Minority Religions, Social Change, and Freedom of Conscience
Salt Lake City and Provo (Utah), June 20-23, 2002
One issue that has remained popular and sometimes highly contentious in discourse on new religious movements is the thesis that the period immediately following the demise of the founder and charismatic leader of a movement generally leads to its extinction or a major disruption for the group itself. The CCC is one of the most popular and widespread indigenous "prophetic-charismatic" movements in West Africa. It emerged in 1947 through the visionary experiences and charismatic initiative of a "carpenter-turned-prophet", Samuel Bilehou Oschoffa (1909-1985). Within few decades of its existence, the movement had transcended geo-ethnic boundaries with a membership running into several millions and over 5,000 branches scattered worldwide. The Pastor-Founders` death in 1985, marked a watershed event in CCC`s history. This paper examines the "post-charismatic" history of the CCC, the period following the demise of the Pastor-Founder. It assesses the lingering legal crisis that ensued in the aftermath of the Founders` death, and how the CCC has attempted to deal with the problems of succession in its leadership, continuity and the routinization of charisma.
A Brief Historical Background of CCC
CCC represents one of the most popular charismatic religious collectivity in West Africa. CCC emerged spontaneously around the life, visionary experience and charismatic personality of Samuel Bilehou Oschoffa (1909-1985), a Nigerian timber merchant who was born and nurtured in Porto-Novo (now Benin Republic). In 1947, Oschoffa claimed to have confronted his first traumatic experience in which he claimed God instructed him to found a church. The nucleus of the CCC emerged as a consequence of this at Porto Novo and later spread to towns and villages in Dahomey (now Benin Republic) in the first instance. While the movement existed in Benin Republic since 1947, it was its inception in Nigeria three years later, in 1950 and onwards, that gave CCC its worldwide popularity and fame as witnessed today. By the following decade of its presence in Nigeria, CCC from its first base in Makoko-Lagos, began to witness a phenomenal growth with its spread first to virtually all the Yoruba speaking areas and later to other parts of Nigeria. Thus, as the church was spreading gradually outside the Yoruba geo-ethnic context to other parts of Nigeria, parishes were being planted concurrently by both Yoruba and non-Yoruba speaking members in the West African sub-region i.e. Togo, Côte dIvoire, Cameroun, Ghana, Senegal; and elsewhere such as in U.S.A, Canada and in several European countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
By 1975, the church had reckoned at least 150 parishes in Nigeria, as well as a steady influx of new members in Benin Republic. By the following year, the church recorded a total of 254 parishes, with 168 parishes in Nigeria alone and 86 parishes outside Nigeria. In 1977 the number of parishes had increased to 282: 194 and 88 in and outside Nigeria respectively. A geometrical increase was reckoned in 1981 as the parishes rose to 547: with 452 and 95 parishes recorded in and outside Nigeria . The CCC Bible Lessons and Parishes records also reveal a remarkable proliferation of parishes in the last three years. In 1994, 1995 and 1996, the total number of parishes throughout the world has been put at 1852, 1914 and 2051 respectively . These figures are inexhaustive as they represent only official CCC figures. Between 1976 and 1996, CCC parishes rose from 254 to 2,051. From this figure, 1744 parishes are found in Nigeria alone while 307 parishes are scattered within the West Coast of Africa, Europe, America, Canada and other parts of the world.
Generally, CCC organization is structured around the centralized authority of the Pastor (Founder). As both the spiritual and administrative head of the church, the Pastor has the unchallengeable authority on all matters, and legitimates this authority through his personal charisma. The internal organization of the church provides a complex hierarchical structure that could be classified into the upper and lower cadres. The first (lower) provides a vertical progression along three separate but corresponding axes. They are the lines of Leader, Wolider/Wolijah (prophet/prophetess) and Elder. Though, not necessarily equal in rank, the three lines correspond with one another at the terminal posts of Superior Senior Leader, Superior Senior Wolider/Wolijah, and Superior Senior Elder. They represent the highest rank in the hierarchy to which members may normally be elevated by promotion. The line of leaders is exclusively for males while the other two are characterized by both male and female leadership axis. Consequently, members who have attained these ranks do not expect automatic promotion to the higher ranks, irrespective of whether they are full time church workers or not.
The upward mobility of any of these three apex ranks to the upper hierarchical pedestal is largely dependent on either of two ways. First, the Pastor, in whom resides all authority, may at his sole discretion, make direct appointments to any rank including that of Assistant Evangelist, Honorary Assistant Evangelist and above. On the other hand, where vacancies occur in the higher ranks, selection from the corresponding ranks of Superior Senior Leader, Superior Senior Wolider and Superior Senior Elder are made after due consideration of the candidates eligibility by the Pastor, assisted by a special committee of the Pastor-in-Council (CCC Constitution, pp. 49-50). Propositions for the promotion of members to the three leadership lines could also be made by parish committees to the Pastor. However, for the upper echelon, it is the Pastor himself who calls to the unction. Both the top and lower hierarchies may further be categorized into two distinct but parallel paradigms as administrative and prophetic (See Chart of ranking system). The Pastor by virtue of his status, ostensibly combines both structures at the same time. Every Parish is headed by both hierarchies, that is, where the shepherd comes from the Leader or the Elder axis, the assistant must necessarily come from the line of Wolidah (Prophet), and vice versa. Therefore, these two governing and spiritual structures are delicately balanced in the church.
