The Fifth Column and Predatory Wolves

Over the past one week, ear-tingling accusations of sexual assaults have erupted against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) here in Nigeria.

Several women who were former members of the church have come forward to reveal how Biodun raped them (with the most recent occurring in 2017) and the church hierarchy covered up the reports to protect the alleged culprit.

COZA is not your average “down the street” kind of church. It is a sophisticated church that caters to a clientele of upwardly mobile youth population; one pastored by a sleek, urbane, attractive and charismatic preacher.

These revelations – which aren’t new, by the way – sparked protests at COZA church branches and the man in the eye of the storm has taken a leave of absence.

For days, I read several posts and comments on social media desperately cobbling up defenses for the accused. What I find striking, however, was the core of Christian sentiments embedded in these writings: Christians blithely defending a pastor with some of the silliest excuses and dismissing all accusations of sexual misconduct as lies cooked up by the devil.

From all I’ve read from these social media attorneys, I noted the following threads of assumptions:

(1) A pastor cannot be involved in a criminal act such as rape.

(2) If # 1 is implicitly true, then your “Christian obligation” is to defend him to the hilt.

(3) But if you don’t practice #2 because you don’t subscribe to #1, you are worse than an infidel because even Muslims shield their clerics when they commit crimes.

(4) If there are several witnesses testifying that a reputable pastor is a criminal (i.e. # 1 is false) then blame the victims, discredit their accounts, impugn their character and demonize their person.

(5) If # 4 proves too hard a task, then bring up the “we are all sinners” or “he without a sin should cast a stone” card.

(6) If all these don’t yield the expected results, then turn the pastor into a super martyr of a diabolical conspiracy. This still falls back on # 1, that if you are a church leader of any sort, you can’t really be guilty of any crime.

In a series of posts, I will be debunking these false assumptions. My stance on this matter has been made clear from the start, and it’s based on the consistent pattern of sexual malpractices in the accused.

Old Wines in New Wineskins?

It’s no secret that Biodun Fatoyinbo was formerly a cultist before he professed to be converted. He once admitted in a sermon that he had murdered many people in his past as a cult leader. A former member of COZA had this to say:

My thoughts on Biodun Fatoyinbo is very clear. I attended [the] same school with Biodun. I also attended his church from Wonderland Gardens to Kwara Hotel to Stella Obasanjo Hall. I left the church because I had had it up to my chin and if I didn’t leave I would have been arrested one day or would be trending for interrupting his sermon and screaming at him…

Biodun was a cultist, in fact, the hit man for the Black Axe Confraternity and he raped many girls before he gave his life to Christ. This is a confirmed story because his number 2 and 3 [fellows] were my neighbours in Osi Road in Adewole Estate while I was growing up.

He gave his life to Christ and became supposedly born again. That Biodun sleeps with women and girls serially is no news. I personally know more than 5 friends who he has slept with while being a pastor (Don’t forget I was a foundation member of COZA and I have those girls on speed dial if necessary)…

Biodun was a serial rapist as a cultist and being born again might not completely erase traces of that in him. To be honest, COZA was a fishing spot for us back then. [If] you needed a clean, fine, well-dressed girl who said she loved God, COZA was your destination. Tales abound.”

Whether Biodun truly became saved but later reverted to his old ways or he was never converted at all, I cannot say. Only God knows that.

But I want to draw your attention to the fact that his church appeared to be convenient enough to be a “fishing spot” for sexually immoral “Christian” males and females.

Also, from the uniform testimonies available, it’s clear that a foul continuity exists between Biodun’s past and present sexual depravity, though now perpetrated in the name of God, and with the authority of his position.

After the first public victim of Biodun’s sexual predation, Ese Walter, spoke up in 2013, Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian public speaker, blogger, columnist and a sporadic member of COZA, privately investigated the allegations.

He exchanged several emails with Ese, and after his article was published, received emails from many ladies (some of whom were formerly COZA members in Ilorin) as well as an Abuja-based counselor narrating their experiences with this pastor:

One of the women – who admitted she was seeking counseling not because she felt abused by the pastor but because she felt used and dumped, because the pastor had abandoned her – had much to say.

She said that it started when she went for counseling with pastor Fatoyinbo. That, they exchanged numbers and they started calling each other at odd hours. It went from phone sex to the bedroom. There is no need to give the graphic details of the wildness she said transpired.

“The second story as relayed by the Abuja counselor was exactly like the first, from marital counseling to wild sex. This second person is actually married, and remains married. One of the ladies admitted she was so addicted to him she threw all caution to the wind.

