By Sam Eyoboka
I CORINTHIANS 7:10-11: To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
THE recent matrimonial debacle involving Nigeria’s charismatic preacher and founder of Believers Love World, a.k.a. Christ Embassy, Rev. Chris Oyakhilome, and his wife, Rev. Anita Odegwa Oyakhilome, did not come to close watchers as a surprise.
Followers of developments at the Believers World Ministry claimed, last week, that the wife’s suit for divorce on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour” and “adultery” is just a necessary end to months of loud speculations about the collapse of the flamboyant first family of Christ Embassy.
Speculations were rife earlier in the year, when members of the church in London launched a Facebook account demanding for the whereabouts of their pastor and mother of Sharon and Charlyn following the deleting of her profile from the church’s website.
While millions of members, believing that the development is a spiritual attack designed to extinguish the fire of evangelism among Nigeria’s young people, have resorted to intercessory prayers for God to resolve the matrimonial crisis, the report came on Tuesday via Anita’s attorneys that there was no chance the estranged couple would ever live as husband and wife again.
Stephen Goddard, Business Development Manager of Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors, the law firm handling the divorce suit, said: “It is with great sadness that our client, Pastor Anita Oyakhilome, has come to the conclusion that her marriage to Pastor Christian Oyakhilome has irretrievably broken down and regrettably there is no hope of any reconciliation.”
Sunday Vanguard decided to hit town to find out the implications of this development for the Christ Embassy, Christendom in general and the teeming young members of the church. The church leaders, who spoke with our reporter, blamed the growing trend of divorce among clergymen in the country on faulty foundation.
Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, described the development as very disturbing, arguing that when ministers of God begin to wash their dirty linen in the public, it smacks of indiscipline. According to the ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church, when pastors refuse to honour the vows they took at the altar of God, what do they expect from the ordinary members of their congregation?
“When the going was good, they took vows on the altar of God to stay together in sickness and in health, until death do them part. They promise to make one another faithful partner in the presence of God, their family and friends and vow to be each other’s faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. They promise to love one another unconditionally, to support each other, honor and respect and cherish themselves for as long as they both shall live,” Okogie said.
The cardinal argued that as soon as little challenges arise, the so-called pastors forget the vow and the spirit of forgiveness they preach to their congregations on daily basis and opt for divorce. “It shows that they cannot live by what they preach. The Bible says: ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’ So why are they putting asunder what the good Lord has joined together if they are men of God as they claim?”
Asked what the development portrays for the Church of God, the cardinal replied with a question “What Church are you talking about?” He went on: “It is not good. Are they true pastors? Good shepherds of the Lord are expected to do everything to shepherd their flock including their spouses even when they err. If God forgave us in spite of our filth, why can any man who is truly called pastor not forgive any malfeasance?”
Okogie blamed the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, which registers every organization which goes about deceiving people in the name of church, noting that there are several “useless” institutions that have been registered churches which are currently painting the Church of God in bad light.
In the same vein, Publicity Secretary of God’s Kingdom Society, GKS, Brother Benedict Hart says the nation is yet to see anything, noting that the number of such divorce is small relative to the number of church pastors in Nigeria. He, however, stated that divorces are getting too frequent for comfort, saying the reason for rising number of divorce cases is better answered by church leaders themselves.
“Be that as it may, the same issues that bedevil other marriages also affect church pastors: failure of either or two of the parties to the marriage to adhere to Biblical principles – that they are to support or help one another in the race of salvation with the man at the head. (Genesis 2:18, 21-24; Ephesians 5:22-24, 25, 28,29; Colossians 3:18,19) Incompatibility of couples, marrying not on grounds of economic prospects rather than on the qualities of each person.
“It must be said that divorce is contrary to the will of God. The Bible makes no room for divorce; the couple ought to find way of settling their problems (Matthew 19:4-9; Malachi 2:15-16)”, the GKS publicist explained, adding that, in several cases, the man increasingly ignores the woman, fails to provide for her, becomes promiscuous.
He outlined another source of friction in marriages to include childlessness, adding that after several years of marriage without having an issue, the man or the woman, or even two of them may agree to opt out of the union with the hope of getting children elsewhere.
“In several new breed churches, the man and woman started the church from humble beginnings, but when the economy improves, one party feels the other no longer meets his or her social status. Again a number of these pastors know what they had been doing to win converts: resort to stage-managed miracles, making of imaginary prophecies, late night sessions with witch doctors, selling of “holy water”, candles, oil, with supposed healing powers, etc. By the time the church becomes large, the woman would naturally want a larger share of the pie. When the man becomes cagey, would not be forthcoming on the finances of the church, she may want to leave and use the same methods they used to establish their church to open her own”, Hart said.
“A big problem with the Pentecostal is that the churches are made to look like social clubs with only a Christian veneer or covering. The leaders tell the people what they want to hear, preaching mostly about prosperity, donations, miracles, marriages, etc. They do not know what the gospel of the kingdom is. Moreover the leaders flaunt their wealth and allow the women to dress licentiously and use make up excessively, on the ground that it is the heart God sees not the dress.
“Many times the young women wear skimpy clothes, transparent, and skin-tight wears that expose their bodies. And they do not cover their heads. Then where lies moderation, shamefacedness, orderliness and decency? (1 Timothy 2:9,10; 1 Peter 3:1-6), A number of the pastors are thus tempted and this results in crisis in their home fronts.”
The divorce Suit No FD14D01650 was filed on April 9, 2014 at Divorce Section A, Central Family Court, First Avenue House, High Holborn, London, UK, on Anita’s behalf by Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors, a full-service law firm with expertise in commercial law and a strong consumer focus in family, wills and estate, personal injury law and medical negligence is the latest of such cases involving Nigerian pastors. Efforts to reconcile the popular couple, whose church is one of the biggest denominations in Nigeria and has branches all over world, have failed.
Several other ministers of the gospel including the son of the founder of TBN, the largest Christian network in the world, Pastor Paul Crouch Jr., Rev. Benny Hinn, Pastor John Hagee, Bishop David Benenoch of the Communion Church, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo of Trinity House, Pastor Chris Okotie, have at one time or the other been enmeshed in divorce issues.