Oyedepo, founder and leader of Living Faith Chapel a.k.a. Winners Chapel, has been at the receiving end of a barrage of criticisms from outraged Nigerians since a video surfaced online showing him slapping a girl whom he accused of being a witch during an attempt to exorcise the alleged spirit of witchcraft in her.
The girl in question, who is said to be from Imo State, denied being a witch, saying, rather, that she is “a witch for Jesus.”
Her response angered Oyedepo, who apart from physically assaulting the kneeling girl also sentenced her to hell fire, declaring that she would not make heaven.
Rather than being remorseful, Oyedepo at another church service boasted about the assault on the hapless girl.
Throughout last week, The Moment On Sunday made attempts to get the reaction of pastors and the mainstream Christian umbrella groups to the scandal.
Several pastors approached declined to comment, saying they didn’t want to be dragged into the controversy.
While the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) refused to condemn Oyedepo’s action, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) said it could be justified depending on the circumstances.
When The Moment On Sunday got through to CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Saturday December 24, his aide who picked the call said Oritsejafor would not want to comment on the issue.
He went ahead to claim that there was no proof of the allegation.
Approached earlier for comments on the incident, the Lagos State CAN Chairman, Monsignor Bernard Okoduwa, said that Oyedepo is not a small boy but a mature adult and a Bishop for that matter.
Okoduwa declined further comments, saying that CAN as an umbrella of five different religious organizations, does not dabble into issues that relate to other bodies.
On his part, PFN Vice Chairman, Lagos State Chapter, Rev. Seni Asiwaju, said that a Bishop is a father and a shepherd to the flock, and officiates under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
‘It is the circumstances that matter. Too many issues can lead to such action. In a process to liberate, a demon can decide to go wild, and the minister must do something to chase it away,’ Asiwaju said, while reacting to Oyedepo’s slapping of the teenage girl before the congregation.
He advised people not to make a mountain out of the incident, saying that even Jesus Christ used a whip to drive people away from the temple.
The Vice Chairman spoke on behalf of the Lagos State CAN Chairman, Apostle Alex Bamgbola.
There was however a dissenting voice in Pastor (Prof.) Johnson Odesola, Special Adviser to the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on Administration and Personnel.
Condemning Oyedepo’s action, Odesola said it wasn’t the best way to handle the issue.
He said the church being an abode where people come in for spiritual help, one should wonder what the hope of the common man would be when such things take place in the church of God.
‘Ordinarily under the law even when you arrest an accused; somebody who is liable for crime, the law does not allow you to raise a finger on the person. You are not to beat, inflict injury or any bodily pain on that person,’ Odesola said.
He noted that when people come to church they are looking for solutions, saying unequivocally that what happened was not the right way to handle the situation.
He expressed shock at the comment allegedly made by Bishop Oyedepo sentencing the victim to hell fire.
He maintained that his father in the Lord, the RCCG General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, would never do such a thing.
Even so, Prof Odesola pointed out that nobody was there when God called him Bishop Oyedepo and that nobody knows what God told him at that particular time of the slapping incident.
Reporting on the scandalous incident in the expansive Winners Chapel, Ota, Ogun State, the online portal Sahara Reporters said: ‘The girl on her knees appeared to be a suffering teenager in a simple dress whose soft voice cracked as she answered the pastor’s insistent questions.
‘She had been first on a line of teenagers apparently ushered in to confess their sins. Pastor lost his composure when the teen from Imo State, pressured to say she was a witch, claimed instead to be a “witch for Jesus.”
The words had barely left her mouth when she was hit hard by the pastor’s open hand.
‘A now furious Oyedepo demanded confessions from the other teenagers as church members roared their approval. While the cruel show was going on, more victims were brought forth by church ushers.
‘It could be surmised that the group of teenagers on bended knees had been recruited for this punishment without full disclosure.’
Giving an update on the incident, which happened in 2009 but became public knowledge only recently, Sahara Reporters quoted Oyedepo as boasting at a later programme: “I slapped a witch here last year. She came back in February to apologize. She begged me to please forgive her.” He added the warning, “Starting today, the things harassing you, you will start harassing them.” ’
Many commentators have insisted that Oyedepo’s action in slapping the girl borders on criminal assault and some have demanded his arrest and prosecution.
Oyedepo has refused to comment on the controversy stoked by his action.
Source: The Moment