By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
WHILE orthodox churches have maintained studied silence thus far over the controversial Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Code apparently targeted at Nigerian Pentecostal churches, there appears to be disagreement within the Pentecostal movement, as founder of International Institute of Church Growth to strengthen pastors and support churches to grow and be healthy, Dr. Francis Akin-John, said that the current objection to the code was unnecessary.
Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence, Rev. Samuel Uche and Baba Aladura of Motailatu Church Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide, MCCSW, His Eminence, Dr. Israel Akinadewo, are meanwhile opposed to government’s plan to impose retirement age on churches in the country.
Arguing that every credible and well established church should present her books of account to a recognized auditing firm at the end of the year, the two are of the opinion, that churches should be allowed to operate according to their individual constitutions, pointing out that each church in the country has its own constitution.
Prelate Uche said churches should not pay tax. “On the issue of age, Methodist Church Nigeria, whether you are a Bishop or head of the church, retirement for you is 70, but I don’t subscribe to imposing it on other churches. Churches should be allowed to operate according to their constitution. Each church has its own constitution. It’ll be an unnecessary interference for government to look into the constitution of the church to regulate it. It’s not good. I don’t support that.”
The Baba Aladura argued that nobody has the right to determine “The number of years that God’s servant must serve. This is a divine calling and divinity is different from secularity. When it comes to accountability and probity, that is not a problem. But when it comes to leadership of the church, it is the internal organs of a church that can determine the tenure or the number of years that the leader will serve which the orthodox churches have actually been adopting.
“But it’s like somebody saying that God called Moses and you are telling God that the Moses you have called, you are only going to call him for five years. After five years, God don’t call Moses again, call another person,” he explained.
The church growth expert, who equips Pentecostal ministers, Dr. Akin-John, in his response, said: “It is shame for us in the Church to wait for government to tell us how we should be behaving. There is no country that does not regulate its non governmental organisations. They make laws, first of all, we are citizens of our country before we are citizens of Heaven and in Europe and the United States, their laws for the church are more stringent than whatever the Nigerian government was proposing.
“Yes, we have issues with our government on how they make laws without implementation, but we Christians must be law abiding, especially if you have registered your church with Corporate Affairs Commission. There are rules and regulations that churches must obey.
It is when they started getting wind that we are not following or changing our constitution that the government comes up with this kind of law but my take is that the issue of FRCN is basically on financial probity in the Church and must have a good succession plan.
“When you get to 70 years, it does not stop your ministry. I think there is mis-interpretation of the law. The law says if you have been in a position for 20 years, let all other people come on board. Share your responsibilities and if you have to leave your position when you clock 70, it is not the end of your ministerial assignment.
“We must obey the law according to Romans 13 and of course, we can fight obnoxious laws but at the same time, when we put our house in order, government will not have anything to say against us. If you observe, it is only Pentecostal churches that are shouting. Others are not making noise because the age limit is already there and that does not stop their ministry.”