At the wake of the death of the popular Nigerian gospel musician and minister, Osinachi Nwachukwu, which cause was attributed to alleged domestic violence suffered in the hands of her husband, a huge hot coal of criticisms have been heaped on the Church of Jesus Christ in Nigeria, accusing her of being complicit overtly and covertly.
The critics have loudly accused the church and its systems of actively participating in condoning domestic violence by her doctrine, attributed to her many leaders that ‘God hates divorce.’ It has been further postulated by the critics that this doctrine, which seems to summarize the primary disposition of the church towards domestic violence encourages the same. The critics have also argued that there is no credible system within the church to prevent and respond to cases of domestic abuses, being suffered by her members.
In this case of Osinachi Nwachukwu, the local assembly, which the late music minister and her family attended in Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa has come under fire as critics alleged that the leadership had knowledge of her sufferings and covered it up and did not help her. This is a claim, the leadership of the local assembly had since debunked, backing up their defense with verifiable facts.
In recent times, the Church System in Nigeria, particularly, the Pentecostals have become a soft target of criticism at the slightest opportunity by those who seem to be building what I take the honest liberty to call, ‘the Church Critics Industry’ (CCI). It seems to be a fast-growing and profitable enterprise to take the church to the cleaners on issues like tithe and offering, what has been tagged, the prosperity message and what the critics consider to be the flamboyant lifestyles of some of her leaders, allegations of moral failures, seeming adverse disposition of her leaders to liberation theology and holding government and its officials accountable to the people.
It seems to have become the culture that the Church System and her leaders are now deliciously on the menu of relevance for those who lurk in the fringe for the next ‘errors’ of the church as the bait to their blessings of limelight for their social media platforms. The other time when the Federal Government promulgated the draconian Part F of Companies and Allied Matters (CAMA) Act, 2020 in Nigeria, some people, including leaders within the Church System, don the convenient toga of criticism, announcing their unalloyed support for the unconstitutionality of the provisions of the law and asking the church ‘to put her house in order.’ Before the Osinachi Nwachukwu’s case, the most recent attack on the Church System was that one of her leaders accepted to be a king of an ancient Nigerian Yoruba town, as if he committed a sin covertly or overtly by that acceptance.
What seems interesting is that the protagonists of the CCI are largely members of the Church System and in some instances, presently or once occupied positions of leadership. It seems to me that these people see themselves on a messianic mission to save the church from what they think to be her state of declining glory. They also seem to lay claim to a commitment to expose the church and save the society from her. I think generally, they must think that they are right and altruistic in their venture or adventure of all-out criticisms against the Church System.
I however have some thoughts about the CCI and its protagonists in the light of what I understand from the Bible. Here are they:
1. How appropriate and helpful to God and his overall agenda for the Church System and her inevitable roles in the society is the approach of those who claim to be insiders, who take her to the cleaners in the public domain, when they could have offered private counsel to her leaders, who they often have access to?
2. How helpful is the commitment to a wholesale criticism of the Church System without preferring solutions? Could it mean that they have concluded that the church is irredeemably on the path to destruction?
3. By vociferous and scathing nature of the criticisms, is it the conclusion of the protagonists of CCI that the Church System has outlived its usefulness and it now more of a liability than assets to God, her members and the society at large?
4. If we assume without conceding that the Church System as it is has outlived its usefulness to God, her members and the society at large, what alternative do the CCI protagonists bring to the table or is the position that the Church System, either in its present vilified form or reformed state has become obsolete in its relevance to the society?
5. Though the church is not perfect in many issues and may as well need some reforms, but does God commit such a call for reform into the hands of critics, provided there is a ministry known as the Ministry of Criticism, recorded and exemplified in the Bible?
6. Has the Church System since her inception from the Bible and early days ever been in perfect state of existence and operations as a prerequisite to playing her role of being the salt of the earth or she has continued to evolve according to God’s agenda, who in the words of Olakunle SORIYAN always hide the relevance of the next generation of the Church System in the inevitable loopholes of the present generation?
7. On the subject matter of domestic violence which is the present issue drawing the hot ire of the CCI protagonists, could it be said with oracular precision and indubitable proof, based on a credible survey that the entire Church System is complicit in condoning domestic violence?
8. Can the critics make a better case for reforms within the Church System on the issue of Domestic Violence, beginning from revisiting her doctrine on marriage, separation and divorce and creating or overhauling her Family Systems, beginning from Children’s Church and her curriculum, Singles Fellowship engagements, pre and post wedding counseling, marriage counseling, building affiliation with relevant government and Non-Governmental Agencies, with a view to building a virile and helpful referral system?
9. After all said and done, if it is believed that the Church and her systems need to do more in her disposition to the general welfare of her members, particularly in a Third World setting like Nigeria, how does our book of reference, the Bible enjoin us to correct our elders? To apply the wisdom of God, which is ‘first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ or call them out, sometimes by name, disparage and insult them after the order to cancel culture?
10. If the protagonists of CCI truly think that the Church System needs a reformation, why not assemble all their agenda for reformation like Martin Luther and John Wesley did and present the same to the umbrella bodies of the Church System for consideration?
11. Finally, who made me a judge over all these concerns?
I do hope to return next week, God willing to attempt to address the concerns that I have raised here and even more as I receive divine inspiration too.
Do have an INSPIRED week ahead.
I am ONIWASU Taiwo AKINLAMI