By Our Reporter
In recent weeks, the polity has really been heating up severely in Methodist Church Calabar, with series of banters threatening her foundation and existence. This development if not properly checked, will lead to anarchy in Methodist Church Nigeria.
Despite several clamours and calls for peace in the fracas currently rocking Methodist Church, Wesley Cathedral, 39 Beecroft Street, Calabar, these have entirely fell on deaf ears with different factions springing up to assume total ownership of a Church that was originally built on winning souls for Christ.
There are strong speculations that the Archbishop, Archdiocese of Calabar, Most Rev. Emmanuel Okon Udofia in collaboration with the Presbyter, Rev. Emem-Abasi Ebong alongside some factional members are striving to bring division into the Church with series of allegations levelled against the embattled Archbishop. Investigations revealed that his reign as the Archbishop has been immersed with embezzlement, financial fraud, sexual scandals, intimidation, victimization and facilitation of disunity amongst members.
This whole fracas emanated when the Rev. Emem Ebong made an attempt for the Cathedral Vehicles, a Bus and Saloon, to be sold without proper consultation with the leaders in the Church Council.
A member who spoke under anonymity said: “But for the timely action of the Senior Cathedral Steward, a lady charged with Church Stewardship, they would have sold them. In fact, the transaction was foiled at the point of money collection which the buyer was aware and left angrily. This led to the removal of the Senior Cathedral Steward from office with ignominy by the Presbyter on order of the Archbishop at 2019 Ash Wednesday Service”.
Having removed the Steward, who was seen as “a stumbling block”, the treasury has really suffered a terrible blow, an example is an indiscriminate deduction from its till of over Seven hundred and thirty four thousand Naira (N734,000) on the instructions of the Archbishop and Presbyter in a single day.
These financial inaccuracies and mismanagement have left the Church bankrupt as she is presently grappling with a debt of Six million and Six hundred thousand Naira (N6.6m), being assessment for the duration of six months.
We are made to believe that there has been no Financial report on Church monetary transactions for over two years now. The last one was in October 2018, the tenure of a previous administration.
With the aggrieved members refusing to pay tithes and offerings, the Clergy now resort to compelling members to pay huge sums as funeral levies before they are allowed to bury their dead. Levies range from N100,000, N250,000 to N750,000 depending on their capabilities. The year 2020 Harvest is hanging in the balance as members are unwilling to organise it, this is unarguably tied to their loss of confidence in the system.
These heinous acts led to the aggrieved youths staging a peaceful protest to vent their anger over the crisis rocking the Church few months ago, seeking to attract the ears of the Archbishop to rescind his decision to cripple the Church entirely.
This attracted severe criticism from the Archbishop who also threatened the youths involved with thugs and they had no choice than to leave the Church in droves.
In the course of our investigations, we also learnt that the scuffle that engulfed the Church has led to the emergence of a new Church instituted by some members who left some months ago.
There was a case of an active member who was a long standing official of the Men’s Fellowship that died. On normal basis, the Church should be the one to officiate at the funeral, but the Archbishop instructed that no Minister should officiate, directing all of them to attend his father inlaw’s burial holding the same day as “a mark of loyalty”. Members opined that he was doing so because the burial wouldn’t attract any financial benefit to them. On further enquiry it was discovered that the Archbishop also did this because the late brother was a signatory to a Petition to the Conference against him. On hearing of the brother’s death, he openly rejoiced at a Church Service. Conference is the highest decision making body of the Church.
Countless times, members have been involved in a direct free for all brawl emanating from Scandalous publications distributed at Church services by stooges put in place by the Archbishop himself. The publications, according to members, are defamatory targeting leaders of the Church, Knights, young and old people. This has led to total loss of respect usually accorded men of God.
One of the members interviewed who doesn’t want his name on print lamented: “we are in trouble. We are in a mess. A lot of members are no more partaking in Holy Communion. The Church has lost its soul. He, the Archbishop uses his Sermons and Pulpit prayers to abuse and rain curses on members. Anytime he carries the Microphone, we know he must pour out bile and dangerous words. I’ve never seen this kind of Minister since I was born, it is the worst administration in history. My father worshipped here till he died years ago and it’s sad that this lovely Cathedral has been turned into a den of thieves which Jesus Christ kicked against in the Bible”.
We understand an eminent group in the Church called “Committee of Knights” have severally waded into the matter without cooperation of the two Clergies-the Archbishop and the Presbyter.
A Knight (name withheld) confirmed on enquiry, “Yes! Its really pathetic. We have intervened severally without positive result and have ended up writing letters to the Conference, let’s hope the Church will not collapse completely before help comes”
The crisis has festered without control and has unfortunately spilled to the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) as Methodist Church is not allowed by the Archbishop to participate in the Organisation’s activities. “This is because Methodist members refused to vote Udofia when he contested for the position of Chairman. And he actually lost”, Another anonymous member said.
All efforts to reach both the Archbishop and the Presbyter were unsuccessful as at the time of filing this report.
Methodist Church Nigeria holds a prestigious position as the first Church in Nigeria since 1842 and also holds sway to a rich history and a congregation known for drawing sinners to Christ.