From the onset of the church, members with gainful employment outside the CCC could not rise higher than the terminal post of Superior Senior Leader. Only full-time church workers were normally appointed to the upper hierarchy. However, there are now exceptions with the introduction of the ranks of Honorary Assistant Evangelist, Honorary Evangelist and Honorary Senior Evangelist. These now form the technocrat corps of the church. Some members have described the honorary ranks as Celestial security officers and as financiers of the church . The anointment or unction is a rite of passage that is believed to establish the faithful in the spiritual hierarchy, it facilitates members promotion from one level to the next in that hierarchy. All new entrants are referred to with the prefix Brother or Sister. They are expected to spend a minimum of two years at this level before receiving their first anointment. Following the inaugural anointment ritual, the member may progress in the church hierarchy along any of the three separate but corresponding lines. Such a member may then become Aladura (Anointed Brother), or if observed during the initial years to deliver messages that are true and tested, then on his first anointment, he may, on the authority of the Pastor or his representative, be referred to as Woli (Prophet / Prophetess). The unction is reiterated at least every two years for each promotion to the next higher rank.
CCC Organizational Structure
CCC Worldwide is run through its international headquarters located at the Mission House in Ketu-Lagos. The Supreme Headquarters of the church is located in Porto Novo (Benin Republic) by virtue of its birth there. The Pastor-in-Council under the ultimate authority of the Pastor represents the highest organ of government. The overall government machinery is vested in the Pastor-in-Council. It comprises the diocesan heads and their deputies, the Board of Trustees, and co-opted members, by the Pastor who serve as the chairman (See CCC Constitution, p. 45). In a bid to beef up existing administrative structures and set up new ones for a more effective administration and internal discipline , Bada at the end of 1997 enlarged the membership of the Pastor-in-Council. It now comprises fifty members drawn from various geographical locations where parishes are found and to represent various interests and bodies in the church. For the very first time, four women are included in the highest law-making apparatus . A Board of Trustee is appointed at the sole discretion of the Pastor. The functions of the Trustee Board include being custodian of all landed and other church property. They are also vested with the sole authority to represent the church in all matters of relationship with the State, religious and other organizations. The first Trustees comprised of seven members viz. Oschoffa, Bada, Ajanlekoko, Adefeso, Owodunni, Ogunlesi and Banjo. Sogbetun was added to the number with the demise of the Pastor-Founder in 1985 and the official exit of Owodunni in 1994. The World Committee was inaugurated as a complimentary body to the earlier. They are charged essentially with administrative functions, to restore unity to the church especially by re-uniting factions created within the CCC following the Founders death. They have set up National Executive Committees in all countries with parishes in order to bridge communication gaps between members in different countries . Within the framework of its organization, CCC is divided into Dioceses. There are currently five Dioceses viz. Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Côte dIvoire and the Overseas countries. Each except the Overseas Diocese seem to have been conventionally created to correspond to individual countries. At the level of each diocese, there is a Diocesan Head and a General Committee which administers and surveys the activities and decisions of the State, Zonal, District headquarters and various Parochial Committees of individual parishes (CCC Constitution, p. 39). State headquarters exist under a diocese except in the Overseas Diocese where they are categorized into territories. In dioceses like Nigeria, several zones, districts and parishes within a Federal State are organized under a State headquarter and a State or Regional administrative Evangelist in charge. Although in the northern and eastern parts of Nigeria where its presence is not remarkably profound as compared to the West, several States are brought together under a State Evangelist.
As part of the modernization process of its administrative structures, many districts were created under States with District Heads in charge . Parishes within the districts are further grouped geographically under zones. A number of zones make up a District. Each zone is put in charge of a Zonal Evangelist. A parish denotes an individual church congregation or branch. The leadership of a parish is under an Oluso-agutan (Shepherd) and his deputy. The Shepherd-in-Charge of a parish is seen as the Pastors representative in that parish. A balance between spiritual and administrative domains is ensured in each parish, in the sense that if the Oluso-agutan emerges from the Leader or Elder axis, his assistant will be chosen from the Wolidah line, and vice versa. The day to day smooth running of a parish is effected by an elected thirty-three member Parochial Committee and sometimes a Committee of Elders. The Parochial Committee constitutes the local government of the parish church. It is empowered to deliberate on the general progress, spiritual, physical and financial development of the parish. It could also apply disciplinary measures in minor cases affecting its parish. Sterner disciplinary action and measures on erring members is the absolute prerogative of the Pastor. The Parochial Committee could make recommendations and channel cases of indiscipline through the Zonal, District and State headquarters to the Pastor-in-Council or the General Committee. In whatever situation, disciplinary actions on such cases owe their final ratification to the Pastor.
The church is financially supported by the tithe system and through several sources of revenue. The local parish relies on weekly collections during services, harvest services, bazaar sales, building and development funds, thanksgiving offerings, travel funds and voluntary donations to mention a few. Two-thirds of such revenue accruing to the local parish is ploughed back as monthly returns to the international headquarters. Every individual parish owes a church obligation towards the pastoral seat. Such monthly returns referred to as Pastoral Returns or Pastoral Dues are used to run the administrative machinery. They are redistributed among the church workers as salaries or stipends, and to run the day to day administration of the international headquarters. Also from the pastoral dues, the late Pastor-Founders family, Bada and some members of the top hierarchy such as Ajanlekoko, Salako, Sobowale and their respective families are maintained. A fraction of the dues is kept aside for their upkeep. The financial maintenance of Oschoffa during his lifetime, and his family before and after his death was claimed to have been conventionally introduced during his lifetime. In 1984, he called a meeting of the top hierarchy and hinted on what the family deserves or is entitled to after his demise. He ordered that within the time span of twenty five years after his death, all his children under the age of twenty must be adequately catered for by the church . The fact that this order is still been strictly adhered by the church authority is another instance of the routinization of Oschoffas charisma. Other sources of revenue for the CCC International headquarters are: half of proceeds from Juvenile and Adult Harvest thanksgiving services and Bazaar sales from all parishes; Baptism and Anointment fees from all parishes; proceeds from church publications; development funds such as the Celestial City development fund; voluntary donations and other sources as may be prescribed by the authority. There appears not to be any actual coercive pressure exerted on members by the CCC authority to make the required contributions. Members see their voluntary contributions as a fulfillment of spiritual contract between them and God. The amount given is believed to be proportionate to the amount of blessings they receive from God in return.