“The money according to them was another attraction they’d not deny. They didn’t say they were abused, they said they felt used and dumped. She said the pastor has a huge appetite for sex but gets bored easily and this explains his constant change of girls.”

I believe that the Church of God, particularly in Nigeria, has been kept in the dark about certain biblical realities.

First of all, the narrative of holy and spiritually strong brothers being derailed from their glorious destinies by a horde of beautiful Delilahs – though real – is hackneyed in our collective consciousness and it should be suspended.

Reality is equally the other way round: a sexually predatory preacher that is as handsome as Absalom, powerful as Samson and wise as Solomon who systematically targets, manipulates and sexually defiles his victims (whether female or male). Yes, there are also “male Delilahs.”

Amos 6:3-5 describes the system of spiritual abuse perpetrated within the congregation of God’s people:

Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock, And calves from the midst of the stall; Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David.”

The expression, “eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall” aptly conveys clerical sexual predation – church leaders who use their authority and position to sexually prey on members of their congregation.

There are men in Christian churches who are sexual vampires; they specifically hunt for the weak, the vulnerable and the young, and they use their nubile bodies to reanimate their own psychic powers. They maintain their hold on their victims using fear, power and mind control.

The “single story” of the demonic female versus angelic male – a staple of many Nigerian movies and books – has blinded many Christians to the reality of pastoral wolves in sheep clothing devouring the flock, poisoning the pasture and desecrating the vineyard with abominations.

That false narrative is a cultural stronghold that has conveniently protected many agents of Satan within the churches. Many of us were conditioned to conceive of satanic infiltrators in the camp of God’s people as only female in gender.

This underlying mentality is what drives many church goers to blindly side with a pastor should any female accuse him of sexual impropriety.

A pastor/priest/prophet can also be an adulterer, homosexual or paedophile. He can be a criminal – rapist, child trafficker, armed bandit, drug baron, murderer etc. He can even be an occultist, satanist or sorcerer! He may have been into all these vices before he was regenerated and reverted to them at some point, or he was never really regenerated from the get go.

A vile individual can join a church, follow through denominational motions and formats and modify his external self, but his vile nature still remains unchanged or even worse. More like an old wine in a new wineskin.

The Fifth Column

The phrase “fifth column” was frequently used during World War II, and its origins are particularly interesting. In 1936, during the civil war in Spain, a Spanish general was leading an attack on a city occupied by his opponents.

Another general came to him and asked, “General, what is your plan to take the city?” The first general answered, “I have four columns advancing on the city – one from the north, one from the east, one from the south, and one from the west.” He paused, then added, “But it is my fifth column that I expect to take the city for me.”

The second general said, “Where is your fifth column?” The response: “Inside the city.” The fifth column comprised traitors who would ultimately undermine the city’s defenses.

This is how Satan and his demons strategize their warfare. They fight from without, but their most potent war is launched from within. This occurs at the individual and church level. The enemy launches his “internal strikes” within individuals and plants his troops within the church to do the same.

In this age of mixtures, many satanic troops are operating from the echelons of Christian leadership to the pews in polluting, weakening, deceiving, frustrating and preying on many unwary souls.

The Bible consistently warns us about such infiltrators in the midst of God’s people who will counterfeit almost everything present in true Christianity. Jesus warned:

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

These wolves will not always come in the office of a “prophet,” they can also come as pastors, teachers, evangelists, theologians, brothers or harbingers of truth.

Their packaging is irrelevant. They will always look like us and speak the language of the sheep to be let into the sheep pen. But it’s only a matter of time before their sheep clothing succumbs to moths.

Later, Jesus told the disciples a parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared” (Matt. 13:24-26)

Jesus explained that the field is symbolic of the world and the good seed (or wheat) stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the one who planted them is the devil. The words of the Sower in verse 30 is instructive:

Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

That means, until the end of the Church Age, there will always be tares of the enemies – fifth columns – mixing with the people of God.

Even the Lord Jesus had a fifth column among the disciples: Judas Iscariot. He was a part of the inner circle of Christ’s disciples. He preached, cast out demons, performed miracles and was with the Lord for 3 years. Nobody knew his true identity as a traitor except Jesus.

If Satan could use a fifth column among the apostles of Christ who were eye witnesses of His Majesty, then why would he have much difficulty using many within the contemporary church for his nefarious works?

