A little over a year ago, news went viral of a scandal involving a popular pastor, Apostle Suleman Johnson and a lady named Stephany Otobo. The lady alleged that she had a relationship with the pastor starting from June 2015 in Canada. She alleged further that the whirlwind romance took both of them to different parts of the world until she discovered that she was pregnant. She also said that when she told the pastor about the pregnancy she was asked to come over to Nigeria and both met in a Lagos hotel where she was given a concoction to drink which led to her losing the pregnancy.
The story was a shock to most people who love and adore the pastor, with many of them coming out boldly to support him, alleging that the lady was a blackmailer. The lady, however, was to recant later. She described the allegation she made against Suleman as false, while asking for the man of God to forgive her.
There were many other reports involving religious leaders in both popular and obscure churches. The latest scandal is about a pastor in Lekki area of Lagos, Apostle Chris Omatsola, the presiding pastor of Zionwealth of Life Assembly and his lover Tamara Okpe. Omatsola was accused by the lady of releasing a s3x video on the internet to force her into marriage with the pastor while the pastor said the video was meant to blackmail him into parting with a huge sum of money.
The video, apparently recorded by the pastor, though with both parties’ consent was explicit in which both were seen having s3x together and at the end both smiled for the camera, showing they both know and were conscious of what they were into. The police which have already waded into the matter said investigation was ongoing.
Between these two scandals were many others, also involving pastors, most of which were either not reported or did not catch as much public attention. Sunday Tribune spoke with some pastors and religious leaders to react to such scandals and what it meant for Christianity and the image of men of God in the society.
Pastor Femi Emmanuel of Livingspring Chapel International, based in Ibadan, while responding to Sunday Tribune’s questions said he doubted the authenticity of so-called men of God involved in scandals of such magnitude as the one that involved the Lekki pastor. According to him, a man of God should be above blame and father to all, meaning he should not be found wanting on moral grounds.
“My take on that issue is that the person involved (Omatsola) cannot be referred to as a pastor. We need to be very careful about this; not everyone that calls himself a pastor is a pastor. There is no real pastor that will involve himself in such a matter and to such a ridiculous level. A pastor portrays good examples and is seen as a role model.
“He is a teacher and a father to all. Those that do things outside the qualities I earlier mentioned are confusionists in the body of Christ. Personally, I doubt if he is a real pastor, because I don’t believe any real pastor will stoop so low to be involved in such a messy scandal. There is the need for the media to do proper investigation on the identity of the man in question. Generally, it is high time people separated the wheat from the chaff,” Pastor Emmanuel stated.
Prophet Bayode Olubo of Housefavour Church, Egbeda, Lagos would rather blame the church for what is happening among so-called pastors today noting that most of them have departed from the true teaching of the bible.
He noted that religion should make a man a better human being just as there is the need to work on the character of individuals. He said he is afraid of what the church has become, but despite that, the scandal or others like it will not affect the church.
“This is a clear evidence of the signs of the end time. The church is riddled with lots of crises. Jesus asked in the scriptures: “Will I meet the church when I return?”’ Don’t forget, you cannot take a man’s character away from his religion. It is not the religion that makes a man; it is just to build a man and make him a better person through good conduct and attitude.
“Personally, I will not condemn anybody, I’m not claiming to be holy; the fear of God is no longer in the church. I saw the clips and there is no other name to sin or unrighteousness. There had been such in the days of Saul in Corinthians. People will surely mess up, especially anywhere that three or more people gather. I am confident that it will not have any effect on the church.
“The reason all these are happening in the church is because there is no teamwork and control in the body of Christ. People are after planting churches, because of the money. Imagine some clerics now charge for counseling. Most pastors hardly tell the truth to their members. The responsibility of any pastor is to correct and direct; this will give room for checks and balances in the church.
“The church is faced with a serious epidemic, because we cannot separate the society from the church and vice-versa. There is so much moral decadence in the church (and by extension the society). There is so much corruption in the church than the country’s political system. But the only thing we can do is to continue to pray. Though the pastor involved is inferior, it is just the social media that escalated the matter. This should not distract or mislead the righteous from our focus from God,” he said.
Dr Francis Akin-John, whose ministry is giving back to the society and empowering the underprivileged in the society, takes the argument back to the issue of morality. According to him some men of God have lost focus and become morally irresponsible. Dr Akin-John is also confident that such scandals would not affect the church just as he advised Christians to hold on to their faith.
“From my observation, his (Omatsola’s) ministry has lost divinity, because the Bible is against premarital s3x and I learnt that he is not married to the lady. What has transpired between them is absolutely ungodly and an act of irresponsibility. The scene shouldn’t have been recorded; it is very wrong and of course, it will destroy the faith of the people that believe in him, but it cannot destroy the church of God, because people no longer trust pastors these days.
“Since I have been researching on church, I have not seen any pastor that does that, even without a video that gets God’s backing. He must have been doing such for a very long time such that nemesis has to catch-up with him now. This is just another weapon of the devil on the genuineness of pastors. It is unfortunate that this will make people to doubt pastors and the genuineness of faith the more.
“All these ungodly things have become normal in today’s church. It is only the people that don’t know their God and do not genuinely have a relationship with God that it will affect. It is not a new thing among some clerics, and even the big profile pastors, though it is ungodly. It has been a recurring decimal in the last several years.
“In fact, I have written two books on such issue entitled: “Sexual Purity in Leadership” and “Sexually Wholesome Church.” There are even worse cases than that, but I want to advise those that are fresh in the field that they should not allow that to destroy their faith. That is not what the Bible says.
“There is a second chance for the pastor (and others in such position) if there is repentance. God can forgive and restore. Such pastors need to be under tutelage; a serious mentoring before returning to ministry. A lot of these occur when pastors are not under due mentorship. They are so free to do anything since they are independent. Such pastors should submit themselves to disciplinary process and be removed from the church until certified to have turned a new leaf. Even after that, such pastors must be placed under close watch,” Dr Akin-John said.