From Carpenter to Prophet: Oschoffas Personal Charisma
Max Weber adopted and popularized the concepts charisma and charismatische Herrschaft in socio-scientific discourse by giving it a conspicuous status in his sociology of religion and his political sociology . In accepting and adopting this novel construct of charisma as a divine gift, he placed emphasis also on Gottesgnadentum which is translated as the "free gifts of grace" , attainable without ordination, and acceptable outside the established church. His gaze was mainly on the belief by the followers of such a religious leader and by the leader himself of such hold or possession. His (Weber) viewpoints can be compressed in his often quoted statement:
The term charisma will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary (or set apart from ordinary men) and treated as endowed with supernatural, super-human, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. In primitive circumstances this peculiar kind of quality is thought of as resting on magical powers, whether of prophets, persons with a reputation for therapeutic or legal wisdom, leaders in the hunt, or heroes in war ... What is alone important is how the individual is actually regarded by those subject to charismatic authority, by his "followers" or "disciples" (Weber 1947: 358-9).
From the claims and testimonies of Oschoffas followers and some non-followers to the nature of his work and his personality, Oschoffa clearly fits Webers idealtypisch depiction of the charismatic leader, endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least exceptional powers and qualities (Weber 1978: 241). CCC Constitution (1980) Second Schedule states inter alia that:
The Celestial Church of Christ is part of the one spiritual, world-wide, united, indivisible Holy Church which came into the world from heaven by Divine Order ... through a single individual, a man who is the founder of the church, the Reverend Pastor, Prophet Founder Samuel Bilehou Joseph Oshoffa (CCC Constitution, p. 2).
The interaction and re-enforcement between the self-confidence of the leader on the one hand and the devotion of his followers is a prerequisite for the validity of charisma. Weber underscored the role of recognition and deeds as the two indispensable criteria for die Geltung des charisma as he stated, "If those to whom he feels sent do not recognize him, his claim collapses; if they recognize him, he is their master as long as he proves himself" (Weber 1968: 1113). There is no gainsaying the fact that it is obligatory for a charismatic leader to incessantly evince his charismatic potentialities. What people said about Oschoffa before and after his death appears to show the above assertion as a truism for him. This is in line with the popular belief of most social scientific observers of new religions or charismatic movements that such testimonies are decisive to the charismatic leader in so far as it impresses on him his followers conviction and belief in his charismatic capabilities and authority.
Oschoffas charismatic status could also be seen in the various titles he was identified with. Throughout his lifetime, Oschoffa was known and addressed as - "Reverend, Pastor, Prophet, Founder". That all these titles or offices were combined by him alone is perhaps a striking feature uncommon to several of the African initiated churches. The combination of these "titles" or "offices" in the person of the Pastor-Founder from the formative years of the CCC demonstrates the charismatic authority and bureaucratic priesthood that existed side by side. CCC Constitution gives a vivid picture of this coexistence and the complicated hierarchy introduced by the Pastor-Founder himself. It consists essentially of two main parts, the first section contains the foundation history and injunctions on beliefs and rituals, and the other section documents the administrative structure and hierarchy of the church. It was through this complex but effective machinery that CCC was run throughout his lifetime and also after his demise. Oschoffa did not only combine charisma and authority from the genesis of the movement, he was able to keep the structure he built cohesive and united with his charisma. Olupona has rightly asserted elsewhere that "the coexistence of both charismatic authority and a bureaucratic priesthood, observable from the beginnings of the Celestial Church is best symbolized in the title of the founder of the church" .
Clause 108 of CCC Constitution underscores the leaders status that:
The Pastor as the ultimate spiritual head of the Celestial Church of Christ worldwide shall be vested with the sole, ultimate and unchallengeable authority on all matters affecting church life, be it planning, organization, doctrinal standards and the spread of doctrines, education, legislation or discipline, the provisions of this constitution notwithstanding (CCC Constitution, p. 36).
The entire structural and organizational make-up of the CCC revolves around the person of the Pastor-Founder. This sole prerogative attributed to the Pastor by the constitution to a great extent helped to elicit and rekindle in his followers feelings of obedience, loyal submission. Throughout Oschoffa's lifetime, his authority was largely seen to be unquestionable and sacrosanct . This explains to a great extent why cases of schism were not rampant in CCC during his lifetime. The hierarchical structure is elaborate and highly complex as shown above. Though the constitution vested in him absolute and unchallengeable authority as the sole head or leader, yet he established a structure with about twelve ranked grades. CCC hierarchy may be split into the line of "prophets" and line of "leaders". However, all the offices remain subordinate and responsible to the Pastor-Founder who has the final say in all matters affecting the church and her members.
The attitude of reverence received by Oschoffa from his followers did not die with him. Rather, our study reveals that on such occasions as the annual remembrance anniversaries in his honour and in other such occasions or church rituals, the mere mention of his name sends several worshippers into trance, "frenetic" moods and outbursts . During his burial ceremony, a local newspaper reported a members' description of the event as "the passing away of a deity" . Many members claim to strange occurences during the event were seen as further proofs to his enigmatic, spiritual powers. The grave of the late founder was besieged by adherents and non-adherents alike. It became a target for those in quest for spiritual power, such that CCC authorities had to give warnings to members to desist from further removal of marble tiles and beach sand around Oschoffas grave .
