•Police shuts Anglican church as clash between bishop, congregants escalates
•It’s a family affair – Bishop
By Brown Chimezie
A place of worship should normally be a house of peace; a place to seek succour from worldly worries and problems. But for worshipers of the Cathedral Church of Christ (Anglican Communion), Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State, the house of God has become a house of crisis.
Worried that congregants have been prevented from using the church’s worship hall for weekly activities since February 24, 2016, with welders permanently closing its entrance, members of the church are seeking the immediate removal and probe of the Anglican Bishop of Yewa Diocese, Right Reverend Michael Adebayo Oluwarohunbi.
Daily Sun gathered that crisis erupted in the church located at Ona-Nla Quarters, Ilaro, shortly after some members discovered during a revival programme that unauthorised pillars were discreetly erected at the four corners of the church building as well as inside the worship hall. They reportedly sought clarifications from Bishop Oluwarohunbi, as the Provost of the church and presiding priest, Very Reverend Solomon Rotimi Adewumi, was out of town at the time.
It was gathered that during the meeting, Bishop Oluwarohunbi explained to the leaders that he erected the pillars to mark his posting as the new Bishop of Yewa Diocese, but could not convince the leaders why he had to embark on such mission on the cathedral premises without officially informing the chrch.
A source, who was part of the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that after the meeting, it became clear that the bishop was on a collision course with the elders for querying his authority and position.
According to the source, the first major sign of danger was the sudden lack of communication between the provost and the Bishop.
“While nobody can say why the bishop seemed not to want to see his provost anymore, it was clear that they were no longer headed towards the same direction or shared the same spiritual goal. Everything deepened when the Bishop alleged that the Provost planned to assassinate him and invited the Department of State Service (DSS),” the source disclosed.
“By the Anglican Communion tradition, the priest heads the cathedral and reports to the bishop, but many decisions engineered by the bishop were taken behind the provost. Worse of all, gossips and rumours suddenly began to fly around in the church and further deepened the division among members.”
The source added that things got to a head when the bishop openly criticised the provost. “For many of us, it was quite strange to find the bishop dressing down a presiding priest before the congregation,” the source told Daily Sun.
It was learnt that the February 24 invasion of the church with welders during the Lenten week was the high point of efforts aimed at scuttling moves by members to revive the dying weekly activities in the Yewa native church. It was gathered that a detachment of armed policemen stormed the church with tear gas while members were at the Lenten service.
“The police used tear gas on members, including two elderly women who are in their early 80s,” an insider revealed. He confirmed the incident with copies of medical report, dated February 26, 2016, from the Ogun State Hospital, Ilaro.
When the reporter visited the church on Saturday, March 5, its entrance was still tightly sealed with iron rods welded together to prevent access into the building. Policemen in mufti from the Ilaro Police Station were seen watching over the entire premises.
Bishop Oluwarohunbi did not respond to questions sent to his electronic mail box. But he had brief conversation with the reporter on the telephone where he noted that the crisis was a family affair.
“It is not time yet to talk to the press about it,” the bishop noted. “The church leadership is looking into it and I am sure that very soon, it will be settled.” He declined further comments.
However, in an interview, the provost, Very Reverend Adewumi, said he was no longer a member of the church and could not speak on developments after he resigned his appointment, as provost on December 29, 2015.
He said he called it quits when all efforts to allow peace to reign in the church failed. “I resigned because it was clear to me that the Anglican structure and my boss did not want us to work together in peace. I had to leave just in case I am seen as the reason the crisis festered,” he said.
Reverend Adewumi pointed out that he had served two bishops and wondered why it was difficult for him to work with Bishop Oluwaronhunbi.
“The church lost its peace, innocence and spirituality as soon as the bishop arrived. Many members, including myself, were constantly harassed with police and men of the DSS. The worst came when my boss alleged that I had plans to assassinate him. I was arrested, detained and interrogated by the DSS and later released when they could not find anything incriminating against me. It was at this point that I felt the crisis was more than met the eye. So, I resigned,” he stated.
According to him, if after there was still crisis in the church after he had left, the bishop should be the one to explain what was really happening. “He forced me to leave the church. How can I plan to assassinate a man I knew nothing about? I was the one who secured the hotel accommodation that he used while he was under-studying the outgoing bishop. I tried everything to work with him, including prostrating before him and his wife, but his mind seemed made up to see my back. Again, after Primate Nicholas Okoh, the spiritual head of the church, redeployed me to Crowther Theological Seminary, Okene, Kogi State, my boss compelled me to leave town the next day. I was to resume at the college as Deputy Rector on December 31, 2015, but immediately after my boss got the posting letter, he forced me to go on a compulsory leave on December 10 contrary to the primate’s order,” Reverend Adewumi, who is today the President and General Overseer of Rock Believers International Church, Asero, Abeokuta, said.
The reporter was told that since the bishop was posted to the diocese, which is under the Lagos Province, on March 6, 2014, the police and thugs had been employed to close the cathedral to worshippers and church activities on three occasions – on July 3 and July 5, 2015 and on January 1, 2016 during the New Year service.
In a petition by the Concerned Members of the Cathedral Church of Christ, (CMoCCC), the group expressed shock over what it described as the speedy erosion of spirituality in the church since Bishop Oluwarohunbi’s arrival.
In the petition, dated December 17, 2015 and addressed to the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Abuja, the group urged the primate to redeploy Bishop Oluwarohunbi as a matter of urgency in the interest of peace, safety and unity of members. They alleged among others that the bishop had upturned the long-held tradition of peace and spiritual direction in the church and introduced worldliness and carnality, such that greed, envy, politics and gossip had become the order of the day, leading to division and distrust among members.
The group urged the church leadership to institute a probe into what happened between the Bishop and the former provost, saying it was high time genuine Godliness reigned over and above self-will, particularly in the church of God.
The reporter contacted the office of the Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Abuja, but officials declined comments, saying the church was under the Province of Lagos. But all calls and text messages to the office of the Most Reverend (Professor) Adebayo Akinde, the Archbishop of Lagos Province, were not responded to.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ilaro Police Station, Mr. Lukman Adejumo Raheem, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), explained that his division acted on “orders from above” by sealing the church and keeping vigilance over the premises. Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO) Mr Muyiwa Adejobi, said that the police were invited by Bishop Oluwarohunbi to supervise the closure, following what he described as threatening actions of two factions in the church.
“So, we are on ground to maintain peace and order in the church and its environs,” he said.