HOUSEHOLD of God Church senior pastor Reverend Chris Okotie has lashed out at the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Can) for proposing social distancing in churches claiming the practise will be tantamount to blasphemous infidelity.
Over recent weeks, Can has begin lobbying the Nigerian government to open up churches as part of the easing of the coronavirus lockdown. A committee set up by Can to review how the lifting of the restrictions will work, is recommending that two metre social distancing be observed in churches and that worshippers wear facemasks to prevent the spread of the virus.
Over the next few weeks, governors of Nigeria’s states are expected to ease the ban on religious gatherings under the condition that social distancing is observed. However, Reverend Okotie has opposed the move, saying that Can cannot speak for the Christendom and that its proposal is blasphemous infidelity.
Reverend Okotie said “Can is an amorphous organisation sustained by a Christian appellation and is bereft of any authority to speak on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ. Arrayed in Episcopalian vestments, they are the modern day Pharisees who arrogate divine honours to themselves.
“They have a form of Godliness and yet hobnob nicodemously with enemies of the Lord Jesus. The true ministers of the sanctuary must recognize Can’s treachery and reprehensible Phariseeism. That which a man spits against heaven shall fall back upon his face. We shall not bow to the idol called coronavirus. Jesus is Lord.”
He added that he was in full support of social distancing and other safety measures ordered by the government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic but rejected the extension of the measure to churches. According to reverend Okotie, social distancing in churches compels the reordering of seating arrangements and the determination of the size of congregational worship per service.
Pastor Okotie argued that to accept such an arrangement was to nullify the redemptive work of Jesus, which involves healing. Can president, Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle had rolled out the guidelines for the reopening of churches, which he said would be discussed with the federal government for approval, after consultation with the leaders of the other religious bodies.
In the proposed guidelines, Dr Ayokunle said Can recommended a social distancing of one metre in seating arrangements in churches. Can also wants to see the wearing of face masks by all worshippers, a 90 minute limit on worship sessions, the provision of sanitizers and compulsory hand washing with soap.