The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide, to which Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi belonged, was established by its first primate, Josiah Olunowo Oshitelu in Ogere in 1930. It is one of the African Indigenous Churches which started in southwest Nigeria in the first half of the 20th century. They are otherwise referred to as Aladura Churches. Though the Church was started by Oshitelu, over time he gained the support of some able associates who contributed immensely to the development of the church, especially outside the shores of Nigeria. One of these was Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi.
Adejobi was a young teacher when, in September 1939, he resigned from his teaching position to follow his call into the service of God in the Church of the Lord. He served the church in various capacities and was instrumental to its establishment in Sierra-Leone and Ghana. He served as prophet, apostle, administrator-general and then as its second primate. He succeeded Josiah Oshitelu, the founder of the church, and remained the primate until he passed away on May 17, 1991.
Birth and Marriage
Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi was born into the Oluawo-Oba ruling house of Osogbo, southwest Nigeria, to Prince Akanni Adejobi and his wife, Mrs. Marian Omitunde Adejobi in 1921.
In 1948 he was joined in holy wedlock to Miss Olive Sulola John, who was later elevated to the position of reverend mother superior in the Church of the Lord. She later served the church in various capacities until her retirement.
Service to the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide, Nigeria
Little is known about Adejobi’s early life but after resigning his teaching position he arrived at Ogere-Remo, the headquarters of the church, on February 3, 1940, to begin formal training as a pastor under the tutelage of his mentor, the first primate and founder of the church, Primate Josiah Olunowo Ositelu. He was inducted into the service of the church on February 14, 1940 and became Primate Ositelu’s warden in August of that same year. He was ordained a prophet on August 22, 1941 and became the first apostle of the church on August 22, 1945. He was proclaimed the first administrator general of the church on November 14, 1964.
Adejobi was a great evangelist and an achiever. He could be described as the sharp edge of the pioneering spirit of the Church of the Lord. He pioneered many branches of the church in Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Ghana and in the United Kingdom. He was instrumental in setting up what was to become the largest church building of the movement in Lagos in 1943 and helped set up what today could be regarded as one of the oldest branches of the church, the Elegbata branch on Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria. Between 1943 and 1947 Adejobi established seven congregations of the church in Lagos, in addition to branches at Sapele, Warri and Benin City.
The extension of the work of the Church of the Lord beyond Nigeria is, with a few possible exceptions, the story of Adeleke Adejobi and his colleague Samuel Omolaja Oduwole. In 1947, the Primate Oshitelu sent his two associates outside Nigeria for the extension of the work of the church in two neighboring West African countries. Adeleke Adejobi was sent to Sierra-Leone and Samuel Oduwole was sent to Liberia.
Adejobi distinguished himself as a hard-working prophet through his pioneering work in Lagos and was promoted to the highest rank of apostle. In 1946, he was in charge of the main branch at Elegbata, which he had assisted in setting up. Shortly after establishing this branch of the church, Adejobi had a vision in which he was being invited to do similar work in Freetown. Encouraged by Oshitelu in this direction, he was sent together with Oduwole, who was to be in charge of the Liberian mission. Both missionaries travelled in the company of a Creole couple, Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Bell, who worked in the P&T Department in Lagos. They had previously attended Adejobi’s church in Lagos, and were going on leave to Sierra-Leone.
They arrived in Freetown on March 21, 1947 and shortly after Oduwole proceeded to Liberia. Adejobi inaugurated the church on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947, with a congregation of forty at the morning service and forty-eight in the evening. Within a month of his arrival, the congregation had risen to six hundred. Initially he had the use of a small room through the assistance of one Mrs. Laura Dove Savage but in fewer than four months Adejobi laid the foundation stone of the first branch of the church in Sierra-Leone.
The early years were difficult for the church as Freetown did not receive Adejobi with open arms. He and his followers suffered much privation and ridicule from the Creole community. The Sierra-Leonean press did not help matters: it portrayed Adejobi as hiding under the cloak of religion in order to exploit the simple and the ignorant. However, Adejobi was undaunted, determined and persistent in his cause. This won him the admiration of a few people within the community, among them a Creole medical doctor who assisted the church tremendously. Consequently, by the time Adejobi left Sierra-Leone in March 1948 for a brief return to Nigeria, he had guided the fledgling church through the turbulent years and secured for it a recognized base in the Creole community and a magnificent church building, the Oke Murray Temple, was dedicated by 1952.
