Redeemed Christian Church of God

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THE REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD (RCCG)


REEDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD TIMELINE

1909 (July5):  Ogunribido Ogundolie Akindolie was born at number 12 Odo-Alafia Street, Odojomu, Ondo State, Nigeria.

1927:  Akindolie joined the Church Mission Society (Anglican Communion) school to acquire western education. He was baptised in the same year and changed his name to Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi.

1931:  Akindolie left the Church Mission Society to join the newly-founded Cherubim and Seraphim Society (C&S).

1941 (25 July):  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.” bBecame a prophet of C&S in Ile-Ife.

1941:  Josiah O. Akindayomi married Esther Egbedire; They left Ile-Ife for Lagos.

1948:  Akindolie founded “Egba Ogo Oluwa:” Society for the Glory of God (Prayer Fellowship), which was to become the nucleus around which the future RCCG was to be built.

1952:  Akindolie was excommunicated from C&S for gross insubordination and for nursing independent ambitions as a church leader.

1952:  Egbe Ogo Oluwa became “Church of the Glory of God,” which was later modified to The Redeemed Church (Ijo Irapada).

1954:  The Redeemed Church became affiliated to the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM) and changed its name to the Redeemed Apostolic Mission.

1956:  RAC changed its name once more to The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (Nigerian Branch). In the same year, the name was changed yet again to the Apostolic Faith Mission of West Africa.

1960:  The affiliation with AFM of South Africa ended because of the apartheid policy of South African government. In the same year, it changed its name to The Redeemed Christian Church of God.

1975 (June 28):   Akindayomi first travelled outside Nigeria; he visited Tulsa, Oklahoma in the U.S.

1980 (November 2):  Josiah O. Akindayomi died in Lagos, Nigeria.

1980 (December 6):  Akindayomi was buried at Atan public cemetery in Lagos.

1981 (January 20):  Dr. Enoch Adejare Adeboye (b. March 2, 1942; joined RCCG 1973), became the leader of RCCG after a protracted power struggle.

2001 (January 10):  Esther Akindayomi, widow of Josiah Akindayomi, died in Lagos.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was founded by the Reverend Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, an “apostle” and pophet of the Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement (C&S) in 1952 in Ebute-Metta, the swampy backwaters of Lagos. Akindayomi was born in 1909 in Ondo town (about 250 kilometres from Lagos) into a family of worshippers of Ogun , the Yoruba Orisa of iron and war. His given names at birth were Ogunribido (Ogun has a place to dwell) Ogundolie Akindolie; he grew up to become a renowned babalawo (father of secrets/mystery or diviner) and onisegun , traditional medicine man, as well as a farmer. About 1925, he converted to the Church Mission Society (CMS), the precursor of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, in his quest for western type of education. He was baptized and took the names Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi. Although formally still a Christian, he retained a belief in Yoruba gods and practices: “despite his CMS membership at this time Josiah was also a practicing herbalist ( Babalawo )” (Olaleru 2007:33, emphasis in original). This fact significantly shaped the trajectory of his future spiritual quest.

Josiah Akindayomi spent about five years in the Anglican Church, where, he soon abandoned his quest for western literacy, before moving on to join the C&S about 1931 as a result of his encounter with a prophetess of the church who was later to become his spiritual mentor. As a renowned onisegun , Akindayomi had cast a hex on this elderly C&S prophetess for interfering in his business. He had expected the prophetess to be bitten by a (mystical) poisonous snake as a result of the curse he had placed on her. Several days and weeks passed and nothing of the expected calamity befell the prophetess. Akindayomi went on to confront her to enquire the source of her spiritual power to withstand his sure-fire mystical powers. The lady assured him of her protection from evil because of the power of prayer that surrounded her. The encounter precipitated his reaffiliation from the CMS to the C&S. While the quest for the acquisition and manifestation of power through intense spiritual engagement might be said to be manifestly responsible for Josiah’s switch to the C&S, the latent or remote cause could have been his dissatisfaction with the sterile, monotonous, spirituality and liturgy of the Anglican Church.

