For part two of this article kindly follow this linkhttps://www.churchtimesnigeria.net/babalola-elton-pentecostalism/
By Moses Oludele Idowu
I have recently become aware of a release posted on YouTube by Ukraine- based Nigerian pastor, Sunday Adelaja through a publication in CHURCH TIMES.
I was a bit uncomfortable reading the piece so I asked the editor to send the link to the YouTube video to me. I wanted to hear Adelaja for myself. And having listened to the broadcast and the many false, inaccurate, and even jejune insinuations he made, his taking so much liberty to construct false and pernicious narratives based on only one source material quoted out of context I feel duty-bound and irresistibly compelled to join issues with him and with others who agree with his false narrative.
The reasons for my decision are as follows:
- Having researched Joseph Babalola for several years and authored several books and papers in learned journals around him and the Movement I am in a position to answer and even correct some of the damaging, pernicious, and outright falsehoods being spewed by Adelaja in his broadcast.
- Since Babalola is no longer here to answer for himself and I know CAC won’t likely answer for him then someone must set the record straight.
- Pastor Sunday Adelaja is a popular figure with access to powerful platforms of public information dissemination to reach millions; thus it is dangerous to ignore such a man especially when what he says is not wholly true. A man who has access to the mind of the youths, undiscerning youths must not be allowed to escape with a false narrative.
- He has touched on issues of theology, history, and the NIGERIAN Church as a whole therefore if left unchallenged a future generation stands the risk of believing what is not true, and thus the groundwork is laid for the distortion and falsification of History.
It is not my purpose to join issues with Adelaja on his innuendoes, remarks against certain notable pastors, and even the Nigerian Church, though in a sense he is right in a couple of cases. I will also not answer for CAC but limit my response to the aspects of Babalola and the entire origin of what can be called the Pentecostal Movement.
I shall organise my Discourse on seven fundamental issues and pillars viz:
HERO WORSHIP: THE DEIFICATION OF S. G. ELTON
SUNDAY ADELAJA: A REBUTTAL OF A PERNICIOUS BROADCAST AND INACCURACIES
ON SYMBOLS: WHERE ADELAJA IS MISSING IT
BETWEEN FACT AND FICTION: THE ORIGIN OF NIGERIAN PENTECOSTALISM
WHY ADELAJA ERRED ON HISTORY
SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING
Recently I wrote a piece in which I had cause to reflect that Nigerian pastors are weak when it comes to the knowledge of History – their own Church History not even the Global Church History. [ You may google the article NIGERIAN PASTORS AND THE BURDEN OF HISTORY]
Several times I have been astounded hearing or reading a pastor or even General Overseer or bishop say or write things that are not only untrue historically but did not even make sense. I have had to join issues publicly and even in my books correcting some of these postulations. They speak with boldness and temerity but lacking in scholarship and historical accuracy. The danger is that millions of their followers who swallow what they say are in danger of perpetuating these errors to interminable generations.
It is this same flaw that Sunday Adelaja has taken to a dangerous level and to a global audience. His case is particularly worse because when you set yourself to be an umpire and a judge of others then you yourself must be correct. The hands that set the standard must be precise. There is no greater tragedy as when a teacher himself needs to be taught on what he is saying.
History matters. If your understanding of history is wrong your theology is also not likely to be sound.
G. ELTON: THE DEIFICATION OF A HERO
Make no mistake, I do not minimize the role and impact of Sydney Granville Elton in what became the Pentecostal Movement. He was a great man who played his own role in his time and I am glad to have known him and heard him a couple of times in his lifetime. We hosted him a couple of times in Ilorin in his lifetime.
However, and someone must say this and the time has come for someone to say it, there is danger in what I now see as the deification of a hero. It began initially as affection and love, which are legitimate. Later it became admiration, which is also good. And finally, it became deification and hero worship…
This comes in various ways.
I have heard virtually everything of value in Nigerian Christianity and Pentecostalism ascribed to Elton and to him alone.
* He is said to have first preached the Holy Ghost (or that he brought the Holy Ghost) to Nigeria.
