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Nigeria: With TB Joshua’s successor unclear, Synagogue Church remains on standby

By Chinedu Asadu
Posted on Monday, 28 June 2021 13:17, updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2021 10:53

Nigeria Preacher TB Joshua mourned
Members of Synagogue Church Of All Nations, mourn following the dead of the founder T.B. Joshua, outside the church in Lagos, Nigeria Sunday, June 6, 2021. (AP photo)

It has been three weeks since Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) announced the death of Temitope Balogun Joshua, its founder commonly referred to as TB Joshua. All the church’s activities have since been suspended -- and it's not just because of his burial plans.

The death of Joshua, one of Africa’s most influential preachers, is already taking a toll on the church as SCOAN strategises to find his successor.

The Africa Report visited the headquarters of SCOAN in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, on Thursday 24 June and found that the 57-year-old left to the world beyond with some of what the church is popular for – at least for now.

Doors shut to worshippers and visitors

All the main doors remained closed to worshippers who continued to troop in from across Nigeria and beyond. They were used to daily church programmes and Joshua’s regular lectures but all of that has changed now as everything, apart from the condolence register, is closed.

Evelyn, his wife of 30 years, or any of the other church leaders referred to as the ‘wise men’ could be announced as the new leader of SCOAN.

Those who came to pray stayed outside the main church building – and not for long. Ushers and security officials littered the church, more than the usual scene, as every movement and face was closely watched.

“There has been no service since TB Joshua died. Even the Sunday service [wasn’t held] and there won’t be [church] service this coming Sunday too,” a male usher tells The Africa Report at one of the church gates. “I don’t know when church service will resume or when the church doors will be opened.”

Will TB Joshua’s legacy continue?

Joshua was not just a pentecostalist and televangelist; he was also a philanthropist, perhaps one of the most prominent among pastors in Nigeria.

A day after he died, a large crowd of people gathered to mourn him, most of them recounting how the late pastor impacted their lives through his philanthropic gestures. One woman in particular, who identified herself in a recorded video as a widow, said Joshua had consistently provided for widows like her and other categories of people in need of help.

“Who will help us? Who will help the widows? We have nothing to eat. TB Joshua gives us food. We are hungry and suffering. Who is going to help us now?” she says, her hands on her head.

In Lagos, church members seen at the SCOAN headquarters tell The Africa Report how some of them still do not believe he is gone.

“Everybody knows he doesn’t discriminate against other religions especially when it comes to giving to people,” says one parishioner who has come to pray. “He was so generous and kind.”

Will all of that continue? Yes, the Synagogue Church says. In a recent message posted on its official Telegram channel, the church told worshippers worldwide “that nothing will stop the work of God at The SCOAN from moving on.”

“Dear SCOAN and Emmanuel TV family all over the world, we appreciate your continued prayers, love and support,” the church said. “Prophet TB Joshua may be absent in the body but he is present in the spirit (Colossians 2:5). Indeed, God is even more powerful at [a] distance!”

Who will take over?

At the moment, a major question in the minds of church members and the late pastor’s admirers is who will take over from him. This is not clear yet, particularly because the church had no known succession plan; but what is certain is that whoever that will be has big shoes to fill.

There has been speculation that Evelyn, his wife of 30 years, will steer the leadership wheel of the church pending an official announcement. She, or any of the other church leaders referred to as the ‘wise men’, could be announced as SCOAN’s new leader.

The number of ‘wise men’ currently at SCOAN could not be confirmed; but in an interview in 2011, Joshua had said there were five: Wiseman John Chi Meh from Cameroon, Wiseman Racine Bousso from Senegal, Wiseman Daniel Emelandu from Nigeria, Wiseman Christopher Orji from Nigeria and Wiseman Harry from Greece.

None of the pastors and ushers at the church agreed to speak about the succession plan or disclose any related information other than news of the burial plans.

A week-long service has been announced from Monday 5 July to Sunday 11 July 2021 to honour his life and legacy, after which he will be laid to rest at the church headquarters.

Until then, and until a new leader is announced, the doors of SCOAN will most likely remain closed. Many are, however, hoping that his legacy through philanthropy and televangelism do not come to a halt as well.

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