GUEST LECTURE BY ELDER PROFESSOR JOSEPH A.M. OTUBU, GENERAL EVANGELIST, EGC. AT THE 2019 CONGRESS OF ALL CONSTITUENT CHURCHES OF CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM UNIFICATION CHURCH OF NIGERIA, FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY CHAPTER AT NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ARTS AND CULTURE AREA 10, GARKI, ABUJA ON THE 10TH OF AUGUST, 2019. DELIVERED BY ELDER DR. EMMANUEL OBI
THEME: UNITY OF CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM CHURCHES
One of the greatest problems in churches worldwide is the breakdown of church unity. This is even so in the Cherubim and Seraphim churches and very destructive. Paul urged us in (Ephesians 4: 1-3 NIV) “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Jesus said inJohn 13:35 NIV “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””
Two major changes have occurred in the C&S churches since 1925.
· Firstly, the literacy level amongst members of the churches has risen from 10% in 1925 to close to about 65% today.
· Secondly, given the rapid growth of C&S churches in Nigeria, it is on record that the total population of the membership of C&S churches is well over ten million.
Today, the legacies of “Aladura” churches to Christianity in Nigeria, as described by Moses Idowu (1), are distinct. These include:
a) Missionary Evangelism
b) Pentecostal innovations (Open air services (crusades), Processions, Mid-night prayers (night vigils), Mountain prayers (retreats and camps), Indigenous Music in Worship).
The early leaders of the church, in what was considered a prophetic song predicts that the entire world here shall be Seraph.“All the world here is Seraph.” Most church historians believe that the C&S churches are the first Spiritual and Pentecostal movement in Nigeria. Omoyajowo(2), Moses Idowu(1).
How has this helped with the growth of “Aladura” churches in Nigeria? But why has this background not helped to project them into foremost position in the National Christian community in Nigeria?
Let us look at ‘Christian Unity’
Unity is defined as wholeness, an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. Unity itself is neutral until it is given goodness or badness by something else. So when Herod and Pilate are unified by their common disdain for Jesus (Luke 23:12), this is not good unity but when Paul and Silas sing together in prison for Christ’s sake (Acts 16:25), this is good unity.
When there is a call for Christian unity in Nigeria and two denominations come together to significantly degrade the “white garment group, it is not good unity. Apostle Paul clearly indicate the Holy Spirit is the great giver of unity. Ephesians 4:3 tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. In 1 Corinthian 12:13, he says “ in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Paul says that the unity we pursue is the unity in truth. Paul in Galatians 6:10 says ‘we are to have affection for those who are our family in Christ.Romans 12:10 says “Love one another with brotherly affection”.
Spirit – rooted, Christ- manifesting, truth – cherishing, humbly – loving unity is designed by God to have at least two aims; a) to witness to the world, b)an acclamation of the glory of God.
Apostle John in John 13:34-35 makes the first aim clear.
The ultimate aim of such Christian unity is the glory of God. Paul says in Romans 15:5-7.
We can be unified because we have in common the same friend, the same comforter, the same encourager. For each of us, Christ comes alongside to walk us through our pains and struggles of life. Where ever you go, Christ goes with you. He said this to his disciples and to us through them Matthew 28:19.
The C&S Church a.k.a ‘Aladura’
The word “Aladura” is Yoruba for “Those who pray”. The word became attached to those churches founded by Saint Moses Orimolade Tunolase and the father of all “those who pray” became known and called “Baba Aladura”. This subsequently became the title of the heads of “Aladura” churches. Initially they were called “Serafu” churches and later in 1925, they were called “KerubuatiSerafu” churches. These are Yoruba words for “Cherubim and Seraphim”. The white praying gown worn by all members of the church during church services identifies these churches. They have also been popularly referred to as “white garment churches”. There are, however, some churches in Nigeria today that wear the white but have no root from Moses Orimolade.
“Aladura” churches made early impact within church circles in Nigeria as a disciplined, spiritual and much respected religious movement. The use of term “white garment church” by the general public is because of the wearing of white praying gown by all members of the Aladura churches during church services. In the mission church, there is the Clergy-Laity dichotomy, in which all ordained members contribute the school of clergy and all others are “laymen”. The clergy lead worship and perform all priestly functions of the church. The laymen are only listeners and mere helpers in other activities of the church.
In Aladura churches, the concept of Priesthood for all believers is operational. In this system, every member has a chance to reach the highest rank within the hierarchy with time and hard work, especially level of development of spiritual life. Every member participates fully in church activities and Aladura churches are therefore strictly Congregational churches. Holy Spirit can use any member who lives a life of faith and devotion. The thinking amongst the early leaders of Aladura churches was that if all churches fulfill the Christian principles faithfully, the earth will now be filled with the glory of God as waters cover the seas.
The early leaders of the churches were not motivated by the gain but by the desire to spread the gospel. Each member of the earlier church had his own trade or occupation. Paul the Apostle throughout his wide missionary journey earned his living as a “Tent-Maker”. The Aladura churches did not see the direct relevance of money to their calling. They had accepted the challenge to preach the gospel as an obligation and directed all their resources (spiritual, material, and physical) towards it.