* That he was the founder of the Pentecostal Movement in Nigeria
* That the whole Gospel work in Nigeria can be credited to him as Adelaja also said.
* That he trained every man of substance and taught Babalola and was his mentor
And bla bla….
In point of fact, one of these followers said in a book that Elton was the man who taught Babalola how to even say “Good morning..”.
How about that? If a man had worked with white men as a roller driver with over 50 persons under him and he reported every morning and still didn’t know how to say ‘Good morning.’ You tend to wonder what happened to black people and their imagination.
It even got to a point at the Evangelical Christian Union in Ife then that some faithful said S.G. Elton was not going to die. Rev. Kunle Salami of Ado- Ekiti is dead he would be able to bear witness to this as an eyewitness.
This is the danger that I see and which has now taken form into a deliberate distortion of Nigerian Pentecostal- evangelical historiography.
Elton is the one everyone knows so every effort is being made to make him the Champion and every other person subservient and secondary to him. In the process, inaccuracies come in.
The sad thing is that most of the pastors, general overseers, and bishops who usually speak were taught by Elton and it is the same narrative given to them that they regurgitate without effort without taking their time to do some personal investigation of their own. S. G. Elton is a good man but you cannot construct a Knowledge of History and of an entire National Historiography on the opinion of one man, no matter how saintly that man is or was. It is not done. The only person who seems to see the error and whose opinion on History did not exactly follow the Elton Narrative was Austin Ukachi.
Obviously, as a trained historian he saw the error and the danger and avoided it. He is the only one whose views especially on Joseph Babalola have been accurate because evidently, he did his own research rather than what Elton told him.
Somehow it did not occur to these admirers of Elton that the Pentecostal Movement in Nigeria has a deeper origin and is not linked to Europe or America and predated the arrival of even Elton by several years. Somehow these eminent persons who spread this narrative did not see the incongruity of ascribing the founding of Pentecostalism which has seen a mighty revival as far back as 1930 to a man who first set his foot in Nigeria in 1937!
It was the Great Revival of 1930 – by every means a Pentecostal revival because all the features of Pentecostalism were present – that brought the Apostolic Church of Pennygroes ( Britain), the mother church of S.G. Elton who ordained and commissioned him to Nigeria. So if the definitive origins predated Elton and even the Apostolic Church, Elton’s mother church, how then could he be called the founder of Nigerian Pentecostalism except as a proof of historical revisionism?
The construction of Apostolic Church Pentecostalism and the birth of a Glorious Vision emerged in 1931 with the affiliation or cooperation of the Indigenous Revival Movement and the apostolic hierarchy of the Apostolic Church of England – 6 years before Elton came to Nigeria. [ See Idris Vaughan, NIGERIA: THE MAKING OF APOSTOLIC CHURCH PENTECOSTALISM, 1991]
In light of the above, it is very wrong to say Elton founded or fathered Pentecostal Movement in Nigeria. To be sure he was one of the fathers and his role to a postwar generation is unequaled and unparalleled because he lived longer than others but he did not start Nigerian Pentecostalism. It is not true and it will not be true no matter the number of times it is repeated.
Having demolished this thesis, the fundamental core in the deification of Elton most other postulations and theses cannot stand because they are constructed on this fundamental core which as we have seen is not true.
We now know that not everything Elton said historically is true. We now have access to the Apostolic Church archive and their own records, which previous authors and commentaries on Elton do not know. We now know that Elton did not even witness some of the memorable historical landmarks and happenings beginning from 1930 upwards and therefore was not even an eyewitness.
We now have access to the eyewitness accounts of Andrew Turnbull, D.P. Williams, and William Jones the founder of Apostolic Church in Britain and Elton’s mother church and leaders and what they said about that revival and the person of Joseph Babalola; and much more what the first two missionaries, George Perfect and Idris Vaughan who were seniors to Elton and worked directly with Babalola several years before the arrival of Elton and what they said about Babalola even when they met him in prison in Benin in 1932.
It is very sad that even though I have gone to great length to document all these things in my books a generation of supposedly educated and enlightened people still prefer hearsay, unfounded and illogical permutations that do not only align with facts but also are contradicted by all primary source materials.