Under the tutelage of the elderly prophetess he had previously wanted to kill, Akindayomi grew rapidly in his understanding of the spirituality and doctrines of the C&S. In 1941, after his apprenticeship under the prophetess-mentor ended, Akindayomi left his family house in Ondo town for Ile-Ife, where he was formally inducted as a peripatetic prophet. Ile-Ife is an important city in Yoruba cosmology; it is renowned for its spiritual significance as the centre of the world. Subsequently, he married a young woman, Esther Egbedire (d. January 10, 2001), who was a member of the local congregation of the C&S. After his marriage and his elevation to the official position of woli (prophet) in the C&S, he continued his spiritual migration, this time to Lagos. He claimed that God had instructed him to relocate to this city for his full-time prophetic ministry. In Lagos, he sojourned at the Mount Zion branch of C&S, the same parish where one of the co-founders of the C&S, Moses Orimolade Tunolase, had headed a congregation before the latter’s death on October 19, 1933 (Omoyajowo 1982:38; Ukah 2003:51). Tunolase’s successor, Abraham William Onanuga, welcomed and encouraged Akindayomi who soon achieved popularity and fame as a prophet and healer. His renown soon attracted a small group of followers that he organised into a Bfible 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 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). In Nigeria, there is a long history of “fellowship groups” within larger churches metamorphosing into full-fledged churches, as was the case with the Precious Stone Society in Ijebu-Ode (a prayer fellowship group in the Anglican Church) that morphed into “Faith Tabernacle Church” in 1922 (Ayegboyin and Ishola 1997:65-69). The GGC was a church like its parent group (C&S) in all respects: doctrine, liturgy and ethos, for Akindayomi’s spiritual capital was acquired mainly in the C&S. 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), an effort that clearly demonstrates the agitations and anxieties of the nascent group to generate a separate identity different from its Aladura mother-church. Four years after its inception, the RAC sought and got affiliated to the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM), a segregated, White mission Pentecostal church, which was jointly founded by John G. Lake and Thomas Hezmalhalch in 1908 (see Heglesson 2006). The affiliation was a strategy to acquire respectability as well as to fend off undue scrutiny and suspicion by the colonial government of Lagos which was visibly uncertain and uncomfortable with indigenously founded popular Christian congregations. With the commencement of the affiliation with the AFM, the RAC changed its name to the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (Nigeria Branch). The affiliation lasted from 1956 to 1960, but not without another change of name midway to the Apostolic Faith Mission of West Africa. The relationship with the AFM was terminated when Nigeria got political independence from Britain and subsequently severed political and cultural relationships with South Africa because of the latter’s apartheid policy. After disaffiliation with the AFM, the church finally settled for the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), a name it has continued to hold. Church legend claims that God revealed it mysteriously to Akindayomi in a vision. For nascent churches, the claim of legitimacy is usually rooted in divine authorisation; “social perceptions of legitimacy are … key determinants of the success of religious start-ups” (Miller 2002:440).

The RCCG has evolved to become the most complex pentecostal organisation in Nigeria, a church of distinction with many doctrinal, liturgical and historical layers and hues (Adeboye 2007). It evolved from an Aladura church, imbibing the emphasis on prayer and fasting and other spiritual techniques in the management of life’s crises. (Aladura is a Yoruba word that means “owners of prayers”). In a similar manner, it actively 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. Since its establishment, its social, liturgical and doctrinal identities have changed from one decade to the other; it may be reasonably argued that the RCCG changes (organisationally, doctrinally, liturgically and economically) every five years. Increased complexity is one way the church grapples with expansion and competition and wealth. To deepen its self-understanding and appear respectable, 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 when it designed its own under Akindayomi’s successor, Enoch Adejare Adeboye. In the 1970s, the RCCG stabilised and Akindayomi was able to attract the first crop of educated members. In 1975, he travelled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to attend a Pentecostal revival event, together with his would-be successor, Enoch Adeboye. That was his first trip outside Nigeria. In 1979, he again paid a repeat visit to the USA for a similar event. These visits to the U.S. marked the beginning of the doctrinal, liturgical and social re-orientation of the RCCG away from its original holiness emphasis or world-rejecting Pentecostal spirituality to prosperity, this-worldly, social-economic accommodation and immersion that blossomed under Josiah’s successor. In addition to visiting the USA, Josiah went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome before his death.