Whereas, for some churches, members or perhaps non-members or even non-Christians who make reasonable donations to the coffers of the church are hailed as “best-Christian”and assigned special seat.
Let us talk about Saint Moses Orimolade
An understanding of the personal and spiritual qualities of the Sole founder of Aladura churches, “Baba Aladura” Saint Moses OrimoladeTunolase, will help explain the difference between the churches he founded and the church as it is today.
The Founder was celibate, a peacemaker, an honest person, and lived a purely religious life. He was an extremely humble person. His spiritual qualities include efficacious prayers (hence he was called “Baba Aladura”) and with a sound knowledge of the Bible, he delivered thrilling sermons at public meetings. At open air public meetings, he preached, Absolute Faith in the Lord Jesus, Reliance on Power of the Holy Spirit, Efficacy of Prayers for healing and the use of Psalms. Sings very well.
Professor J.A. Omoyajowo, a renowned church historian has written extensively about the C&S churches. Omoyajowo maintains that in Nigeria, the founding of Cherubim and Seraphim Society was not a reaction to the presence of the Mission Churches. Omoyajowo states: “It must be also noted that, quite unlike most other AIC’s, the C&S came into existence by sheer accident. It was not a separatist sect, nor was it directly the logical outcome of an organized series of evangelistic campaigns. Moses Orimolade was neither a disgruntled nor a rebellious member of any denomination. He began as a General Evangelist whose main concern was to win converts for Christ. To him, it was not important to what denominations his converts chose to belong; what mattered to him was that they should become Christians. He preached without discriminations in any church that was willing to listen”.
Omoyajowo also says that the C&S church had a founder, Moses Orimolade who essentially preached the Gospel as anItinerant Evangelist.
Omoyajowo said of the founder of C&S church: “Moses OrimoladeTunolase, the acknowledged founder of the C&S came from a royal house in Ikare town in Ondo State. A complete illiterate, he had between the years 1916 and 1924, visited many parts of Nigeria preaching the Christian Gospel before he finally settled in Lagos in July 1924 where C&S was founded a year later”.
The first anniversary message of Moses Orimolade to the C&S Society has become a tradition laid down and now described as “the usual message of Christ and his love. “Prayer and fasting are the only channels through which man can reach God. Although Christians always complained that their prayers were not answered. God always answers prayers.
The prayers of the faithful and honest man are always answered, provided such answer would be to His advantage”.
Moses Orimolade condemned Idolatry. He emphasized that God remains unchanging and faithful to his promises. “Howbeit for the pride of knowledge, we Christians of today go about the worshipping of idols, keeping other gods beside the Almighty and everlasting God by associating with secret societies in the disguise of performing our art and culture, thereby involved in rituals that don’t befit a true C&S. Some members have even brought those practices into the Church. A true Christian must steer clear of these practices – “Evil communication corrupts good manners”.
C&S and Fractionalization
Schisms began very early in the foundation years of C&S churches 1928 -1934. The first rift was between the Moses Orimolade and AbiodunAkinsowon. In March 8, 1929, Orimolade felt constrained to write these words to Abiodun; “ I am therefore asking you through this letter to form your own society taking all the members as are willing to follow and cooperate with you“. According to Omoyajowo, little did the founder realize that he was by the letter creating a precedent for a tendency which was to reduce the spiritual body to numerous independent groups. Groups at the end of 1930, include:
1. Eternal Sacred Order of C&S (under Moses Orimolade)
2.Cherubim and Seraphim society (under Captain AbiodunAkinsowon)
3. Praying Band of Cherubim and Seraphim (under Ezekiel Davis) ItaBalogun.
Soon after this came further fractionalization:
1) Eternal Sacred Order of C&S (75 Ibadan street, Mount Zion) Baba AladuraOnanuga (Head) J.SOlugbusi (Secretary)
2) Eternal Sacred Order of C&S (10 Hotonu street, KoroAgbede) – Peter Omojola (Head) -Gabriel Ogunyadi (Secretary)
Below is a list of the major groups today:
1. Eternal Sacred Order of C&S
2. Society of C&S
3. Sacred Order of C&S
4. Holy Flock of Christ
5. Eternal Sacred Order of Morning Star
6. Messiah Church of Benin
7. Cherubim and Seraphim Movement
8. Cherubim and Seraphim Eruwa
9. Cherubim and Seraphim Ikare
10. Cherubim and Seraphim OkeEso
It is difficult today, to determine accurately how many sections of the society exist. The CAC has continued to register hundreds of local congregations which have affiliation with any of the major groups listed above. The Eternal Glory Church of Cherubim and Seraphim is one of several congregation registering monthly!
REASONS FOR BREAKDOWN OF CHURCH UNITY.
Church members talk about one another instead of talking to one another. Paul calls church members who gossip people “filled with all unrighteousness’ (Romans 1: 29). Gossips certainly divide churches; it is even more dangerous when a church leader acts on gossips. A church leader who acts on gossips have started the process of dividing his church because church members who are ambitious or jealous or arrogant would always generate gossips for their self-aggrandisement.
