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Research Project: The Christ Apostolic Church in Yoruba Land

This is a description of my PhD thesis on "The leadership crisis of Christ Apostolic Church in Yoruba land 1989-2005: A historical and theological critique."

Research Background

Leadership crises and their resultant effects are matters that are of great concern to everybody in modern times. Generally speaking, this is a subject that had pitched various people, organisations, nations and continents against each other in a tussle for political, economic, nuclear and other forms of power and financial-related matters. For instance, this subject particularly describes and summarises the occupation of the western world in non-western and developing countries and continents like Africa, the Middle East, and the Asian world among others. It also manifests among people, and in the various kinds of organisations or institutions to which they belong all over the world.
Such crises continue to get worse because of the interest and intent of the parties involved in them, each wanting to either stoke their pride or boost their ego, irrespective of the far reaching consequences of such tussles on their people and on the entire world.
Surprisingly, even without external interference, it is observed that some of the leadership crises are clearly cases of a leader (or leaders) oppressing their own people, in attempts to hold on to power perpetually to themselves, their families, cohorts, and  allies. Such selfish or individualistic actions which are against collective interests are capable of, and may ultimately ruin the people and a system or institution. If it degenerates into a socio-cultural, political or economic war situation, may also ultimately ruin a country, continent or the whole world. It is from this kind of background that many of the local, national and international conflicts of our world past and present could be understood. It would then serve as a starting point for initiating peaceful negotiations and successful conflict resolutions after identifying collectively what went wrong initially.     
The fact that some of these kinds of crises in our society have religious undertone makes one to pulse and have a rethink on the kinds of religious systems that we have and practice globally. Christianity and the Church founded upon the ministry of Jesus Christ is not an exception when talking about these religions and religious institutions as, either having crises within themselves, or serving as venues through which crisis emerge.

Research Problem

The case of the “Aladura” Pentecostal and charismatic Christian Churches or movements in Nigeria particularly draws one’s attention. The Aladura Churches had been seen long ago as sources of spiritual succour and liberation to Africans within their cultural milieu. Added to this is that they are regarded as veritable alternatives to the partially successful mission Christianity efforts in Africa. They are re-packaging African brands of Christianity for re-exportation just like the way it was exported into Africa earlier on by the missionaries. They have been said to represent a re-____expression of Christianity with vibrant Pentecostal and charismatic power, like in the old Apostolic era, achieving also a blending of it with African worldviews and realities generally. The blending of Christianity with African ideals by the Aladura Churches without deviating from the pure Christian belief and practice (as so claimed, but highly questioned by some scholars and religious practitioners alike) was one of the outstanding feats that they achieved. This is the kind of Christianity that they are re-exporting to the entire world.
However, the issue of leadership crises among other problems within the Aladura Churches has greatly polarised them. It has created doubts as to whether the initial velocity of the power of the Holy Spirit, unity and brotherly love as portrayed in the Christian message is still in their mindset or is still the fulcrum of their operation.
The leadership crisis has been claimed, or appears to be mild in some Aladura Churches where the case is just that of the issue or problem of family succession in a kind of father-to-son and, or husband-to-wife handing over of ecclesiastical authority. This however, is not without the possible grumbling and criticisms within and outside such Churches, and probably, one of the reasons for schisms in such Aladura Churches. Synonymous to the above, is that of some leadership crisis that stems out of cases that involves the absence of, or not wanting to establish (or review even when it is absolutely needed) the defined and specific Constitutional standards of ascension to ecclesiastical authority and administrative positions, or the neglect of it where one exists.
These are coupled with the fact that some of the present leaders of the Aladura Churches, judging by their actions (in relation to these crises issues) appear to have lost focus, and are not following the path of the original vision or mission of the early founders of those Churches. The resultant effect is that of the several kinds of crises plaguing these Churches today. They show that the leaders in such crises are not, or are partially committed to the old tradition of emphasis on effective serious prayer, prophetic, healing and evangelistic works of the Aladura Churches. They rather bother about occupying top ecclesiastical positions at all costs for fame and amassing of wealth, and thereby causing all kinds of problems within these Churches.
Their desperate moves have led them to employing the use of personal attacks through all possible means that are unchristian, polarising the clergy and laity, while encouraging the existence of factions, and worse still, resorting to law courts to settle ecclesiastical disagreements. This last one clearly is a deviant tendency going by Apostle Paul’s teaching that Christians should not allow their disputes to degenerate to such levels (1 Corin.6: 1-6). Many ministers and laity across board have lost their lives in the course of these crises in these Aladura Churches.
The case of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) is that of an acclaimed true Church of God, which started with a genuine and clearly defined mission or purpose. She allowed herself in later years to derail and degenerate due to leadership crisis into a presently factionalised and polarised Church. This happened because she allowed secularism, human sentiments, the excessive pursuit for, or worship of power or fame (that was supposed or originally meant to be exclusively spiritual in nature) from a mundane perspective. Underlying these also is some misplaced struggle for wealth and negligence of old pure spiritual standards regarding ascension to clerical position and maintenance of such offices. Hence, the CAC has lost and is loosing till today the original unity of the Church, rather than working towards a re-unification of the original single whole. Several efforts geared towards re-unification had failed, thereby prolonging the crisis unnecessarily. It is the peculiarity of this crisis, in reference to the root causes for it and its persistence that has been identified as a research problem of study in this work.

