Saturday, September 6, 2014 1:14 pm
Anita, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s wife, files for divorce in London on the grounds of “adultery” and “unreasonable behaviours”
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, the founder of Christ Embassy Church, is not new to scandals and controversies. But his latest marital predicament seems to be bigger in intensity, wider in scope and more serious in nature. On 9 April this year, Anita Oyakhilome filed for divorced on the grounds of “adultery” and “unreasonable behaviours”.
The divorce suit case, No FD14D01650, was not filed in Nigeria where husband and wife hail from, but at Divorce Section A, Central Family Court, First Avenue House, High Holborn, London, where Anita and her two teenage daughters, Sharon and Charlyn, reside. The divorce was filed on behalf of Anita by Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors, a full-service law firm with expertise in commercial law and a strong consumer focus in family, wills and estate, personal injury law and medical negligence.
Christ Embassy Church is one of the biggest denominations in Nigeria and has branches all over world. Oyakhilome is the president of Believers’ Love World Inc, the registered name of the Christian ministry, while his wife is the vice-president. After months of successfully keeping the matter out of public domain, a Nigerian online medium, The Cable, brought it back to public consciousness on 29 August. The medium said, apart from “adultery” and “unreasonable behaviours,” Anita cited as grounds for seeking to end her marriage to Oyakhilome, other allegations in the divorce suit are too damning to be reported without inviting the services of lawyers.
Also, on the website of the Rhapsody of Realities, a daily devotional co-authored by the esrtwhile couple, there’s nothing to show that Anita is still recognised as the only visible face on the website among the family members is that of her husband. It was too early to know if the September edition of the Rhapsody of Realities still had the photographs of both the pastor and his wife as it used to be.
In the past, when the going was good, Anita and Chris Oyakhilome held hands on the church website and smiled broadly. They projected the image of a perfect couple. Then, Pastor Chris headed the Nigerian branch of the church, though he travelled to other branches occasionally, while Anita headed the branch in London and its environs.
But the divorce case seems to have changed all of that. After months of denials by the church, the filing of the divorce by Anita has officialised the beginning of the end of another glamorous marriage of a Nigerian celebrity pastor. The marriage between Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church and Stephanie crashed in 2012 over the same irreconcilable differences.
Signs that all was not well between Chris and Anita emerged in May this year. In a post on a Facebook account opened by Anita’s supporters with title, ‘Where is Rev. Anita Oyakhilome?’, Oyakhilome was quoted as saying that his marriage was hitting the rocks and the end was imminent. The post purported to be the summary of Pastor Chris’ speech with United Kingdom-based pastors and deacons of Christ Embassy at the Bermondsey branch of the church on 16 May stated that, “I am here for your concerns about the ongoing domestic issue with my wife and I know it affects you directly, being the ones under her leadership.”
He allegedly asked the pastors not disposed to the developments in the church to quit.
He was quoted as saying, “You don’t join a woman to fight her husband. Bitterness is prolonged and accumulated anger. My wife is always angry and bitter. Some pastors’ wives think when they marry a pastor, they are equal to the pastor. My wife thinks so. As a matter of fact, Rev. Tom was her pastor before I married her and Rev. Ray and Evang. Owase were her leaders long before I married her. How come she thinks she’s senior to them now? I already started Christ Embassy before I married her. I didn’t marry her and said we should start Christ Embassy. I was already ‘pastoring.’ I already set my sail and knew my direction before I married her. I only said ‘come and help me. Be careful of the friends you keep. My wife keeps friends who bring out the worst in her and help her see the worst in people, instead of keeping friends that will help her vision, especially as the wife of a global pastor like me.”
It is not the first time that Oyakhilome or his church are mired in controversies. Christ Embassy and its founder have been embroiled in a myriad of controversies in the past. In 2010, Oyakhilome was accused of engineering a money laundering scheme in Nigeria, and questions swirled around his finances because of his glamorous lifestyle.
Many pastors and theologians also excoriated Oyakhilome for his “New Creation” doctrine—a form of gnosticism that says after a person becomes a Christian, any sin they commit is only in the body and will not affect the spirit. In 2008, Oyakhilome’s reputation as a faith healer was tarnished badly in Johannesburg, South Africa, when a man told a Soweto newspaper that Christ Embassy offered him more than $1,200 to sit in a wheelchair and pretend to be crippled until Oyakhilome prayed for him.
“The man went to the media instead of taking the money, sparking concerns that healings were being faked to impress growing crowds,” said Lee Grady in an article in 2012 published by Charisma Magazine.
