Gospel and Culture from the Perspective
The place of African Indigenous Pentecostal Churches or otherwise called African Instituted Churches in Nigeria is undoubtedly a place of justifiable pride. The African Instituted Churches grew to destroy the whole idea of Christianity as the white man's religion which the African could ill-afford to practise. The Instituted Churches were concerned with making christianity "universal" and meaningful to the people of Africa.
Culture being the totality of a people's way of life, differs from one people or country to another. It is important to realise that since culture is usually learned and does not always depend on unborn instincts, it is almost wholly the result of social inventions. The Yoruba passed their culture on from one generation to the other in a well-disciplined manner, usually in the form of myths, history, stories, riddles, proverbs, arts and craft. This cultural heritage of the Yoruba, as of all Nigerians and indeed of all Africans, includes the belief in the existence of one supreme being.
Culture is the very life of a people, their beliefs and practices, their life and religious beliefs. All are interwoven to form their very life. It is therefore very difficult to draw a clear-cut line of demarcation between where their ethical life ends and where their religious life begins. Like the days gone by in the Old Testament, the Yorubas are known to exercise stringent disciplinary measure on their children or relations or neighbours when they do wrong. Such actions bring disgrace not only to the family concerned, but also calamities to the whole community. (1) Anything that would bring peace, joy and prosperity not only to the individual, but also to the community must be done, while those things that would bring curses, sadness, sickness, death, calamity, disgrace or disrespect to the individual or the community are simply avoided as taboo.St. Paul the Apostle defines Gospel as the power of God to save the human being. Gospel reveals how the human being is put right with God within his culture. Culture and religion are intertwined. It is difficult to separate them. The culture of a people often indicates their mode of worship and colours their pattern of faith. Every Prophet comes with a revelation fitted to his people and written in the language of the people he is sent to. This is true of Jesus Christ, who having brought the GOSPEL rebuked bad morality but not culture.
The gospel can be expressed using African idioms and practices, without reclining into syncretism and apostasy. This is the case with the African Instituted Churches which is our main focus of study in this paper. God can be expressed within African concepts other than erstwhile foreign perception, which to Africans is distorted by the historical tragedy of European exploits over Africans.
The Gospel and Culture from the Perspective of African Instituted Churches
In an attempt to research into African culture and Christian faith the African Instituted Churches found God to be the image of the people to whom the religion belongs. African Christians have discussed in clear emotional and intensely personal language the basic issue of how a human being is put right with God within his culture. Secondly, Africans have seen that the message of evangelism encourages the cultivation of spiritual intuition and the practice of mediation as an aid to rationalisation including traditional study. African Christians evolve and inculcate in themselves an awareness of destiny, a recognition of the full human potential and an awakening to the possibility of perfected human beings.
Faith proclaimed by the Gospel is not a solitary thing. The aim of God is not simply that we rejoice in Him, but to show us how great it is to rejoice with one another in Him. To enjoy God by oneself is great, but to enjoy God in company with others is far greater.
Africans strongly believe that the Christian faith which the Gospel proclaims is fine but should be indigenised. We Africans need contextual, that is holistic, biblical, incarnate and conscientising evangelism, that alerts to the current historical and cultural moment in each place where the church is called to witness to the Gospel.
It is easy to pay lip-service to a religious ideal that combines the aspects of unity and diversity and which sees as one of its tasks that of helping individuals and nations to become more truly and completely themselves. It is not enough to africanise Christianity. African Christianity must discover a catholic vocation. From various sources, it has been discovered that African theology is a "theology based on the biblical faith of Africans, and which speaks to the African soul". (AACC 1969 Engagement, Nairobi.)
The first missionaries failed to realise objectively and scientifically the African social structure and their concept of God. Most of them held to believe that the inspiration or charismatic gifts among Africans were of evil spirit. They believed that Africans, that is the black race, were not fertile enough to produce their own ideas. It is true beyond reasonable doubt that Africans give a special character and local colour to their beliefs, religious observances and practices, language, psychological reactions and more generally to their behaviours.