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul the apostle passionately warned the leaders of the Ephesian church:

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

The words “among you” and “from your own number” indicate that these savage wolves will attain positions of leadership within the church. In 2 Cor. 11:14-15, we are also informed:

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.”

This means satanic infiltrators are usually the most charming, caring, cute and talented personalities within the church. This utterly refutes the widely held theory that an influential, wealthy, anointed and humanitarian individual cannot have a devious, sinister or criminal side.

Just as God has His servants, Satan too has his own ministers; they too have their own ministries, their own followers and their own schemes.

Paul also talked about being in danger “from false brothers” (2 Cor. 11:26). Brothers whom he thought were servants of God willing to help, but were actually enemies ready to betray him to those seeking his life. They are the “enemies of the cross of Christ” who bring disrepute to the image of Christianity (Phil. 3:18).

2 Peter 2:1 says: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

These are some of the assignments of Satan’s troops in the Christian fold. Their job is to undermine Christianity from within; to lead people astray with false teachings (like cheap grace, “Hebrew Roots” legalism, mysticism) and seduce others into sinful acts.

Jude 1:4 says:

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is why it’s presumptuous and ignorant for Christians to quickly take on a “circle the bunkers” approach to legitimate reports of evil committed by a reputed Christian leader.

It’s dangerous to assume you know a person’s true nature because you see him (or her) ministering from a pulpit everyday or laying hands on the sick on TV.

A public figure can have a dark side which you may never see. That Biodun Fatoyinbo is a pastor – even if superbly anointed – doesn’t make him inherently innocent of sexual crimes.

Now, in my next post, I will be discussing the dynamics of mind control that often keep people sheepishly following after predatory leaders, twisting themselves into ropes and mutilating Scripture, all in a bid to defend them as spotless.

Are Women authorised to Teach?

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The role of women in the church has been a hotly debated subject for decades.

On one side are those who use selected Bible verses to demean and mistreat women, and on the other side are those who not only champion women’s rights but also treat men in the very exploitative and degrading ways that they have been treated by traditional religion.

In the latter category are critics who use certain bible verses to attack Christianity and the Bible as being sexist and misogynist.

Even within the church, some troublesome passages in the New Testament have led to different denominational positions – some forbidding women to teach or preach and some allowing them to do so. Let’s look at two examples:

1 Corinthians 14: 34-36

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God originate with you [Corinthians]? Or are you the only people it has reached?

In this chapter where Apostle Paul tells women to be silent, he had already told two other groups to be “silent”: those who spoke in tongues and who prophesied (1 Cor. 14:28, 32, 43).

No one takes “let him keep silent in the church” in the other two verses to mean a man cannot preach, pray, sing or testify in church. That is why the context of the word “silence” in the text should be understood.

These instructions were intended to bring order, propriety and politeness to the church services – not to silence the people forever or prevent them from teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the text, Apostle Paul appealed to the law to validate his stance. Some commentators believe he was referring to the Old Testament law – well, not exactly.

“He appeals to it in the context in 14:21 and also in 7:19 and 9:8-10 (cf. Rom. 3:19; 7:7). The problem is that he does not cite a text from the law, and no Old Testament passage instructs women to be silent” (1 Corinthians’ Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2003, 672).

Indeed, not all OT prophets were men. Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and Anna were also prophets (Ex. 15:20; Jud. 4:4; 2Kgs. 22:4). Even Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus prophesied (Lk. 1:42-55). So we can surmise that God used women in ministry just as He used men.

It appears that those who spoke in tongues, those who prophesied, and some of the women in the Corinthian church were disrupting the congregations and lacked self-control.

They were uneducated (men were more educated than women in that era) and asking questions at inappropriate times or weren’t using wisdom to know when to speak out.

It should be noted also that many of them in Corinth had been involved in pagan worship which involved wild feasts and untempered activities, so it seems some of the women reverted to this conduct.

From the context, it’s clear that the women were being admonished to be subordinate to the authority present, just as others were expected to do.

To cite an example, let’s say, some youths in several churches were always chatting and laughing and asking wild questions which engendered confusion during services.

If a church leader now writes a letter to tell the youths to be quiet in the church and reserve their questions till after service, or ask their parents at home, of course, no one would take it to mean that youths must be absolutely silent.

It’s difficult to know exactly what was going on when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, but to conclude from this verse that women are forever forbidden to speak in church would conflict with other passages. For example: 

1 Cor. 11:5 says “And every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…”

Prophecy involves reproving, admonishing, teaching and comforting. If women are required to always keep silent in the church, then they wouldn’t be praying or prophesying. They would not be singing, reading the Bible out loud or making announcements.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul says “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…”

This teaching could not be limited to men, since the church doesn’t consist of only men.