Akindayomi died on November 2, 1980, after 28 years of founding, leading and transforming an Aladura church to a Classical/Holiness Pentecostal church. In the church he founded and headed, financial collection was not allowed during services; women and men were segregated in during worship; women were prohibited from wearing makeup and trousers and must cover their heads while in church. More importantly, women did not exercise any leadership role and were not ordained as pastors or deacons. The emotionally charged, austere, weekly worship services during which members wept and sobbed loudly for prolonged periods of time earned the church two sobriquets: “the weeping church” ( Ijo elekun ) and “the church of those who sob” (ijo awon to sunkun ), These practices and doctrines effectively made the RCCG to cultivate a niche market. It became, in the words of one of its senior pastors (who is now a member of its Governing Council, the highest organ of the church) “a tribal church” filled with “old, illiterate, poor members” who were almost exclusively of Yoruba extraction. At the death of the founder, the RCCG had thirty one small congregations scattered in Lagos and other Yoruba countryside, the total population of which hovered around a hundred or less.

The RCCG actually has a double founding: historically it was found by Josiah Akindayomi (the prophet-healer) and re-founded by his successor, who re-charismatised the entire structure, organisation, doctrines and rituals of the church. Akindayomi was succeeded by a young university lecturer, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, who assumed office on January 20, 1981 after a lengthy and bitter leadership fight with two other older contestants. The leadership struggle split the church into three factions, each headed by one of the contestants. The RCCG blossomed while the other two withered over time. Born on March 2, 1942, exactly a decade before the founding of the RCCG, Adeboye re-affiliated from the Anglican Church in 1973. He studied at the University of Ife (now called Obafemi Awoluwo University, OAU) from 1964 to 1967, where he obtained a BSc degree in mathematics in 1967. He spent some years at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in eastern Nigeria, just before the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) but could not finish his studies as a result of the conflict. He relocated to the University of Lagos, where he obtained, first a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Applied Mathematics in 1969, and a doctorate with a dissertation on hydrodynamics in 1975. He subsequently taught for some time at the University of Lagos before joining the University of Ilorin (Ukah 2008; Bible-Davids, 2009; Faseke 2011). (Because of his intimate relationship with the Nigerian university system, he has recently endowed a professorial chair in mathematics in four universities in the country, namely, the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the University of Lagos, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.)

