Arresting Inter-denominational Crisis Among Christians In Nigeria
By Irumekhai Mariam, Chidile Amarachi, Ugwu Udoka and Nwafor Chima
Who will end the interdenominational crisis among Christians? Or would we have to wait for the Messiah to come?
Today, there is a vast array of denominations: The Catholic Church, Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Pentecostal missions and Anglican Church. This diversity has brought nothing but unity.
A Christian denomination is a generic term for a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as churches or fellowships. These divisions between groups are defined by doctrine and church authority.
Some of these churches see themselves as being superior to others. Some even claim to be the true worshipers of God, while others embrace ecumenism. In our contemporary society, it is common to see these Christians avoid the companies of others because of denominational diversity.
According to Mr. Chidiebere Nwachukwu, a lecturer at the department of Mass Communication University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), “many see Christianity as an all comers’ affairs and as such, they are free to teach and practice whatever they like. “I do not believe that but the fact that worship should be based on what the Bible teaches”
Continuing, he said “There will always be crisis among Christians because everyone does not see the bible alike and we are in the era of religious liberalism where everyone will want to be free to do whatever they like; to worship the way they like, teach and hold beliefs which appeal to them and people who oppose them will be having conflict with them”.
The issue of inter-denominationalism has also affected some Christians in their choice of spouses. Reacting to this, Uzor Perpetual, a Personal Assistant of Posh International Company Limited said that she had turned down many suitors due to the fact that they were from different denominations. According to her, it is a doctrine they uphold in their family.
Reacting to the issue, the co-ordinator of the National Alumni Fellowship of the Anglican Students Evang. Somtochukwu Okeke that it is sometimes justified and many times not justifiable for Christians not to marry from other denominations.
According to him “if a born again Christian lady who is filled with the Holy Ghost is married into a church with different ordinances, traditions and mode of worship which could affect her flow in the spirit, there could be a problem. “My take which I believe is God’s take is that living Churches should encourage Christians to marry fellow Christians with a proper mind”. “It is marriage within the family – the body of Christ. Denominational walls should not hold us back”
Issues of right selection of marriage partner among Christians have got to a highest point that needed immediate action to solving the problem. Surprisingly, some homes have been divided as a result of this. Parents who are deep in the ordinances of a particular church disown their children for going against their wish by marrying someone from a different fold.
There seems to be no oneness and love among Christians any more. Why will a Christian avoid the gathering of fellow Christian? Why will they be barred from marrying one another if they truly follow the precepts of our Lord Jesus?
According to the Chaplain of Christ Church in UNN, Rev Nneoyi U. Arikpo, Christians can be seen as one because in the Bible there is no denomination. “The Bible says we are all one in Christ; one faith, one baptism, one Lord – Jesus Christ”
Speaking further, he said “I believe that all Christians are one and that is why I am able to be in Christ Church Chapel that is an ecumenical centre where there are Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Apostolic members, Assemblies of God members, Roman Catholics”. “The main purpose of having Christians from different denominations in Christ Church Chapel is to worship God in love and unity” he said.
Speaking on efforts made to carry everybody along, Aripko said “there have been challenges of how to satisfy the spiritual quest of our members”. “Sometimes, we use the order of Anglican Church which is the main denomination, the order of Methodist, Presbyterian and also using the free order so that the Pentecostals will feel that they are being carried along. We are neither particular about any denomination nor using any particular style of worship” he said.
On the whole, we must de-emphasize denominationalism and emphasize unity and true worship. We must also learn to respect and honour God’s word in the body of Christ. In the words of American gospel singer Tom Inglius, “Though we are many and different, we are one body in Christ.