The mission in Ghana was instigated by Oshitelu. Oshitelu had been encouraged in the matter by a woman from Kumasi. Ghana was to prove the most fruitful area for the church’s development outside Nigeria. This was due partly to Adejobi’s preparation for the work and to certain people of influence with whom he came into contact. His record reveals that he prepared intensely for the work through praying, fasting and divine guidance. One of the influential people who gave impetus to the work in Ghana was Princess Victoria Prempeh. Victoria was the daughter of the King of Ashanti. Before meeting Adejobi in 1953 she had already been having visionary experiences in response to which she was eager to receive spiritual guidance. By chance she came into contact with Adejobi at Kumasi in 1953 and was impressed by his preaching. She immediately backed him and made her house available as a meeting place. In 1957 she entered the ministry of the church and went to Freetown to be trained. By 1962 she had served in several churches, but later left for Britain for further training.
Further effort on the part of Adejobi extended the mission of the church to other areas of Ghana and within a few years membership of the church in Ghana was close to 3,000. Branches of the church were established in Sekondi, Swedru, Winneba, Koforidua, and other areas. In almost all these places Adejobi made an impression on chiefs and public men through special prayers and stirring and remarkable predictions. By 1959 a permanent church building was dedicated in Kumasi by Oshitelu. Ghana also became one of the most generous of the church’s branches, sending annual contributions to Nigeria.
From 1961 to 1963 Adejobi attended the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow for a two-year course. He spent 1964 in Britain where he interacted with eminent church personalities. He had the rare privilege of interviewing the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth and the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches at Geneva. He also conducted evangelistic missions and, in London, established the first branch of the Church of the Lord outside Africa. This was the first West African Church in Europe and it was inaugurated on April 12, 1964.
Contributions to Theological Education in the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide
Unlike their western missionary counterparts, who recognized the importance of theological education from the very beginning, the Aladura Churches of southwest Nigeria did not see the need for this at the initial stage. In Leke Ogunewu’s view the reason for this was probably because the majority of the Aladura church leaders did not possess formal western education. There was a misconception that theological education was not relevant to Christian ministry; anyone called into the ministry should rely solely on the teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual exercises such as prayer and fasting, the demonstration of charismatic endowments like seeing and interpreting visions, and the working of miracles were considered alternatives to theological education. These were considered the elements that made an efficient, effective and God ordained minister. Commenting on this scenario, J. D. Y. Peel states that “at a popular level, from the (point of view) of the less educated prophets, one hears more of spiritual illuminism and the view that it is not book learning but the simple faith and spiritual gifts of ordinary men which are needed in preaching the Gospel.” There were others who considered the acquisition of theological education worldly. Their aversion was based on the view that theological education engenders spiritual pride and arrogance. Taking this stance, they did not immediately come to grips with the fact that formal theological education is of great benefit to the work of the ministry.
However, this is not to say that ministerial training was completely neglected. The early form of training in the Aladura churches was of the mentoring, apprenticeship or discipleship type. This is a system whereby disciples are trained in the polity, practice and rituals of the church. The trainee minister is placed under the tutelage of an experienced minister. He then learns mostly by observation and the practice of what has been taught and observed. This system enables the trainer to observe the loyalty, obedience, personal qualities, and ministerial skills of the trainee. The main motive behind this system is to provide the learners with the opportunity of emulating the leader in the hope of becoming just like him.
This apprentice-disciple form of ministerial development persisted in the Church of the Lord for a while. Reports have it that Oshitelu, the first primate of the church was trained in this manner. When he recognized his call, he went to Pa Somoye for a two-year apprenticeship as a disciple after which he emerged as a public and prophetic preacher in 1929. Theological education in its present form in the church can be traced to the initiatives of Adeleke Adejobi. He was in Glasgow from 1961 to 1963 for formal theological training at the Glasgow Bible Training Institute. He thus became the first leader of the Church to receive this kind of formal systematic training. On his return to Nigeria in 1964, he established a “Spiritual and Bible Training Institute” where he aspired to put his Glasgow training to further use. This could be said to be the beginning of formal theological training in the Church of the Lord. Lamin Sanneh asserts that “if the Church of the Lord has acquired a deeper knowledge of the Bible and a greater sense of its place in the life and teaching of the church, then no small part of that is due to Adejobi’s ability and vision.
As earlier explained, leaders of the Aladura churches at the initial stage were skeptical of education in its entirety. Just as they were suspicious of secular education, so also they detested theological education. One reason for this according to Matthews Ojo was that some pioneers of the Charismatic Movement in Nigeria (a counterpart of the Aladura churches) were anti-clerical. “They usually paint the picture of the trained clergy as one who had been blinded by Satan with “book knowledge” and cannot (therefore) grasp the essence of the Holy Spirit.” An extension of this was the misconception that the educated clergy, being blinded by Satan, is usually arrogant and not submissive to the higher authorities, especially when he considers himself more educated than the person at the helm of affairs.
