Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Religion provides an anchor in the life of believers. Belief in a Supreme Being gives meaning to man’s existence on earth, and the promise of the hereafter makes life’s toil more bearable. Playing with questions of faith almost always brings a conflagration in its wake; no wonder church and state can hardly ever be linked together. In the liberal evolution of the world, the church, given its innate conservatism, has encountered much controversy.
The confirmation of the openly gay Reverend Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States on June 7, 2003 has sparked much controversy within Christianity, particularly in Protestant or Anglican rule. Bishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria strongly opposed the phenomenon to the point of being regarded in much of the Western world as an intolerant apostle of conservatism. The dreaded Reverend Akinola did not want to bow, pointing out that the church should not support anything that is unscriptural. Anglican bishops across much of Africa, Asia and Latin America severed ties with the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia when it sponsored same-sex marriage, a development that rocked the church around the world. The 77 million members of the Anglican Communion around the world have thus found themselves plunged into a crisis that is becoming increasingly insoluble, even as Bishop Robinson divorced her husband, Mark Andrew, in 2014.
Christianity is indeed in a desperate situation. Like the church in Antioch, its many devotees have all kinds of visions. Witch catchers and various demon arrests present themselves today as Christian preachers and Pentecostal evangelists. There are more charlatans in the pulpits of Christianity than there are criminals in the streets of Lagos and Onitsha. You can sum up the antics of these so-called Christians in one short sentence: The devil finds work.
The early church found its anchor through the salvation of the soul. The Nigerian church primarily preaches material success. Prosperity is the word. Each pastor points out that his “God is not a poor God,” and the name of the game is gross materialism. There is no greater business organization than the church.
Throughout history, the church flourishes in the worst of times. Nigeria is now doing the trick. Christianity has been requisitioned for nefarious reasons by the creme of Nigerian aspirants. The man-made churches of today are as flawed as all the individual businesses which more often than not die with the owner, or can be transferred to the wife or “mum” until some doomed fate. havoc.
It is necessary to bring Christianity back to its roots. The church should return to its spiritual moorings in the Bible, namely, when Christ anointed Saint Peter. The Catholic Church traces its history back to the fact that Christ named Peter the Apostle as the rock on which the church is built, thus naming him the first pope. The Catholic Church was the universal faith until 1517 when, in Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther challenged the Catholic sale of indulgences and the doctrine of salvation by merit. Henry VIII followed suit in 1534, breaking with Rome for marital and political reasons. Thus was born the Anglican Protestant communion which flourished with the founding of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States in 1789.
John Calvin’s efforts during the Reform movements of the 16th century led to the birth of the Calvinists and ultimately the founding of the Scottish Presbyterian Church by John Knox in 1560. The history of the Baptists dates back to John Smyth and the English Separatists from 1609; and later Roger Williams of Providence in 1638. Methodists began in the Church of England, Reverend John Wesley having founded it in 1738.
The Church of Christ Disciples would in turn challenge the decline in fervor and the factional division within Protestantism by carving out another faction among the Evangelical Presbyterians from 1804 to 1832. Joseph Smith received visions from the angel Moroni , as revealed on the Gold Tablets of the Book of Mormons to found the Mormon Faith in 1827 in New York City.
Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement in 1870, incorporating the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 1884; and the church finally adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931.
A major break in Christianity occurred in the American cities of Topeka and Los Angeles in 1901 and 1906 when the Pentecostal “speaking in tongues” movement began in reaction to the loss of fervor among Methodists and various Christians in general. . The advent of Pentecostalism was quite widespread throughout the world.
To take an example of a church founding closer to home, Samuel Bilewu Joseph (SJB) Oschoffa founded the Celestial Church of Christ in 1947 in the jungles of Porto-Novo after wandering in the forest for three months without food. nor water. Like other sects, the Heavenly Group has split into factions since the founder’s death.
The history of the church as summarized here makes it clear that all other churches were protesting in one way or another against the Roman Catholic Church, the early universal faith. As early as 1054 AD, Orthodox Catholics had separated from Rome as a result of intractable doctrinal dissensions. Even in the midst of factions, some churches saw the need to come together to form a strong union. The United Church of Christ is a 1957 ecumenical gathering of Calvinists and Lutherans.
The crucial question to be addressed in the greatest need to save Christianity is that the dissentient churches have not been more successful over the years than the original church. Critically, Vatican Council 2 showed that the Church is not hostile to change from within. When Pope John XXIII opened Vatican Council II in October 1962, he said: “The whole world is waiting for a step forward. More than 2,400 patriarchs, cardinals, bishops and religious superiors participated in the debates. In an unprecedented show of accommodation, observers from Protestant and Orthodox churches were consulted and attended the deliberations. Vatican 2 was markedly different from the 20 previous church assemblies of Roman Catholicism that preceded it, and the 16 decrees, constitutions and declarations promulgated bear witness to modernization and liberation. Vatican 2 did more to accommodate other Protestant churches than the First Council of Nicaea which was convened in AD 325 by Emperor Constantine to combat the Aryan heresy. Of course, the failed Vatican 1 was undermined by the industrial revolution. It was Pope Paul VI who closed Vatican II in 1965, proclaiming it “among the greatest events of the church”. As the oldest and largest body in Christendom, the Catholic Church has used Vatican 2 to provide shelter for all of Christ’s followers.
It is unfortunate that factionalization persists within Christianity despite the Catholic appeal of the Universal Church. It is as if everyone wants to run their own church, as John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, namely: “To reign is worth ambition, although in hell: better to reign in hell than to reign.” serve in heaven ”. Every type today adorns the robe of the Man of God, even when caught with severed heads of human beings! Christ is simply seen as the winning brand that can serve as a cover for a wide range of practices such as voodoo, juju, magic, grigri, etc.
The protesting churches should retrace their steps until the beginning, that is, where the rain started to beat them, to redeem Christianity from the discredit into which it had fallen because of crude factionalism. From within, all true believers can reform the one Christian church into a great institution worthy of the name of Christ. It is a pity that the Christian brothers are still unhappy with the pejorative indictment: Roma locuta; causa finita (Rome has spoken; the case is closed.) But my investigation shows that since Rome has embraced modern times in all its plurality, in particular with the significant changes brought about by Pope John Paul 2. Catholic theology has caught up in the ideals of social justice, the revolutions of science and the mores of world secularization. Even controversial issues such as homosexuality, abortion, divorce, etc. can now be pleaded for or against without the Inquisition intervening!
Jesus Christ led only one ministry and made faith the cardinal principle of worship. By losing faith in the universal Church, the acolytes of other churches apparently unknowingly lost their participation in Christianity.
Modern claims of being “born again” ignore the very idea of becoming a Christian through baptism which began in the time of John the Baptist, Saint Peter, Nicodemus et al, and is still being held. today.
Christianity should be about having faith in the institution established by Christ instead of erecting parallel bodies.
In truth, these parallel human-made bodies cannot be Christians. The founders of these other churches could very well have given the bodies their names – instead of dragging out the name of Christ.
A revolt against a divine mission cannot be mitigated by nomenclature. Christianity is a deity and any escaped device is a distraction wooing damnation and the burning flames of hell.
Let’s close with a toast to Bishop Jonathan Goodall who has just resigned after eight years as Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet in England to join the Catholic Church in the struggle for universal Christian unity.
Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist, writes from Lagos. He can be reached on [email protected]