Some church members seek power in a church they cannot get elsewhere. They are devious and dangerous. They must be courageously confronted. In the C&S churches, this is something that needs to be carefully looked at since the church is a congregational church where every member can rise to the highest position. It is understandable while a labourer in a factory would want to lord himself over the manager of that same factory who maybe junior to him in the church.
Many churches have no clear guidelines on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. If you expect little from members, that’s exactly what you will get. And some of them will use their idle time to gossip, criticize, and tear down. The expectation should be Righteousness other than that, members will only be interested in positions.
Majority of churches have no process for church discipline, or they have a process in place in theory only. A church leader must first be disciplined and if there are set disciplinary measures within the church, he must show example so that other can follow. The difficulty with discipline within the church is that the leader sees himself as not part of those to be disciplined which translates ‘to what I say and not what I do’. For all you know, most churches have laid down procedures but the will to implement those procedures are difficult. A church which sees wealthy persons as best Christians cannot be expected to follow disciplinary procedures on such persons even if they offend openly.
Sometimes the bullies in the church get allies to form power groups. They may be informal groups or they can be formal groups like elders, workers and tribal/ethnic committees. The commonest scenario in C&S churches is that an elder gets surrounded by what is obtainable in politiacl circles known as kitchen cabinet and these groups dictates to the leader what is to be done. They literally blackmail the leader by doing him favours like picking up his bills, giving occasional gifts while some may go to the extent of buying him a car, build a house etc. Once they get hold of the leader this way, the decision on any matter in the church is concluded by this clique. This a common cause of disunity in C&S churches.
The country in which we live reviews its constitution at least every 10 years and some times, amendments are made to these constitution to accommodate changes in society and times. It is unbelievable to find that a C&S church would have a 90 year old constitution that has never been reviewed nor amended.
This is a violation of the Corporate Affairs regulations. This country also has president who does not have absolute powers to do things without checks and balances; how then can a church that is constituent of the country have a church leader who has absolute powers?
In the same vein, all churches in the world accept a certain age of retirement. There cannot be unity in the church when the church have no retirement age neither does it give the youths the opportunity to lead.
Fear of Confrontation.
Too many church members would rather sweep problems under the rug than deal with them. I know of one church where two elders were known to be in confraternity.
There are certain taboos established by the founding fathers of C&S and one of the taboos is that no member of a C&S church should also be a member of a confraternity society. Members who are also members of any such confraternity are breakers of the this taboo but because they are wealthy, powerful, influential, Elders, BOT members, high ranking officers or members of the church, no one is bold enough to confront them and discipline them appropriately as laid down.
Three things we must do to be unified in the C&S
1. We must focus on the right resources. We have Christ who comes alongside us to help, comfort from Christ love, fellowship with the spirit and Christ tenderness and compassion
2. We must develop the right attitudes. We must have the same mind – the mind of a servant. We must have the same love (Agape).
Agape Love is an act of the will.
I choose to love even when you are unlovable. I have committed to love you no matter how much you harm me or do wrong to me…
· Romans 5: 8, 10 NIV, 8. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
10. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life
· ”Matthew 5: 44-45, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
· Romans 12:20 NIV, “On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.””
Agape Love is a sacrificial love
People who would truly die for one another are not going to be divided by temporary petty issues.
1 John 3:16 NIV “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Agape Love is practical
It is not simply saying you love the church; it is being overwhelmed with a desire to serve the church and meet one another needs. Romans 12:10,13 NIV, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
1 John 3:18 NIV, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Romans 5:5 NIV, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
We must be unified in the soul and unified behind the purpose of the gospel.
3. We must develop the right practices. a) We must practice forsaking selfish ambition and vain self-importance. b) We must practice the humility of a servant. c) We must take care of our individual personal interest that may cause discord or disunity.
C&S churches have made distinct contributions to the Christian community in Nigeria. The sole founder of the Church had excellent Christian qualities which endeared him to his followers.
· Honor and great integrity followed by pure religious life marked his period on earth.
· His early followers imbibed the personal qualities of the founder.
The society as it was called then enjoyed a rapid growth and formed missionary evangelism as the first spiritual and Pentecostal movement in Nigeria. Early schism lead to multiple fractionization from 1929 to 1934. Today over one hundred congregations of the C&S
are registered in this country. Several reasons have been cited for the disunity of this Church.
Changes in our attitudes, practices and sacrificial love will be required to restore unity in the C&S churches.
We must continue to help each other churches as one indivisible body.
People often say if you are a Christian, C&S members particularly, you should be poor, today I tell you that it’s a lie of the devil.
Read Deuteronomy 28: 1,8,12. “If you read that passage carefully, you will find out that that the doctrine is not of God because He promised that if we hearken diligently to His commandment we will lend to nations and not borrow. Some of ours are helping the church and nation today, why not you? Me, l refuse to die poor, say with me I refuse to die poor.
Listen to me, when you hearken diligently to the word of God, as God’s blessings comes with the condition of obedience, healing shall be yours, prosperity shall be your name, victory 24/7, abundance will be your portion in Jesus name. Amen.
“All the world here shall be Seraph”
Prof. JAM Otubu was immediate past Vice Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)