Although, late Samuel Bilewu Oshoffa, the founder of Celestial Church of Christ died in 1985, the movement has continued to grow after Oshoffa’s death. But it has equally suffered major setbacks—the most immediate being the severe difficulties related to Succession issues. Oshoffa was succeeded by Alexander Abiodun Adebayo Bada, who was head of the church until his death on 8 September 2000.
After Bada came Philip Hunsu Ajose, who died in March 2001. There was a dispute over succession after Ajose’s death as some declared Gilbert Oluwatosin Jesse, the leader, while others recognised the Reverend Emmanuel Oshoffa, son of Samuel Oshoffa.
After Jesse’s death, his faction declared that Superior Evangelist Paul Suru Maforikan was the new spiritual leader of the church. Contrary to the procedure of succession in Nigeria, Porto-Novo, the supreme headquarters, successfully chose Benoit Agbaossi (1931–2010) to be the head of the church, who in be turn appointed Benoit Adeogun as the next Rev. Pastor shortly before his death in 2010.
On Wednesday 10 June 2015, the Celestial Church of Christ was enmeshed in another leadership crisis as the Rev Olatosho Oshoffa, another son of the late founder of the church, declared himself a unification leader worldwide. His elder brother, Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa, was a factional head of the church until this latest development. Prior to the latest development, there had been issues between the two Oshoffa brothers.
Reverend Olatosho claimed he saw his father twice in his dream, mandating him to unite all factions, claiming a right to the pastoral seat and he has reached out to his elder, Rev Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa, Rev Owodunni, Rev Adeogun, Rev Paul Maforikan, Rev Shoneken and others for unification of the church worldwide and to make Imeko the Celestial holy site accessible to all worshipers.
ABOUT THE CELE CHURCH
The Celestial Church of Christ is prophetic with Christian background. The faithfuls are called “Celestians”, and the church is sometimes informally called “Cele”. The official name of the church was inspired by a vision that Jesus said that Church members should adore him as do the angels in heaven.
The name of the church comes from the Bible: Deuteronomy 26:15 “Look down from thy Holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel and the land, which thou hast given us, as thou didst swear to our father, a land flowing with milk and honey”.
The name signifies that they deem themselves as Celestial or a representative of the heavenly bodies on Earth. The church claims inspiration from God through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit among the faithful. Its doctrinal teachings are based on the Bible, and any superstition or animistic belief from traditional African religions is excluded,as in other churches in the Aladura movement.
The church is governed by twelve major recommendations, consisting several banned things, including food, common to other monotheistic religions.
Tobacco, alcohol and eating pork are forbidden. The faithful must remove their shoes for prayer and in the places of worship. Men and women are separated at the church. Menstruating women and those who have recently given birth are unclean and cannot attend church events for 7 days in the first case, after which they would be “sanctified”.
Members of Celestial Church of Christ are forbidden to engage or participate in any form of idolatory, fetish ceremony or cults, black magic and charms. Only men who are “anointed” are allowed access to the altar.
The church uses the King James Bible and the Yoruba translated version.
Although the church takes elements from Gungbe and Yoruba thoughts, it also has strong similarities to the “purification movements” against paganism that are relatively common in African Christianity. Oshoffa believed he had a mission to combat “‘Satan’, ‘fetish priests’ and other ‘powers of darkness’.”
In 2001, it was the second largest church in Benin by the number of its followers (nearly half a million).
WHEN THE PROPHET SURU MAFORIKAN DIED IN 2016
The 86-year-old man of God became the spiritual father of the church after Gilbert Oluwatosin Jesse (who was the spiritual head at the time) died in 2003.
Paul Suru Maforikan was accepted as a leader by only one faction of the church, with another faction insisting that Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa was the leader.
He was a member of Christ Apostolic Church before joining the Celestial Church Of Christ in 1948 shortly after it was founded. He followed the Pastor, Founder S.B.J. Oschoffa to Nigeria. He was the Oyo State Evangelist for 10 years before being appointed a Deputy Pastor in December 2002.
He was proclaimed Pastor of the Celestial Church Of Christ Worldwide within two days of the death Gilbert Jesse. His appointment was made by the council of superiors of CCC Worldwide.
In an attempt to resolve the dispute over church leadership, in March 2005 Pastors Moforikan and Oshoffa met with other church leaders in Porto-Novo, Benin home of the founder of the church. They agreed to hold a further meeting two weeks later with eleven delegates from each side to take every possible measure to resolve the issue.
In November 2005, Iepe Asebiomo, leader of the Unification and Renaissance Mission of the Celestial Church of Christ, noted the growing number of factions with heads claiming to be CCC pastor. These included Daniel B. Agbaosi of Benin, and in Lagos, Nigeria Paul Maforikan in Tejuosho, Emmanuel Oshoffa in Ketu, Josiah Owodunni in Ijeshatedo and Edward Oladokun in Ikorodu. US-based Bolanle Shonekan was also a claimant. Yet others had set up, separate churches.
In November 2006 Pastor Jacob Ediémou Blin laid a complaint with the prosecutor in Côte d’Ivoire against Moforikan for usurpation of title.
Later that month, the church officials expressed shock when Blin said at Port-Bouet that the CCC was all his private property. This brought the number of factions in the church to five. Maforikan paid a long visit to South Africa in 2008, arriving on 11 June 2008 and visiting all the parishes over the three-month period. In an April 2009 interview in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire Maforikan said the founder “Papa” Oshoffa had prophesied in 1961 that Maforikan would be his successor. He described the disunity in the church as the work of the devil.