As I noted elsewhere, "this plethora of "unchallengeable authority" or charism of the Pastor as enshrined in CCC Constitution or in any other religious or social movements may perhaps pay off, and may not be capable of standing the test of time in the subsequent processes of routinization, democratization and modernization within the movement or group. The impracticality of the constitutional provisions with regards to succession into the office of the Pastor following the demise of Oschoffa and the leadership crisis which ensued cannot be far-fetched. One may argue here that so long as that proviso, which makes the naming and proclamation of a succeeding Pastor the exclusive preserve or prerogative of an incumbent Pastor, remains unamended in CCC Constitution, so also will it remain a burning issue which could be a potential for increasing schism" (Adogame 1999: 54).
The Routinization of Oschoffa's Charisma
What Weber called Die Veralltäglichung des Charisma is today translated as "the routinization of charisma" . "Routinization" of charisma involves the return of a process that originated außeralltäglich that is "out of the everyday" to a more everyday existence. Weber was interested in the theoretical problems and significance of the processes of routinization. Much of his efforts on charisma is devoted to a consideration of the ways in which "the problem of succession" is met and the group takes on "the character of a permanent relationship forming a stable community" . This transformation generally becomes evident with the disappearance of the personal charismatic leader and with the problem of succession, which inevitably arises. The way in which this problem is met - if it is met at all and the group continues to exist - is of crucial importance for the character of the subsequent social relationships (Max Weber 1947: 364). Influenced ostensibly by Webers work, Toth (1981: 54) argues that the routinization of charisma is basic to the successful negotiation of human existence, as basic as the order, meaning, and membership which its legitimacy secures.
The problem of succession in the routinization of charisma is occasioned in most cases by the sudden demise of the first charismatic leader, as in the case with the CCC, thus endangering the whole edifice of a socially constructed reality. Weber (1947: 371) rightly points out that the process of routinization:
is not by any means confined to the problem of succession and does not stop when this has been solved ... (it) is crucial because through it occurs the routinization of the charismatic focus of the structure.
In situating the entire history of the church within the context and continuum of charisma and routinization, we can argue here that CCC has successfully routinized the transmission of charisma even though the routinization of charisma did not begin with the problem of succession. As we have pointed out earlier, the titles - Reverend, Pastor, Prophet and Founder vested on the person of Oschoffa from the wake of the movement exhibits to a great extent the intermix of both charismatic authority and a bureaucratic priesthood. He exercised the dual rights of "chief priest" and "prophet" throughout his lifetime. The administrative hierarchical structure introduced during the lifetime of the Pastor-Founder functioned side by side, though the Pastor-Founder was seen to have the ultimate and unchallengeable authority in all matters affecting the church. Though Weber seems to have related the routinization process explicitly to the post-death era of a leader, CCC history reveals traces of routinization of Oschoffas charisma during his lifetime (i.e. Bada undertaking overseas tours). Therefore, it could be said that the process which begun prior to Oschoffas death, took a more conspicuous turn as members had to cope with the reality which his demise dawned on them. Another institutionalizing feature in the church can be seen in the significance of Imeko as the Celestial City.
The routinization process started by Oschoffa continued after his death under his successor Pastor A.A. Bada. The period between 1987-2002 within CCC was a typical instance of a leadership crisis. One significant impact of the leadership crisis was that it generated a feeling of divided loyalty towards the church authority and indiscipline was rife among some of the rank and file members. Some parishes were claimed to have shirked and withheld their financial responsibilities to the central authority while also partially abstaining from participating in general church programmes and activities. A more striking feature of the period is probably highlighted in Alexander Bada's reference to the court case as "a pillar for fractionalization"  of the church. The legal battle within the church could be identified as the spark that ignited the schismatic trend and the further proliferation of the church subsequently. The point must be made here that schismatic tendencies were witnessed within CCC mainstream during the lifetime of the Pastor-Founder, however it assumed a new dimension following his death, and especially within the era of the leadership imbroglio.
It could be argued that though the interregnum had far-reaching consequences for the church, yet it was not a determinative trauma and did not result in any major disruption or fatal consequences of the CCC itself. Some events during the period suggest that the church in some ways was even strengthened by these events. A case in point is the series of letters and messages reiterating the members and parishes total and unflinching support for and commitment to the mainstream of the church during the leadership crisis. The events surrounding his death and in the decade afterwards indicate the followers' interpretation of his role and the institutional adjustments and individual responses to his absence. Their responses reveal the nature of the religious "world" that Oschoffa forged, a system that was able to survive without him. An instance of routinization observed in the CCC following Oschoffa's death is the initiative taken by the Board of Trustees to fill the vacuum created by the Pastor-Founder himself. The appointment of Alexander Bada as Pastor was made by the Trustee Board barely three months after Oschoffa's death, but had to wait for ratification through "general acceptance" and "popular acclamation" by the entire CCC congregation at their annual Christmas convocation at the "Celestial City", Imeko on December 17 and 25, 1985 respectively. Bada was formally installed and enthroned as Pastor on 24 December 1987, shortly after a member of the Trustee Board had instituted a legal action on Bada and the Trustee Board challenging the constitutionality of his appointment and proclamation.
A reconsideration of the phenomenon of the routinization of charisma within the context of CCC is appropriate because it is within this purview that Bada as the second leader emerges to play out his significant role. Weber (1947: 370) underscores this point in his Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft when he says that:
Charisma is a phenomenon typical of prophetic religious movements ... in their early stages. But as soon as the position of authority is well established, and above all as soon as control over large masses of people exists, it gives way to the forces of everyday routine.
It is in the very fact of a second charismatic leader that routinization becomes possible and realistic. In other words, the transition from "charisma to routine" is best satisfied by the emergence of a second leader somewhat less charismatic than the first but still charismatic enough to enable the transition and insure its legitimacy . Oschoffa as the first charismatic figure introduced and ensured the continuity of his particular vision of the church. Bada as the successor and second charismatic figure appears to ensure the continuity of these charismatic traits and to see that the "everyday" machinery of "making things go" is set into motion and kept running. Thus, "routinization occurs not only because of the ineffable quality of charisma but because a number of needs associated with the continuation of the social system have also to be met" (Toth 1981: 120).