He became a member of the RCCG in 1973 after his wife, Folu Adeboye, had joined the group as a result of her quest for spiritual solutions for some existential afflictions. Being the most educated person in the church at the time, he became the translator/interpreter for the founder (from Yoruba to English) and his right hand man or confidant. He rose in rank quickly and was ordained a pastor in 1977, a mere five years after becoming a member and without attending any bible school or seminary. He had a hands-on mentoring relationship with Akindayomi who clearly showed his preference for him over other eligible candidates for leadership of the church. He resigned from his teaching position as a senior lecturer in 1984, three years after ascending to the top leadership position of the church. The task of transforming the fortunes, doctrines and ritual practices of the RCCG fell on Adeboye who overtime successfully rebranded, expanded and literally prospered the church. In 1981 when he assumed headship of church, it was characterised as “a tribal church” of thirty nine small parishes with around a hundred members; however, in 2014 the RCCG has 32,036 congregations or branches in 170 countries, with worldwide member numbering several millions. (The Church claims to have seven million members in Africa, a figure that is hard to verify considering the problem of multiple church affiliations among Pentecostal Christians.) To commence the process of rebranding, the new leader started attending the Annual Kenneth Hagin Sr. (1917-2003) youth camp in Tulsa, USA; Hagin is generally regarded as the “father” or pioneer of the faith or Prosperity Gospel (McConnell 1987; Harrison 2005; Lee 2005: 99). He also travelled to the Yoido Full Gospel Church of David Yonggi Cho in South Korea, among other places, where he incorporated ideas and practices (such as the house cell system) to grow the church and transform it internally and externally. He created two different types of congregations in addition to the thirty nine small, ethnic parishes he inherited. The old congregations he called “Classical Parishes;” his two new types of parishes he called respectively: “Model Parishes” (created in 1988) and “Unity Parishes” (created 1997). All three types continue to exist, each championing different aspects of RCCG or Akindayomi’s spirituality. In September, 1988, Adeboye took RCCG onto university campuses by founding RCCG Campus Fellowships. He recruited young, educated, upwardly mobile, persons who in the 1990s became the foot soldiers of the church, carrying its ideology into the workplace and the marketplace and wherever else they travelled. He promoted the church in a blitz of media productions (radio, television, audio and video cassettes, compact discs and DVDs, satellite television broadcasting, etc.), actively recruiting (through a parachurch group called “Christ the Redeemer’s Friends Universal (CRFU), founded in 1990) the very wealthy of the society, such as captains of industries, and fraternising with the politically powerful such as presidents and federal ministers of State. He recruited the most important and influential corporate advertiser/marketer in Nigeria, a retired managing director of Nigeria Breweries plc, Felix Ohiwerei, to become the church’s chief programme marketer. From the 1990s onwards, the RCCG became the platform to advertise consumer goods as well as campaign for political office (Ukah 2006). Multinational companies and financial conglomerates such as Guinness, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, jointly funded its mass programmes and in return marketer their goods and services during such events. As Adeboye himself became the most important brand product of the church, organisational rebranding worked out as bureaucratisation, monetisation, and corporatisation, together taken as a complex process of re-charismatisation of the RCCG.

DOCTRINES/BELIEFS

Because the RCCG experiences rapid seasonal rebranding, its doctrines morph over time from one emphasis to another. Although it is an evangelical Christian organisation, its doctrinal universe straddles both Yoruba cosmovision and Judeo-Christian worldview. The RCCG is both Christian and Yoruba at the same time; officially, it senses no tension or contradiction in this structural double consciousness. At inception in 1952, it 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, knowing that the patronage of woman is critical to the success or otherwise of any religious enterprise. As the church embarked on a systematic appropriation of doctrine through formal and informal relationships with Pentecostal formations, such as the AFM of South Africa, it gradually started shedding its Aladura identity and at the same time taking on overt Pentecostal self-presentation. For example, Akindayomi dropped the title of prophet (woli) (inherited from the C&S) and took on the title of “Reverend.” Similarly, he stopped wearing the long white robe characteristic of a prophet in the C&S and started dressing in formal business suits and a hat. By the 1970s, the church’s core Pentecostal orientation was nearly complete, together with a great deal of stress on women’s spiritual needs.

In 2005, the RCCG leadership articulated what it has since been massively propagated as its “Vision and Mission Statement.” The

primary reason for streamlining these points is that, for much of the last three decades of RCCG history, the belief system of the church had oscillated from holiness to prosperity to miracle to economic empowerment and political interventionism framed as patriotism. Although usually called “RCCG Vision/Mission Statement” (in the singular), this is a set of six, interrelated statements that are designed to highlight the beliefs of the church in the era of its fastest expansion and doctrinal attenuation or equivocation. These statements are as follows:

•  To make heaven

•  To take as many people as possible with us

•  To have a member of the RCCG in every family of all nations

•  To accomplish No.1, holiness will be our lifestyle

•  To accomplish Nos.2 and 3 above, we will plant churches within five minutes walking distance in every city and town of developing countries and within five minutes driving distance in every city and town of developed countries

•  We will pursue these objectives until every nation in the world is reached for Jesus Christ our Lord.

