Priest in Anglican Church for 27 years: My story- Ven Gbadebo
Though blessed with a quiet demeanour, Venerable Michael Gbadedo who retired recently from the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion having clocked 70, is a man of inner strength and convictions.
His quiet demeanour notwithstanding, he has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But not one of the untoward experiences have deterred him from carrying his cross and following after Jesus. He came to know the Lord in the 60s while in secondary school and has since been taking up leadership roles leading students in prayer and Bible study programmes, organizing meetings and embarking on evangelical trips to win others to the Lord.
Gbadebo was a strong member of the Scripture Union and also active as children’s teacher in the St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Mushin, Lagos where he worshipped. But his perspective of faith was quite strange to some in the church despite his sacrifices and commitment to the children’s section. Rather than being encouraged, some elders in the church were skeptical about his brand of faith and so kept an eye on him.
His first baptism of fire came when he organized a programme where young people attended. But that programme caused a lot of stir in the church. He recalled that a young girl had taken permission from her parents to attend the programme only for her to visit her sinner partner boy outside Lagos.
When the programme was to round off, she showed up a day before to give an impression that she had been on the camp. That day, as she stepped into the auditorium where the programme took place, the message of the preacher struck a chord in her. It was Bro. Williams Kumuyi (now pastor) who preached at the meeting. There, she surrendered her life to Jesus and became a new person entirely.
But that was to be the very beginning of large scale persecution in the church. By the time she got home and began to express her new self, her parents who were not aware of her earlier escapade were infuriated. They would not have their daughter be part of the SU. Pronto they came looking for Gbadebo to ask what he did to their daughter.
“It was not a funny experience” Gbadebo said while sharing the experience of the lady who became born again. “There was a kind of concern in the church. They felt I was doing something strange and felt I was not putting their children through in the Anglican way. That lady was not the only person who got converted. Many young people also came to know the Lord during the programme.”
But Gbadebo was not alone in that terrain. Several young people were sold out for the Lord in those days. He recalled, “I remember we used to invite Bro W.F. Kumuyi to come and minister to us in our Scripture Union meetings. The body of Christ was so closely knit then that we knew ourselves. The day Kumuyi was invited he sat patiently in the congregation and listened to the message of the earlier speakers. Then, there was no discrimination and there was no class consciousness. Everybody was either a brother or sister. Kumuyi was a member of scripture Union and was a regular speaker in our meetings in those days”
Despite the seeming threat to his activities in the Anglican Church, Gbadebo did not consider going to another church neither did he nurse the ambition of becoming a priest in the early days. He just wanted to serve the Lord. But his father was afraid of him and felt that his son could be a subject of attack by some perceived cult people in the church.
“My father advised that I look for another Anglican Church to worship. But I was adamant. I remained in that church expressing my convictions. But the persecution did not abate.” He said.
But it got to a point that the persecution became so severe that his tormentors could not contain his excesses. “One Sunday morning when I was teaching in the children Sunday school section, some elders came to the church and bundled me out of the church. They literally carried me and put me out of the church. It was a big scene. Some of the children were infuriated by what they did. But it only helped to popularize the gospel among them.
“The aftermath of that was the banning of the Scripture Union group in the church. We were not allowed to meet in the church again and we had to meet outside the church. But then we were still coming to the church on Sundays to teach in the children section. The children had testimonies of conversion and would not care about their parents’ antics.”
By now, Gbadebo had finished secondary school and had started working. He concentrated on his work and was still attending the church until he was banned from the church. At that point he was getting discouraged and was contemplating leaving the church. One day he travelled to Ilesha and met Pa John Falope a well-known evangelical Bishop in the Anglican Church in those days. “It was Pa Falope who told me I should not leave the church. He said there was no way I could abandon my father’s house for intruders. He said those Ogboni people who were persecuting me had no right to drive me out of the church. It was after I had that meeting with Pa Falope one of the elders of the church came to me at work and begged me to come back to church. Many other members of the church began to take interest in me and wanted me to come back and lead their children.”