Among African indigenous churches we use the following elements: water, olive oil, salt, palm leaves, candles (not coloured) and wine. The use of foot-wears is forbidden in places within the dedicated temple. We do not carry corpses into the temple. We make holy inquiries for all members of the church on matters affecting their lives. We observe three types of fasting: dry, white and ordinary. The usage of elements or substances does not mean that the African has no faith in Jesus Christ who shed his blood for human-kind; what it does mean is that healing can also be achieved by consecration of water, olive oil, honey, salt and wine. African culture is akin to these observances and practices mentioned. This is not an apologetic; all I am trying to say and to do is to put these practices in the light of the holy writ and teachings.
We read in the Scriptures that those who believed in Jesus Christ, enjoy this by means of "faith". Their diseases both of mind and body were healed through prayers and the use of consecrated water, oil etc. For example, James in his Epistle wrote:
"is any one sick among you?
At one time Christ described himself as "living water" (John 7:30). In the Old and New Testament, the usage of water cannot be over-emphasised e.g. John 5:4; II Kings 5:10; "...go and wash in the Jordan..."
There are hosts of other typical examples in the Holy Bible which confirm the usage of substances as well, although not in all cases. Without prejudice, Jesus Christ is still at work here when these substances are consecrated in His name.
Sacrificial rites are observed. These sacrifices do not form an integral part of worship as such. They are observed only as a result of divine revelations. A note of warning is relevant here. In our fundamental belief, it is clearly stated that "Jesus Christ is the second person of the God Head and the eternal Son of God. He is the only saviour from sin and man's salvation is by Grace through faith. He is the eternal word made flesh, who lived among humankind, suffered and died on the cross. He was buried, but God raised Him from death. By Him all will be judged."
Our Apostles and Prophets thought differently about God's nature. Although soul salvation is the central issue of their doctrine, yet they believe salvation must start from this world. Our Apostles and Prophets are never interested in what one might call different theological methods; they function through testimonies. They witness not only to the idea of God, but also to God Himself as morally and redeemingly active amidst the movement of events. All along the line, the Apostles and Prophets of the Holy Order are unlike the missionaries of the established churches who create difficulty for religion, while they (the apostles and prophets) create difficulty for thought-intellectuals.
Christian brothers and sisters, let me seize this opportunity to tell you that culture has had a strong impact on our Church aims and objectives. The African Instituted Churches, at the outset, were treated as sects or Christian abberations, but in the last 15 to 20 years, they have been positively evaluated and their contribution to the development of the Christian faith is being more appreciated.
What brought about the African Instituted Churches
Isaiah the King of Prophets lamented with wonder, when he said, "who hath believed our report/witness and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed"? (Isaiah 53:1). This statement was made to the unbelief of the Jews. When Christ came neither the rulers nor the Jews believed him except a few common people to whom he gave power to become the children of God.
Barely a century ago, African Instituted Churches, a sacred people of God, came to bear witness of the Light, that, through them, people of their race might believe.
In Nigeria, these African Instituted Churches are:
1. Cherubim and Seraphim, founded by St. Moses Orimolade Tunolase.
2. Church of the Lord (Aladura), founded by Primate Dr. Josiah Olunowo Oshitelu.
3. Christ Apostolic Church, founded by Pastor/Prophet Joseph Ayo Babalola.
4. Celestial Church of Christ, founded by Revd/Pastor Samuel B.J. Oshofa.
This group came simultaneously from various angles in this nation in a way conducive to the Nigerians, taking into consideration the culture, customs and manners of the land in which they lived and relating their God particularly to the life of their people. This group of people of God put their fingers on the religion of Christians as the primary source of the social, moral and religious decay of the day. It lead the first open battle against Christians in Nigeria, first, on the level of religious loyalty and secondly on the level of ethical responsibility. Like Prophets of Old, they regarded sound theology and proper ethic as the two handles of the plough which they must grasp firmly if they would plough a straight furrow for the Lord.
You will ask, who are these men, who appeared among the Yorubas in days of crisis and corruption to purge the cult of magic and the culture of materialism and to interpret the character and action of the covenant God? You will be convinced that they were men with a strong influence of divine call. The call came to them in different ways and in different places. You can see the sources of their primary motivation for their task. Aladura were not acting in response to the call of conscience or to the call of community or the call of country but the definite direct dynamic call of God.