Similarly, 1 Cor. 14:13-26 addresses “the whole church being come together” in which “every one” could take part – with a revelation, song, doctrine or tongue to edify the entire church.

1 Cor. 12:11 says the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to “every man” as He wills. At the upper room during Pentecost, women were present there (Acts 1:14, 15).

If women didn’t need the power to effectively preach the gospel, they wouldn’t have been included in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the OT prophecy foretelling this experience, both men and women were included as recipients of the Spirit of God (Joel 2:28, 29).

When persecution broke out in the early church, women were also imprisoned (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2). That implies they were also teaching and preaching the gospel publicly.

Of the 39 co-workers that Paul mentioned throughout his writings, at least one-fourth was women.

In Romans 16:7, he wrote, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me.” That’s another woman, and she couldn’t have been arrested for being silent.

In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul encourages Euodia and Syntyche to keep cooperating and states that they had toiled along with him in preaching the gospel.

The Corinthian church may have been dealing with a troublesome woman or some women who had an unscriptural attitude towards authority, but all women shouldn’t be permanently punished or kept from participating in teaching God’s Word for it.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be silent.”

Again we are faced with another directive to women to learn in submission and not exercise authority over men. But this time around, nothing in the text suggests it applies to a church setting.

Let accept for the sake of argument that this instruction to Timothy applied to a church situation. We must realize that there are absolute truths in Scripture and there are certain instructions that must be understood in a specific, limited sense.

The early Christians largely congregated in one another’s homes. But that later changed as they owned property and had buildings since the late second century. Does this mean that Christians meeting today in church buildings are violating God’s Word? Some people believe so.

In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul said that women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately without elaborate hair arrangements, gold, pearl or expensive clothing. Does this mean that any woman today who wears gold or pearls is disobeying God’s Word? Some Christians believe so.

If we took first century Greek or Roman culture as divine precepts, we would all be dressed in tunics and writing on parchments and greeting everyone in our churches with a nice kiss.

That something was done in a certain way at a period of church history doesn’t mean it must always be done at every stage of history – especially when there’s an allowance of cultural exceptions.

If we applied 1 Tim. 2:11-12 in an absolute sense, then it would mean that women cannot even be school teachers! But in the world today, women are politicians, judges, policewomen, professionals and lecturers and they exercise authority over men.

However, from the context of this passage in Timothy, it’s referring to married women accepting the headship of their husbands in the home and not usurping his authority (see Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22).

Unlike the passage in Corinthians, it doesn’t apply to a church setting. It refers to order in a marriage.

Those who advocate for women to be silent in the churches accuse those who differ of “rejecting Scripture and subjecting it to the personal inclination and creativity of the reader.”

This line of argument can be also utilized in other issues on which Christians respectably disagree (e.g. baptism, Lord’s supper, music etc.), thus it’s irrelevant.

One thing I’ve observed in some denominations where women are forbidden from teaching, preaching or pastoral roles is that, women are allowed to be evangelists and missionaries in foreign nations. Fair enough, but they are still teachers and preachers!

And you can’t insist women must remain silent in church and then have them lead prayer services, teach Sunday school or teach a congregation via Skype or YouTube.

If men alone have the authority to teach, then men alone should take the responsibility for teaching. But as it often turns out, that is not so.

Priscilla and her husband , Aquila, had a church in their home and her being mentioned equally with him may suggest she pastored the church along with him (Acts 18:2-26).

We are also told of Philip’s daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). In Romans 16:1-2, Paul asked the church in Rome should receive Phoebe a female “minister” with all due respect and honour.

Note that the Greek word for “minister” (diakovos) used for Phebe was also used for Timothy (1 Tim. 4:6), Epaphras (Col. 1:17) and Paul himself (Eph. 3:7-8).

The Lord instructed us to pray that He would send labourers into the harvest (Lk. 10:2). He didn’t say “male labourers.” He didn’t limit the preaching of the gospel or proclamation of His Word to a gender.

We can’t tell the Holy Spirit what ministerial gift to impart to whom. The Holy Spirit guards His own sovereignty and if He wills, He can call and appoint some women into positions that conflict with our denominational traditions.

These ministers are accountable to Him, not to us, and we have no right to dictate to God what gender He must use to fulfill His purposes.