Bishop of Kwara Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Right Reverend Sunday Timothy Adewole, in this interview with BIOLA AZEEZ, speaks on religious matters and other issues. Excerpts:
With your level of experience in the vineyard, what do you think should be the role of the church in nation building?
From time immemorial, the church has been at the vanguard of civilisation. If you want to zero in on Nigeria, since 1842 when the missionaries came to Nigeria, they didn’t only come with gospel of Christ, they also came with education, health, literary education; they built schools, established hospitals so that when somebody is heavenly conscious, the person will not become earthly useless. That is the kind of role expected of the church in our contemporary society. If you give it a holistic approach, you will discover that if the church should be alive to its responsibility, society will be better than this. The church is expected to play a role in terms of provision of quality education, healthcare facilities, taking leading roles in building morals in the life of upcoming generation, teach how life should be centred on love, and love for yourself and your neighbours. If you love your neighbours, you won’t want any evil to befall them. The church is expected to be voice for the voiceless. It should be able to defend, champion the course of the people that are nobody in the society. The churches don’t necessarily need to become antagonists of governments. They should rather become liaison between the people and the government.
Do you think the church has performed creditably in discharging these roles?
Churches have not been doing this very well. If I’m to score them, I’ll give them 40 per cent because the churches major in the minor. We’ve left what we should have done undone. We’re not saying we should not participate in politics, but we should not be partisan. To play our role very well, we should be neutral. We’re not doing very well. Most of the schools brought at that time by churches are the ones that brought civilisation and people could read and write. It’s true that education is not cheap, but I don’t think churches should build schools that poor people should not be able to attend. Politically, socially, we’re not leading the people, economically we’re not helping them and morally, the church is even bankrupt.
Tithe payment has remained a major issue in the christendom. With your wealth of experience in the vineyard, who should pay tithe and who should receive tithe?
The Bible teaches that bring all the tithes to my storehouse so that there’ll be food in my storehouse. Using that as a template for paying tithe, it is expected of every Christian to pay tithe and it should be brought to the storehouse of God which is the church. The church would determine how the tithes would be utilised. Part of the tithes would be given to the needy and part for some other exigencies. Hardly would you not see someone asking for one form of assistance or the other on Sundays? For instance, in the Anglican communion, we have a structure when the tithe is brought to the church, we pay stipends of the priests, we take care of the needy like the widows and orphans in the church. But in some churches, without trying to condemn them, they teach that tithe should go to the pastor but I don’t think so. The tithe should be paid to the storehouse, which is the church, not an individual. There are occasions in the Bible where an individual receives tithe, but I think that’s on direct instruction from God. If God has instructed a believer to pay tithe to a particular pastor, no one can contest that. But in my opinion, tithe should go to the church. Bible says if you’ve done this, put me to test if I will not open windows of heaven. So, it’s a key to prosperity. If someone pays his tithe, there’s an injunction, an already declared blessings that’ll be upon that person and whatever he lays his hands upon. So, we can say spiritually, which will culminate in physical benefit, when you pay tithe, you’re fulfilling biblical teachings and there are blessings attached to that tithe. And if you don’t pay, there are punishments attached to it as well.
The recent happenings in Christianity in the country really call for concern. What went wrong?
Somebody once said that Christianity got to Israel as a religion, got to England as a political tool and came to Nigeria as a commercial tool. When you look at it truly, if one should call a spade a spade, we got it wrong when we began to commercialise the faith, when someone will say that go and bring certain amount of money, I want to anoint you. The Bible says freely you have received, freely you should give. We must not do things and charge people for them. I don’t charge people after praying for them. That does not mean that after some time, somebody comes back to say bishop, or pastor, take this gift out of his or her own volition. What I think the problem is in Nigeria is that there’s no system that can actually checkmate springing up of all these so-called churches. There are so many men of God today that have become God of men. They are no longer men of God, because they’re being controlled by their belly. They receive inspiration based on what’s troubling them. They were not called and there’s no system to check them. All these are happening because there is no system that can checkmake the activities of these churches and the so-called pastors. That’s where we got it wrong.
What measures should be put in place to get out of insecurity challenge facing the country?
When the wise men fail to participate in politics, they’d be ruled by crooks. Crooks will make laws and they would have to obey that law. The high level of insurgency was not unconnected with bad governance. If jobs are provided, people would be busy doing their job and live well. Graduates are driving tricycles. You can imagine how bad the economic situation is in the country when doctorate degree holders apply for truck drivers job. All these brought about insecurity. Apart from religious fundamentalists that accounted for certain percentage, unemployment contributed to it. I read recently where some kidnappers confessed to have made N200 million in six months. I learnt they now kidnap for as low as N250,000 or N150,000. We even learnt that money voted for purchase of military equipment was either diverted or mismanaged. Now, how do you expect a man carrying cutlass to face a man with machine gun? The soldiers are human beings. Money spent so far on insecurity is enough to do so much development projects. Almost every sector has collapsed.
Why do we have many Christians marrying more than one wife nowadays?
You know the problem we have is still traceable to people who resorted to becoming pastors when there’s no job. And that’s why they change wives like clothes. They hide under the pretext of Holy Spirit. They say that Holy Spirit says I should divorce this woman and marry this woman. It’s not the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is not an altar of confusion. Because of that, you see pastors or pastors wives divorcing, accusing their partners of this and that. This is the era people carry big Bible, speak in tongues, and still go ahead to fornicate. We may say it’s because of the end time because the Bible says that when the end time comes, these are part of the things that will be happening. Thank God both religions believe in life after death. When you finish here, you’ll give account in heaven. It will propel us to do good to our neighbours and those we don’t know as it keeps ringing bell in our hearts. We pray God will help us but we should help ourselves as well.