Bishop Charge at the 13th Synod
Dear people of God, I welcome you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ, to the beginning of the thirteenth synod of our Diocese. What it means is that the Diocese is thirty-seven years old come 8th August this year. We thank the Lord for the journey we started with trepidation in 1974. Recently l was reading through the commemorative brochure on 100 years of Christianity in Ijebuland. The write-up by Late Barrister I. Olu Owotomo during the celebration of the Decade of the Diocese, culled and published in the Centenary Celebration Brochure of Christianity in Ijebuland, reveals the anxieties that accompanied the creation of the Diocese. With the birth of two other Dioceses, l thank the Lord that the residue Diocese is waxing stronger with each passing year.
KINGS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Kingdom is mentioned in the bible, first in Genesis 10:10 in reference to Nimrod and his kingdom in Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Genesis 10:8-9 reveal that Nimrod was a mighty hunter. His might became proverbial and reference point. He no doubt used his might to establish his kingdom. The result of the kingdom was the attempt to storm heaven by human effort. Remember the tower of Babel- Genesis 11:1-9.
There was the mention of Pharaoh in Genesis 12, who wanted to take the wife of Abraham to himself because Abraham lied to him that Sarah was his (Abraham’s) sister. We see also a bit of force and might here. In Yoruba parlance it will be said that Pharaoh “ti gbe ese lee”, has acquired her as a wife with no right of objection. By the time we are reading Genesis 14 we come across about nine kings involved in tribal war. Between Amraphel king of Shinar, Amoch king of Eliasar, Chedorlaomar king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim on the one hand, and Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela, which is Zoar on the other hand. They latter group was made to serve the former for twelve years before they latter rebelled. The rebellion was crushed and Lot was taken along with the captives. Abraham later rescued Lot.
A careful reading through the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments reveals that where the kingdom is there is might, force and authority. The Pharaohs ruled over nations and especially over Israel for about 430 years before the Exodus under Moses.
At the demand for a king by the children of Israel, God asked Samuel to warn them about the nature of worldly kingship in 1 Samuel 8:11-19. “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you. He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horse-men and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instrument of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards and your olive-yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to work. He will take the tenth of your sheep; and ye shall be his servants”.
Before this time, the children of Israel were under the care of God through spiritual leaders such as priests and prophets who were leading them based on the commandments of God given in the Law. God was the overall head – the King so to say. Within such a set-up no one was above the law. There was equality of people before God. As a matter of fact God did warn and command their leaders not to show partiality in adjucating between the people (Leviticus 19:15); Deuteronomy 1:16-17; 16:18-30 and 17:8-9.
All the other nations that surrounded Israel had Kings. The manners of those kings were not lost to God and the leaders; priests and prophets of Israel. God, in anticipation that a time might come when the children of Israel would ask for a king, did instruct as to what the manners of the Israelite kings should be, in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it. and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shalt choose, one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee, thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horse to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel”.
God according to this passage, sees the king in relation to the commands, laws and statutes, as being the same as any citizen of Israel. The king is not above God’s laws. What applies to the citizen applies to the king. As a matter of fact God is the King who should rule through divinely appointed leaders, who would teach the people His law, statutes and commandments by which they should live. The society should have no problem if the people lived by His laws and commandments. The point we have established in the Old Testament is that everybody is equal before God.
Let me quickly point out some of the cases where the king felt that he was above God’s laws. In the case of Bathsheba, David used his might and office to forcefully take her as wife, killing her husband. God judged not only David but generations after him because of it (2 Samuel 11&12). The second king was Ahab who through his wife Jezebel, killed Naboth to be able to take possession of Naboth’s family land or vineyard in Jezreel. Judgment was passed on him, his wife and generations after him by God through Elijah the prophet (1 Kings 21). The dynasty of Solomon, the so-called wise king, was cut short, and his kingdom sub-divided because he transgressed against the laws of God (1 Kings 11:1-13).
What I have observed in the bible and history is that the king is very influential. His word is authority, and he has the instrument, militarily and spiritually (sometimes) to enforce his commands. It is such that there is no questioning to his authority until the modern day era of democracy. Ecclesiastes 8:4 reads, “Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say unto him, What doest thou”. “The Yoruba people refer to the king as “Kabiyesi” which means “No one can question him (the king)”.
