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Sunday, 28 January 2018

HOW ADEBOYE’S DISOBEDIENCE BUILT A GLOBAL BRAND - By Leke Beecroft


On July 5, 1909, Ogunribido Ogundolie Akindolie was born at number 12 Odo-Alafia Street, Odojomu in a part of the old Southern Protectorate of Nigeria now Ondo State, Nigeria. Ogunribido grew up worshipping Ogun (the Yoruba divinity of iron and war) and was already receiving tutorship as a babalawo (a priest and healer in the indigenous tradition). His desire to know the true God led him into the Anglican Church where he was baptized at the age of 18 and briefly attended a Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission school to acquire western education. That same 1927, Akindolie was baptised and changed his name to Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi. Still spiritually unfulfilled, he left the Anglican Church 4 years later (1931) to follow a local prophetess Captain Christiana Emmanuel Abiodun: who belonged to the Aladura, or “owners of prayer.” The Church which was a white garment Church was known as the Cherubim and Seraphim Society and had just broken away from the Orimolade group. 



The turning point for Josiah came when, at the age of 31, he had an encounter with God. He dreamt and woke up the next morning with a sore on his leg. Then he heard the voice telling him to submit to God's will and to serve him. Without the use of medication, the Lord healed the sore on his leg. On July 25th 1941, Akindolie left Ondo town on a long trek to Ile-Ife, a town sixty kilometres away and regarded in Yoruba cosmology of the “centre of the world.” He soon became a prophet of C&S in Ile-Ife. As an itinerant preacher, Josiah wandered the roads of western Nigeria in all-white garments, ringing a bell and winning converts through his healing abilities. That same 1941, he met and married Esther Egbedire and shortly after he was ordained as a ‘woli’ (Prophet), they soon left Ile-Ife for Lagos in 1947 according to him based on God’s instruction. In Lagos that same 1947, he worshipped with the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church at its Ibadan Street, Ebute-Metta branch (Mount Zion Parish), where Prophet Onanuga, the immediate successor to Prophet Moses Orimolade, the church founder, was the leader. He was still with the church in 1947 when a zeal for a better service and a deeper experience with God prompted him to start a daily prayer fellowship which met at 9, Willouhgby Street, Ebute-Metta, Lagos. By 1948 the Fellowship had metarmorphorsed into “Egbe Ogo Oluwa:” Society for the Glory of God, which was to become the nucleus around which the future RCCG was to be built.

Initially there were nine members; however the fellowship gradually grew as the news of the miracles that occurred in their midst spread. It became so popular that it drew not only members of the church, but others from the neighborhood. Convinced that the Aladura were going astray, Akindayomi began to communicate with some Pentecostal missionaries who were based in South Africa. By 1952 he felt persuaded to leave the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Eventually that year, Akindolie was excommunicated from C&S for gross insubordination and for nursing independent ambitions as a church leader. His renown soon attracted a small group of followers that he organised into a Bible study group called Egbe Ogo Oluwa , the Glory of God Fellowship (GGF). Most of the members of this group were (former) clients who had benefited from the healing prayers of the prophet. Akindayomi soon moved the activities of the GGF from the C&S church premises to his private apartment, fuelling the suspicion that he harboured an intention to break away from the C&S. When efforts to get him to bring the GGF under the oversight authority of the C&S failed, he was formally excommunicated in 1952 , together with all the members of the GGF, for gross insubordination to constituted ecclesiastical authority of the C&S.

The roll call of 9 men which later increased to 13 that started the group are: Brother Josiah Akindayomi (founder), Brother J.A. Fakunmoju, Brother Makun (the first ordained pastor in the church). Brother J.A. Adekoya, Brother S.K. Padonu and Brother S.A. Olonode. Others were Brother Fadiora, Brother Ilenusi, Brother Okuwobi and Brother Fetuga. The other three brothers were Brother Adefeso, Brother G. A Adefunwa and Brother Matiluko. In 1954, the group became affiliated to the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) of South Africa though it had no link with South Africa. Akindayomi changed the name of the group to the Redeemed Apostolic Mission (RAC). By 1956, the RAC changed its name once more to The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa. In the same year, the name was changed yet again to the Apostolic Faith Mission of West Africa after learning that Nigeria is not in Southern Africa.

The affiliation with AFM of South Africa ended after Nigerian independence in October 1960 because of the apartheid policy of the South African government. In the same year, it changed its name yet again. The name of the church was said to have been revealed in a vision. Allegedly the letters forming the name of the church appeared in the English alphabet to Akindayomi, who could neither read nor write apparently due to his very brief stint in school. Miraculously he was able to scribble down the individual letters which Bro. Olonode one of his lieutenants who was educated was said to have interpreted as the REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD.

