The history of Church Fathers in Nigeria was for a long time dominated by foreign Christian Missionaries that brought Christianity in the 19th century. For instance, Rev.Thomas Birch Freedman, Rev.Henry Townsend, Rev.David Hinderer, T.J.Bowen, W.H.Clarke, Henry Venn, Hope Waddell and Father Joseph Shanahan.However, some Nigerian Church Historians in the 20th century have devoted much time and space to the study of Nigerian Church Fathers like Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop Charles Phillips, Moses Ladejo Stones, Moses Orimolade Tunolase, Joseph Ayo Babalola, Josiah Oshitelu and Rev.S.B.Oschoffa who were indigenized leaders.
This paper, therefore examined one of the Nigerian church founders Pastor Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, the founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He was born in Ondo and had his initial experience as a Pastor in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church before he established the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Lagos in1952.He laid a solid foundation of the church, until his demise in 1981 when the mantle of leadership was handed over to Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
The introduction of Christianity to Nigeria in the 19th century was led by some foreign Christian Missionaries from Europe (Omotoye, 2005:105). The early 20th century church historians concentrated much energy and focus on missionaries like Rev.Thomas Birch Freedman of the Methodist Mission, Rev.Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S), Rev.J.T.Bowen and W.H.Clarke of the Baptist Mission(Omoyajowo,1995:1). Others were David Hinderer of the Church Missionary Society based in Ibadan, Henry Venn, the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Hope Waddell of the Scottish Mission and Father Joseph Shanahan of the Roman Catholic (Ferguson,1971:1).
The focus of Nigerian Church Historians shifted from the foreign Christian missionaries in the second half of the 20th century to the Nigerian Church leaders like Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Jacob Kehinde Coker, Moses Ladejo Stones, Moses Orimolade Tunolase, Joseph Ayo Babalola, Josiah Oshitelu and S.B.J Oschoffa (Ayegboyin, 1999:72).
Of recent, attention has also been shifted to the founders of the Pentecostal Churches like Pastor William Kumuyi of the Deeper Life Christian Ministry, Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel),M.R.Popoola of New Testament Christian Church,Ilorin,the late Arch-Bishop Benson Idahosa of God of Church Mission, Benin and of course Pastor Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi the pioneer founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
The objective of this paper therefore is to examine the role of Pastor Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi in the establishment and growth of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Nigeria between 1952-1981.The attention being paid to Nigerian Church leaders is seen as an act of nationalism and patriotism in nation building and scholarship.
The methodology adopted in the study was historical. Adogbo (2003:11) opines that the methodology gives us the opportunity to contextualize the beliefs, practices, objects and symbolic forms in their social context noting their changes and transformation over the years. The formative years of RCCG started as an Aladura church and ended as a Pentecostal church in 1952.Ojo (2010:19) observed that the Redeemed Christian Church of God is a “Church with an Aladura background which had undergone remarkable transformation under an educated charismatic leader to become a Pentecostal Church”. In other words, there is connectivity between the Cherubim and Seraphim Church and the RCCG.
The Birth of Pastor Josiah Akindayomi
The initial name of Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi at childhood was Ogunribido Akindolie. His father’s name was Eleyinmi Akindolie and his mother was named Olakunle Akindolie. The date of his birth is still being contested. Some would claim 1905 while others would cite 1909.
According to Owoeye (2011:9) the date on the programme of funeral rites of Josiah published in 1980 stated July 1905.The Church on its website indicated 1909.At the time of his death on 2nd November, 1980; the church official document indicated that he was 71 years old. The confusion on his actual date of birth was as a result of lack of regular registration of birth in the country and effect of illiteracy of his parents.
The home address of Josiah Akindayomi was no 12, Odo Alafia Street, Odo Jomu in Ondo town of Ondo state (Olaleru, 2007:27).His parents were peasant farmers and worshippers of Ogun divinity. At baptism, he dropped the name Akindolie and adopted the name Josiah Akindayomi. He was baptized in the Anglican Church in Ondo and was opportuned to attend the elementary education provided by the church which could be equated to kindergarten education. The education he received was not enough to be called a formal education.