Orimolade, Oshitelu, Babalola, Oshofa and their associated put their finger on the religion of the traditional Christian churches reviving the traditional moral code of England, preaching against the sins of the flesh while failing to recognise their own sins of the Spirit. These churches lacked tolerance, the feeling for another society or appreciation of different social mores and moral codes. The Aladuras regard this as the primary source of the social, moral and religious decay of the day.
Indeed there was an imperative need for a prophetic purging of God's people, a need to remove magic from the cult and materialism from their culture, and to restore the covenant of faith to its primitive vitality and purity. The voice of the Lord was heard from these able men of God. Through them, the Aladuras, the Lord proclaimed the worship of the only one true and living God and the condemnation of idol worship. Through them the Lord renewed His covenant of faith and spiritual healing and the active spiritual revival of the Church, spreading out far and wide beyond the borders of Nigeria, to the United Kingdom, United States of America and beyond.
It is generally agreed that the major underlying cause common to all movements is the clash of three cultures (traditional, secular European and missionary) and the resulting tension and disruption in the life of African tribes. The availability of translations of Holy Scriptures in African vernaculars has served as an independent standard of reference against which missionaries and missions could be judged. So discrepancies between the mission practice and biblical liberty have thus caused wide-spread disaffection, ending in numerous secessions.
The attitude of the early missionaries against the people of this country - Nigeria - generated a lot of ill-feelings. The inhabitants of the country could not see the missionaries as the messengers of God in the real perspective, but as a spiritual arm and political agents of their respective governments. The native saw that the missionaries were ambitious to dominate them in the interest of Christian religion. Obviously, the spirit of mistrust and indifference was at work on both sides.
The policy of conformity was the result of the evangelical revival associated with the "Keswick" convention in England and West Africa. The Evangelicals in England were emphasising sin, holiness, perfection, and submission to the will of God. These Evangelicals preached against the sins of the flesh while they themselves failed to recognise their own sins of the spirit, that is, lack of tolerance, lack of feeling for another society or lack of appreciation for different mores and moral codes. They brought a strong contrary influence to bear upon the mission church which, in some regards, had become cognizant of the virtues of African morality.
As a result, the "Keswick" excitement made a great number of missionaries travel to Lagos and Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1886, 1888 and 1889 to see and meet Africans themselves. As a matter of fact, they met Africans in churches on Sundays, but these missionaries were claiming superiority over all that our society stood for, and in addition, they successfully brain-washed the believers into believing that only what originated from Europe was best for us. When the missionaries got to England and spoke of "sins" as the exclusive habit of the Africans, it aroused a flood of bitterness in Lagos.
In short, the "Keswick" revival used moral reasons to deny black leadership. It gave clear victory for the spirit of "Keswick" as Africans were rejected to succeed Bishop Ajayi Crowther. The result was the organisation of African Indigenous Churches.
The remote and immediate causes of the emergence of African Instituted Churches can be analyzed as follows:
1. The negligence of Jesus Christ's commission - witnessing - spiritual directives.
2. Conflict of leadership between the white missionaries and the black pastors.
3. The missionaries neglected the organisation of the Africans, that is, their customs, institutions and many other things that are African.
4. The Keswick convention in England and West Africa.
5. The tyranny of the rule of the missionaries and their attitude on polygamous rule.
6. Resented attitude as a result of European conquest in West Africa and of the arrogance of imperial expansion.
7. The idea to exculpate blames - both missionary and the African pastors.
8. The permission of creedelism, which insists on mere mental assent to the right set of propositions about God as the way to salvation.
9. The permission of promotionalism which frequently keeps church members so busy with many things and thereby neglect the main thing, which easily falls into the trap of substituting church work for the work of the Church.
10. The permission of ritualism which often deteriorates into magical system of sacrifice and ceremony whereby we give God what He wants in order to get from Him what we want.
11. The permission of particularism which seeks to limit the kingdom of God to a particular class of people.
12. The permission of a new gnosticism which in naked arrogance claims an intellectual corner on theological and spiritual outerspace and tends to reduce the Christian religion "covenant faith" to an esoteric knowledge reserved for an elite few.
