Adoration Ministry, Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) and the Challenges of Pentecostalism Today
Pentecostalism and the Arising Frusrations
In 2004, during a discussion with a highly placed member of the Church hierarchy in Aba Diocese who invited me to his office for the purpose of discouraging me from attending the Adoration Service of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN). I was told that Fr. Camilius Ejike Mbaka, the Spiritual Director of the adoration service is mentally retarded and that Bishop Gbuji, the Bishop of Enugu then, had failed in his duty as a bishop by refusing to force Fr. Mbaka to go into the psychiatry. The shock and disdain that clearly showed on my face as a reaction to this remark was regarded by my interlocutor as a manifest act of disobedience and opposition to hierarchically constituted authority in the Church. Chief E.C. Mejeh (now late), a 4th Degree Grand Knight of the Knighthood of St. Mulumba, a papal Knight and a one-time Vice Chairman of the Pastoral Council of the Diocese had remarked in reference to me as a person to some of his colleagues that it would be very costly and suicidal to accommodate two Fr. Mbaka’s in the Nigerian Church. In November 2004, I was labeled a madman for behaving like Fr. Mbaka. My reaction to this was and has remained the same: I am not Fr Mbaka and cannot be a Fr. Mbaka, and has no intention of transforming into another Fr. Mbaka. I am Fr. Kenneth Evurulobi and if I have any other passion that drives me as a priest, it is about Our Lady, about Catholic Theology and responsible Christian social action for justice, peace and development. It is this passion that attracted me to Liberation Theology.
It is from this podium erected at the behest of a theological disposition that is characteristically Rahnerian, and not from the platform of Pentecostalism or eccentric priestly ministry, that I have been speaking. And, by a special act of divine providence, Fr Ejike Mbaka has proved to be a consistent, courageous and powerful voice operating at the pastoral and influential platform of the Liberation Theology. I do not go to Adoration Service to learn a trade, I go there when I have a theological need to work and pray under an expanded radical mystical environment.
Theology and Christian social action become acutely abstract, deformed and unproductive when they are removed and distanced from the divine mystical environment. At best, they are sponsored, adopted, absorbed and finally given over to be swallowed up by mega secular concerns or agencies, for example the Rockefeller Foundation, Soros Foundation etc, that are intrinsically opposed to the Church’s vision and mission in the world having been proved to be custodians of a national, regional or global agenda that are inconsistent, contradicting, inimical and detracting to the Gospel. The Church in Africa has suffered more from this acute subversive and perverse influence than from the scourge of Pentecostalism. This is one side of the story.
The other side is where the detracting influence of Pentecostalism is located. Pentecostalism does not present an alternative to the Catholic faith. The superficiality and pretensions of Pentecostalism are amorphous and severely threatening. Pentecostalism may hold its own attractions but it cannot present itself as an alternative to the Catholic faith neither can it lay claim to constituting a just and authentic rival to it. Even in the mainline Churches – notably Anglicanism – such claims are being relinquished and replaced with more genuine dialogical dispositions that serve the cause of ecumenism.
The New Evangelization, however, provides for an investigation into the attractions of neo – Pentecostal movements and the significance or challenges they posit for effective pastoral ministry in the Church, even as it decries and vehemently renounces the excesses that characterize the activities of the movement.
The Church Hierarchy
The Credentials of a True Adorer
Given these two-way approach to the challenges which confront the Church in Africa today, one can say, in the words of Karl Rahner, that we live in an age which speaks of God as remote and silent, which …speaks of the death of God in an age of atheism and an atheism which, so far from being confined to the ideas to which evil and godless dispositions and rebellious attitude might be expected to give rise, can also be the outcome of a wrong interpretation of a human experience which is at once extremely genuine and extremely difficult --- We live in an age in which the question is not so much as sinners we may gain access to a gracious God who will justify us, on the contrary the impression is that it is God – if there is a God – who must justify himself to his creatures in their distress, while they for their part have no need of justification. (Rahner, K: Christian Living Formerly and Today in Theological Investigations, Volume VII (Further Theology of the Spiritual Life) transl by Bourke , D; New York ; the Seabury Press, 1977, P12).