It was in the midst of this that he began to contemplate being a priest in the church in confirmation of an earlier prophecy that he would become a priest. “Before then I had no interest in becoming a priest. I just did not like the black cloth that the priests were wearing. But then, I began to have interest in becoming one as that would give me more opportunity to be useful in the church.
“I first enrolled for a training to become a Lay reader in the church. By then a new priest had been posted to the church and he was interested in me. He discovered my gift and wanted me to be useful in the church. Some folks in the church were still against me. They did not like the idea that I was enrolled to do the lay reader programme. But the priest did not change his mind about me.”
Gbadebo’s activities in the church did not stop him from furthering his education. He proceeded to do an OND programme in the polytechnic and later had his degree in history at the Obafemi Awolowo University. By the time he came back to Lagos, the priest who was the vicar of his church was excited about the progress he had made and was willing to help him pursue a career in Theology at the Emmanuel College.
But the process of getting to Emmanuel College was another long winding one. He scaled through despite odds and eventually got admission to the College. There, at the college he saw some strange behavior by some of the students. The first shocker he recounts, “At the interview one of the students who was not married told a lie that he was married and that his wife died. That was a shock to me. How could somebody who wanted to become a priest tell such lie? He told the panelists that he was a widower just to get admission to the school and the panelists did not know he was lying. The man eventually secured the admission. That was a shock to me because I did not know a man who wanted to be a priest would be that audacious to tell a lie.”
Priest in the Anglican Church
Despite being at Emmanuel College, he was always coming to church in Lagos every weekend. But the vicar did not allow him take sermons. He would only read lessons. But another vicar was posted to the church. That one gave him a free hand. He began to preach in the adult church to the chagrin of some of his persecutors who were wondering when he undertook his theological training. By 1992 or thereabout, Gbadebo had become a curate and then a priest in the Anglican Church. By the time he began as a priest in the church, he met some of those who had been in the Scripture Union with him among the priests and thus had a smooth take off in the church.
He served in the All Saints Church, Yaba and later was moved to Missions to Sea Men as a chaplain in Apapa. Then there was no church in that place. He was always going to the various ship at the port to minister to sea men and pray with them. The Mission to Sea Men is an age long ministry that was set up to meet the spiritual needs of sailors. There had been white men who had been chaplains in the Mission to Sea Men. But at a point the then Primate of the Anglican Church insisted that local priests should be allowed to oversee the activities of the ministry.
While there, Gbadebo started St. Andrews Anglican Church, Apapa along with his primary assignment to Missions to Sea Men. “We were doing house to house evangelism to get people saved. Our primary target then were port workers. Incidentally the person who was the head of the Missions to Sea Men was not interested in us building a church. But when I came, God gave me the vision of a church and saw us through the process. I remember in those days we used to organize charol for sailors every year and that actually caught the attention of the church authority. The church was growing rapidly. God helped us to put up a big structure to the surprise of the then primate who gave me a commendation letter.”
Read also: Anglicans are not trained to depend on their priests:https://www.churchtimesnigeria.net/anglican-church-ogboni/
Now retired from the church, Gbadebo notes that God’s calling does not mean one would not face persecution. “I can say with confidence that the Lord has helped me all through my ministry as a priest in the Anglican Church. I am grateful that there was no scandal to my name throughout my 27 years in the church. People can accuse me of being vocal but nobody can accuse me fraud or sexual immorality. That is my joy. And I think only God can supply the grace to work in the church setting and not be rubbished.”
He said he would not have had a great ministry in the church but for the inner strength that the Holy Spirit supplied and the encouragement and support of his wife. “The Holy Spirit has been my helper. I also want to thank God for my wife whom God has used greatly for me in the last 27 years as a priest in the Church of Nigeria. I thank all the priests that had worked with me and all my seniors in the church. I thank God for the Bishops that I have served under and all the people that God had used for me in the church. I give God all the glory for his mercies and His care.”