One error always leads to another if not corrected. The error of deification of S.G.Elton led to another fatal error, the delegitimization of Babalola.
To crown a king you must decapitate, dethrone, or de-crown a reigning king. In order to make Elton all in all, the alpha and omega of Nigerian Pentecostalism there was a need to de-crown and dethrone every name that could challenge him, and of course, Babalola comes in as a perfect source for delegitimizing. Since his image still loomed large in the popular imagination due to several oral and recorded narratives of his works, he must be dethroned so that a counter-narrative can be constructed. This is the trend and it is this delusion that Sunday Adelaja carried to an abysmal level in his pernicious YouTube broadcast to which I now turn for a point-by-point rebuttal.
SUNDAY ADELAJA: A REBUTTAL OF A PERNICIOUS BROADCAST
I now move to the second ground of my Discourse. I wanted to be sure I heard what he said so I listened to the video myself. I used to have some respect for Pastor Adelaja but after listening to his broadcast I realized he himself needed to be taught. He has convinced me with this video that being based in Europe or being an international preacher is no proof of intellectual sophistication.
I now take him point by point:
* He said that “Elton mentored and coached Babalola, Idahosa, Adeboye, etc.”He repeated this error throughout the broadcast that Elton was their teacher, coach, and mentor.
Thus, he put Babalola on the same pedestal and ramrod with Idahosa, Adeboye, Oyedepo, etc. This is the first error.
For Idahosa, Adeboye, Kumuyi that may be true in some sense. But it is not true for Babalola and it is even insulting. I wonder how Adelaja did not see this. But then it falls within the framework of the theory of deification and delegitimization that I referred to earlier.
So far as we know and as all historical evidence show – oral, recorded, written, archival, etc there is no iota of truth in it.
Babalola’s greatest moments and grandest works had been done and were already well established as a preacher- prophet ever before S G. Elton came upon the scene. He had led mighty awakenings that engulfed a whole nation, the very reason that brought Apostolic Church, the mother church of Elton into the picture.
He had also been ordained as a pastor of the Apostolic Church as far back as 1935 and recognized as Interdivisional Evangelist of the entire Apostolic Communion by the hierarchy of the church as far back as 1931 by European ministers’ senior to Elton and he had founded several churches and was already established figure long before Elton was even known in Nigeria. So, at what point did he mentor him? The imagery of the teacher-pupil relationship did not arise.
When the Apostolic missionaries came, George Perfect and Vaughan still went to Benin to meet Babalola because they knew that any protocols signed with the leaders of the Revival Movement without the support of Babalola would not hold the people. So, he was already well established as a minister long before Elton came even into the picture.
It is like a foreign coach in Brazil saying he taught Pele, the legend how to score goals. It is amusing but also sad.
Elton came in 1937 and by 1939, just two years after, the Indigenous Revival Movement had stopped the cooperation and separated from the white-led Apostolic Church leading to the birth of CAC as we know it. So, they were effectively together for 2 years or so.
So, the idea of mentoring, pupillage between Elton and Babalola is not totally correct.
Now I do not mean that Babalola could not have learnt from Elton or did not learn from him. What I contest is the idea of mentoring or fatherhood.
There was a single Area, Ilesha Area of which there are leaders and fathers. John Aluko Babatope was one of these, Babalola was one, and Elton when he came in 1937 was the European superintendent and the principal of the Bible School. That was the setting. In fact, Late Pastor Fasan who was an eyewitness of all these said they all regarded Joseph Babalola as their father. [See Professor Olayiwola’s 1980 Ph.D. thesis;: THE ALADURA REVIVAL MOVEMENT IN IJESHALAND, OAU, Ife ]
So, the idea of mentoring is repugnant to facts and to history except only as an attempt to delegitimize
* Adelaja also said that Elton “FOUNDED THE NIGERIAN PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT” and “THE WHOLE PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA CAN BE CREDITED TO HIM.”
I am quoting his exact words. If the whole thing can be credited to him, is he God then? This is what I was saying about deification. It is true he spent 50 years in Nigeria but that also is beside the point when we are talking about founding. If Elton came in 1937 does it, therefore, mean that there was no Pentecostalism before then?
