Nigerian Pastors Take Stand Against Occult Leader

Charisma Magazine, December 19, 2001 edition

By J. Lee Grady in Lagos, Nigeria.

They warn T.B. Joshua is trying to masquerade as a Pentecostal preacher.

A Nigerian occult healer who has attracted followers from at least 10 countries-including the United States and South Africa-is a dangerous false prophet sent to deceive Christians, according to church leaders here.

But the controversy surrounding this mysterious man has created a rift in the African country's huge Pentecostal movement and raised questions among secular observers about the legitimacy of divine healing.

The dispute revolves around T.B. Joshua, 38, and The Synagogue of All Nations, a church Joshua founded in Lagos. Although Joshua quotes the Bible frequently and peppers his televised sermons with references to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, he routinely employs unorthodox methods of spiritual healing that resemble shamanism.

He often scribbles "supernatural writing" and gives the messages to his followers, instructing them to post the pieces of paper on walls in order to obtain healing. He claims that miracles accompanied his birth in 1963, and he told a Nigerian newspaper last week that he has used only one of the seven special powers given to him by God.

"He is an occultist," says Anselm Modubuku, pastor of the 12,000-member Revival Assembly Church in Lagos. "Joshua claims he was born again in his mother's womb. It is tragic that Spirit-filled people are led astray by him."

Another Pentecostal leader, Chris Okotie, went further to call Joshua's organization an anti-Christ cult. "Joshua has a mandate to take over the spiritual leadership of Nigeria," Okotie told "The New Treasure," a weekly Nigerian newspaper.

That warning comes too late for many naïve American and South African charismatics, who have been circulating testimonials of healings videotaped in Joshua's meetings. When word spread that Joshua could heal AIDS and cure infertility, some Christians apparently bought his claims without investigating his doctrinal views.

"It is puzzling why Americans are drawn to him," said Ayo Oritsejafor, pastor of the 26,000-member Word of Life Bible Church in Warri. "Where and when did he get saved? Who is his pastor? That is what I would like to know."

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, headed by Bishop Mike Okonkwo, denounced Joshua as an imposter in a statement released two months ago. It said the group had for years warned of "the dangers of infiltrators who have modernized cultism by injecting the name of Jesus Christ into their largely unbiblical practices. It is necessary that we reiterate this position that the Synagogue [of All Nations] falls into this category."

The controversy intensified last month when Chris Okotie, a former pop star who now pastors the Household of God church in Lagos, accused prominent Nigerian evangelist Chris Oyakhilome of secretly joining Joshua's movement. The furor erupted after a newspaper published a photograph of Oyakhilome and Joshua praying for a man in a wheelchair.

After warning Oyakhilome in a letter that he must renounce all ties to Joshua, Okotie appeared on national television and announced that Oyakhilome had sold out to the devil by accepting money from Joshua to buy TV airtime. Pentecostal leaders in Nigeria now fear that the ugly public scandal will tarnish their reputation in a country that struggles with corruption at all levels of society.

Some of the world's largest Pentecostal movements are based in Nigeria. Last week, at least 4 million Christians gathered at a campground outside Lagos for the annual Holy Ghost Congress, sponsored by the fast-growing Redeemed Christian Church of God.

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