The controversy surrounding the divorce suit filed in court by Rev Anita, the estranged wife of the founder and General Overseer of Christ Embassy Church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, in which she has accused her husband of ‘adultery’ and ‘unreasonable behaviour’ continued to rage all through the week even as emerging facts indicate that the bitter feud has already claimed its first casualty.
The first victim of the couple’s break-up, Saturday Sun learnt from some officials of the troubled church is one of the pastors who worked with Rev Anita Oyakhilome at the London branch of the church. Simply identified as Rev Grace, she was said to have been sacked by Pastor Chris in May when she allegedly raised a prayer team to pray for the restoration of peace in the church’s first family when Rev Anita, who headed the London church, stopped attending services.One of the ministers, who spoke in confidence, said: “We suspected this issue is going to go public some day since the day Pastor Chris sacked Rev Grace for meddling in his family affairs by openly calling for prayers among some members in London when Rev Anita stopped coming to the church she was shepherding while all efforts to get her failed.
Some us believe our colleague in London did the right thing by seeking spiritual help for the family but I think Pastor Chris misread her intention and had to travel to London when he heard of the move to sack her and contain the spread of rumour among members in London.”News had gone round last weekend on the messy divorce suit filed by Rev Anita in a London court seeking the dissolution of their almost two decades’ marriage.
The suit, with number FD14D01650, was filed on April 9, 2014 at Divorce Section A, Central Family Court, First Avenue House, High Holborn, London, UK, on Anita’s behalf by Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors, a full-service law firm with expertise in commercial law and a strong consumer focus in family, wills and estate, among others.When Saturday Sun contacted Attwaters Jameson Hill handling the divorce suit last week, the law firm revealed that Ms. Joyti Henchie, who heads the family law team, was handling the case, while her colleague, Ms. Kaylee Pleasance promised to communicate the next hearing date of the suit.Oyakhilome’s church is regarded as one of the biggest denominations in Nigeria with membership in thousands and branches all over world. Until last Monday when the church removed the name and pictures of Rev Anita from its website, www.christembassy. org, Pastor Chris has been the president of Believers’ Love World Inc, the registered name of the church, while she was the vice-president. They have two teenage daughters, Sharon and Charlyn.Apart from the sack of the London pastor, another issue connected to the divorce, which has also been generating tension in the church, is the cry of female ministers who are accusing Pastor Chris of introducing “controversial rules that are now threatening the foundation of many marriages in the church.”A female church member of one of the Christ Embassy branches in Abuja told Saturday Sun that “the revolt of Rev Anita will be a child’s play to the one that people will soon see when we open up on how a secret policy introduced some time early this year has been tearing many families and homes apart in our parishes across the country.
This is a strange directive that husbands and their wives must not worship or attend the same parish. Now, if a couple is a member of a parish, one of them has to be posted to another parish and this is fuelling adultery in the church in no small measure. Some of us who are female ministers that have been separated from our husbands, we are already talking. Some have started revolting against the order in their parishes while some have refused to obey such transfer orders.”Another top female official of the church in one of the parishes located in Ikeja corroborated the story when she told Saturday Sun: “The policy is real but it is creating tension in the church already.” The female minister, whose husband has been transferred out of the parish they have been attending together for years to give effect to the policy further, stated: “It’s a heartbreaking development because now we know that that directive was introduced to justify why Pastor Chris has to be in Lagos and his wife in London but beyond that, it is encouraging immorality while the church believes that we have an unusual grace that covers our human failings including adultery.”Coming down to her personal experience, the female minister disclosed that soon after her husband was transferred to a parish far away from their initial one, “one of the male ministers where I am to stay back started winking at me. The first Sunday I felt he did that unknowingly or without any ulterior motive but the following Sunday he came to shake hands with me after service and what he did was to use one of his fingers to scratch my palm during the handshake.
I was miffed but I couldn’t do anything because he will deny and I will look stupid but since then he got my message because I stopped greeting him.”One of Pastor Oyakhilome’s aides, who hails from Edo State and manages some of the church’s business concerns in Ikeja area of Lagos, had denied there was any divorce lawsuit between the couple when called Friday last week.According to him, “they got married in Nigeria, how would they file a divorce suit in London? It is not true and it’s not possible. If anything is filed, it is either in Nigeria here or nowhere else because both are Nigerians. Even though, the wife may have dual citizenship, her father is a Nigerian and they both carry Nigerian passports.” Confirmations from Anita’s lawyers in London, however, put a lie to his denial.When also contacted on the latest accusations against Pastor Chris over the sack of Rev Grace and the policy of banning husbands and wives from attending the same parish, the same senior church official denied the allegations.Responding to the sack of the London pastor, he said: “It is not fair on the part of the person giving you this information. The church across the world and their pastors are all in tact. Nobody was placed on suspension to the best of my knowledge.
The media have written enough on this, it’s time to let sleeping dogs lie.”On the alleged order that couples who are pastors or members of the church are forbidden to serve in the same parish, the official said such should not be an issue. “If a church is expanding, more hands will be needed to handle the parishes. Ninety-nine per cent of our pastors are working class and only come to church when there are services.“Those complaining still have access to their husbands after church. They should as well try and work in the same environment with their husbands or wives. It’s really laughable and not an issue of discourse in a church like Christ Embassy.”