Essentially, the founding of the Redeemed Christian Church of God is a direct consequence of the excommunication of Akindayomi, together with his small band of followers, from the C&S in 1952 . On being driven out the C&S, he quickly reconstituted the Glory of God Fellowship into a church, and changed the name to the Glory of God Church (Ijo Ogo Oluwa) (GGC). The GGC was a church like its parent group (C&S) in all respects. Not satisfied with its present name, and suffering from a crisis of identity, the GGC was changed to the Redeemed Church (RC) (Ijo Irapada) later in 1952 . Yet again in 1954 , RC modified its name to the Redeemed Apostolic Church (RAC). Four years after its inception, the RAC sought and got affiliated to the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM), a White mission Pentecostal church jointly founded by John G. Lake and Thomas Hezmalhalch in 1908. The affiliation was a strategy to acquire respectability as well as to fend off undue scrutiny and suspicion by the colonial government which uncomfortable with indigenously founded Christian Churches. In the 1950/60s it was quite fashionable for Nigerian independent churches to affiliate with overseas ministries for expansion purposes as well as to prevent persecution from the colonialists and to receive funding aids. However, according to Akindayomi, God strongly instructed the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) not to merge with any foreign or overseas body. The series of affiliations and changes in name eventually ended in 1960 when the church finally settled for the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), a name it has continued to hold. 

Josiah banished practices which were similar to those of the indigenous religions, along with any suggestion of worldliness. Men and women were also strictly separated at services and there were no musical instruments. Akindayomi also refused to take collections (offerings) for fear of the corrupting influence of money. Those willing to give would put their money in a certain box at the end of the service. This box was only opened once at the end of the month. He banned polygamy and members who committed fornication or adultery were publicly flogged in church or made to cut grass in church then sit at the back of the church during services for a given period. The church continued to meet at 9 Willoughby Street until they acquired some land and relocated to their headquarters at 1-5 Redemption Way, Ebute-Metta, Lagos (formerly 1a Cemetery Street).

Akindayomi claimed God promised that the RCCG would eventually reach “the ends of the earth.” But the Church had not spread very far by the 1970s, in part because Akindayomi spoke only Yoruba, which limited his ability to evangelize beyond the bounds of his tribe. The next leader of the church, he knew through prior revelation, needed to be “a man of books,” capable of reaching the wider world. In the early 1970s, Akindayomi now in his 60s, started to look for an educated successor. In 1973, an academic named Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a 31 year old man (born March 1942) seeking a cure for his first daughter’s persistent illness along with his wife wandered into the RCCG. The moment Adeboye, a lecturer in Mathematics Department at the University of Lagos, appeared in 1973, a vision told the 66 year old Rev Akindayomi that he had found his inheritor. Bedevilled with problems of desire for prestige (to become the youngest African University Vice-Chancellor), alcoholism, womanizing (including friends of his wife) and heavy involvement in fetish, Enoch Adeboye gave his life to Jesus Christ in 1973. In 1974, Deeper Life, a fellowship headed by another academic from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and which had began to grow rapidly after just a year used the RCCG Church facility at Ebute Metta Church temporarily when Kumuyi could no longer use his university accommodation. At the time, the Deeper Life Fellowship was just one year old.

Later in the 1970s, the Church council drew up a church constitution to meet government requirements with a proviso to elect a successor from among the General Council of the church. However, Akindayomi who could not read, did not understand what was going on and told them that the constitution was for the government while God will choose his own to lead the church. The constitution gave Akindayomi the title of General Superintendent. Adeboye soon became one of the interpreters translating Akindayomi's sermons from Yoruba to English. He was ordained a pastor of the church in 1975. On 28 June 1975, Akindayomi first travelled outside Nigeria with Enoch Adeboye; he visited Tulsa, Oklahoma in the U.S.

The RCCG at inception in 1952 embraced all the hallmarks of Aladura Christianity and spirituality, such as belief in visions and dreams as channels of divine communications, the power of prayer to bring about healing, prophecy and prognostication, and the spiritual efficacy of sacred objects, such as consecrated water, candles, sacred hills, rivers and places. In addition, the nascent church paid attention to the spiritual needs of women. As the church embarked on a systematic appropriation of doctrine through formal and informal relationships with Pentecostal formations, it gradually started shedding its Aladura identity and at the same time taking on a Pentecostal form. Akindayomi dropped the title of prophet inherited from the C&S and took on the title of “Reverend.” Similarly, he stopped wearing the long white robe used by prophets in the C&S and started dressing in formal business suits and a hat.

In 1979, Akindayomi unveiled his succession plan to Pastor Osho and Adeboye among others. Akindayomi among other things instructed that the RCCG Logo must never be changed or redesigned. He added that the Church was not to own schools. At this period, the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) had voluntarily surrendered 20 of her secondary schools to the government as she was unable to finance them. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi eventually died on November 2 and was buried on December 6, 1980 at Atan public cemetery in Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.

The RCCG borrowed so much from Classical Pentecostal churches, such as the Assemblies of God Church (AOG), the Four Square Gospel Church, the AFM and the Faith Tabernacle. The RCCG cultivated the doctrines of other flourishing Classical Pentecostal churches around it; from 1952 to 1982 , it adopted and used the Sunday School Manual of the AOG as its own. It was only in 1982 that it designed its own under the successor, Enoch Adeboye. In the 1970 s, the RCCG stabilised and Akindayomi was able to attract the first crop of educated members. In 1979 , he again paid a repeat visit to the USA for a similar event like the first he had earlier attended. These visits to the U.S. marked the beginning of the doctrinal and social re-orientation of the RCCG. In addition to visiting the USA, Josiah went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome before his death. Akindayomi died after 28 years of founding, leading and transforming an Aladura church to a Classical/Holiness Pentecostal church- With about 39 branches as well as about 2,000 members in total registered at the National Convention in 1981, RCCG largely remained an inconsequential brand.

Part 2: Disobedience to Particular Orders
Monday 29th January 2018

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