The RCCG makes a strong claim that its core beliefs are Bible-based. The Bible is the constitution of the church and cannon of faith; it is infallible, being revealed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The church believes in the Trinity (God the Father as Creator; God the Son as the Redeemer of humanity, and God the Holy Spirit as the purifier of humans) and the power of the Holy Spirit to work miracles in present times. Belief in miracles of redemption, of healing (that is, healing without medicine) and of wealth are foremost in its doctrines. The church believes in three types of baptisms: water baptism, baptism by the Trinity and baptism by the Holy Spirit. Further, the church believes in the power of prayers, repentance, and restitution as a sign of repentance. The prophetic tradition runs deep in the history, beliefs and practices of the RCCG; the leader self-presents as an oracular personage who broadcasts divine intentions to the community of believers, including politicians and socially powerful individuals. Apocalyptic and eschatological doctrines, such as the belief in the millennial reign of Christ, the coming tribulation to precede the Second Coming of Christ, eternal punishment (literally in hell made of burning sulphur) following the final judgement (consisting of three types: of believers, of nations, and of unbelievers) and the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth are specific strands of popular doctrines in the RCCG. Satan, the devil, demons, witches and a plethora of other evil and malignant spirits are as real in RCCG as the Holy Spirit and the power of its leader to produce miracles. The church believes in monogamous marriages; divorce is only possible in the case of adultery; remarriage even after divorce is only possible at the death of a divorced partner. The church teaches that a dedicated Christian should not wear the clothing of the opposite sex, or jest, or make foolish jokes, or go into debt unnecessarily. A dedicated Christian is dead in Christ and to this world, therefore, should separate themselves from things of this world in worshipping the dead. Worshipping the dead means also following tradition or cultural lifestyle. Children are to be dedicated in church on the eighth day after birth, and Sunday is a holy day defined as the Lord’s Day and the first day of the week. Church leaders and those in spiritual authority must be obeyed in all things as the will of God, as rebellion against church ministers is rebellion against the will of God.

RITUALS/PRACTICES

The history of the RCCG is the most spectacular example of the process of religious rebranding as an effective competitive strategy in Nigeria. Such organisational self-reinvention is not limited to the sphere of crafting new doctrines about the power of religiosity to produce wealth and prosperity but also in the invention of new rituals and social economic practices that effectively blur the boundary between religion and economics or politics. Similar to its doctrines, RCCG ritual practices are multi-layered, ranging from religious activities that take place at local congregations on a weekly basis to those that take place at the national level at monthly basis or annually. Monthly and annual religious events are held at the expansive Redemption Camp, a prayer ground that is slowly and steadily morphing into the first religiously founded city in Nigeria (more on this below). There are also rituals that have been cloned and exported from its Nigerian headquarters to other regional centres such as London, Amsterdam, New York or Berlin.

Sunday is a sacred day for the church when its most important weekly ritual service is held. The service, which lasts between two and three hours, is made up of praise and worship session, a sermon of the lead pastor’s choosing, prayers and offertory sessions. Depending on the pastor and the needs of the church, financial collection may be taken more than once, sometimes four times in a single event. Tuesdays are dedicated to a bible study service called “Digging Deep;” while Thursdays are for a special deliverance service called “Faith Clinic.” Both events take place in the late evenings to enable workers to attend. “Let’s-Go-A-Fishing” is an evangelistic outreach programme that is held during the week of Easter and Christmas. The RCCG does not celebrate Easter or Christmas in the traditional Christian sense but rather dedicates these periods to “winning souls” to Christ or conversion drives.

