Rev. Dr. John Ayo Oladapo is the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ondo State Chapter and the President, Ondo State Baptist Conference. He attended Joint Baptist Pastors School Oyo (Now Baptist College of Theology, Oyo) for his Certificate in Pastoral Ministry (C.P.M), University of Ado-Ekiti for Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (B.A), The Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary Ogbomoso for Master of Divinity in Theology (M.Div.Th), and University of Ibadan for Master of Arts in Christian Ethics (M.A). He got his Ph.D at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary Ogbomoso to the glory of God. He is a counselor and a prolific writer with over thirty (30) publications to his credit.
Oladapo who is married to a lecturer, Mrs. E.O. Ayo-Oladapo is blessed with children. He spoke with the duo of Gbenga Osinaike and Yemi Audu at his Baptist Church office in Akure Ondo State in May 2018. Below are excerpts from the interview
You are the President of the Ondo State Baptist conference and CAN Chairman Ondo State. What is it about CAN in Ondo State?
CAN has the five arms in Ondo. Catholic CCN, CPFN/PFN, OAIC. To the glory of God we have been enjoying good relationship. There are areas of differences but we are strong in areas that are common to us all. The point people must realise is that in CAN is not about uniformity but about unity in the areas that bind us together. Incidentally, we have a lot of things in common which I believe should strengthen us rather than divide us
When you came in as the CAN chairman what did you meet on ground?
I think life is about continuity. I try not to talk about my predecessor because I’m supposed to build on what he had done. In every administration you inherit liability and asset. I came in about three years. My first term will be over by January 2019. All I can say is that God has been so faithful to us since we came on board. We first had the challenge of a secretariat which we were able to put up within six months which turned out to be the first CAN house. We have defrayed some of the debts we met on ground. We believe we can still go beyond what we have done. The people have been supportive. During the 2015 election we organised debate for the gubernatorial candidates. We had the good governance committee and worked on how the state should be governed. We were able to also arrange programmes for our pastors and support several other programmes.
There is this impression that Christians are not united. What is your experience in Ondo State?
I want to say we are united. But our unity is that of unity in diversity. Everybody cannot see the same thing in the same way. The differences we have is because of different perspectives. We have different ways of addressing issues. Some people may believe in kneeling down to pray some believe they should stand up. But I think what is most important is prayer. So if we all agree that prayer is important we need not agree on the position we should take while the prayer is being offered. As far as we are concerned in Ondo State, I have not seen any traits of division.
Christians are not to go to court of law. But we see that some church leaders go to court over disagreements with the way the church is being run. What is CAN doing in terms of settling issues within the church system?
Those people don’t understand what CAN stands for. CAN will not come into internal issues of local churches except they are invited. CAN is association of different arms of denominations. We have blocs in CAN. CAN is to be the unifying body not to dabble into internal affairs of denominations. If CAN is invited no problem. But even at that the first thing we do is to encourage the bloc of CAN the church belongs, to mediate in the matter. It’s like the issue in a family. We believe the nuclear family will first look into it before it goes to the extended family. It is only when they can’t handle it that we come in and even at that it has to be based on invitation.
The Bible does not encourage us to go to unbelievers with our case but people don’t see things the same way that is why some go to court. Can’t we settle it among ourselves? It is because of power tussle and ego. When members are well discipled hardly will you see people going to court.
People believe CAN should be able to step into crises and help solve such even if they have not been invited?
It is because people don’t understand what CAN should be. CAN can’t dabble into denominational issues. The fact that there is a forum for governors does not mean the forum will start dabbling into the matters that concern member states. Every denomination has its structure and it should be allowed to settle its matter. But if the denomination now says it can’t handle the situation then we can intervene. But if RCCCG for instance is having problem with CCC then we can now come into. When there are issues like that CAN is invited. We have the action committee that handles disputes. There was a case like that. There was a case of somebody who bought a land that belongs to the Anglican. We had to advise the pastor because the land was wrongly sold to him. The man came to the state CAN and the issue was settled. But if we were not invited we will not go into it.
We have been able to reconcile disputes that have been brought to our attention. We can’t go and be asking for those who have problem. Those that are part of CAN know that we can be invited to settled disputes. The Baptist for instance has a way of settling issues like so many other denominations. CAN, like I keep saying has no power to look into matters within denominations.
It seems people don’t even wait to settle disputes before they approach the courts?
It’s canality. Niyi Adedokun sang about it long ago. People are mingling with the world. We try to hold discipleship programmes and encouraged church leaders to hold discipleship progammes for their members. If people avail themselves the opportunity of these programmes the church will better for it.
What has been your experience leading church leaders?
I consider the task before I accepted the offer. It is very demanding.
You have a Phd in Christian ethics. What about it?
It’s about judging what is right or wrong. What makes an action right or wrong. It has been so helpful in relating to people.
So what makes an action to be right?
There are situational ethics which states that the end result may justify the means. If somebody steals to feed the poor for instance it could be passed off as good. But the bottom-line is that it is wrong to steal. Why did the person not take permission before taking what does not belong to him?. These are some of the issues we tackle in Christian Ethics it is a whole lot of discourse on its own.