Three causes of unrest were traced and asserted by Karl Rahner as having existed in the Church since after the Second Vatican Council. Even as a certain difficulty pervades every attempt at analyzing this unrest in its entirely, some of the causes are clearly discernible . There is, in the first place, a mixture of anxiety in the face of what is new , and almost unbridled craving for the new merely because it is new and “therefore’ more interesting: in other words , one of the elements in this unrest is truly creative in that it rightly looks to and seeks for renewal in the sense of a better way of life for Christians and for the Church. The second is the anxiety over the present instability of the situation in which the Church and the believer lives - a situation that pervades and tends to condition all areas of the life of the Church and the believer. The third is a falling-off of the true spirit of faith, which breaks down before the onslaught of the present world. The Church may not be at liberty to choose the situation in which she lives, rather, it is “given” to her (Rahner, K; ibid, P4).
Identifying and understanding this situation with a view to repositioning the Church for a more effective pastoral ministry, responsible social action and improved human environment is, therefore, a very important aspect of the task facing the New Evangelization.
According to Karl Rahner, and against this background of unrest pervading the Church , the Second Vatican Council did not only assert that Christian living today is both a heritage and a commitment , it went further to underline certain elements which must be observed in the Christian living of the future, insisting ; that the life of the Christian must grow from a lively participation in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the genuinely communal worship of the altar; that Christians must take the scripture as the basis for their thinking and acting; and that they must exercise a spirit of fraternal freedom, and must not withdraw into a sort of pseudo-ecclesiastical ghetto, but must rather learn to regard the world, with its needs and its future destiny, as their Christian task.
At the peak of the Adoration Service of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN) held at the ministry ground at Umuchima, Emene, near Enugu on Friday, March 10, 2017, a young lady appeared to be taller than all the worshipers as she stood on an elevated platform donated by a concrete base upon which one of the yet–to–be erected corrugated iron pillars that hold the ministry’s expansive amphitheater is, presumably, supposed to stand. She danced majestically and in a deeply committed manner to the electrifying melodious worship songs that emanated from the hi-tech Public Address System of the Ministry. At the other end of the system, a hi– tech microphone seemed to be siphoning the songs live from the mystical realm where Fr Camillus Ejike Mbaka, the ministry’s Spiritual Director knelt before the Throne of Divine Omnipotence and interacted with the different agencies of this Throne as he sought earnestly to win and draw the attention of the Eucharistic Jesus to the terrorism, corruption, diseases, poverty hunger, heartless deprivations, anxieties and anguish of about more than one million worshipers – Catholics and non–Catholics alike – that gathered that Friday night to seek the face of God in prayer. The one-million figure is not an exaggeration if one considers the many invisible worshippers that come from different parts of the country and from overseas but who announce their individual presences via the Adoration scratch cards and phone calls.
I went out in search of the young lady after the service. And, in an interview with her, she gave her name as Miss Ifeoma Kalu from Arondizuogu in Imo State – an office secretary in a law firm in GRA, Trans- Ekulu, Enugu and a student in one of the tertiary institutions in the city.
Miss Ifeoma Kalu is a prototype of a convinced Catholic and a typical Nigerian Youth whose faith and citizenship challenge the Church in respect of the New Evangelization as she realistically confronts and wields through the thick forests of reality which the Nigerian situation throws on her face. And if faith is an experience, rather than a product of indoctrination; and if the Church is still the conscience of the society and the custodian of the presence of Divine Love effectively at work in the world - that is, the Eucharistic Jesus – one can then appreciate the reason why Adoration Ministries, Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) could be said to be a super Network Provider at the service of the Divine Mystical Ucadia.
Between the clergy and the laity in the Nigerian Church, while Fr Mbaka stands out as a powerful, influential and irrepressible rebuke against the manifest spiritual impotency, disgusting pastoral flamboyancy, sickening liturgical dryness and subtle atheistic arrogance that characterize and rule the dispositions of some of the members of the clergy in the Nigerian Church and which have occasioned the flight of many into Pentecostalism, Ifeoma Kalu is a consolation to the Church and a good example of what a committed member of the laity should be in his/her effort to confirm the faith and consequently evolve the adequate response to the ever abiding presence of God in the world especially as this is given, and cannot be given except in the Eucharistic Jesus.