By far the most popular ritual event in the RCCG is the Holy Ghost Service (HGS), which was first held in March, 1986 and is held every last Friday of the month. The leader of the church indicates that the selection of the last Friday of the month was divine inspiration; however, it is also the case that this particular weekend is also the time when salaries and wages are paid in Nigeria for workers and employees, making it the most financially attractive period of the month for the church to request tithes and other financial collections from its large clientele. It is a night vigil event that starts at sundown on Friday to the small hours of Saturday, and attendance at HGS ranges from 200,000 to 500,000. (Church publicity sometimes claims that there are a million or more attendees are present, but this is physically impossible because there isnowhere in Nigeria that has that capacity of accommodating a million human beings at any one time.) Because the present leader of RCCG was born in March, every March HGS is tagged “Special” and lasts for a week instead of a night and two days as do the rest of the year’s events. The popularity of HGS has led to it being exported to other countries and university campuses, where it is called “Campus Holy Ghost Service.” Closely following the structure of HGS, and tapping into its popularity, is the Holy Ghost Congress (HGC), which is an annual version of HGS. Originally called Holy Ghost Festival, the first celebration of HGC was held in December, 1998. It was initially a single night’s event, but it has since been expanded into a full week of activities. Sometimes RCCG self-reporting claims that attendance at HGC constitutes the largest religious congregation in the world; however, this honour belongs to the Maha Kumbh Mela, the mass Hindu pilgrimage in the city of Allahabad in northern India. This pilgrimage encompasses over fifty-eight square kilometres and involves more than forty million pilgrims. The most important annual event of the church is its National Convention, a period for the leadership and its members to congregate, share a common vision, and plan ahead for the following year’s activities. The annual convention takes place in the middle of August and lasts for a week. Divine Encounter is a ritual event designed specifically to attend to women’s need for children. It is held on the first Monday (morning) of each the month, for an hour. There is also Ministers’ Conference that is held twice a year (May and August) when ministers of the church come together to discuss church life and to discipline and refresh themselves. Considering the sheer number of ritual events spread across the calendar, it is fair to infer that the RCCG is an activist religion that demands considerable time, commitment, energy and money from its members and patrons.

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP

The RCCG started as an egalitarian movement of twelve individuals around the leadership and spiritual resources of a renegade prophet of C&S. However, as the church has expanded, it has bureaucratised and restructured its leadership to become almost exclusively male-dominated and ultra-hierarchical. Officially, the church says the Holy Spirit is its leader; however, it is human leaders who carry out the instructions vested with sacred authority. At the top of the pyramid of authority is the General Overseer (GO), Enoch A. Adeboye, whose words are law with divine sanction. (The GO is fondly called “Daddy GO,” and all the pastors are addressed as “Daddy” or “Mummy,” depending on their gender, by their congregants.) The GO holds office for life while all other pastors (except Mummy GO) must retire at the age of seventy. In principle, the Governing Council of the church is the next most powerful entity in the church; in practice, however, it is the spouse of the GO, Mrs. Foul Adeboye, who goes by the official title of “the Mother-in-Israel” (or the fond name of Mummy GO). As a mark of respect to authority as well as gerontocratic reverence, all pastors of the church defer to her. The Governing Council is made up of eighteen high-ranking, long-serving pastors. There was an office of Deputy General Overseer created in 1981; the title of the office was changed to “Assistant General Overseer: in 1997. In 2002, six offices of Assistant General Overseers were created and filled by top pastors. The church has a set of “Special Assistants to the General Overseer” (SATGOs), the number of which varies from time to time. At one time there was only one SATGOs, but in 2014 the number was increased to ninetten; the seven new additions are Regional Coordinators in charge of RCCG Global Regions: North America, South America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, and the Middle East/Asia. Even though spiritual, administrative and financial power is concentrated in the person and office of the GO, the expansion of the governing council indicates the tension the exists between the tendency to monopolise charisma by concentrating it in one person (the GO) and in one place (the Redemption Camp) and the increasing clout of the church’s foreign missions in the resource mobilisation and decision-making process of the church. There is also a new administrative unit, called World Advisory Council (WAC), which meets every December during the HGC. As its name indicates, its function is to advise the governing council and raise proposals for its considerations. The WAC is made up of all former and current members of the governing council and all current and former Special Assistants to the GO.