Bada assumed leadership of the church after Oschoffa's death. It could be argued that Bada did not create the position of charismatic leadership that he held. Rather, he stepped into a role that already had well-defined expectations associated with it and filled it in an especially admirable way to his members. Bada's humble character attracted followers of similar temperament. It also meant that he was disposed that others participate in decision-making. This led not only to the development of an effective system of "institutionalized authority" in which to a great extent Bada subsumed himself, but to his sanctioning of a second charismatic leader. Bada introduced some institutional adjustments and intensified evangelistic efforts in the church. Apart from the exceptional organizational and training skills as compared to his predecessor, there are also several accounts and testimonies from members and non-members which serve to buttress their belief in Bada as a charismatic leader who possesses spiritual, healing powers.
Oschoffas death and its Aftermath -The Legal Tussle
The period immediately following the demise of the founder/leader of a group is critical, a period that generally leads to major disruption and often fatal consequences for the group itself. The problem of succession is often assumed and considered to be the determinative trauma under such circumstances . Oschoffa died on September 10, 1985 ten days after he experienced a ghastly motor accident with his driver and three of his aides on their way to attend a church programme in Ibadan. He was reported to have died while he was recuperating favourably from the shock of the accident in the hospital. The fact that the news of his death attracted worldwide attention  is an indication of how popular and widespread CCC had become within four decades of Oschoffas mission. He was buried on October 19, 1985 in his home town, Imeko amidst pomp and pageantry. This was in line with his earlier directive that he should be buried upon his demise near his mother on the family land; and that his burial ground be set aside as holy ground and a place of pilgrimage . The fact that these directives were logically carried out by his followers indicates on the one hand that Oschoffa started the institutionalization process during his lifetime.
The single most significant issue perhaps that the CCC has ever dealt with was the untimely death of its Pastor-Founder. His death was a watershed event in CCCs history. Had he lived out his years or fulfilled the relevant constitutional clauses on leadership succession, he would possibly have saved the church he left behind of any interregnum. Did Oschoffa foresee the conundrum he left for his followers? It is perhaps not far from the truth that Oschoffa had no premonition about his death even though some sources have claimed otherwise? However, with his demise, CCC had to deal with the matter of succession in its leadership, continuity and the routinization of charisma. It is striking to note that for about two years it appeared that CCC was undergoing a relatively smooth and successful transition to new leadership following the passing away of its charismatic founder and leader in 1985. But eventually an unexpected series of dramatic internal events broke that calm and plunged the members into protracted, contentious disagreements over succession.
By deed of proclamation believed by members to have been publicly made by the Pastor-Founder under "divine order" (CCC Constitution, p. 2), the mode of succession into the office of the Pastor as stipulated in Article iii of CCC Constitution extended the eligibility to any rank in the churchs hierarchy. It states inter alia:
Whereas the Pastor and Founder of Celestial Church of Christ has proclaimed publicly that, by divine inspiration, it has been revealed unto him concerning the mode for the appointment or selection of a successor to the post of Pastor and Spiritual Head of the Church, it is here firmly established that:
(i) the successor to the office of Pastor can be from any rank in the hierarchy of the Church and shall, at a time chosen by God to reveal this unto the erstwhile incumbent of the post of Pastor, be named and proclaimed the successor ... (CCC Constitution, p. 37)
Three elements are quickly noticeable in this proviso viz., the eligibility for the office, the revelation to the erstwhile incumbent by God and, the naming and proclamation of the successor. This meant that the naming and proclamation of a successor can only be done consequent upon a "divine inspiration" revealed by the Pastor. It also presupposes that the eligibility for the office is not limited to the next highest in rank to the Pastor-Founder but includes all ranking positions in the church. It is most probable that Oschoffa had a foresight as to how sensitive the issue of succession to leadership could be and what CCC would look like after his demise. Such constitutional clauses were probably intended to keep open the question of successor as long as he lived. A critical look at the constitutional clause reveals some loose strings as it did not take into consideration the fact that the sudden death of the incumbent Pastor will render the relevant clause(s) inoperable thus giving room for personality clashes, power struggles, dissension and apathy. Just as in any other group or organization, what followed within that lacunae threatened to its very foundation the unity and oneness of the movement which Oschoffa wielded by his personal charisma. It was over this that one of Oschoffas followers lamented when he remarked that "Oschoffa, a man with such spiritual endowment should not have left a legacy of confusion for the church" .
However, even though Oschoffa did not name and proclaim his successor prior to his death, several of his followers nevertheless made or pointed to series of his public pronouncements and or indications that seem to imply whom the successor would be. Firstly, Alexander Bada was "unofficially" seen and accepted by many as the successor to the Pastor-Founder by virtue of his status as Supreme Evangelist, being the next highest rank to that of Pastor. He was virtually the only Supreme Evangelist that CCC had. He was also claimed to be the first anointed Nigerian leader by Oschoffa. Therefore, due to his proximity to the Pastor and his long association with the church, he was identified as the heir apparent by majority of members, the constitutional stipulations notwithstanding.
Secondly, in a letter from Oschoffa dated 29 October 1982, appointing Philip Ajose as Superior Evangelist of CCC, he remarked:
... I point out to you that just above you in the order of seniority, there are three who are under my superior authority - namely - Supreme Evangelist A.A. Bada, Superior Evangelist Agbaosi, Superior Evangelist S.O. Ajanlekoko. In these, I have implicit confidence both day and night. Where myself Prophet Pastor Founder Rev. S.B.J. Oschoffa, Bada, Agbaosi, Ajanlekoko and you Ajose assemble, we constitute the highest authority in the Celestial Church of Christ Worldwide ...
