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Bamenda Has One Church Too Many
Precious Meshi Nchifor
The Post (Buea) October 12, 2005
Over the years, religious denominations have mushroomed under the canopy of Christianity. Unlike yesteryears when the Presbyterian, Baptist and Catholic Churches were the three mainstream churches most people attended, several denominations have now been created and are still being created in a town like Bamenda.
Most of the newly created churches uphold Pentecostalism, which is rare in orthodox churches. Pentecostalism came into Cameroon with the advent of churches like The Apostolic Church, The Full Gospel Mission and the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Today, Overcomers' Chapel, New Covenant Mission, Faith Ministry Inc., Winners Chapel and many others, are conspicuously present in Bamenda.
A Christian like Samuel Ransom from the Presbyterian Church thinks that the proliferation of churches in Bamenda is a necessity if moral decadence must be wiped out. Though a Presbyterian Christian, Ransom told The Post that he wishes that several Pentecostal churches should be created in Bamenda.
"It picks up a religious system that follows the hands of the clock," he said. He added that Pentecostal Christians have obvious scriptural claims and to him, if bars are opened constantly and nobody complains, then people should be equally glad when they see new churches springing up.
However, Father Michael Perniola of Catholic Church Njimafor, Bamenda, is not comfortable with the influx of churches in Bamenda. "It is really against the will of Jesus," he said. Father Michael told The Post that even though some people start denominations out of goodwill, it still creates division in the church. To him, such people are showing a bad example to the world.
Why The Influx?
Talking to The Post, Lawrence Tsitoh, a teacher in Bamenda said different interpretations of the bible and divisions amongst some new denominations have caused people to break away to form or join newly created ones. He added that, "The creation of churches is coming up because of poverty.
Some people are looking for money. They do not really want to preach the word of God." A woman who preferred not to be named, told The Post that people open churches because they want to embezzle money.
On the other hand, Theresa Fon, a Bamenda-based seamstress, sees the influx of churches into Bamenda as a fulfilment of what the bible says in Matthew 24. She told The Post that she believes in other churches, as long as they have the bible as their final authority.
According to some Christians, several churches are being created due to the vibrant, charismatic and more enthusiastic nature of young converts. The gospel message, which came as a mustard seed, has been growing over the years, through the creation of churches, so they think.
Despite allegations from the public that they are fake, money minded and have occult sources of power, Pentecostal pastors think they have been falsely accused and that Cameroonians should take a positive approach towards churches. One of such is Pastor Festus Enoch, founder of Overcomers' Chapel Bamenda.
"I want to think that if new churches are as many as people say, they should look back at the time of Jesus, because there were many churches at that time," he said. Pastor Festus is of the opinion that people should examine their lives as the bible says in John 3:3, to see if they are really born again, rather than keep criticising others.
He refuted allegations from the public that some people attended his church and subsequently became mad. He said they have rather had cases of deliverance from mermaid spirits, occult powers and other evil spirits at the Overcomers' Chapel.
Pastor Jude Chi of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bamenda told The Post that the vision of the denomination is to plant several churches in the world and ensure that many people make heaven. He said it is an integral part of Christianity for people to talk against those who go the right way. According to Pastor Jude, "Any religion, that does not say Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is a cult."
Another pastor, Titus Praise, of New Covenant Mission Bamenda, noted: "We are following the move at Pentecost." He added that if nobody grew mad when Jesus was ministering, then it couldn't happen in true churches today. He said orthodox churches that began on a good mood are arising to be false as some pastors smoke while others even get drunk.
He believes that Pentecostal churches preach only the truth and are not money minded, as many people believe. He said they are not money minded and that God provides the money they use through cheerful givers.
According to Karen Ngwe, a Bamenda-based student, some Pentecostal churches are better than orthodox ones. For this reason, she told The Post, she was leaving the Catholic Church for the Full Gospel Mission. Another young lady, Elizabeth Meylam, told The Post that she has left the Catholic Church for Winners' Chapel because to her, Winners' Chapel is "a school of renewing your mind."
Conflict Of Ideas
The presence of numerous denominations has led to controversies on issues concerning the bible. Pastor Lawrence Nformi, the Chaplain of Mbingo Annex Hospital in Nkwen, stands for the creation of new denominations. He was against popular statements that only some churches are true and should be attended.
To him, "If we must reach the uttermost parts of the world with the Gospel, then we do not need to make fallible statements." He thinks such statements are breaking God's heart. "Where was the Baptist Church when Jesus was here? Where was the Presbyterian Church when Jesus was here? Where was the Catholic Church when Jesus was here?" he wondered.
On the contrary, Rev. Father Humphrey Tatah Mbui of Catholic Church Small Mankon Parish Azire, Bamenda says that the church Christ founded has an unbroken line of succession from St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI. To him, "Too many people are claiming knowledge from the bible when they don't even know what the bible is all about."
Father Tatah said with knowledge in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, Catholic Christians have a better understanding of the bible than the newly created Pentecostal churches. He said anybody who adheres faithfully to a particular religion would be saved.
This is unlike other Christian church leaders who see Jesus as the only means of getting salvation. Father Tatah attaches much importance to the historical facts about Christianity. "Let us be very clear about the historical facts that make up each religion.
"In the heat of economic distress, people are looking for ways to survive and the church is a way out," he concluded.
In another vein, the Regional Overseer of Deeper Life Bible Church in Bamenda, Pastor Martin Ngum thinks women are not supposed to use mesh on their hair or change the hair texture, as this is an abuse of nature.
He said women should not make up, or put on jewellery because the Israelites borrowed make-up from Egypt. Drawing inspiration from Deuteronomy 22:5 in the Bible, Pastor Ngum said women are not supposed to put on trousers.
There is an evident conflict of ideas because on Sunday mornings, women can be seen going to church with make-up on their faces and various hairdos. Their churches do not obviously uphold Pastor Martin's views. Women of other churches wear trousers they consider female trousers and there is no iota of guilt in them.
Unity In Diversity
Evangelist Edward Ikeomu, founder of Word Eternity Ministries, Bamenda, thinks that people should get out of denominational coats and face reality. He told The Post that the most important thing was to give one's life to Christ and depart from sin. Evangelist Ikeomu said Pentecostalism is dynamic.
" I am not saying that the Pentecostal church is the best. What I am talking about is the church of Christ," he explained. He therefore propagated "unity in diversity" among denominations. To him, though Christians might not be in the same denomination, they should be united with each other.
"Christ is coming soon; we should look and see the handwriting on the wall, through the events that are taking place in the world like famines, earthquakes, the creation of the European Union, the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and other signs."
2005 The Post. All rights reserved. Distributed by All
Africa Global Media (allAfrica.com).