Oshitelu, Josiah Olunowo (C)
Founder of the Church of the Lord (Aladura, i.e., “praying”) independent church in Nigeria.
Oshitelu was a charismatic and biblically literate Yoruba who was dismissed as an Anglican catechist after he reported visionary experiences. In 1929 he began a congregation at Ogere. After abortive association with Aladura revival in Ibadan, he continued independently with church expansion transtribally across Nigeria and internationally to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and finally Britain, although membership never totaled more than 15,000. This indigenous church was hierarchically structured and well disciplined; although polygamy was forbidden for the ministry, Oshitelu was allowed seven wives. He developed a catechism, a large hymnbook, and a book of rituals, and forms of worship combining Anglican, Pentecostal, and African features. Holy words of power, revealed mainly to Oshitelu, provided a new divine language. A new annual “Mount Taborar” festival at Ogere became an occasion of public pilgrimage for vows, offerings, healings, and blessings and for Oshitelu’s revelations for the coming year which passed judgment on the nations but avoided clashing with government. Oshitelu died as a nationally known figure and was succeeded as primate by his nominee, Emmanuel Owoade Adeleke Adejobi.
Harold W. Turner
H. W. Turner, African Independent Church, 2 vols. (1967), vol. 1, chap. 2 and throughout. Oshitelu’s papers are in the library of the Univ. of Ibadan, and his publications and church literature are in the library of the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, England.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (complete article): Aladura