In another correspondence to Superior Evangelist Ajose on April 23, 1984, Oschoffa reiterated his earlier remark when he asserted inter alia:
... I wish to let you know ... that in the whole Celestial Church of Christ, there is only one Supreme Evangelist and three Superior Evangelists ... I now explain to you that among all those I have just enumerated, the only one with just a little bit of authority over you Superior Evangelists is the Supreme Evangelist A.A. Bada and who should with respect and love within yourselves address you on all matters like I do when discussing with, or addressing you, and that you in turn should serve in respect and in love 
The question that easily comes to mind from these remarks is: Why is Oschoffas emphasis on the order of seniority in CCC? Does it imply any in-fighting already among the top hierarchy? However, most members have understood these as an indication by Oschoffa of who should succeed him following his demise. While this may or may not be the case, one point remains very clear from the above directive of the Pastor-Founder. On the one hand it presupposes a controversy or cold dispute within his "inner circle" on order of seniority or rank. It further serves to confirm and reinforce the hierarchical order or leadership line of the church .
It was claimed that Oschoffa re-echoed the organizational set-up or hierarchical order of leadership at the CCC annual Christmas convocation ceremony at Imeko in 1984 when he publicly announced this to the congregation. He was said to have chided some of his followers who displayed their ignorance about the order of seniority of the top hierarchy at the occasion . It must be noted that though Oschoffa used this occasion to drive home the issue of the hierarchical order of the church, there was no available evidence that he categorically named and proclaimed his successor at that event. Article iii, Subsection (i) of CCC Constitution however precluded any automatic claimant by Bada as successor to the position albeit the deductions made by members from the public pronouncements and indications given by the Pastor-Founder during his lifetime. The constitution did not limit the eligibility for the succession to the office of the pastor to the next highest in rank in the churchs hierarchical order to the erstwhile Pastor-Founder. Rather, it extended the eligibility to "any rank in the hierarchy of the church". This implies that any member within this category, including the next highest in rank in the hierarchical order, could become the successor to the pastor, if and only if it was vouchsafed to the incumbent pastor through "divine inspiration" to his followers.
It is significant to state that in early October 1985 following Papa Oschoffas death, there emerged a non-member, a man simply identified as Amu who claimed to have met the late Pastor-Founder during the daylight in the bush near the boundary between Ondo and Ogun States of Nigeria. At this time the remains of Papa Oschoffa were known to be lying in a mortuary in Lagos, he was in actual fact buried on October 29, 1985. He also claimed to have received a special message from the Pastor-Founder to inform the CCC congregation that Bada is his successor. This was disclosed on two occasions, first at a meeting of the church leaders where it was claimed that the news or message was well received by all members present. Secondly, he attended the Harvest Thanksgiving Service at the Ketu Parish owing to the prior announcement. He was said to have carried a Bible with which he swore to the effect that he saw Oschoffa in the bush who disclosed Bada as his successor, and who gave him three objects (a wooden cross, cowrie shells, and a stick of candle) to be handed over to Bada .
Amus claim was well received by majority of CCC members even though he was a non-member of the church. As it would appear, majority of Oschoffas followers took for granted Amus recounted story of his encounter with the late Pastor-Founder. Their approval of this claim is probably not unconnected with the widely held belief in Yoruba cultural context that ghosts of deceased persons can appear to living human beings. The interpretation given by the members to Amus story also underline the importance which the CCC attach to revelation. Thus, Prophet Oschoffa whom the members see as specially endowed with spiritual power to heal and revive the dead was also believed to be able to speak from the dead in order to resolve any crisis within the church.
In Ediemu Blin-juans testimony as a plaintiff witness in the legal suit filed by a member of CCC Trustee Board against Bada and the other members of the Board at the High Court of Lagos State later in 1992, he confirmed how the members viewed Amus claim as he testified that "Everybody was happy and there was applause by the members at the meeting" . However, a few members actually disbelieved and questioned the authenticity of this claim. This became evident during the proceedings at the High Court of Lagos State in 1992. Here, some of the plaintiff witnesses alleged that at such meetings where Amu recounted his experience, the congregation was not granted the opportunity to interrogate Amu as to the veracity of his experience and of his message to the church. Thus, some members in interpreting the constitutional clauses on leadership succession rejected Amus claim in their belief that the said divine revelation was to be made to him (Oschoffa) while on this mundane world rather than in the hereafter.
However, that the messages through Amu and many other visionaries meant much for majority of the church members became evident in later events and eventually culminated in the acceptance of Bada as Pastor of CCC. As a way of adding legitimacy to Amus claim, Bada swore holding and raising a copy of the Bible before an annual congregation of members to the effect that he had never seen the man named Amu prior to the time. The practice of swearing is a feature of Yoruba cultural matrix which has found a place in the thought and practice of the CCC. There is no gainsaying the fact that these claimed spiritual messages represent one of the many factors that facilitated the choice and acceptance of Bada as successor to the late founder. Perhaps, the mere acceptance of such claims by majority of Oschoffas followers is a further indication of their belief in and perception of his spiritual and charismatic potentialities.
In light of the prevailing circumstances during the pre- and post-death era of Oschoffa, the CCC appeared to have been plunged into a quandary without a head. In post-Oschoffa era, a World Committee comprising representatives from all parishes was inaugurated. Such leaders met regularly to discuss the progress and problems of the church. The Board of Trustees took the initiative by deliberating on the issue of successor to leadership at one of their meetings. At the end of the meeting, A.A. Bada was named and proclaimed the next Pastor subject to ratification by the general congregation. It was later ratified through "general acceptance" and "popular acclamation" by the entire CCC congregation at their annual Christmas festival/Convocation at Imeko (Celestial City) on December 17 and 25, 1985 respectively. However, the church had to undergo a waiting-in period of two years before a substantive leader could be enthroned. It was at one of the World Committee meeting held on 5 September 1987 that two delegates from Republic of Benin Diocese moved the motion for the formal enthronement of a substantive Pastor. The motion was unanimously accepted by delegates in attendance. Alexander Bada was installed and enthroned as the Pastor on December 24, 1987.