THE KING’S STATUS AND INFLUENCE
The influence of the king is such that in some communities they become apotheosized. They see them as being divine. There had been and are still imperial cults all over the world in which the empire, state or king is taken to be divine. The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were believed (throughout ancient Egyptian history) to be incarnations of the god Horus, derived by being the son of the sun deity Hather (or later, Isis) or the sky deity, Nut (en.m Wikipedia. org/wiki/imperial – nut). As we have in Egypt we also have in Japan, China, Africa and Rome.
The “founder of Rome” Romulus was heroized into “Quirinus”, the “undefeated god”, of whom the later Caesars identified with and considered themselves incarnation (Wikipedia). The idea developed until the emperor became an object of worship during the time of Augustus.. It became a prominent element of Roman religion. However it was Emperor Diocletian (A. D 284-305) who introduced proskynesis and “Dominus Noster” (“Our Lord”) into the emperor worship. He venerated the office of the emperor to the level of everybody worshipping him. The refusal of the Christians to worship the emperor led to the terrible Diocletian persecution. When a Christian today calls Jesus Christ, Lord, it sometimes does not register anything or any feeling. But in those days it was a matter of life and death. The refusal of the eighty-six years old Bishop Polycarp caused his martyrdom.
The deification of emperors was gradually abandoned after emperor Constantine 1 started supporting Christianity. It is very much likely that the title “our lord” or my lord” for bishops or Church dignitaries got into the church like many other traditions such as the use of signet ring, the processional cross, the purple robe and others, from the Roman imperial culture. May the Lord have mercy on us in the light of Matthew 23:8.
Coming back home, the Yorubas believe their kings to be divine or next to the divinity hence the appellation “Alase, ekeji orisa” (the authority next to the divinity”). In my own town, the king is seen as the son of the goddess of the river called “Senmuja”; while the Awujale sometimes, is referred to as the “Orisa Ijebu” (the Ijebu Divinity). The prostration (proskynesis), the removal of cap or the women head tie the, non-wearing of shoes or use of umbrella in front of the king’s palace and some other acts are signs of veneration of the king as being super-human.
The veneration in some cultures, Yoruba’s inclusive, was carried to a ridiculous point; due to ignorance or demonic delusion. They believed that at the other side of the existence, the spiritual, the king would still require attendants, such as wife and servants. Hence the closest wife and some servants would be buried with the king; assumingly after they have been killed.
Going along this imperial cult are other religious rites and practices that, from the point of view of the Bible, are idolatrous, stupid and senseless. Having been told by one of our royal fathers that the king is the custodian of culture and religions of the people it is therefore not wrong to say that the king is accountable on the religious practice of his people.
I want to quickly take one or two example of such religious practices. The major one which seems to be common to the Ijebus is the Agemo religion, even though it is not all the towns or families in Ijebuland that are devotees of the Agemo. However, when they, sixteen altogether, come from the different towns to Imosan-Ijebu, their leader, the “Onire, would come to “pray” for the Awujale at that particular place where in their royal regalia they would meet to pray for longevity of live – “aagbo aato” (We shall live long). However, before this, they would have traversed the length and breadth of Ijebuland cursing the womenfolk who dares to have a look at their wares which they normally carry on their heads while trekking from their villages to Ijebu-Ode and Imosan. The BIG QUESTION is, how can they be terrorizing, cursing and chasing away the women at any point of their rituals while they now turn around to pray for the king of the women. The king is accountable for this as the custodian of culture.
Another example is the celebration of “Ebibi” in some of the towns or villages. There are many aspects of the celebration. Like what obtains when the “Obinrin Ojowu” is celebrated, in Ijebu-Ode the young men with whips would turn themselves into punch-bags to be beaten into a pulp. Even animals, when they see whips, run away. It is therefore below animal’s reasoning to render oneself as a punch-bag to be beaten. It is not human, but demonic. The message in some of the songs they sing during the ceremony shows the murderous spirit that is in control. “To lomo kan lo soro gongo lawa yanju”. The parents, of who among them is the only child they have, are to be pitied” which means parents who have more than one child can still afford to lose one. Such occasions are when people try their occult powers to harm others. The women and young ones would go into the forest to harvest leaves of a particular plant which normally sprout and grow around that season, especially in river valleys. Those leaves, tied in particular patterns, shall be brought to the palace, among other traditional and historical points. Such points indicate the divinities and ancestral spirits they worship; including the king who is the second in command to the divinities.