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome has also been a target of criticism by the Treatment Action Campaign for his support of faith healing to cure HIV. Allegations that Christ Embassy members are reportedly being forced to give huge sums of money in offerings with the biggest donors receiving the biggest awards have left many people concerned. Many Nigerians have also alleged that the church operates like a cult and pressures members to marry only within Christ Embassy.
Many people also remember the scandal involving Christ Embassy and Sheraton Hotel some years ago when a member of the church, who worked at the Sheraton Hotel, stole money from his employers and gave it to Christ Embassy. But when Sheraton approached the church for reimbursement, the church allegedly claimed that the money had been given to God and could not be refunded. Many also excoriated Pastor Chris some years ago when the church began collecting gate fees from members for their New Year Eve’s Service. More recently, Oyakhilome came under attack after he claimed that Christians were free to masturbate because it was not a sin.
But the latest scandal involving Anita and Chris, who have two daughters, seems to threaten the very existence of one of the biggest churches in Nigeria. Christ Embassy runs several arms including the Healing School, Rhapsody of Realities, and an N.G.O called the Innercity Missions as well as three Christian television channels: LoveWorld TV, LoveWorld SAT and LoveWorld Plus.
The church is scattered all over the world, including in the United Kingdom, the United States, South America and the whole of Europe. However, Chris Embassy has described the story as false, and a malicious attack against him and the church. Reports quoted Pastor Oyakhilome’s lawyer, Mr Kemi Pinheiro SAN, as warning media organisations to desist from further damaging his client’s reputation or face court action.
In a release signed by the lawyer mid last week, the pastor said news publications on the matrimonial cause is “complete distortion of the facts in the pending proceedings in the United Kingdom”.
The statement read :
“The attention of our client, Rev. Chris Oyakhilome and the Church, the CHRIST EMBASSY (“the Church”) has been drawn to the wave of false, malicious and fabricated stories being published in the print and electronic media about his person, the Church and a matrimonial cause between him and his wife;
“Our client is seriously concerned that under the guise of reporting a divorce proceeding involving him, publishers resorted into an unjustified and malicious attack on his reputation for reasons not unconnected with the respective publishers’ selfish motives of prospect of material and financial advantage attendant to the wide circulation their distorted and fabricated stories would enjoy. The publishers decided to fabricate facts including (but not limited to) allegation of ADULTERY against our client, with the wicked and malicious intention of bringing his person and the Church to public opprobrium and ridicule;
“It is our client’s instructions to inform the members of the public and particularly warn the concerned media houses that the news or story presently circulating in the media is nothing but a complete distortion of the facts in the pending proceedings in the United Kingdom, to the knowledge of the publishers;
“Whilst we do not contest the individual’s right to freedom of expression, we would expect that, as a matter of keeping to the applicable Code of Ethics, the concerned publishers would first and foremost verify the authenticity of the stories and or their sources before publication. Be warned therefore that unless the concerned media houses desist from further publishing words and stories which are false and damaging of our client’s reputation and the Church, we shall, without further recourse to the concerned publishers, promptly embark on appropriate legal machinery with a view to protecting our client’s reputation and that of the Church”.
Whether the lawyer’s warning will stop reports on the matter remains to be seen.
Charity Commission Appoints Interim Manager To Christ Embassy Under Investigation
The Charity Commission, the regulator of charities in England and Wales has appointed an Interim Manager to the charity Christ Embassy (registered charity number 1059247) (‘the charity’).
The Commission used its powers under the Charities Act to appoint Mr Rod Weston of Mazars as Interim Manager of the charity to the exclusion of the charity’s trustees as a temporary and protective measure. He took over the management of the charity on Monday 11 August. The charity’s trustees have been informed of the decision, and the Interim Manager will be communicating with the charity’s beneficiaries.
In July 2013, the regulator opened a statutory inquiry into the charity to investigate a number of serious concerns relating to the financial management of the charity, including in particular large connected party payments. Since then a books and records inspection has been carried out and the regulator has obtained information from and met the trustees, however, the regulator’s concerns about the financial management of the charity have not been resolved.
The appointed Interim Manager will:
· take over the management of the charity, including its staff, assets, interests, and relations with third parties
· discharge the functions of a charity trustee of the charity to the exclusion of the current charity trustees of the charity
· take any steps necessary to secure and take control of the assets of the charity
The religious activities of the charity are not affected; the Interim Manager is taking steps and working with the pastors to ensure this remains the case.
It is the Commission’s normal practice to publish a report on its website on conclusion of an inquiry setting out what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were.
– See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/news/charity-commission-appoints-interim-manager-to-charity-under-investigation/#sthash.1yt4YycB.vr3F7S6x.dpuf