Though Section iii of CCC Constitution does not provide for succession by acceptance, acclamation, or empowering the Trustee Board or the entire church congregation to name a successor to the Pastor-Founder, yet, the initiative of the Trustee Board appears to have come as a welcome relief for the church and it marked one of the several instances of routinization in CCC following Oschoffas death. After the unanimous acclamation on 17 and 25 December, 1985, it appeared that CCC was undergoing a relatively smooth transition to new leadership when that calm was aborted two years later in 1987 by a member of the Trustee Board of the church.
Owodunni sought an injunction about three months before Badas enthronement in December 1987 seeking to restrain CCC authority from installing him. When the injunction was not granted by the Court, he proceeded to file a legal suit challenging the constitutionality of Badas enthronement as Pastor, although he was evidently party to his naming and proclamation by virtue of his membership of the Trustee Board. He was also present, acknowledged and acclaimed with the congregation the appointment of Bada as heir apparent to the position of Pastor. Also, on 31 October 1987, Agbaosi unilaterally summoned a meeting of CCC members in Porto Novo where he declared himself regent. These developments no doubt had grave consequences for the growth and development of CCC in its post-charismatic era.
A crisis occurred following the death of the Pastor-Founder as CCC struggled to deal with the problems of succession, continuity and the routinization of charisma. As has been pointed out above, owing to the unexpected and sudden demise of the Pastor-Founder on September 1, 1985, the strict sense of CCC Constitution relating to the procedural declaration of a successor to the office of the Pastor became incapable of being fulfilled. As a press release of CCC International headquarters disclosed afterwards:
... it was in the light of the inapplicability of section III of the constitution that the proclamation by the Board of Trustees of the appointment of Rev. A.A. Bada as Pastor of the Celestial Church of Christ Worldwide was made at the Worldwide Christmas Convocation in December 1985 followed by official enthronement in December 1987, two years later. ... the proclamation was unanimously acclaimed and accepted by the full congregation of the Church Worldwide, including Honorary Evangelist J.K. Owodunni 
By October 14, 1987, a legal battle line had been drawn at the High Court of Lagos State by a registered Trustee of the CCC. Hon. Evangelist J.K. Owodunni filed an injunction against Pastor A.A. Bada and other members of the Board of Trustees.
Owodunni disclosed his intention when he said that:
the move to take legal action by me was spiritually impelled. Apart from other revelations, I heard a voice in a dream on August 20, 1987, calling on me to defend the constitution, which is the very foundation by which the affairs of the church are ordered 
There is no doubt that Owodunni relied solidly upon the lacunae in the CCC Constitution when he made the following claims and declaration:
(i) That the naming and proclamation of Supreme Evangelist Alexander Abiodun Bada, as successor to the office of Pastor of CCC was unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
(ii) That the Trustees of CCC (Nigeria Diocese) have no power, under the 1980 Constitution of CCC to name the successor to the office of Pastor.
(iii) That any official act undertaken and or performed by Bada as the Pastor and or the successor to the office from December 24, 1985 onwards, is invalid, null and void and of no effect.
(iv) That the purported enthronement and installation of Bada on December 24, 1987 is ultra vires, null and void.
Consequently, he filed an injunction inter alia restraining Bada "from parading himself as a Pastor and or attiring himself in the robes and regalia of the office of CCC ..." .
Following this, Bada and the Trustee Board counter-claimed with a declaration that "they are entitled to the possession, management and control of the premises and property of the church building and premises known as the Ijeshatedo I Parish ...". They also filed an injunction restraining Owodunni, his servants, agents and supporters from interfering with Badas right over the said premises . Prior to the commencement of the substantive suit, Owodunni prayed the court in early December 1987 for an injunction restraining the church from enthroning and installing Bada as Pastor on December 24, 1987 at Imeko. The request was not granted by the court in a ruling which most people thought would automatically form the basis of the court's determination of the main case . Consequently, Bada was enthroned as Pastor at the Celestial City, Imeko on December 24, 1987 and thus assumed full duties and began from that day to sit on the Pastor's chair.
In the course of the court proceedings, Owodunni disclosed his interest in the office of the Pastor and pointed to a number of events which according to him were sufficient evidence to justify the fact that he is a lawful successor to the late Pastor-Founder and in his own case that the provision of Section (iii) of the Constitution had been duly complied with . He came up with a new claim that the late Pastor had indeed picked a successor (which is himself), who will soon be confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Though the court had advised the church to amend their constitution  to facilitate the transition of leadership, Owodunni in his view said that the constitution need not be amended before the successor emerges . However, at the end of legal proceedings in the substantive case which lasted for over four years, the High Court gave a judgement which was totally unexpected by most members of the church. On January 10, 1992, the court granted the declaration sought for in the suit by Owodunni and granted also an injunction restraining Bada "from parading himself as a Pastor and or attiring himself in the robes and regalia of the office of Pastor of CCC" . Nonetheless, Owodunni's own claim in the proceedings to the office of Pastor and as rightful successor was dismissed by the same court as "ingenuine, fake, a hidden secret, a falsehood and an afterthought"  on his part.
