Rev Chidi Okoroafor is the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Nigeria. In this interview with PUNCH NEWSPAPERS, he addresses issues ranging from the crises in the church to the killings in different parts of the country
Two years after the Assemblies of God, Nigeria, won a major court case against its expelled former General Superintendent, the church is still divided. What is responsible for this?
I will take exception to the use of the word ‘divided’. Let me use the country for illustration. That you have insurgency in a section of Nigeria or agitation in one area should not make one to conclude that the country is divided.
I know that what led to the court case was very simple. My former boss broke the principles and the constitution of the church. He took the court to church instead of resolving the matter on the table as provided for in the constitution of the church.
Leveraging that, the church suspended him. He contested his removal up to the Supreme Court. He pursued the case under Fundamental Human Rights and the Supreme Court ruled that it was not a fundamental human right to be a leader of a church. He lost the case. Immediately after the court case, we extended a generous olive branch to him. We went to talk with him one-on-one for him to come and reconcile with the church. He has not yet done so. There are some individuals who still feel that they should gather around him and they are loyal to him. That is unfortunate. As I speak to you, all the institutions of the church are under the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Nigeria – the 10 Bible colleges that we have, the press, the AG Mortgage Bank, our national headquarters and over 90 per cent of the church.
The little percentage outside the fold can make so much noise in the social media. You don’t run a church on social media. The Evangel University and other institutions of the church are on one page. Is that what you think as a journalist that the church is divided? I agree that some persons rally round the former General Superintendent. They are the ones that defy the generous olive branch we have extended for them to reconcile with the church. The Assemblies of God is a global family. The world population of the church is above 70 million.
Are you saying that if the sacked General Superintendent comes back, you are ready to receive him?
We are ever ready. We have discussed this. We have even told him; we have had meetings with him. I personally have had meetings with him two or three times. We have held official meetings with him, asking him to come back
Some Christian leaders have condemned the recent visit by CAN executives to President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election. What is your view on this?
As long as President Muhammadu Buhari remains the President of the country, we should accord him every respect and honour as the President. As long he has not been set aside by any process, he is the number one citizen of Nigeria. Now as a church, we recognise that there is no government without God. Let me say it clearly; if God says that Buhari will not be there tomorrow, I mean tomorrow, He will remove him. God knows the formula with which he removes leaders. But as long he is there, he is there because God has allowed him to be there. Then, what is wrong with the church leadership visiting him (if they want to tell him anything)? Remember that in the Bible, prophets and kings worked together. Prophets recognised the king and kings recognised prophets. When the king goes wrong, the prophet goes to him and says, ‘King; you are wrong here. This is dangerous. God will not be happy with you’. I pray that even leaders of churches will act like those prophets who were sincere to political leaders. You go to them, be very sincere; not just to curry favour. You can go to a leader, appreciate him for the good things he has done and then flash a yellow card about things that he may be doing that are not good for the progress of the country. To go underground and not having an interface with the leader, how would he know the mind of the prophet? How would he know the mind of God?
There have been killings in the country. Is it not something that should attract the attention of church leaders?
Let me link it with the former question you asked about visiting the President. We can go and tell him, ‘Your Excellency, we are no longer comfortable that killings are going on. Our members are being killed. Certain things are going on in this country’.
What stops the President from having a town-hall meeting with church leaders? What stops the President from having interactive session with church leaders? We’ll tell him that we are praying for peace of the land but as church leaders – those who have oversight – over the spiritual state of the country; we want to let him know this and that.
That is part of the things that church will do. Church leaders will not carry guns, but they are in a position to address the leaders. They can jointly send memo to the President. They can engage lawmakers. They can even engage security agencies because it is something that concerns them.
When you look at things attributed to church members and pastors, it appears that it is becoming odious to claim to be a pastor.
Let me say that these things are not strange. The Bible says that in the last days, these things will happen. The love of many will grow cold in the last days. There are also what we call signs of the end time. What you are saying generally are signs of the end time.
We are witnessing a trend where entertainers are invited to perform in churches. What do you have to say about this?
It is lack of the presence of God that people now make up with comedians. How can I bring the ‘Night of One Thousands Laughs’ to the church? I am vehemently against that. If I see somebody do that in Assemblies of God, I will give him query. Why would you bring entertainers? It is lack of the presence of God. When you have sufficient presence of God, why would you go for those make-ups? The church is not an entertainment centre. It is a place where you go to worship God. Some people have derailed. So, if you don’t have entertainers, you will not come to my church again? Then, you are not a worshiper. Good worship and good songs are enough to inspire you. I vehemently condemn that and this is the position of the Assemblies of God, Nigeria.