According to Olaleru (2007:32) in 1931, Josiah at the age of 26 left the Anglican Church to join the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement which was newly introduced to Ondo as a visionary and prophetic church in Yorubaland by Prophet Moses Orimolade in Lagos in 1925(Omoyajowo,1982:37).
Ayeku (2008:51) quoted Ajayi who interviewed Josiah’s wife thus:
I was truly happy that at last I had found the right
place to worship my God. As at that time, the Cherubim
and Seraphim Church was standing alone on the word
and promises of God, they weren’t even taking tablets
It is therefore necessary to mention that Josiah also had the experience of the Mission church before he went to the Aladura and finally moved to the Pentecostal Church. The circumstance that led to his conversion from the Anglican Church to Cherubim and Seraphim was not too clear. However our informants indicated that an incident in Ondo made him to join the Cherubim and Seraphim. “Ogunribido particularly loved the Cherubim and Seraphim sect because it was given to the practice of fasting, dynamic prayers, visions and trances”. These are some of the features of Aladura Churches. These characteristics were later adopted by the RCCG.
Josiah left Ondo for Ile-Ife in the present Osun state in July 1940(Olaleru,2007:41).He joined a branch of the Cherubim and Seraphim church at Igbo-Itapa.It was at this location that he had a religious transformation. An illiterate man started to read and write in Yoruba language!
This act may be interpreted as a divine intervention of God in his life. According to Onibere (1982:20), quoted some scholars on the concept of revelation. According to him, revelation means self disclosure or divine disclosure. Revelation per excellence means God communicating and revealing himself to man. Rudolf Otto opined that in the worship of human beings there is the experience of the divine. This divine he has called the numinous or numen praesens (divine presence).He went further to say that man encounters the numinous with fear and trembling, i.e. he is afraid of the numinous. At the same time, man is attracted by the numinous. The two sided phenomena is known as mysterium tremendium et fascinans (i.e. a mystery that is terrifying and at the same time fascinating).
His experience at Ile-Ife was a turning point in his life.
Josiah met his first wife named Esther Egbedire at Ile-Ife in 1941. Ayeku (2008:52) referred to the woman as Esther Awofisan.The couple left Ile-Ife and became members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Oke Sioni, Ebute-Metta, Lagos where they got married.
It is necessary to correct some earlier studies that the marriage ceremony was conducted by Moses Tunolase Orimolade, the founder of Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Omoyajowo (1982:78), an eminent church historian observed that Moses Orimolade died on 19th October 1933, therefore he could not have been responsible for the conduct of the marriage in 1941.His successor, Prophet Abraham William Onanuga was the one who solemnized the marriage at Mount Zion branch of the Church, Ebute-Metta.
Josiah was a leader of a Prayer group known as “Egbe Ogo Oluwa” (the Glory God Society).The members of the group were twelve in number. Some informants believed that the number was in conformity with the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe that it was a coincidence or intentional because Nigerian Church leaders always like to give any action a religious coloration and interpretation.
He was a devoted and a prominent member of the church, however he parted way because of doctrinal issues with the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Josiah also complained that it was unbiblical for the leadership of the church to venerate and consult the late Moses Orimolade in his grave before certain decisions were taken in the church. It was also claimed by some informants that some members of the leadership of the church became un-comfortable with his popularity; hence there was envy and persecution.
The wrangling and disagreement led to his exit from the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in 1952 and consequently led to the emergence of RCCG.According to Olaleru(2007:59) “He was accused (among other things) of “anti-church” activities such as organizing Bible Study outside the C&S ambience, with the motive of sheep stealing”. With this development, Prophet Josiah left the C&S church finally and permanently before the close of 1952” (sic).A piece of land at no 9 Willoughby Street became the new address of the church. However, the Church later moved to 1 Cemetery Street both in Ebute Metta,Lagos.The following twelve members constituted the pioneers of the Ogo Oluwa Society(Glory of God Society).These were:J.A.Fakunmoju,Makun(the first ordained Pastor of the Church),J.A.Adekoya,S.K.Padonu,S.A.Olonade,Fadiora,Ilenusi,Okuwobi,Fetuga,Adefeso,G.A.Adefunwa and Matiluko.