A great revival took place in 1930 that led to a massive demographic shift from heathenism to CHRISTIANITY with all the features of Pentecostalism present; should we credit this to Evil Spirit?
If the Great Revival was the reason that brought the Apostolic Church of Bradford to Nigeria, the mother church of S.G. Elton how then could he be said to have founded the Movement that preceded him by 7 years? It is for Sunday Adelaja and those who share his views to answer these questions.
* Adelaja said HE BASED HIS POSITION ON SEVERAL ENCOUNTERS BABALOLA HAD WITH TWO AMERICAN EVANGELISTS: H. DALLIMORE & ELTON.
That was his exact words in capitals which shows he didn’t even do any research and did not subject his information to authentic investigation before going on air.
This is the first error, a grievous error of details too fundamental to his conclusion.
Elton was from England, not America.
Two, H. Dallimore that he said was an American Evangelist and a friend of Elton was not. He was an Anglican archdeacon and venerable, superintendent of Ekiti division of the then Church of Western Equatorial Africa of the Anglican Church. He was also the founder of the famous Christ School of Ado- Ekiti. Every native of Ado- Ekiti knows this.
So, if Adelaja could miss these fundamental details about the characters he was quoting can we rely on his conclusions?
The quotation of Dallimore which he based his entire diatribe and critique of Babalola on was made in 1931 and not 1937 – long before Elton even came on the scene. It was first quoted in an article written by Dallimore published in the West Equatorial African Church Magazine of 1931, it was first quoted in my book THE GREAT REVIVAL OF 1930 (Lagos: 2007) which had been published before the source he was referring to.
It has no connection with S G. Elton in any way and he had not even arrived at the scene yet. What Adelaja has done is to superimpose details of an earlier event to fit into his narrative of delegitimizing Babalola and his work.
Unfortunately for him, he stopped too early. If he had read my book, he would have known that Dallimore had a lot of admiration for Babalola and even made other statements that were positive, supportive, and approving of Babalola and his work.
In the same quotation that Adelaja purports to be quoting to delegitimize Babalola the same Dallimore had said:
” I was much impressed with Joseph Babalola by his humility, his simplicity, and his belief in his mission: and also, by the awe and reverence in which he was held by the vast crowds. The scenes along the roads leading to the town where he was then working, gave one a vivid picture of what must have happened along the roads of Palestine in the days of our Lord.
It is some months since I saw him, but from the little I hear from those other districts to which he has gone, he remains unspoiled, a noble, if rather pathetic figure, a man of lofty integrity…”.
[ See H. Dallimore, “The Aladura Movement in Ekiti” in Western Equatorial African Church Magazine, May, 1931 pp. 94,99 quoted at page 171 of my book THE GREAT REVIVAL OF 1930]
However, Adelaja left these first two paragraphs of Dallimore’s quotation so as to fit his agenda of condemning Babalola’s work. I ask you all, what kind of scholar does that?
He then juxtaposed it to Elton when the quotation was made as far back as 1930 long before Elton or his church even came to the picture.
Again, I quote another statement by the same H. Dallimore on Babalola. On June 22, 1931, the same Dallimore sent this article to the same Western Equatorial Africa Church Magazine where he invited Babalola to Ado-Ekiti for a revival. Hear Dallimore:
“I was again much struck with him. He obviously is simple and sincere in heart and seems as humble as he was some months ago. God is using him and I want to work in cooperation with him. If we do not, I fear not only that we shall fail in our duty, but we may bring sad consequences upon the Church of Christ…”
[ See Western African Church Magazine Vol. XXXXVI, No.446, Aug.1931, P.173]
This is the same H. Dallimore that Sunday Adelaja was trying to use his name to delegitimize the work of Babalola. I have quoted several other sources in my books which I recommend for Sunday Adelaja and others like him and I can quote several others but for space.
I feel sad that Pastor Adelaja did his broadcast without a proper grounding in research, based on mere conjectures, Elton’s lectures, and taking liberty with a fertile imagination without any empirical data and a conclusion wholly contradicted by primary source materials.