The January 10 Judgement of the Lagos High Court no doubt swept the church under its feet as it caught them totally unaware. This also became evident in the series of solidarity messages and pledges of loyalty, allegiance and implicit confidence sent to Bada from parishes within and without the country . Goodwill messages were also sent by individuals and other religious bodies outside CCC such as The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Nigeria Association of Aladura Churches . One striking feature of the solidarity messages from members is that while they express shock over the legal pronouncement, they also declare and reinstate their unflinching support for Bada as the "Supreme Head" of the church. They further disclose their unequivocal resolve to continue with CCC mainstream. Though Owodunni secured an injunction in the first instance in 1992, the final determination of the notice of appeal filed by the Trustees against the judgement afterwards rested the issue in favour of Bada, the registered Trustees and the CCC mainstream. The Trustees also applied for an interlocutory injunction against the execution of the judgement pending the determination of the substantive appeal. The application was granted in a ruling delivered on May 7, 1992 by the same Lagos High Court accordingly suspending the earlier order of injunction pending the determination of the appeal lodged in the suit .
This ruling again came as a welcome development and a sigh of relief as partly evident from the congratulatory and solidarity messages that poured into the church leadership from parishes all over the world . After the judicial reprieve of May 7, 1992, the church had had to wait for almost two years before the Trustees appeal came up for substantive hearing at the Court of Appeal in Lagos. The final determination of the appeal came out in a judgement delivered at the Court of Appeal in Lagos on 2 August 1994, inter alia, that Hon. Evangelist Owodunni has no locus standi to institute a legal action against Bada . The action was therefore struck out and Bada subsequently reinstated. As would be expected, this prolonged legal battle had grave consequences for the church. Schism was rife during the period as some members took advantage of the interregnum to remain independent of the CCC mainstream. The prolonged legal battle gave birth to a somewhat confused state in which there were remarkable cases of indiscipline among members and in the relationship of some parishes to CCC authority. However, Owodunnis outright dissatisfaction with the verdict of the Appeal Court in 1994 led him to seek immediate redress in the Supreme Court in Lagos. The appeal he filled against Bada and the Board of Trustees at the Supreme Court in Lagos was decided six years later in 2000.
The June 30, 2000 verdict of the Supreme Court voided and nullified Bada´s appointment and also declared null and void, all the actions he took between December 24, 1985 and June 30, 2000. While the registered Trustees lamely pledged obedience to the court ruling, they along with a larger cross-section of the membership, seemingly maintained allegiance to Bada. Owing to this development, Bada further evoked their loyalty and solidarity through a full-paged paid advertisement where he said inter alia:
I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to God Almighty I am also grateful for the loyalty, devotion, love and the un-precedented solidarity which I have received from the Board of Trustees, Heads of Dioceses, Most Senior Evangelists, Shepherds, Senior Evangelists, Parish Leaders, Women Council/fellowship, Youth Ministry, Members of the Celestial Church of Christ World-wide, Christian/Muslim Leaders, Royal Fathers and the General Public in connection with the Court judgement over my enthronement fifteen years ago as Pastor of the Celestial Church of Christ World-wide. Since the issue has come full circle, essentially crystallizing the fact that a successor cannot be chosen to replace the Pastor Founder of our Church, , without amending the Church Constitution, it has become necessary for the Church to act as appropriate I implore all of you to remain calm. This is not a time for self-indulgence, recrimination or bitterness. Also, this is not a period for criticism we must use this time to approach the Lord in prayer for guidance and direction The leadership of the Church will leave no stone un-turned in ensuring that the Church emerges from this setback more united and strong in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have implicit faith that He chose us: we did not choose Him The Body of Christ, throughout this `Church Age´ is riddled with divisions, acrimonies etc. the product of the Enemy. There is nothing strange in it. However, I believe with all my being, that Jesus is in control and in the end His Church will emerge triumphant, Amen 
Following the Supreme Court verdict, Owodunni declared himself the new pastor and leader of the CCC, although with the support of only few parishes and ostensibly not recognized by the CCC mainstream.
Good Night on Earth, Good Morning in Heaven : The untimely demise of Abiodun Bada & Philip Ajose
Meanwhile, Bada continued to hold on to the mantle of CCC leadership until his death on 8 September 2000. He passed away at the Greenwich District Hospital in London and was laid to rest beside Oschoffa´s grave at the Celestial City on 29 September 2000 .
Following Bada´s demise and the Supreme Court judgement, the church hierarchy swung into action to fill the leadership vacuum created. In a bid towards achieving this, relevant portions of the 1980 Constitution were to be amended to make succession to the leadership less ambiguous. The result was the naming at the annual anointing service of Philip Ajose on December 24, 2000, who was consequently enthroned at the Celestial City on February 24, 2001. Until his appointment, he was the head of the CCC Overseas Diocese (with headquarters in London), a positon he had held since 1982. Owodunni immediately headed for the Court again to challenge Ajose´s appointment ostensibly on the same grounds that he challenged Bada.
Philip Ajose reportedly slumped and died on 2 March 2001, six days after he was officially installed Pastor of the CCC Worldwide. He was also accorded a befitting burial at the Celestial City on 30 March 2001. Following his death, a leadership vacuum is still created till now. A newspaper remarks "To close watchers of the politics of succession in the church, it is an obvious fact that the hierarchy of the Celestial Church of Christ is not in a hurry to appoint a new leader to take over from the late Pastor Philip Honsu Ajose who suddenly died " . It would appear that internal arrangements are being made by the highest decision-making organs of the church (the Board of Trustees and the Pastor-in-Council) to concretely resolve the lingering leadership crisis, although it is still being held that the church awaits God´s directive and choice for a successor. Oluremi Ogunlesi, a member of the Board of Trustees disclosed to the press that "After the burial (Ajose) we will seek to hear the voice of God on the new leader. But that depends entirely on God. There is nobody that is acting in that capacity for now " . Adeyanju remarks that "the death of Ajose may be the catalyst that will unify the factionalized Celestial Church and give it more life. But this depends on how the authorities handle the opporturnity" .What will be the outcome and panacea to these recurring leadership lacunae on the one hand, and legal challenges against Ajose on the other hand is really a matter of conjecture.
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