An important event in the history of the young fellowship was taken by Pastor Josiah on the issue of restitution. In other words, as a polygamist (with three wives), he decided to send away the last two of his wives because of his new understanding and interpretation of the Bible. The names of his three wives were Esther, Deborah and Sisi Mi (a nickname given to the third wife)(Olaleru,2007:59).
Polygamy as a way of life in Yorubaland is an accepted mode of living which enhances the status of a man. Omotoye (2007:336) argues elsewhere that “polygamy was neither a religious matter nor a moral issue.” The idea of one man one wife was introduced by the Christian missionaries in the 19th century. The European missionaries could not make a difference between Christianity and their cultural practice. Hence, monogamy was made a condition in accepting the new religion.
Josiah accepted the European marriage custom of one man one wife. We believe that the issue of restitution for a polygamist could be sociologically inimical to the welfare of an extended family in Yorubaland. It is one of the ways by which child abuse could triumph in any society. For a man to send a married woman and her children away from home in the name of religion was to the extreme and inhuman. One of the women divorced expressed her feelings thus:
When Woli (i.e. Prophet) without any quarrel asked me to
go because of what he said his God was telling him, and
all my pleading did not change his mind, yet l really loved
him,l decided to take to take him to court. He did not contest
it, so the court asked me to return the #12:6s he had paid
as my dowry back to him.Woli said I should keep it to take
care of our little son with me at the time of this separation.
but I tell you l can never forget Akindayomi. He was a very
handsome man, a faithful lover and a very impeccable man.
He’s a good man. I know we shall meet again. (Olaleru,2007:64)
The above experience was an expression of agony of a woman who was un-ceremoniously and disgracefully divorced by Josiah because of his new understanding of the gospel!
Pastor Akindayomi had a brief association with the Apostolic Church before he severed his relationship with it. Ayeku (2008:60) recorded thus:
When Baba (Josiah) gave his life to Christ (that is, ceased
from being a C&S prophet), he was exposed to Faith Tabernacle of U.S.A. And Faith Tabernacle and the Apostolic Faith have many things in common and because of this, you can imagine the strict nature of RCCG during his time as General Superintendent.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God.
The RCCG was formally inaugurated as a Church in 1952.As a result of the charisma and healing powers of the founder many people became attracted to the Church. One of such people was the current General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and his wife. They joined the Church in 1973.He was given an assignment as an interpreter of the gospel in English; while Josiah was preaching in Yoruba.Gradually, the mantle of leadership was relinquished to Enoch Adeboye.
The founder revealed in 1979 to a group of few members of the Church who were with him on a trip to United States of America that Pastor Adeboye was to succeed him after his demise. The man died in 1980 and was succeeded by E.A.Adeboye. The opinion of Ojo (2010:21) is correct when he said that “Charismatic organizations are nevertheless significant because they are concentrated in a highly articulated and highly prestigious group of people. In addition, they are led by the educated elite, which though small in number, exert considerable influence in the society”. The formal western education which the founder of the church lacked was judiciously and maximally used for the organization and new innovations introduced by Pastor E. Adeboye.
Pastor Josiah Akindayomi the founder of the RCCG was born into a family of Ogun divinity worshippers in Ondo. His religious experience took him to the Anglican Church, Cherubim and Seraphim and the Apostolic Church. He eventually started the RCCG in Lagos in 1952.He saw to the growth and expansion of the church within and outside the country before his demise in 1981.He handed over the church to a successor, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye who has successfully made use of his charisma and education to contribute to national development in Nigeria.
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