* Adelaja also said in the video THAT BABALOLA WAS ILLITERATE AND THUS COULD NOT UNDERSTAND THE SYMBOLS SHOWN HIM AND HE TOOK THEM LITERALLY
How about that? I am quoting his exact words. Perhaps this was what S.G. Elton taught or told them. And somehow it did not occur to this group to ask their leader how a man who could not understand the symbols shown him precipitated a Mighty Revival the likes that even none among Elton Group has done till today.
A man who wrote books is said to be an illiterate by Sunday Adelaja because he obviously did not think, he was too busy to think with the “details” given him. I have written a book titled BABALOLA: COLLECTED WORKS, which consists of all the things he wrote. We also have seen his diaries and letters, very legibly written, coherent, and organized. This is the man Adelaja calls an illiterate.
Anyone who can read and write in any language cannot be properly called an illiterate. I challenge anyone for a debate on this.
* THAT BABALOLA ERRORS OF CARRYING HANDBELL AND ROD AND WATER CREPT TO CAC AND LED TO DERAILMENT OF NIGERIAN CHURCH
That again is from the mouth of Ukraine- based oracle, Sunday Adelaja. Like a loose cannon our friend just spew out anything from his mouth without any basis or empirical validation, data or sources except Pa. Elton. That was why I began to worry about the Elton Group years ago. The way they are also going they would do more damage than what they are trying to correct.
So, it is an error to use a handbell before prayers? I will address this issue later under symbols.
Adelaja has muddled up several things.
How does the use of handbells for prayers lead to the derailment of a national church? This is what Adelaja should explain because anyone can say anything but it takes a serious mind to support his argument with facts.
* Adelaja also said THAT NIGERIANS BROUGHT PAGANISM TO CHRISTIANITY AND EUROPE BROUGHT PURE GOSPEL
That is false. We could see firsthand the “pure gospel” Europe brought that made Christians to be hypocrites who go to church on Sunday and patronized witchdoctors during the week.
We saw it in the mission church where the adherents started the Ogboni Fraternity even as members of the church brought by Europeans. So much for the “pure gospel”. It was the Great Revival which had Babalola as his instrument that first led to a mass surrender of idols and total renunciation of idolatry to turn totally to Christ.
This is what Adelaja called paganism that Nigerians brought. Really, staying too long in Europe has damaged something about Adelaja, his worldview. It has disconnected him from the true historical sources of his people. It is so sad.
Read what Europeans themselves, scholars said about Africans and their commitment to the Gospel. They were in fact the first to preach the real Gospel of Christianity, of total reliance on God. [ See J.D.Y. Peel, Harold Turner, Bolaji Idowu, Robert Mitchell, etc]
It was Africans who stormed the forbidden forests, sacked heathen temples, overthrew heathen altars to turn whole masses to the Living God.
Christian Matthews of New Jersey declared that “Babalola in two weeks has done more than the Anglican Church had done in 60 years” after watching his Revival in Ikare in 1931. And this is what out Ukraine oracle calls paganism. So, can paganism drive out paganism, or can the devil cast out devils?
I am distressed for thee my brother, Sunday Adelaja. What led you to this perverse reasoning and illogic?
* He also said that BABALOLA BROUGHT ERRORS BECAUSE HE WANTED TO GET RESULTS
Pastor Adelaja, why are you not afraid to open your mouth and utter this falsehood, this inaccurate and perverse reasoning against an apostle of the Most High God? How dare you utter these falsehoods that has no basis in history, logic but wholly based on illusory infantile imagination and fantasy?
Within only 50 days he spent in Ilesha in 1930 at the peak of the Revival about 2 million persons had visited from the entire West African subregion and even beyond. What greater results could a man desire than this? If errors alone could bring results why are there no results than in our own day’, 60 years after Babalola had departed?
How much of Babalola’s work do you know? How much of his ministry have you personally investigated for yourself?
Adelaja is trying to correct errors with a greater error, a far serious error of ignorance of the facts. What he spewed in this video shows he has done no real study of the period. Elton, his super-hero could not have told him what he did not see himself. Too bad.
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November 3, 2020
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