By Vexen Crabtree 2014
The "Synagogue, Church Of All Nations" chain of Christian evangelical churches has its headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria and is headed by Nigeria's most famous preacher, Temitope Balogun Joshua, known more simply as T.B. Joshua1. He claims that healing touches can cure HIV and AIDS amidst other diseases, even when administered indirectly over prayer lines. One branch of SCOAN is Emmanuel TV1 and Emmanuel Global Network (UK) Limited (UK registered charity). They have been responsible for at least 6 deaths from patients who were told to stop taking their medication, and, advise people that as their faith healing has a 100% success rate, HIV-infected patients can go on to start families after treatment by the church, with no contraception required. Such incredibly irresponsible and ignorant beliefs cause the spread of HIV/AIDS and other serious infections. The flouting of building regulations in Nigeria led to a church collapse in 2014 September, killing at least 115 people. Shockingly, their UK branch is a registered charity, based in Southwark, London, but the way they promote their faith-healing work over and above real medicine indicates that they do more harm to people than good.
In 2011, three people in London died after stopping taking life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs because their Evangelical Christian pastors told them that God would heal them instead2: "These healing claims are often made in African churches. HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people that the power of prayer will "cure" their infections."
At that time in 2009, 3 people had died from such advice, and AHPN noted in particular the Nigerian Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), based in Southwark, South London, UK. "HIV/AIDS healing is listed on its website, along with cancer healing"2.
Two years later, they were still at it and, by 2011, six people have died after following the advice of the church. So, Sky News sent three undercover reporters to the Evangelical Protestant Church in London, each one saying that they had HIV (one of them does have it). They were told that the healing rituals offered by SCOAN have a 100% success rate, and that afterwards they can discard their medication and "be free to start a family"3. The SLOAN London blog contains a joyful, positive, well-designed and entirely uplifting series of stories of people abandoning medical practice and opting instead for faith healing, in all cases with resounding success. Advanced biological maladies disappear as the result of prayer.4 It is one of a number of UK and international blogs themed around praising its founder T.B. Joshua.
One of TB Joshua's varied wild claims is that he was in his mother's womb for 15 months1 and, more recently, that his bottled water can cure Ebola (it can't). His own government in Nigeria pre-emptively stepped in to discourage him from trying to engage with victims of Ebola at his Churches.
“When the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa, the Lagos State government, recognising the vast reach and influence of this preacher, asked that no victims of the disease be brought to the church for healing so that there was no threat to other members of the congregation. He agreed to suspend some of the church's healing programmes but he is said to have sent 4,000 bottles of "anointing water" to Sierra Leone that he says could cure the disease.”
BBC News (2014)1
The church is risking lives and causing infections such as HIV/AIDS to spread as a result of its erroneous, misguided inept and irresponsible claims, all of which are particularly convincing to the desperate, poor and uneducated people that make up most of its congregation and fan base - and which it is actively targeting5. UK fans describe SCOAN's wealthy and successful leader as "the most persecuted Man of God in the world today"6.
The Church is a registered charity in the UK. Sky News in 2011 said that the Charity Commission is "looking into" matters, and, the Department of Health also said it was very concerned. But "concerns" are not enough to change anything: Now (2013 Apr) the organisation's main home page still presents "HIV/AIDS", "Cancers" and "Disabilities" cure videos, with demonstrations of things like "Cured: Mouth and Vaginal Cancer", "Rotting Leg Cancer Gets Healed Through Prayer", "Healed of HIV/AIDS With Just a Touch", amongst many more. Although UK law has no authority over a Nigeria-based church so we can't expect to influence its content, its affiliated Churches in the UK should no doubt be scrutinized more closely and their "for the public good" status as a charity ought to be revoked.
|Registered Charity No.:||1126667|
|Companies House Reg No.:||6589925|
|Finance Year 2013 Income:||£278,283|
|Finance Year 2012 Income:||£322,287|
|Finance Year 2011 Income:||£180,776|
|Finance Year 2010 Income:||£127,389|
|Finance Year 2009 Income:||£112,915|
Company information: The Synagogue Church Of All Nations is described by Sky News as "wealthy" - "it has branches across the globe and its own TV channel". The UK branch runs under the auspices of the advancement of the Christian Faith for Public Benefit, and shares Trustees and Company Secretary with Emmanuel Global Network (UK) Limited (another UK registered charity) who also help finance the church and own its offices. Its parent organisation is The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, Lagos, Nigeria. They run their own TV channel, "Emmanuel TV". "The Tannery Trust" is another related party.3. The income of the UK subsidiary has risen from £113k to £180k from 2009 to 2011 and the Charity Commission's routine statement on the Synagogue Church Of All Nations notes that they are looking to expand, and in particular are aiming services at the disadvantaged and marginalised members of society5.
TB Joshua, the "prophet" and charismatic leader of SCOAN, has his own peculiar fanbase and a series of blogs and websites devoted to him, but his world of Christian prosperity theology merges so cleanly with commercial public-relations that it is impossible to tell where corporate image and PR ends, and the actual fan base begins.
Two relatives of victims are planning to sue the SLOAN church as it emerged that its building in Lagos, Nigeria, had been extended with more floors than the foundations could hold. At least 115 died when the building collapsed, including 84 visitors from South Africa. And something else was amiss too: there were reports that Church officials prevented emergency workers and investigators from getting full access to the site for 2 days. The two relatives, including Thanduxolo Doro whose sister died, "are appealing for more families to come together in bringing a case".8
It seems ludicrous to think that just because his organisation associated itself with symbols of good, that they should be immune to prosecution for failing to follow simple building regulations and putting people's lives at risk. How many other buildings and safety precautions does this Church overlook, aside from the obvious medical risks it takes with its practice of faith healing? The world will be made a better place if people fight for what is right, and bring this Church of justice for the harm it has done.
Current edition: 2014 Nov 02
Originally published 2013 Apr 07
Parent page: Religion in the United Kingdom: Diversity, Trends and Decline
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre; and the Wilberforce AcademyTB Joshua's Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN): In Southwark, London, UKThe Christian Institute: A UK Political Lobbying Organisation
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