There are many other religious practices. In fact the “Yoruba believe that there are four hundred and one divinities which they could relate to. It is the belief that in Ile-Ife everyday is dedicated to a divinity or idol “Omo ojumo kan orisa kan”; all under the supervision of the king. The king is the custodian of the customs, traditions and religions.
It can therefore be deduced that the king is very important in the transformation of a community. The transformation of a community would or could be determined by the transformation of the king or leader. Enlightenment and empiricism, the father of scientific development, have shown that many of the traditions came into being out of ignorance. The smart guys have formulated religious crafts and developed and institutionalised practices to keep others in perpetual bondage to continue to feed on them. These agents of evil powers do make use of physical force to compel others to participate in what is against their wishes. This they do in the name of the king. An enlightened king is in a very strategic position to bring about change.
Before the reign of Emperor Constantine 1, Christianity was a persecuted religion. Many Christians lost their lives and properties during the persecution of Nero (c 64 – 68); Domitian (81-96); Trajan (112-117); Marcus Aurilius (121-180); Septim Severus (202-240); Decuis (250-251); Valerian (257-59); Maximinus the Thracian (235-38); Aurelian (270-275 and Diocletian and Galerius (303-320). Official persecution of Christians ended with the edict of Milan signed by the Christian convert, Constantine and his co-emperor Licinius. This did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire (that happened under superior Theodosius in 381) but granted it legal status (www.religionfacts.com/ university (history/persecution. Litin).
The Church of England history is woven with the history of Henry VIII, the king of England. Even though the issue that precipitated the separation of the Church of England from Rome was the annulment of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, by the 1534 Supremacy Act passed by the Parliament the king of England became the Supreme Governor of the Church in England. By this Act, it became possible to reform the Church under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I. The via media Anglican Church that we have today came majorly through the influence of kings, even though Archbishops, and Bishops, such as Thomas Granmer and Matthew Parker and others had their imputs
The kings’ influence in the propagation of Christianity in Nigeria cannot be ignored. Wherever and whenever the king is well disposed towards the preaching of the gospel, Christianity thrives while the opposite is the case where the king is not well disposed. We know that while Christianity got to Abeokuta in 1845, Ibadan1852, Ilesa in 1858 and other Yoruba towns it did not get to Ijebu until 1889/1892 because the kings, before Oba Tunwase, the 49th Awujale, were not well disposed to allowing the missionaries and traders to pass through Ijebuland. Oba Tunwase however, “allowed the Yoruba missionary, Mr. George, to use a verandah in his palace to give instructions in reading and writing. The Awujale’s son by name Osofowora was a member of the class. The Awujale’s grandson Ogunkoya from Igbeba was also a member of the same class King Tunwase gave this missionary a blanket permission to prosecute his work anywhere on the streets of Ijebu-ode, and also in the surrounding villages” (Paper Delivered by Dr. Bankole Okuwa Ph.D on the inception of Christianity and Missionary work in Ijebuland in the Last Century as part of Centenary celebration in 1992). The encouragement given by Oba Adesimbo Tunwase made it possible for the missionary to sow the seed of life in Ijebu towns such as Ijebu-Ode, Ago-Iwoye, Oru and so on. The support of the king also made it possible for the children of Odubela to come out openly to teach and preach what they had been doing secretly for fear of being persecuted. The contribution of J.J Odumosu, son of Odubela, to the establishment of Christianity in Ijebuland cannot be over-emphasized. But this was possible because of the liberty and encouragement given by the king even before the Imagbon war of 1891.
Down the ages, and in almost every community in the world the kings have influenced positively or negatively the spread of the gospel. It is my own belief that even in this modern era, the role of the king is very important in the spread of Christianity. Unfortunately some kings, in the name of neo-culturalism, are dragging their people into paganism. We need to sound a warning using the statement of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:43-45 or Luke 12:24-26; “when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry place seeking rest, and finding none. Then he saith I will return into my house from whence I came out and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked them himself; and they enter and dwell there and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto the wicked generation”. For any king to encourage in whatever guise and allow his community to go back into paganism is very dangerous. The end of the community shall be worse than what it was before.
It is the desire of God that the king and his subjects be saved. 1Timothy 2:1-4 reads, “I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” Apostle Paul did wish that king Agrippa and all those who heard the gospel should become Christians (Acts 26:28-29). It is my wish that all kings and kingdoms in Ijebuland should become Christian. The reason is because there is no other name under heaven by which anyone might be saved except the name Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Jesus Christ, himself said it in John 14:6. “” I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father, but by me” Other passages make it clear.