The smallest unit of administration in the RCCG is the “House Fellowship,” a set of which constitutes a parish. A parish of RCCG may be as small as seven persons or as large as several thousand. As a matter of policy, the majority is however very small. A number of parishes make up an “Area,” while some “Areas” form a “Zone.” In order of complexity and ascending power, a set of “Zones” make up a “Province,” while a group of “provinces” make up a “Regional.” Each unit is headed and controlled by a pastor (officially called “pastor-in-charge of parish/area/region/zone/province”) who is subordinate and accountable to the officer above him. As of the middle of 2014, there were twenty-eight provinces in Nigeria and well over 20,000 parishes.

The RCCG clearly is the wealthiest religious organisation in Nigeria. To put this in historical perspective, in 1981 the church could not pay its workers’ salary of less than N 300 but could spend N 300 million on a day’s event in 1999 and afford a twenty-fou million U.S. dollar ( N 4b) Gulfstream 4XP jet for its leader in 2009. It is the single largest owner of private property in the country. The RCCG also has the largest religious site, The Redemption Camp, in Nigeria. In 2012, it measured more than 1,540 hectares, a considerable increase from 770 hectares in 2010. The Redemption Camp is the largest physical space dedicated to religion in Africa. The church aggressively expands its land holding to accommodate its vision of constructing a city of God that will be like no other in Nigeria. What started as a prayer camp in 1983 (measuring a mere 14.25 acres) now encompasses more than 2,500 distinct buildings (956 of which are bungalows and 562 are duplexes, fifteen are dedicated religious structures, 336 are chalets or hostels or dormitories, 184 are offices and 170 are uncompleted structures still under construction). The Redemption Camp has a population of about 20,000, and it is the site of a 750 metres by 1,000 metres auditorium. It also houses the church’s university (Redeemer’s University), a maternity, and five banks, among other structures. The Camp is self-sustaining: it supplies about 8,800,000 litres of water per day for its inhabitants and 10.4 megawatts of electricity power from two gas turbines constructed in 2010. The Camp is divided into twenty-two zones, containing more than nine residential estates for member-owners. By church law only church members are allowed to buy housing units and live within the walls of the Camp (Ukah 2014). About forty percent of the residential housing units are built and owned fully by members. The rest are built and owned by mortgage companies owned fully by the church that sell their property to eligible members. The prices of the units range from N12.5 million (€63.500) for a three-bedroom apartment to N18.5million (€93,900) for a three-bedroom duplex. A three-bedroom, semi-detached bungalow goes for N10 million (€47,970); a two-bedroom semi-detached is on sale for N7 million (€33,579); a one-bedroom semi-detached is selling for N4 million (€19,188). As the church expands in membership, so also it converts urban landscape as a testimony to its economic and political power and strength. From a church of holiness, the RCCG steadily transformed into a property church, heavily invested in the property market of Nigeria and in material accumulation, even when its first article of belief is “To make heaven” (Ukah 2014).

