 “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “Do you have the Spirit of Christ?” This is all that concerns Christians at the various Fellowships in the Nigerian Church.”
He then lamented that once these same brethren return to their various denominations and Churches, “we discover the attitude of “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” 1 Cor. 1: 12. The same Clergy that erected the “invisible denominational barriers” is the same Clergy managing CAN that was established “that they all may be one”. Should anyone be surprised therefore, that Christian unity is still a mirage in Nigeria, even after 42 years of CAN?”
Emmanuel who is the author of Beware of Success, a biting exegesis on the evil of prosperity message and several other books explained further at the forum that there is a sharp difference between the clergy and laity leadership in the church. “Under Laity leadership in Christian fellowships/groups like FGBMFI, CLASFON (Christian lawyers), NEMA (National Evangelistic Management), Wailing Women International, Womb of Intercession International, and so on, what matters is: “Are you a Christian?”
In the Churches, under the management of the Clergy, the question is, “Are you a member of our Church (Denomination/Ministry)?”
Giving the scenario he painted he then wondered, “Why the clergy should continue to manage CAN pointing out that “After all, CAN is Christian Association of Nigeria it is not Clergy Association of Nigeria. At the very least, if the Clergy insist on retaining leadership, the Laity should be permitted to be involved since they have demonstrated ability to fulfill the mandate of heaven. As can be seen in the parable of talents, the servant is only relevant to the Master if the servant produces good result (Matt. 25: 14-30).”
He pressed further “Due to the inability of CAN to forge Christians into one indivisible army of the Lord, the Church has been weakened and unable to stand before its enemies. Realistically speaking, Christianity is on the brink of extinction in Nigeria. The ascendancy of Sharia ideology in Nigeria rings the death toll for the Nigerian Church. It is therefore imperative that CAN must be restructured, as a matter of urgency, if Christianity is to survive. CAN belongs to every Christian in Nigeria and there is nothing wrong with the Association. It is the management that should be revisited and restructured.
“It should be pointed out that there is no denomination that is powerful or influential enough to fight this battle alone. Therefore, a divided Christian Association makes every denomination and Bloc vulnerable. The Catholic Church in particular should face the reality that it is not as strong as it imagines it is to solely face global Islamism that has targeted Nigeria for Islamization in its relentless goal of converting Africa into an Islamic continent. The Catholic Church should be prepared to return completely into the fold of CAN and participate fully in providing leadership in these troublous times.”
According to him, “God has warned in 2013 that “if care is not taken, in 30 – 40 years Nigeria will be like Turkey”. In 2018, we can say, “in 25 years from now”. We are facing the risk of being the last Christians in Nigeria. Therefore, Christians should be in the frontline of defending democracy in Nigeria. The Church is the bastion of Democracy. A divided CAN cannot defend Democracy and promote Justice, Equity, and Fairness.”
He pleaded that “all hands must be on deck to transform CAN into a formidable Christian institution that is capable of protecting and promoting Christian interests in Nigeria. CAN must be delivered from the bondage of stealth Jihad and it must be established on probity, accountability, truth and righteousness. The present realities make it imperative that it can no longer be business as usual. This is the struggle that the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) is having with the current managers of CAN.”
He then suggested an urgent Conference of Christian leaders in Nigeria that would involve both Clergy and Laity leaders. “A NEW CAN should emerge that would combine Clergy and Laity management of Christianity. The Laity Leaders have proven that they can provide Christian leadership that cuts across board and guarantees Christian unity while the Clergy has proven conclusively that it has failed in this regards.”
He concluding the long delivery by sharing a conversation he once had with the Chairman of the National Christian Elders Forum, Mr. Solomon Asemota, SAN. He said, “Baba remarked to me, “These Church leaders seem to know something that you and I do not know.” I was curious to find out what they knew that the rest of Christians do not know. Baba solemnly told me, “I think they have discovered that there is no heaven and the rest of us are just deceiving ourselves. If they still believe there is heaven, they would not be doing the things they are doing”.