African Instituted Churches with their applied Christian method create difficulty for intellectuals, while missionaries create difficulty for religion. African Instituted Churches have been like a voice crying in the wilderness of this nation - Nigeria -pleading for a new look for Christian churches, with all their short-comings and warnings at times, of that "tide of mediocrity" that has swept over the Christian community, especially in Nigeria in the past.
From many points, the Movement can be regarded as an unprecedented phenomenon, unique in the history of Christian mission in Nigeria. One can see the applied aspect of the African Instituted churches:
(a) They have excelling pastoral care for their flock.
(b) They encourage a life of communication (constant communion) with God through prayers.
(c) They prevent more than 60% of nominal church goers to become preys and victims of heathen priests and jujumen.
(d) Their prophets and priests constantly (as is expected of God's servants) act as the 'conscience of the nation' - and regardless of intrigues and stupid criticism, they continue to warn the Nation against calamity, perils and dangers that await any nation that forsakes and forgets God.
(e) When Christianity enters Rome, it takes on with it a little bit of Romanism - in England a bit of Anglicanism - Aladuras have added a bit of Africanism to Christian practice, i.e. praising and worshipping God with African hymns, songs, lyric choruses, dances and rhythms.
(f) Aladura constitutes the Christian Church into a real "church militant" and adopts democratic participatory worship during her services, thus emphasizing the doctrine of the priesthood of the believers. Both the pulpit and the pews share alike the act of worship.
(g) It encourages freedom of women and accords them recognition in the church's ministry. It avoids keeping women at the background in worship, but does not make the women arbiter of doctrines.
(h) It encourages meekness and simplicity in worship. It avoids luxury and extravagance.
(i) Aladura regards the Bible in terms of Christ and Christ in terms of the Bible i.e. without theologising. The African Instituted Churches take God for His word without imputing motive or reading other meanings to Christ's statement.
(j) African Instituted Churches demonstrate that the high office of the Church should not be determined by the amount of academic qualifications or strings of alphabets, but by vivid signs of regeneration, God's holy calling and spiritual quality and learning.
(k) African Instituted Churches regard the Church as an assembly of people belonging to God - who regard Jesus as the Head of the Body (the Church). They are not holy, but are Saints in the making. African Instituted Churches do not indulge in pointing accusing fingers to other denominations or looking down on others.
(l) African Instituted Churches strictly abide by the saying of Jesus that, "whosoever will may come, and he that cometh to me, I will in no ways cast out". African Instituted Churches' door is therefore open to all and sundry.
The African Instituted Churches - Aladura - church movement faith is an applied Christianity, a New Testament and charismatic church of Christ. Though Professor Akin Omoyajowo expressed that in his view the Cherubim came into existence by sheer accident, that view may not be correct. For members believed that Jesus Christ pleaded for forty years so as to allow the Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim formation on earth, and God with his hosts in heaven thought of it critically before the Holy Order was established. (2) The members of the Church believe that God has sent His Order (Aladura) to revitalise Christian faith through prayers and spiritual worship. The basic truth which the (Aladura) taught their early converts were like that of the teachings of the Apostolic Church rather than the administrative procedures that quench the spirit of togetherness. Their prayers were not stereo-typed. Their charismatic attitude bestowed tremendous Pentecostal powers and blessings upon the believers. The African Instituted Churches concept of the Church is that of the spiritual and invisible Church, therefore, their determination is to practise all the ideals of Christianity and its peculiar association with the heavenly host. In this respect, the Church is organised and ruled by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and charismatic experience is given prime place in the worship of the Church.
It may interest you to know the type of Church we are building, worship in and closely identify with according to our Tenets of Faith:
1. Biblical in Pattern - Biblical in the sense that in all matters of faith and conduct, our Supreme Court of Appeal will ever be the Holy Bible.
2. Pentecostal in Power - Pentecostal in the sense that we should be spirit-guided, spirit-filled or influenced, spirit-directed and that the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ shall quicken, inspire and stir us up always in all our decisions in matters of church administration.
3. Evangelical in Ministry - Evangelical in the sense that the World is our Parish, and determined to preach, reach each other and to witness to the life, work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples of all nations.