He was announced to be the Saviour at his conception – Matthew 1:21
– John the Baptist called him the “Lamb of God” that taketh away the sin of the world -John 1:29
– Whosoever believes in him would not perish but shall have everlasting life – John 3:16
– The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – Rom. 6:23
– And this is the will of him that sent me that every one which seeth the Son, and beliveth on him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day – John 6:40
– I am the resurrection, and the life, he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live – John 11:25
– To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whoever beliveth in him shall receive remission of sins – Acts 10:43
– For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved – Rom. 10:13
– For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus – 1 Tim. 2:5
– And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, he that hath not the Son of God hath not life – 1 John 5:11-12
– And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ (Saviour), the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through his name – John 20:30-31
The thing that gladdens my heart most is the fact that history has reached the writing stage when Jesus came into the world. Before him, a lot had been written about others such as Socrates, Plato, and other philosophers; Alexander the Great (356 -323B C) and so on. The Bible contains the historical record of Jesus Christ, though theologically interpreted. It could not have been otherwise because he did not come for political or economic conquest but rather he came to fulfill the prophesies about the coming messiah who shall save the people from the power of sin, Satan and death. He came to lay down his life as an atonement for the sin of the world. He came to demonstrate the power of God over the devil, light over darkness and eternal life over death. All these he accomplished through his life death, and resurrection. He is Emmanuel, “God with us”. He is the God incarnate, the man-God who dethroned Satan and has restored and is restoring the kingdom to God. His teachings, his holiness, death and resurrection stand him out such that he does not belong to any class apart from his flesh by which he partook of humanity. There was no Saviour before him, neither is there any after him.
It is pure fool-hardiness, with all that has been written, preached and taught about Jesus Christ, for any person to refuse to accept him as Lord and Saviour.
It is a beautiful thing that some of our kings are being convinced of the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus, and are also becoming aware of the foolishness and danger of our worship of idols. The Bible makes it clear that whatever is sacrificed, is scarified to devils and not to God (1 Corinthians 10:20). However, majority of the kings are still whom we can refer to as secret disciples. They have not come out boldly to declare their stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, if need be at the cost of their crown or life. It is to the glory of God that those who declared boldly, took their stand in the Lord and would not have anything to do with the so called tradition or culture which is clothed in idolatrous religious practices have not been killed. A beautiful example is HRH, Oba Samuel Olufisan Ajayi, the Alayetoro of Aiyetoro-Ekiti who has turned his town and its people over to Jesus Christ who only can save them for eternity in God’s kingdom. He has replaced Ogun festival with Jesus festival, turned the groves and shrine to heath centre, has freed his palace from being the habitation of osanyin and sacred bats, and had cut-sacred trees which used to be the symbol and coven of witches. Since he has opened his town to God it has been development galore. Those who knew the town before he ascended the throne bear witness to all these claims. We pray and desire that we have such kings in Ijebuland who shall champion their own salvation and the salvation of their subjects because they are fully convinced that there is no salvation elsewhere, except in Jesus Christ.
As bishop, under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ, the salvation of every member of Ijebuland is of paramount importance to me, I shall continue to labour using every God-given grace to make this possible. I have discovered what the Obas (or kings) can do to quicken the pace of getting this done, because they are leaders of no equal power or influence in their communities. We have the saying “T’Oba lase”. The Oba has the authority that cannot be questioned. We plead that our kings or Obas should use their influence and authority to move people out of the darkness of occultism into the liberty that Jesus Christ has purchased for us on the Cross. Colossians 1:13 says, “who (God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”.
Our Church-going Obas should come out boldly to show that they are true disciples of Jesus Christ. They need to show who is their Master. Jesus Christ did say that it is not possible to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Apostle Paul said that it is provoking the Lord to jealousy to drink His cup and the cup of the devil (1 Corinthian 10:20-22). We need to always remember the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). We want the Christian Kings (Obas) to join hands with the Lord Jesus Christ and us in the crusade against occultism fetishism, idolatrous and anti-Christian behaviours in our community. The last word is that our kings also shall give an account before Jesus Christ how they used the grace given to them to lead people into God’s kingdom. Now unto Jesus Christ, who alone, through his death and resurrection, has brought eternal life to light, be all glory and adoration and praise with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for evermore. Amen.
Your bishop and brother,