The Impact Of Conflict And Division In Nigerian Churches A Study Of Charismatic Churches
According to Mickey and Wilson,(2019) conflict is a means to an end and has to do with recognition, communication and resolution of difficulties. Thus, conflict is not actually oriented toward upheaval and destruction, but toward the constructive and reconciling resolution of disruptive forces. This is only possible when maturity is brought into managing the issues involved. It should be noted that negative uses of conflict occur when persons are attacked, motives impugned and emotionally used to cloud real issues. Positive use of conflict serves to clarify goals and boundaries for the group. Its positive uses include focusing on issues, accepting without prejudging another’s motives and determining to work on one issue at a time without escalating broadly together. Conflict stimulates and strengthens cooperative activity. It forces cooperation within the opposing sides, and as they learn to handle conflict, a fuller consideration of differing points of view is brought about Chukwu (2020). It is essential to remember that conflict can be creative or destructive, functional or dysfunctional. Controversy was, in fact, a part of the life of the early church. The New Testament gives clear evidence, for example, there was dissension over whether circumcision was essential to salvation and there were interpersonal disputes between Paul and Barnabas and between Peter and Paul, but these were creatively handled and produced a good result (e.g. Acts 15:5-27, 36-41; Gal 2:9-14)The effects of conflicts can either be negative or positive. But the underlying fact is that every conflict has its own effect on both parties depending on what form of conflict it is.
It is a fact that Churches in Africa are going through conflicts. From the west to the east or from the north to the south of the continent of Africa, we hear about conflicts in the Churches. Conflicts such as leadership conflicts, mismanagement of church funds, immorality, tribalism, dogmatic teachings, power tussle between the elders and the youth, interpretation of Scriptures etc. These have made the Churches susceptible to schism, establishment of another church by fractional group, reduction of church members, and loss of faith in the church. For example, in the Nigerian Baptist Convention, there are other independent and separatist Baptist organisations most of whose have their offshoot from the Nigeria Baptist Convention. They were regarded as offshoots because the founders and members of such Baptist gatherings were originally members of churches cooperating with the NBC. Some of them seceded or broke away as a means of resolving doctrinal conflicts among the elders of the churches, often over theological differences, governance of worship styles. Others emanated from misunderstanding among leaders particularly whenever the question of control was involved. Often times too, the schism could be attributed to impatience, petty jealousy, spiritual pride and educational advantage of some of the elders or leading figures in the breakaway groups. Afolabi from his research on the Nigerian Baptist Convention, noted that there are some other conflicting local churches cooperating with the NBC that have conflict which have led to withdrawal of fellowship by the Convention from the church and factional groups started new Baptist churches such as Ori-Oke Baptist Church, Ogbomoso Ijeru Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, Agodi Baptist Church, Ibadan. The factional groups started Tarra Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, Living Truth Baptist Church, Ogbomoso and Samuel Fadeji Memorial Baptist Church, Ibadan respectively. Though, the Ministerial Board of the NBC that were saddled with the responsibility of resolving church conflict in Baptist churches made effort to resolve them according to the constitution of the Convention.
In addition, the Christ Apostolic Church of Nigeria is undergoing a protracted conflict since 1991. According to a report, in 1991, the authorities of the Christ Apostolic Church led by Pastor J. B. Orogun (the then President) dismissed Pastors T. O. Obadare, N. E. Udofia (the then General Secretary), and J. O. Adegoroye as well as a few others from the Church’s services for acts of gross misconducts.
The fact of it was that the authorities of the Church frowned against the practice of Prophet Obadare who used his independent ministry (The World Soul Winning Evangelistic Ministry, WOSEM) as a parasitic body against the Church. WOSEM was independent of CAC and yet it was perpetrating the havoc of carving out members from the existing CAC assemblies wherever they conducted revival. The members thus carved out became loyal to WOSEM at the expense of CAC’s main body. When the leadership had called Pastor Obadare to order without remorse on his part, move was made to discipline him. At that time he had got a few sympathizers among the leadership and they posed serious threat to the unity of the Church. His sympathizers were subsequently suspended along with Prophet Obadare.
Pastor N. E. Udofia, having been dismissed and removed as a Trustee, the Church authority renewed the Church’s certificate of incorporation (No. 147) in 1991, with three Trustees, and renewed same again in 1995 with seven Trustees. But instead of repenting and seeking reinstatement through peaceful means, the dismissed officers formed a parallel administration (of government-in-exile) over a few assemblies under their supervision, while the vast majority of CAC adherents (over 95% of both clergy and laity) remained loyal to the General Executive Council of the Christ Apostolic Church (worldwide)
The causes of this conflict include superficial spirituality, poor condition of service, indiscipline ministers, unregulated number of ministers, uncoordinated church planting and ministry establishment, low formal educational qualifications of the minsters, lack of effective administrative structure, mismanagement of church funds, misinterpretation of the church constitution, polarised leadership, personality clash, honourary ordination and leadership succession crisis. These has led to schism, stunted church growth and distorted image of the church.
The factors underlying the fragmentation and schism in the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (A.I.P.C.A.) in Kenya, most especially Gitothua Church is the effect of leadership conflicts in the A.I.P.C.A. Leadership conflicts in the Church are traced to the early 1930s and 1950s. It was found out that the A.I.P.E.A. did not develop into an effective institution right from its inception. The Church has continued to be run by the elders, most of who are cultural nationalists. This has led to tensions between the elders and the clergymen of the Church. It was also gathered that this factor militated against its unity. It was established that the A.I.P.C.A. appealed to the colonial government for assistance in reconciling its leaders. It was thus concluded that from its inception, the Church has never had avenues for resolving conflicts. Contributory factors such as ignorance of the Church constitution, cultural nationalism, leadership ambition among some members, political patronage, financial constraints and lack of education and training of ministers, revolved around an ineffective institutionalization of the Church.