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Posted by From JOE EFFIONG, Uyo on 2008/03/14 | Views: 1286 |


What is the name? Nothing, many would say. However, a member of Qua Iboe Church, the first indigenous church started by a Scottish, Rev. Samuel Bill at the bank of the oil-rich Qua Iboe River in the present day Akwa Ibom State, would not agree with this.

• Agitation for change of name tears Qua Iboe Church apart

What is the name? Nothing, many would say. However, a member of Qua Iboe Church, the first indigenous church started by a Scottish, Rev. Samuel Bill at the bank of the oil-rich Qua Iboe River in the present day Akwa Ibom State, would not agree with this.

Owing to controversy over a name, the 120-year-old Qua Iboe Church, with congregations spread all over Nigeria, is on the brink of extinction, except something is done, and urgently too.
How did a church, which had enjoyed more than 110 years of peaceful growth, suddenly find itself as a house divided against itself with a section answering Qua Iboe Church of Nigeria and the other answering Qua Iboe Church, Nigeria with something like United Evangelical Church as an appendix?

The Chairman of Qua Iboe Church Conference and general overseer of the mainstream section of the church, Rev. David Udoudom, explained this to Daily Sun thus: “Qua Iboe Church was founded in 1887, here in this state. I think you know that Akwa Ibom State is named after Qua Iboe Church. The Church came into existence 100 years before the creation of Akwa Ibom State in 1987. That was the year we celebrated our centenary. We gave birth to the state and we have been experiencing quietness in running the government; no ripples of any kind.

“But around 1990, there was a memo from the northern brothers that they want the name of the church to be changed to what they called United Evangelical Church. That crisis came to a high point in 2001 when we had our annual conference at Aba. In that conference, that administration decided that Qua Iboe Church should bear Qua Iboe Church/United Evangelical Church. Then most people said no; we cannot attach anything to our name or identity. We won’t go for additional name and we can’t change our name.

“That was December. By February 26, 2002, some people even went to Corporate Affairs Commission and placed a caveat that the name of the church should not be changed, other took the trustees to court that they shouldn’t change the name of the church. Those calling for the change created a parallel conference for themselves.

“Qua Iboe Church, as I know it, had been enjoying a peaceful existence and administration since 1887. There had never been power tussle. It had one conference chairman who would hand over to a duly and a constitutionally elected successor. Rev. Samuel Bill was the first chairman till 1930. He handed over to Rev. Wesgath, who later handed over to Rev. Ahunanya, who handed to another; till Rev. E. A. Ossom who took over in 1996 and handed over to me in 2004. I don’t know the person who handed the mantle of leadership to the other person who now calls himself the chairman or whatever.
“So, the genesis of the crisis is about change of name of the church. We don’t want to change the name. It is our God-given privilege. Even the oil base of this state is named after Qua Iboe, that is Qua Iboe Terminal.

It is a pity that even though so many are happy to draw the oil from Qua Iboe Terminal, they are very unhappy to talk about Qua Iboe Church, saying it was founded near the river; that it is idol worship; that it hinders evangelism. But if it hinders evangelism, why did we go up to the Igalas in 1928-1929 after the 1927 revival? Why did we go to the Igbo area?
“But the agitation for name change does not come from the North alone; even those from the South are equally agitating.

“You see, people don’t reason things alike. There are those who are somehow thought to think a new thing like the United Evangelical Church would do us good. But we don’t know what good that can do to us. You know, Esau in the Bible, sold his birthright, maybe, because he was hungry. He was looking for something he did not have. These people are looking for something they don’t have; that is why they want to sell their birthright which is not easy because we wouldn’t accept that.

Apart from the change of name, does the agitation also bother on your mode of worship?
Yes, the first time we heard about the mode of worship, which had to do with the clapping of hands, dancing, we resolved that since it is found in the Bible. But the issue was to somehow be extended to how the priest or the reverend pastor will dress. They were asking for a bishop that will put on big hat and wear big rope. But most people said no to that. Qua Iboe Church was called to be peculiar church that men should not wear cap to church and women should not keep their hair open according to the Bible. We don’t appreciate that aspect. So, it affected the nomenclature also.
It is said that at your 120th conference recently, you pronounced forgiveness to those erring members. Is there any possibility of resolving the problem soon?
As a church, we mean what we say. We’re willing to receive back any rebel that returns to the fold and we’re actually doing that even though they themselves would go and cure things like they did recently to beat up those who would want to return to the fold. We still play the role of a father and want to welcome our children back home.
It is not something that you can force anybody. Our doors are open and we have been receiving people. A lot of congregation are willing to come back and we authorise the peace committee to dialogue with them to bring them back.