In April 2010 a group of leaders called the Celestial Church of Christ Unification and Reform Group petitioned the Inspector-General of Police to arrest those claiming to be pastors of the church. They said that such claims were contrary to a Supreme Court’s ruling that there would be no pastor in the church until it had rewritten its constitution.
The claimants were Josiah Owodunni, Paul Maforikan, Steven Orovboni, Godwin Shonekan, Emmanuel Oschoffa and Edward Oladesu. They were invited by the Lagos state police to give information to a fact finding investigation, but only Orovboni and Maforikan responded in person. The group’s secretary, Dele Ojogbede, said the self-styled pastors had been told that they would be held for contempt of court unless they dropped their claims and worked towards unity.
HOW OSHOFFA’S 20TH CHILD, OLATOSO, EMERGED
Olatoso Oshoffa, the 20th child of the late CCC founder, Samuel Bilewu Joseph Oshoffa, took the seat vacated by his elder brother, Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa, following a court order in 2015.
At a briefing in Lagos, Olatoso Oshoffa said he had been ordained by God and elders in the church to be the new spiritual head and unify various factions. It would be recalled that an Ilaro High Court in Ogun State had on March 26, 2015, terminated the tenure of Emmanuel Oshoffa, under whom Olatoso served as personal assistant.
Besides the fact that the CCC was not allegedly making progress in 12 years of his elder brother’s reign, Olatoso Oshoffa said the court’s ruling “saddened my heart as the church was not developing in the last 30 years that my father had passed on and my brother also being removed as the pastor of CCC worldwide.
Explaining the revelation that confirmed his candidacy, he said: “During one of my journeys to France, specifically on the 30th of May 2015, my father appeared to me and said ‘My son, Olatoso, the church has diverted from my calling and I want you to stand up, take up my abandoned work and lead my children.
“To me, it was a big challenge, even though a confirmation of such had gone forth through several prophesies and revelations since my birth and well even before the appointment of my brother as the pastor of CCC worldwide.
“I have met several spiritual leaders in the church, telling them the revelation I received from my father and from God Almighty. Many of them did pray about it and confirmed that the revelation is truly from my father and indeed from God. Hence, my acceptance of the leadership nomination to come and unite our church, ensure stability and peace and to build our Celestial Church of Christ worldwide as started by my father and founder.”
The 45-year-old new spiritual head disclosed that his appointment and declaration as the “Unification Leader” of CCC was done in Imeko, Ogun State on June 10, 2015 after series of consultations.
Oshoffa said the development showed that his brothers and sisters were united on his candidacy and ready to support him in the daunting task ahead. He recalled that the age-long crisis in the CCC, since the founder died in 1985, had been foreseen by his late father, and just “a trying time for the CCC”.
Olatoso said his emergence as the leader, though “a sacrifice” on his part , would restore all the lost glories of the white-garment church.
HOW ANOTHER FACTION INSTALLED MOBIYINA AS CCC LEADER
A faction of the church denounced the Rev. as their new Unification leader while appointing Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa as Spiritual leader of Celestial Church of Christ, worldwide.
Speaking to the congregation, Olatosho said he would not only take care of all the shepherds in the church, he would also “unite them and lead the sheep of the flock as one fold”.
The Rev. said the completion of the cathedral at Imeko in 5 years was paramount to him, adding that the church was one of the founding churches of the Celestial Church of Christ worldwide.
He said, “Since the death of my father, Samuel Oshoffa, over 30 years ago, our holy church has suffered a great deal and has not witnessed real development. But the Lord has anointed me to bring back our lost glory.
“My major mission is to unite the church and bring everybody back in to one fold. I will ensure that within five years, the cathedral at Imeko is completed. This is part of my mission as the anointed leader of the Celestial Church.”
ANOTHER PROPHET FROM BENIN CLAIMS RIGHT TO LEADERSHIP
Prophet Ehoun Xavier Gbedayi, a.k.a Sent by God, one of the prominent Celestial Church pastors in Benin Republic pastoring the Celestial Church of Christ, Jesulegowa-Adjagbo, Abomey – Calavi, Republic of Benin, visited Nigeria not too long ago with his wife, Marlene Ehoun, who incidentally is a former beauty queen, formerly known as Marlene Quenum, won the Miss Benin 2007.
The prophet, who was invited to Nigeria basically for a weeklong power-packed crusade orgnanised by the celestial church brethren in Nigeria, claimed that late Oshoffa had predicted his coming before his death, noting that Oshoffa’s trademark was the performances of unprecedented miracles during his time and that the late CCC founder had handed over the legacy to him as his true successor.
Gbedayi, who, however, said his recent visit to Nigeria, was divine mission, noted, “My coming to Nigeria is not by my own power but God called me to come. When I came, my first port of call was at Makoko II branch of the church in Nigeria, in Makoko, Lagos.”
Gbedayi, who claimed he had been a close follower of Oshoffa for many years noted, “I have not just started this work. I have been a servant of God since 15 years ago, healing the sick and raising the dead. I have faced various challenges in carrying out the work of God but wherever I go to, God is always with me and He performs unprecedented miracles through me. “
He explained that God had sent him back to Nigeria, after his last visit 13 years ago, adding, “while I was at Makoko during my recent visit to Nigeria, God again proved himself that He sent me. There were uncountable miracles and people were speechless when they saw what God did through me. When the leaders at the headquarters in Nigeria saw what God did, they wanted to install me immediately as the successor of Oshoffa but I declined their bidding, saying it was not yet time for me to take up the mantle of leadership. He said that the late Oshoffa had prophesised that the person who would take his place would come with great signs and wonders and those things had happened since 15 years ago.”