As a result of this, going abroad for studies brought Adeleke Adejobi under suspicion. On his return he was probably expected either to have lost touch with the church practices or to consider himself too educated to observe some of them. In the words of Sanneh, when he arrived Nigeria in June of 1964, all eyes were on him to see whether he would conform to church practice in worship and doctrine. But Adejobi had not deviated in any way from the practices of the church. Sanneh writes:
But Adejobi had not deviated on any point, and himself led a personal thanksgiving in which he made public testimony of faith and undertook the spiritual exercises of rolling on the floor, jumping, bowing, clapping and prostration, with the characteristic shouts. He did each of these things seven times in front of the altar. Having passed that test he had to face the Primate, who questioned him closely on several points of church doctrine. The Primate also observed Adejobi’s manner in case the prestige of having been a student in Britain had created in him illusions of personal grandeur. Again Adejobi emerged from the scrutiny unblemished.
Oshitelu was impressed by Adejobi and conferred on him a commission second in importance only to his own. He appointed him as the Administrator-General of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide on November 14, 1964.
The seed of formal theological education planted by Adejobi in those days has since blossomed and borne significant fruit. Today, the Church of the Lord runs the Aladura Theological Institute (ATI), which is affiliated with the Lagos State University (LASU), Nigeria and offers graduate and post graduate degree courses in theology and Christian education. The school has two campuses, the Adejobi Memorial Theological Seminary, Lagos and the Olusegun Oshitelu Memorial Theological Institute, Ogere-Remo, Ogun State. The two campuses run various programs aimed at developing individuals into committed and functional ministers for service in God’s vineyard, especially the Church of the Lord, (Aladura). Admission into the school is open to various categories of people. According to the leadership of the church, “whether you have a high school education or not, a university education or not, Aladura Theological Seminary has a program to fit every need.” The objectives of the school are stated thus:
The work of the school is designed to offer professional training for pastors, evangelists, and those engaged in various forms of Christian educational work.
ATI seeks to equip these leaders with skills which will make them effective in their service of the Word through the life of the churches and denominations.
ATI serves all levels. Whatever your educational level, you are invited to participate, provided you can communicate in English. English is the language of communication.
ATI recognizes other agencies. However, credit recognition is determined by the institute alone.
Adejobi also established a secondary school and a printing press for the church on his return to Nigeria from Glasgow in 1964.
Leadership of the Church of the Lord Aladura (Worldwide)
At the grand finale of the Tabieorar Retreat on August 22, 1945, the primate and founder Oshitelu proclaimed publicly that Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi would be his successor in office as revealed to him by God on August 18, 1945. This transpired when Oshitelu passed away on July 12, 1966 and Adejobi was accordingly anointed and enthroned as the second primate of the church.
His leadership of the church was eventful and his ecumenical initiatives were impressive. Through his effort, the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide became a member of the following ecumenical organisations: the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All African Conference of Churches (AACC) in 1975; the Organization of African Independent (Initiated) Churches (OAIC), in 1978; the British Council of Churches (BCC) and the Nigerian Association of Aladura Churches (NAAC) in 1979; the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in 1984; and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) in 1988. On October 24, 1981 Adejobi became the Life President of the NAAC and in 1983 he was elected to the WCC Central Committee. His numerous travels and statesman-like vision made him the chief agent of the church’s international expansion and ecumenical acceptance.
Other highlights of his tenure in office as primate include the establishment of the Aladura Theological Seminary (ATS) and the Prophets & Prophetesses Training Institute (PPTI), both at Anthony-Village, Lagos, Nigeria; the institution of high lay offices within the church’s organisation, including deacons, deaconesses and reverends; and the establishment of the Armies of Jesus (AJS). In 1975 he went on a missionary tour of the United States of America with a group of ministers.
He was a man of many talents and was, among other things, a prolific writer, musician, and composer. He initiated a revision of the old Hymn Book of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide in 1988 and also authored the tenets of the church. In 1972, the president of the Republic of Liberia, President William R. Tolbert (Jr.) decorated him with the Knighthood of the Liberian Human Order. In 1975 he was made honorary Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.
Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi died on May 17, 1991. Many people eulogized Adeleke Adejobi. The author G. A. Oshitelu had this to say about him:
His Eminence Apostle Adeleke Adejobi, in spite of his exceptional naturally endowed spiritual gift of dreams, visions, trance, prophecy, spiritual healing and being a great preacher and great leader of men, still improved himself educationally. He went to train at the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow-Scotland, United Kingdom. He towered over his colleagues largely because he successfully combined his natural spiritual power with education. It was the combination of the two that enabled him to rub shoulders with the very greats in society, nationally and internationally. Prelates and heads of churches, Obas, and political heavy-weights sought for him. He was recognized and respected. And because of his good education and sound theological training, he was able to articulate the doctrines, observances and practices of his church, the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide, in a way no one had done.
Michael Adeleke Ogunewu
Peter B. Clarke, West Africa and Christianity, (London: Edward Arnold, 1986), 1977.
See “Late Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi” on the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide (TCLAW) Organisation website, found under the “primates-profile” tab, accessible at http://aladura.net/primaries2.htm.
H. W. Turner, African Independent Church: The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Vol I, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 113.
Akin Omoyajowo, N. C. Adiele and M. A. Akinwunmi, “Josiah Ositelu (1902 – 1966)” in J. Akinyele Omoyajowo, ed. Makers of the Church in Nigeria, (Lagos: CSS Bookshops Ltd Publishing Unit, 1995), 164.
“Josiah Ositelu”, 164.
Lamin Sanneh, West African Christianity: The Religious Impact, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1983), 198.
Turner, Vol. I, 161.
H. W. Turner, African Independent Church: The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Vol II, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 7. See also Makers of the Church in Nigeria, 165.
Leke Ogunewu, “Revitalizing Theological Education for Efficient Ministerial Training in the Aladura Christian Tradition in Nigeria,” in A. A. Akande, M. Audi and O. B. Oladejo, eds., Indigenization of the Church in Africa: The Nigerian Situation, Essay in honour of Ezekiel A. Bamigboye, (Ogbomoso: Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012), 126.
J. D. Y. Peel, Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 236.
Adekunle O. Dada, “Theological Education in the Old Testament and Contemporary State of Theological Education in Nigeria,” in Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies 1, XXXIX, (June 2007): 42-43.
Turner, Vol 1, 43; and Deji Ayegboyin and S. Ademola Ishola, African Indigenous Churches, (Lagos: Greater Heights Publications, 1997), 92.
M. A. Ojo, The End-Time Army, (Trenton: African World Press Inc., 2006), 236.
“Late Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi.”
See “The Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide,” on the website of the World Council of Churches, available at http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/church-of-the-lord-aladura-worldwide.
See “Our History,” the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide (TCLAW) Organisation website, accessible at http://www.aladura.net/history.htm.
“Late Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi.”
Dictionary of African Christian Biography, “Adejobi, Emmanual Owoade Adeleke,” by Harold W. Turner, available at http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/adejobi_emmanuel.html.
Emmanuel Adeleke Adejobi, ibid
G. A. Oshitelu, History of the Aladura (Independent) Churches 1918-1940: An Interpretation, (Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2007), 138.
Ayegboyin, Deji, and Ishola, S. Ademola. African Indigenous Churches. Lagos: Greater Heights Publications, 1997.
Clarke, P. B., West Africa and Christianity, London: Edward Arnold, 1986, 1977.
Dada, Adekunle O. “Theological Education in the Old Testament and Contemporary State of Theological Education in Nigeria.” Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies 1, XXXIX, (June 2007).
Dictionary of African Christian Biography, http://dacb.org/index.html.
Ogunewu, Leke. “Revitalizing Theological Education for Efficient Ministerial Training in the Aladura Christian Tradition in Nigeria.” In Indigenization of the Church in Africa: The Nigerian Situation, Essay in honour of Ezekiel A. Bamigboye, edited by A. A. Akande, M. Audi and O. B. Oladejo. Ogbomoso: Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012.
Ojo, M. A. The End-Time Army. Trenton: African World Press Inc., 2006.
Omoyajowo, A., N. C. Adiele, and M. A. Akinwunmi. “Josiah Ositelu (1902-1966).” In Makers of the Church in Nigeria 1842-1947, edited by J. A. Omoyajowo. Lagos: CSS Bookshops Ltd. (Publishing Unit), 1995.
Oshitelu, G. A. History of the Aladura (Independent) Churches 1918-1940: An Interpretation. Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2007.
Peel, J. D. Y. Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.
Sanneh, Lamin. West African Christianity: The Religious Impact. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1983.
The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide [TCLAW] Organization website: http://aladura.net/
Turner, H. W. African Independent Church: The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Vol I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
Turner, H. W. African Independent Church: The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Vol II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
World Council of Churches website: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/.
This article, received in 2008, was researched and written by Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.