The Nigeria body of believers was rocked by controversy earlier this month when the pastor of a megachurch with 5 million members turned in his resignation because of a new government law.
Enoch Adeboye, who oversees the Redeemed Christian Church of God and is considered as Nigeria’s highest profile pastor, resigned and turned his position over to Joshua Obayemi in order to comply with the new Governance Code implemented by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).
The code mandates church leaders who are at least 70 years old or have pastored their churches for more than 20 years to relinquish their position and turn it over to someone who is not a family member.
The regulation was initially put in place to give public and private companies more accountability. However, FRC proposed in 2014 that it cover nonprofits, too, including churches. The proposal was approved and the expanded code took effect in October 2016, according to World.
Adeboye is 74 years old and had pastored the Redeemed Christian Church of God for more than 30 years. His controversial resignation raised an outcry among the churches, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the code last week “until after further reviews.”
Buhari also fired FRC head Jim Obazee and the members of the FRC board.
“The Corporate Governance Code issued by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigerian has been suspended pending a detailed review, extensive consultation with stakeholders and reconstitution of the board of the FRN,” Constance Ikokwu, media aide for Nigeria’s minister of industry, trade and investment, said.
While Buhari’s quick response was applauded by some church leaders, others criticized it as a move to appease the public, sparking a debate among Christian churches as to whether the Governance Code is a necessary provision or just a form of government meddling on church affairs.
Bola Akin-John, president of International Church Growth Ministries, said God sometimes uses the government to correct churches when they fall out of line. While he believed the government should not dictate a pastor’s tenure, he also agreed with the principle of pastoral succession.
“Fundamentally, government shouldn’t regulate tenure. But pastoral succession is biblical,” he said, according to Christianity Today. “When church leaders refuse to leave even when they are old and tired, God can use government to send them packing.”
“No one is indispensable, and God can work through others. Staying on even when you are old or indisposed kills churches. The idea that only [one person can do God’s work is not biblical,” he added.
On the other hand, Musa Asake, general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the biggest Christian umbrella group in the country, said the government should not meddle in church affairs. Asake believed the suspended governance code was an “ill machinery targeted at the church.”
Likewise, the head of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Felix Omobude, said it was not up to the government to dictate on pastoral tenure because it is a matter determined only by God, who appoints church leaders.
“How long a spiritual leader remains in office is never the purview of government anywhere in the world,” he said. “A leader stays for as long as God and the church permit.”