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

RCCG is faced with what many “success” organisations face: the problem of free riders. Many people join the church to reap from its harvest of successes or conceal their ill-gotten wealth or simply be associated with the story of a successful organisation. Similarly, the church has attracted many wealthy individuals who contribute part of their wealth in financing the activities of the church and so demand special treatment. The church leadership accords these rich individuals the special treatment they demand, to the resentment of long-standing but poor members who are ignored or relegated to the background. Holiness is reinterpreted in financial terms: to have money or be wealthy is in itself a sign of righteousness and divine approval, which demands no further explanation (Ukah 2011). The church also faces a self-made paradox: it was a word-rejecting organisation that previously shunned worldly professions such as the military or unethical businesses, such as tobacco and alcohol production and marketing, yet it is now in alliance with big businesses no matter what they are engaged in producing and marketing. Similarly, the church is a refuge to powerful, dubious and morally bankrupt politicians who are regarded as primarily responsible for running Nigeria’s political and financial problems. There is also a discernible tension between the church’s global aspiration or claim to power and its deeply entrenched Yoruba character. This is evident in rituals and in the composition of its leaders, ninety percent of whom are of Yoruba extraction. Furthermore, for many Nigerian Pentecostal organisations, leadership transition periods are moments of monumental crisis; RCCG survived one such crisis in 1980/1981. Another transition period is approaching with the advance in age of its present leader. Many aspiring candidates, including some members of Akindayomi’s children, are emerging and jostling for favored positions to compete for power and authority. Fighting to head RCCG is not just about leading a spiritual or religious entity; it is in literal and practical terms to be in total control of an impressive economic and political organization and empire that stretches from the West Coast of Africa to the shores of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and China. With its enormous wealth and property, it is obvious that leadership position in the church is now more attractive than ever. However, as the Nigerian diaspora grows and institutionalises, so also the RCCG is expected to consolidate its global outposts, its wealth and power, these challenges notwithstanding.

REFERENCES

Adeboye, Olufunke. 2007. “’Arrowhead’ of Nigerian Pentecostalism: The Redeemed Christian Church of God, 1952-2005.” Pneuma 29:24-58.

Ayegboyin, Deji and S. Ademola Ishola. 1997. African Indigenous churches: An Historical Perspective. Lagos: Greater Heights Publications.

Bible-Davids, Rebecca. 2009. Enoch Adeboye: Father of Nations. London: Biblios Publishers.

Faseke, Modupeolu, ed. 2011. Enoch Adejare Adeboye@70: The Story Behind the Glory, Lagos: CIBN Press Ltd.

Harrison, Milmon F. 2005. Righteous Riches: The Word of Faith Movement in Contemporary American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hegelsson, Kristina. 2006. “ Walking in the Spirit”: The Complexity of Belonging in Two Pentecostal Churches in Durban, South Africa. Uppsala: DICA.

Lee, Shayne. 2005. T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher. New York: New York University Press.

McConnell, D. R. 1987. A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Miller, Kent D. 2002. “Competitive Strategies of Religious Organizations.” Strategic Management Journal 23:435-56.

Olaleru, Olanike. 2007. The Seed in the Ground: The Story of the Founding of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Lagos: Father of Light Publications.

Omoyajowo, Akinyele J. 1982. Cherubim and Seraphim: The History of an African Independent Church. New York: Nok Publishers International.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2003. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Nigeria . Local Identities and Global Processes in African Pentecostalism. PhD dissertation, University of Bayreuth, Germany.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2014. “ Redeeming Urban Spaces: The Ambivalence of Building a Pentecostal City in Lagos. Pp. 178-97 in Global Prayers Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City,” edited by Jochen Becker, Katrin Klingan, Stephan Lanz, and Kathrin Wildner. Zurich: Lars Műller Publishers.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2011. “God Unlimited: Economic Transformations of Contemporary Nigerian Pentecostalism.” Pp. 187-216 in Economics of Religion: Anthropological Approaches , edited by Lionel Obadia and Donald C. Wood. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2008. A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power: A Study of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria. Lawrenceville, NJ: Africa World Press.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2006. “Branding God: Advertising and the Pentecostal Industry in Nigeria.” Liwuram Journal of the Humanities 13:83-106.

Ukah, Asonzeh. 2004. “Pentecostalism, Religious Expansion and the City: Lesson from the Nigerian Bible Belt.” Pp. 415-41 in Between Resistance and Expansion: Explorations of Local Vitality in Africa, edited by Peter Probst and Gerd Spittler. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag.

Author:
Asonzeh Ukah

Post Date:
1 September 2014

 

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