4. Ecumenical in Outlook - Ecumenical in the sense that we encourage the assembly of the Saints not to forsake the gathering of one another, but to share fellowship, unity in bond of peace with every other group or body who worships, serves Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, Redeemer and King.
Apostolic Line of Progression
In Ephesians 4:11 there are listed "some of the gifts of the Spirit, i.e. some are to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers". These are by no means the only posts available, there are deacons, bishops, cardinals etc. However, in the doctrine of the African Instituted Churches and overseas, the line of succession is shown below:
(i) Spiritual Father (i) Apostolic Mother
(ii) Most Special Apostle (ii) Senior Mother-In-Israel
(iii) Special Apostle (iii) Mother-In-Israel
(iv) Most Senior Apostle (iv) Senior Lady Leader
(v) Senior Apostle (v) Lady Leader
(vi) Apostle (vi) Prophetess
(vii) Prophet (vii) Elder Sister
(viii) Evangelist (viii) Aladura Sister
(ix) Pastor (ix) Sister
(xi) Elder Brother
(xii) Aladura Brother
For the spiritual administration of the Church this hierarchy must exist in order "to equip the Saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men by their craftiness in deceitful wiles." (Ephesians 4: 12-14)
This passage in essence means that the attainment of these spiritual ordination posts demands that the incumbent dedicates himself/herself to the spiritual development of the fold.
Aspects of Aladura Doctrines in the Yoruba Cultural Context
The prime emphasis on the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit singles out the African Instituted Churches (and others generally referred to as Aladura) in the community of church denominations. The Aladura churches believe that the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28, 29), the out-pouring of the Spirit of God on all flesh that was manifested on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:44, 45) is a continuous process, for Peter said "...the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to Him" (Acts 2:39). This is the basis of the Aladura concept of pneumatology. In this concept there seem to be two major aspects of Pentecostalism. First, there is the experience of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, there is the result of the effect of the experience in the person, traced back to the Bible in Acts of the Apostles. There is the gift within the individual to manifest Christ.
There are two other prominent facts about Pentecostalism in African Instituted Churches. First speaking with tongues. When one speaks in tongues, the entire body and mind are yielded to God's will. It is a jubilee of rejoicing, because of God's restoration of communion with Him. The second distinctive feature of the African Instituted Churches is faith healing. This does not mean that African Instituted Churches abjure the use of medicines, doctors and hospitals; what it does mean is that healing can also be achieved by prayer and faith.
Another strong characteristic of the Aladura is their mode of worship which is typically African. Drumming, clapping and dancing typify the community as different from other Christian denominations of European origin and basic concept of worship. And being so African in its approach, it is easily acceptable to the Nigerians. Thus when one considers the doctrinal foundations of African Instituted Churches for instance and their closeness to the socio-cultural background of Africans, one can safely predict that these churches will maintain their leading role, and that the Aladura are projected to become more popular because of their offer of assistance to the spiritual problems of people in the complex world of today. It is necessary however to ensure that church growth by membership is accompanied with growth in spiritual power. Thus the African Instituted Churches consider themselves to be the offspring of the 'Messianic' nation located in black Africa through which the world shall be redeemed.
The Prophets and the Apostles of the Holy Order have seen the factors responsible for naked degeneration of morality and religion, and the deep longing for redemption found among the people. So, the Apostles and Prophets have faith in the working power of the Holy Spirit. Their liturgies, doctrines and rituals are not formal and rigid to satisfy personal longings. The Movement is an unstructured institution of higher spiritual learning open to all nations and races, creeds and social standing who wish to dedicate themselves to the building of a new world for a new age of human excellence in the spirit of universal love and world service.
Aladura (African Instituted Churches) confession of faith and worship are not essentially different from other Christian denominations, only they proclaim that "God is Spirit and they who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). In their worship they hold "faith" as primary, while "method" is secondary. As Africans, they want to involve and inculcate within their members an awareness of God and a recognition of the full human potential spirituality. In their worship African Instituted Churches witness not only to the idea of God but also to God Himself as morally and redeemingly active amidst the movement of events. Aladura worship and liturgy is structured in such a way that is not foreign to the Africans.
The Aladura charismatic worship can be attributed to the biblical passage that disciples should "encourage one another and build one another up, which say as you are doing; addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart" (I Thess. 5:11 and Eph. 5:19).