Research Objectives

With the research problem being identified and defined as above, the aim in this research is to, on a general note, appraise through critical and factual demonstrations (with the consideration of the works of other scholars) the Pentecostal nature of the CAC. It would specifically involve a critical examination of the remote causes of the crisis, after a re-appraisal of her founding history, to show if any, the link of the crisis to her historical past.
Having started since 1989, the crisis has persisted unabated for fifteen years now. This research will therefore focus on the key CAC factions and leaders at the forefront of the crisis, what resolution attempts have been made, why they failed, and the aftermath of such failures, which had prolonged the crisis till now. The research would suggest after intense study, possible ways or steps that could help current reconciliation efforts.
In this study, related literatures, published and unpublished on the Aladura Churches generally, and especially on the CAC would be consulted, and reviewed by way of critical appraisal. Many of these literatures usually dealt more on the Pentecostal nature, organisational structure, beliefs and practices, and achievements of the Aladura Churches.    The uniqueness of this work however is that, unlike others, it will focus on the crisis aspect of Aladura Churches in modern times that has been rarely or partially studied. There is therefore the need for an organised and detailed research at doctoral study level (as some scholars have earlier recommended), especially because the crisis is a serious issue threatening the existence of a vibrant Church (and other Aladura Churches), which has gained many adherents in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide.
The research will significantly show the devastating effects of the leadership crisis on the Nigerian Aladura Churches generally, and the CAC in particular. The inevitability of the high level and in-depth study required on this subject will make the research to be heavily demanding, involve risk taking and other complications in approaching it. Along with these is the need to work and interact (by way of interviews and participation) with the various factions involved in the CAC crisis.

Research Methods

The methodology in this research would be a combination of library and field based research methods. Though, there are so many literatures on the CAC and other Aladura Churches, and but this task will involve carrying out series of oral interviews with principal actors and eyewitnesses to the crisis. The fact that many of these people in the two categories are still alive as leaders or members, or independent observers of the crisis would really help in this research. Church records, court case files and papers, and many other non-library based primary sources would be consulted.

Research Outcomes

In summary, the research will generally do a critique of the position of the CAC (like other Aladura Churches) as a typical example of a true African indigenous Pentecostal initiative, which (also like others) signalled the turning point for the world’s Christian experience. Yet, the research would show that due to the unabated crisis, the Church has had serious setbacks, and if allowed to remain unresolved, may render the entire once well laid foundation completely disorganised. The consequences of this for the CAC and other Aladura Churches in Nigeria, Africa and globally would be very grave and damaging. It would in many ways not speak well of Pentecostals, non-Pentecostals and even Christianity globally, thereby affecting the global Pentecostal appeal or campaign. 

last modified 2011-02-09 14:21