By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
EXPERTS and other stakeholders from three continents Thursday rose from a 3-day international conference on African Pentecostalism with a verdict that African Pentecostalism has performed below expectation as it has majored in minor to the neglect of more developmental challenges of the continent.
Over 200 scholars from Germany, US and 18 states of Nigeria including some African nations as well as high ranking government officials and members of the Governing Council of the Redeemed Christian Church of God attended the second International Conference on African Pentecostalism (ICAP), which was held at the Redeemed Christian Bible College (RCBC) from June 13-15, 2017.
The conference was put together by The Redeemed Christian Bible College in conjunction with the University of Ibadan and the Redeemer’s University with a theme: “African Pentecostalism and Development in Africa and Diaspora”. The objective of the conference was to: Provide space to reflect on the impact of African Pentecostalism on development in Africa and Diaspora; Interrogate obstacles of developmental activities of African Pentecostalism and proffer solutions to identified challenges, and Create awareness that African Pentecostalism is a major motor for development in Africa.
It featured Rt. Rev. (Professor) Dayo Asaju, the Vice Chancellor, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo who delivered the keynote address. Other commissioned speakers included Prof. Afe Adogame, Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, United States, Prof. Samson Fatokun, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Dr. (Mrs) Bolaji Bateye, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
The conference highlighted the biblical and historical origins of Pentecostalism which placed high premium on international evangelism and which started shortly after the 1906 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, USA; it emphasised the place and role of Africans and Africa in the evolution and development of Pentecostalism globally.
It also pointed out the strategic position and the steering characteristics of African Pentecostalism as distinctive from other Pentecostalism. It observed that despite the positive contributions of African Pentecostalism to development, especially in the areas of national and global evangelisation, leadership, community development initiatives, socio-economic, educational and environmental development, African Pentecostalism has not devoted much attention to agriculture, negative intra-moral issues denting its image, cultural iconoclasm, uncritical retention of western cultural vestiges, security, particularly Islamic terrorism at both national and international spheres, and breaking into the cultural fortress of the West in its effort towards Reverse Mission.
A communiqué issued at the end of the 3-day session suggested that in order to reposition African Pentecostalism for its own relevance, it must:
*Intensify its evangelization and missionary activities into areas that seem difficult to penetrate in order to ensure that Christianity is not wiped out from those identified areas;
*Mobilize its membership and actively be involved in political leadership in the Nigeria and the African continent
*Expand its community development initiatives towards rural areas as a strategy for effective evangelization
*Enlarge its empowerment programmes as well as pay attention to human development;
*Invest in agriculture as a way of empowerment, poverty alleviation, revenue generation;
*Be culturally sensitive since the Gospel must be presented within a cultural space;
*Be sensitive to the prevailing security challenges;
*Creatively engage in reverse missionary activities, and
*Maximize the potentials of the media/social media.
Earlier in his keynote address, the Vice Chancellor of Ajayi Crowder University (ACU), Oyo, Prof. Dapo Asaju blamed recent agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra on the absence of quality leadership to harness the abundant human resources in Nigeria to unite the nation and make it a great and indivisible country that will be the envy of all African nations.
Professor Asaju, who is the son of pioneer NUJ president, Chief Michael Asaju, urged present day Pentecostals to do more than canvassing the prosperity theology. Speaking on a topic entitled: “African Pentecostalism and Development in Africa and Diaspora,” Asaju, an Anglican bishop, said the Pentecostal leadership needed to contribute to human development through engagement in entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation strategies.
He maintained that government alone cannot solve the problems of the citizens, as such the Church should be an alternative in providing social amenities and galvanising its members to develop the country, arguing that genuine national development can only come when we have good leadership.
Asaju opined that after the demise of the founding fathers of the nation who were products of the Church, Nigeria is yet to produce any other set of quality leaders.
Taking a look at the impact Pentecostalism has had on Africa’s development, Prof. Asaju said: “We must be worried that there are churches everywhere yet the rate of corruption continues to skyrocket, yet we still live in the country of impunity, we are in an era in this continent where leadership competence is still a very crucial question.”
He said “very soon Nigeria will be heading for the polls where another president will be elected but I am not aware of any serious Christian either from Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal that is ready to spearhead change in this country. We are still dealing with a sick president, we do not know what is going to be the future of his tenure, yet people are suggesting that he should contest in the next dispensation.
“With a situation where we have millions of people who grew up in the Pentecostal environment and the Pentecostals are proud that today they have one of their own as vice president who is a member of The Redeemed Christian Church of God…he is in a major strategic position but we need to ask ourselves, with all the benefits that we have had in the Body of Christ, what have been the changes in the lives of the people?” he asked.
According to him, “we are in an era where the educational system, health system, infrastructures have virtually collapsed and we are so naturally and humanly empowered but with all the anointing that we have, series of prayers, multiplication of churches, why are we still where we are,” he lamented.
Continuing, Asaju, said he cannot point at any church leader today upon whom Christians can rely to speak for them, adding “The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN virtually no longer exists as far as impact is concerned. There is need to now live our theology, marry our theoretical theology with the practical theology.”
“We are tired of division in Nigeria, it is the rich people who are playing us like tennis and if problem starts today, they will travel out of the country with their families. We should kick against war or problems, embrace peace and pray for quick recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari and also support his administration.
“We have groped in the dark for too long, the set of old people that we have in power must be taken out of the place and we must unite to move this nation forward. Irrespective of our religious affiliation, we should come together to move our country forward. Breaking away is not the way,” he stated.
“The theology of the West is no longer suitable for us in Africa, the theology of the West, spiritually and biblical approach has damaged faith, damaged the seminary and terrible priests who came to Church and killed the Church. Today we talk about an empty church, people are building cathedrals like they are doing in North America, in Asian minor but were not building people in faith and conviction.
There is need to interprete the Bible in a way that it will bring development to Africa.
The white brought civilisation to us through Christian religion but when they have their own departure from God, they become reprobate in their mind, they forget God, question the Bible and get involved in series of atrocities. They did not believe in marriage, in morality and because of their terrible theology, they destroyed the church. Man sleeps with man and they are losing their country. There, churches are empty, and they are no longer ashamed that someone is a homosexual. Africans will not follow the white man to go to hell, we will not follow them to support immorality. Christianity is dying in the West, we are now involved in return mission, we are going back to evangelise them. Africa will continue to believe in God and marriage.
Other speakers including Dr. Benson Ohihon Igboin averred that African Pentecostalism has perpetrated some forms of neo-colonialism or neo-imperialism has been advanced, seeking to explore some ways how African Pentecostalism skews, exploits and denies local theologies and their contents to its advantage.
The Deputy Governor of Osun State, Mrs Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, said the conference was coming at a time tertiary institutions were having challenges.
“I am aware that the theme of the conference pertains to Christian religion; nonetheless, it is my considered opinion that the conference will address the related issues such as gap in knowledge in religious studies,” she said.
Laoye-Tomori was represented at the event by the Regional Overseer, Mountain of Fire and Miracles, Osun State, Pastor David Aremo.