The dancing attitude of Miss Ifeoma Kalu and many other worshipers in their thousands that Friday night on March 10, 2017 depicts a divine mystical locomotion of faith to the abode of the Divine Mystical Ukadia as well as the right and adequate attitude of waiting – under the divine mystical umbrella – expected of an adorer who has successfully presented his/her case or petitions to God in prayer. This dancing attitude is a direct reversal, a rebuke and an attempt at the repudiation of the acerbic, derisive and secularized music culture which is bereft of every spiritual content and commitment which has gripped many of our liturgical assemblies in Nigerian Church in their contact with Pentecostalism. Is there any need to observe that, at their best, many liturgical assemblies are better regarded as a Social Club gathering or a Religious Luncheon organized for the purpose of making money and laundering some of questionable projects and credentials thrown up by some criminal dispositions?
Towards a more Effective Pastoral Ministry and Social Action in the Nigerian Church
If the Church is experiencing some obfuscating reproach from the world today and if she feels being challenged by Pentecostalism, the place to search for the right response is at the pantry where her authentic prophetic ministry and effective pastoral dispositions have been dumped over the years and replaced with uncanny idioms about “ex-opera operato” and "ex-opera operantis". She must therefore de-emphasize “ex-opera operanto ” and ex-opera operantis" and emphasize holiness of life of the clergy and other pastoral agents as inclusive ingredient of productive pastoral ministry.
But it is unfortunate how this search for recovery is being employed by ecclesiastical touts and over-arching ambitious pastoral watchdogs to witch-hunt, instead of encouraging, prophetic ministries like Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN). More frustrating is the propaganda that has been made to germinate and flower in the minds of many Catholics and faithful Christians from other denominations against the instruments God has deployed to serve the cause of justice, peace and development in the Church and in the nation. For instance, sometime after Fr. Mbaka had delivered the 2015 prophetic message titled “From Goodluck To Badluck”, I went out, around Tonimas Junction by Express Road in Osisioma, to buy some Adoration Messages/Talks which I wanted to listen to and in this way shore up my spiritual disposition in anticipation of a 21 day novena my group and I were to embark on. I met a kick-back. In the many places where these Messages/Talks were readily available before, I met empty shelves arising from a meticulous confiscation of all Adoration Messages/Talks, including old ones by the members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I was told that Fr. Camilius Ejike Mbaka is mentally retarded and then advised to do something with my time and money rather than waste these on the foolish expeditions of a mentally deranged person masquerading as a priest. The rest, they say, is history.
But it suffices that God made a name for himself with the victory of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 Presidential Elections. Such satanic dispositions adopted by Christ faithful today are symptomatic of the dictatorship of relativism. In the final analysis, they attempt to suffocate God’s agenda for the Church and nation. Thank God for that timely 2015 cross-over night prophetic message by Fr. Mbaka, otherwise the entire South South and some parts of South East precisely Nsukka and Ukwa-Ngwa would have been reduced to another Rwanda, and the Church would be preparing-in-waiting to apologize, in the coming years, for what her sons and daughters did and what they failed to do. Such apologies, as necessary and remorseful as they appear to be can be avoided and a more productive ministry and result-oriented action made to adorn the historical sidelines if the hierarchy resolves to be about their duty in a more responsible and unpretentious manner. The secret is discernment. And the key is detachment.
At Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN), prayer, worship and waiting upon the Lord as radically animated by the Holy Spirit and deeply conditioned by Word and Sacrament constitute the core attractions that draw the mammoth crowds that gather every Wednesday Morning and Friday Night at the Adoration ground at Umuchime, Emene, near Enugu, Nigeria.
If the prophetic ministry of the Church deserves an attention and a response; and if the Church must continue to authentically and productively play her prophetic role in the world, Fr. Camilius Ejike Mbaka and his Adoration Ministry is a bold and successful example of this mission.