For this reason African Instituted Churches believe in what they think to be the original method of worship as deduced from Acts of the Apostles: meeting in houses, exhorting and inspiring each other in the faith, seeking mystical union with the Lord. In this worship the following elements can be identified:
i. Praises in hymns and in psalms.
ii. Free and spontaneous utterances of prayers.
iii. Reading passages from the Bible for exhortation.
iv. Thanksgiving/personal testimony.
v. Exhortation to guide the believers.
In Aladura churches the congregation sits or assembles in a way different from other churches. The seating arrangement in the church is such that women sit in a distinct or separate place from men. This separation of genders in religious worship centres is common to both Jewish as well as Yoruba cultures. This is an aspect of the influence of culture on religion.
Because of the consciousness of God in every-day life of African Instituted Churches, there are evidences that show them worshipping God at any time and in any place according to the natural phenomena that are prevailing at that particular time. So you can see that individuals from among African Instituted Churches on many occasions like meal times, waking up in the morning, during illness, and bareness, searching for lost articles or animals and various undertakings may call for an act of worship. It may take the form of prayer or invocation. African Instituted Churches go to God at any time and whenever the need arises. The belief is naturally carried from their primitive mode of worship, convenient naturally to them, now reformed with Biblical support.
The Aladura lay strong emphasis on prayer and fasting. Aladura approach to prayers cannot be separated from the method used by African traditional religion. It is because prayer occupies the core of their spirituality and worship that they are called Aladura (the praying ones). Both Jesus and his early disciples laid emphasis on the need for, and on efficacy of prayers for many purposes.
Through prayers the church releases its members from bondage and drives out demons from those that are possessed. According to Jesus this cannot be done except by fasting and prayer. The Aladura imitating the above employ prayer to accomplish natural and supernatural results.
For example, a man or woman who has been declared hopeless by a medical officer because of various illness is healed by means of faith in Jesus Christ, simply by believing in drinking of consecrated water, olive oil and by anointing.
Patterns, Procedures and Policies of Evangelism
Aladura lay great emphasis on evangelism in accordance with Jesus' statement and commission in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8. The Aladuras hold the second injunction as very evident that preaching the Gospel to all around us and beyond is a divine directive given to all committed Christians. The Aladura evangelise for the following reasons:
(a) To make the gospel relevant to the African culture.
(b) To express the gospel in African language and thought form.
(c) To enhance a discipleship which is possible for Africans.
(d) To proclaim the universal gospel message for the salvation of people and the consequent making of disciples.
(e) To enable our work as a Christian militant; the Aladuras are a challenge to other churches which fail in their responsibility.
Evangelism is another way in which the churches carry on the African cultures. Their evangelical pattern is after Christ who did it daily. The founding father who was a roving evangelist carried out his evangelism in a simple way such as the ordinary man could understand him.
The Aladura preach against sin in all its forms and they call on every one to repent. They teach that God is ever merciful and in loving kindness. He forgives people if they repent. Repentance to the Aladura means acknowledgement and being sorry for sin committed and whole-hearted turning to God, choosing the God-way and departing from iniquity. Through their spoken public addresses and writings, the Aladuras are growing to become creators of national religious and social ideals, critics and inspirers of public policies, denunciators of social wrongs, preachers of every loftier conception of God. One could learn from the pattern of their evangelism and doctrine and also from their ability to present God in a way their people - the Africans - can understand.
Healing by Means of Prayer
The power of healing is one of the charismatic gifts spoken of by Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:9).
The operation of faith healing in the African Instituted Churches is very simple. With faith the sick are brought to the Elders of the Church, providing themselves with water, olive oil and candle sticks (if necessary). Elders read psalms or biblical passages and anoint the sick with oil (James 5:13-15).
The application of consecrated olive oil in healing along with prayers had been in practice since the apostolic age. In addition to this Saint Paul used his aprons and handkerchiefs as objects of faith healing - contact to heal the sick at distance (Acts 19:12). The bathing and/or drinking of Holy water, like the oil, is a means of communicating healing power into the patient.