It seems you have lost more members to them? Don’t you think it will really affect the church?
Well, the Bible warns that we should not follow the multitude to do evil. Gaining so many members is not evidence of the truth. You know some of the people in the congregation do not even know what is going on. Even here in Uyo, people would come and say, they did not understand the issue because they had been told a different story. That is what is happening, but we still have congregations in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other States.

When the other faction published their communiqué recently, they barred church officers from taking chieftaincy titles. Is that part of Qua Iboe Church doctrine?
Well, the fact is that people who embrace or support rebellion will sooner or later experience rebellion. The issue of chieftaincy title came up many years ago when Rev. Usen, a one-time chairman of the church gave us a term paper to write whether church leaders should also take chieftaincy titles. People were divided because here is not like the ancient Israel where the king was the spiritual leaders, and the people worship but one God. And if we go by rejecting other titles other than spiritual titles, it means that we may not also participate in politics because we see it as dirty. We should rather go in there and clean it instead of leaving it entirely to the pagans who would make it dirtier.

I can still remember that Qua Ibom Church suspended a deacon who was a governor because he poured libation. We don’t support pouring libation or idol worship. If God has given you a job of leading your community, do that biblically. Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong in that because the more Christian rulers we have, the more hedonism will be driven away from our area. If we allow those we call idolater to govern that means, we’re bringing back dark days. That is my thinking. But Qua Iboe passed that ruling many years ago. They are just trying to resuscitate it as if it is their own making this time. Even when we were together, people held different opinions on it. That is why we had a section of the church recognizing Elder, Obong whatever and another section not recognizing anything else except elder.

As a father, what effort have you made to reconcile the whole church?
I was elected in January 2004. That year, I had a meeting with the whole church in Port Harcourt. We proposed steps towards coming together again. But you know they came to the meeting with pre-formulated agenda, sanctioned our position and brought out conditions we must fulfil, else they would not come back; one of them was that we should agree for a change of name, which is impossible. This section of the church didn’t accept it. Since then, we have set up a peace committee but it does not work since they are bent on a change of name.

At Corporate Affairs when we were invited, I showed them the handover note from my predecessor and even the leadership line from Rev. Bill till Ossom handed over to me. I asked Issa who claim to be the chairman of the rebel group, “who handed over to you?” We still believe that church matters should not be settled in the court.

Has this crisis taken a toll on the church?
I don’t think we can deny that fact. But as the mustered seed, we shall grow to become a big free. Whatever happens, there must always be a remnant. Qua Iboe Church is having a remnant and a remnant in our own culture is that piece of crop that you reserve in your barn for planting the following year that will produce another harvest. But we are still hopeful no matter what happens.
How will it affect you if they eventually break away and call themselves whatever they wish?
That may not affect us. If they were to do that since 1996, I believe by now they would have got their own denomination, a large one.

But they have decided to take our land, our buildings, members, maybe because they don’t have enough money or they don’t know how to register their church that is why they want to take our own property. Again, we don’t bother them because we know if you force someone and take his property, you’re not qualified to enter heaven. So, if they decide to pull out, we will see that as an extension of the Kingdom of God and that would make Qua Iboe Church their parent.

What effort has Akwa Ibom State government made to resolve the crisis?
I don’t know whether the governor or the House of Assembly would answer that question because they pretend as if they don’t know what is happening. But we have reported officially to the police, the SSS, and others. I think government doesn’t want to come in. We don’t know why. But they themselves do not know that it can escalate into religious riot the way things are going. So, the state government has not made any official statement.

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Comments (22)

Valarie(Nairobi, Kenya)says...

What’s your point?

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

hahahaha u r a wierdo…hehehe

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

wow so bad.


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HonchoKanji(Angus, UK)says...

Wakanda nonsense EFE don't mean "beautiful" in Benin it means "wealthy" or "rich in knowledge"