The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, has faulted the decision by some Nigerian churches to establish as many branches as possible.
Describing such branches as “mere business centres,” Cardinal Okogie argues that there is indeed no godliness in planting churches in close proximity.
Cardinal Okogie stated this in a recent interview with NewTelegraph, while speaking on how to restore sanity and peace in the country against the backdrop of current threats to national unity.
According to the cleric, the creation of such churches has not elicited commensurate level of godliness across the land. Hear him:
“In order to bring us together and to get sanity back into this country, the fear of God must be number one. Nigerians of today don’t care a hoot about God.
“For example, I heard that one of my colleagues, Pastor Adeboye, say that he would love to build churches everywhere so as to make it easy for worshipers to walk to them. But for me, that is a useless statement. How can you say you will build churches everywhere?
“What kind of churches are you talking about? Look at traffic in Lagos for example, and those who are pastors are traders and a good number of them are business men’. Such churches in most cases are more like business houses!
“Look at the number of churches springing up in Lagos. If the Muslims start building mosques like that, does it show that Nigeria is a religious country?
“Every day we hear of killings and other things that we were not hearing before. We can’t even walk on the streets freely. You have to be watching yourself left, right and centre to know who the man coming behind you is. It wasn’t like that before.
“Churches must ensure that there is the fear of God. And I’m just telling you that those churches that he is talking about are just business centres.They rented houses and in order to make more money, they license them. They pay their dues to the bosses in the churches, every one of them. Some of them, I have three or four examples, they can’t pay their own house rents. Yet every Sunday, they gather in the house there and say they are opening churches.
“The landlord there says; ‘give me my rent, if you can’t pay then get out.’ You see the trouble? Whereas people who can pay who are really, sincerely looking for houses to rent can’t get any to rent.
“These are some of the things. One must think twice; and I don’t think that God wants us to serve him with force.”
Reacting to Cardinal Okogie’s comments, Venerable Seyi Pirisola of the Anglican Communion, said: “I won’t say that all churches are business centres. I have not read it, but if Baba Okogie said that, then he knows what he is talking about.
“You know he is an eminent scholar. Evidently, that is a sweeping generalisation. Some are giving out the word, but it doesn’t mean I will make that generalisation. I won’t say all of them are business centres. I won’t criticise him because he is an elderly person; he must have his reason for saying that but for me, I don’t share that one with him.”