Consecration of water for healing is a divine covenant between the founder and God. That is, whenever members raise their voices up on water, through Jesus Christ, to sanctify it, the prayer will be accepted in faith.
We have precedents in the Bible about the symbolic significance of water. Peter once said "can anyone object to my baptising them with water, now that they have received the Holy Spirit"? (Act 10:47). Philip said to the Ethiopian Eunuch "if you believe with all your heart, you can be baptised. And he answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God"... and they both went down into the water. In fact Jesus said man must be born of water and spirit. The above suggest that water would have been sanctified by God. On this basis, the African Instituted Churches practice the use of sanctified water for multifarious purposes today. Water in cans and containers are prayed over by church priests and is therefore administered by individuals as the need arises.
St. Moses Orimolade Tunolase was healed by using the sanctified water of river "Aringiya" as commanded by an angel. Mama "Agba", "Idan-Aringiya" the first daughter of Orimolade's mother told me in close enquiry about Orimolade and his birth history. (See "God of Orimolade" page 25 by Snr. Apostle Dr. Olu Atansuyi.) (3)
In addition, Primate Josiah Olumowo Ositelu too used water. (See "The Church of the Lord Aladura at a Glance" page 17 by Snr. Apostle Dr. Olu Atansuyi.) Ositelu the founder of the Church of the Lord Aladura sang a song in which water is a symbol of life and cleanliness:
Water occupies a central place in the customs of the African people. The people believe that water is very powerful. When two people disagree and curse each other, water is used as part of the materials for settling quarrels. Such water is put inside a bowl and each of the disputing parties is expected to take a handful into his mouth and spit it out then saying "the curse has become water" that is "null" and "void". With faith in God, all the curses at the time of the quarrel are believed to be ineffective. When a baby is born water is the first substance that is sprinkled on the baby. This will congratulate the mother at the same time. If anyone faints from suffocation water would be poured on him to revive him. No one makes an enemy of water. This is the reason why Elders called water "Awaiye Mate" meaning an object which can not be ridicule.
From the above, we may conclude that the Aladura use of water as adjoinment of faith for healing does not really reject Jesus, nor does it reject His glory and power. He is in fact the eternal living water.
A Call to the Priesthood of Every Believer
African Instituted Churches as a group of Christ followers in this part of the world, Africa, are called to the order of the priesthood of every believer. Their call is "to proclaim Christ and admonish all men and teach them in the full measure of wisdom, hoping to make every man, especially African, complete in Christ" (Colossians 1:28).
Through divine directives, the Apostles and Prophets of the African Instituted Churches have learned that God's plan for us is that we invest our lives in the eternal things of God and realise that the work of ministry is ours. Secondly they have learned that the fulfilling of the Great Commission is the individual responsibility of each believer; hence, the priesthood of every believer.
The message to Timothy by St. Paul is, "...who has saved us and called us, with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Jesus Christ before time began" (II Timothy 1:9). According to the instruction of Paul to Timothy, the Aladura have learnt that they have been saved and called to a holy calling, not because of any works on our part, or cultural heritage of any kind, but because of God's purpose and grace.
It is interesting to remark that African Instituted Churches are noted for their gorgeous different paraphelalia. For they have been called and made a kingdom of priests. St. Peter confirmed it when he said "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people"....(I Peter 2:9).From many points of view, the Aladura Church is an unprecedented phenomenon, unique in the history of Christian mission in Nigeria. Obviously, the Aladura Church represents one of the most remarkable contemporary phenomena.
And now God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, unto whom honour and glory be, may continue to guide us as we progress in the course of our unified programme, in Jesus' name.
1. 1. Yosef ben-Jachannan, African Origing of the Major, Westen Religious N.Y.C. New York 10037, suite 204 p.8
2. Akin Omoyajowo, Cherubim and Seraphim. The Histroy of an African Independent Church, Lagos NOK Publishing 1982,
3. J. Bertin Webster, The African Church Among the Yoruba, 1988 - 1922, Introduction, p. xv.
2. Akin Omoyajowo, Cherubim and Seraphim. The Histroy of an African Independent Church, Lagos NOK Publishing 1982, p.3
3. J. Bertin Webster, The African Church Among the Yoruba, 1988 - 1922, Introduction, p. xv.