Who is TB Joshua?
Looking for information online about TB Joshua is a thankless task. In the first couple of pages of a google search, you learn that TB Joshua:
-predicted the death of Michael Jackson
-has been described as the “Son of the Devil” by the Cameroonian government
-made the sun shine for the entirety of Barack Obama’s visit to Ghana.
-has been accused of practising “Docetic Gnosticism” by Pastor Chris Okotie (WHAT??)
It seems like a significant portion of information online about TB Joshua is written by lunatics. This is not a good sign in itself, but it makes it hard to pin down what exactly is going on. So we have trawled though a lot of the information in order to come up with something that makes some kind of sense. We’ll start with a couple of mainstream media accounts of SCOAN that give a good overview. In a later post we’ll tackle the abuse allegations.
Mainstream media accounts of TB Joshua’s ministry
There is surprisingly little media coverage, outside of local Nigerian press. In 2003, the theologian and filmmaker Robert Beckford made a documentary for Channel 4 called “God is Black” exploring African christianity. He visited SCOAN in Lagos and the footage gave a fascinating insight into the place. In this Guardian article, Mark Lawson reviews the documentary. It’s worth a read, but some notable things in case you’re in a hurry:
Signs of a cult of personality around TB Joshua: The documentary showed children singing songs with lyrics that praised the ‘Man of God’ TB Joshua.
Bribery of journalists: Lawson writes: “Perhaps doubting the testimony of his mouth, the holy man then seems to trust money to talk instead. As the crew leaves the Joshua compound, they are handed $1,000 in an envelope”.
Strange ‘brainwashed’ behaviour of disciples: Lawson writes: “Asked “How long have you been here?” one Joshua aide insists that she doesn’t “think in terms of time… God is not about time”".
Another great account of SCOAN is found in the book Dances with Devils by the South African investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. It’s on Amazon, and extracts are up on Google books (about p220 onwards)
Pauw follows a group of South African Christians as they go to Nigeria to receive healing from their terminal illness, and concludes that TB Joshua is a cheap fraud. A few notable things about Pauw’s account:
Backs up Beckford’s bribery experience:
“As we were about to get up and leave, he added: ‘But I also have a gift here from God’. He pulled three white envelopes from his drawer and put one in front of each of us.
Each envelope was stacked with hundred-dollar notes. I pushed mine across the table to Joshua.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I cannot accept a gift from you.”
“It’s not from me,’ he said. ‘it’s from God.’
Recounts several supposed healings that ended badly:
Here Pauw describes the fate of people who went to Lagos and were declared healed by TB Joshua:
“Wium Basson died within days of returning to South Africa. Maxie Claasen, suffering from brain, liver and breast cancer but declared healed by TB Joshua, also died shortly after returning home…
John Rindel went for an AIDS test at a private clinic in Johannesberg. He called me minutes after he had recieved the results. “I’m still HIV positive,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a mistake. They make mistakes with these tests, you know?”
“I hope they did, John,” were the only words of consolation I could think of.
“I might go back to Lagos,” he said. “I want the prophet to pray for me again.”
John Rindel never made it back to Lagos. He died a few months later.”
That seems to be all of the substantial mainstream media articles about TB Joshua. Let us know if we’ve missed any. This article in Charisma, a US-based Christian magazine, gives a fair account of the church and explores the division of opinion among Western christians. There are a few key points that are backed up by our own conversations with ex-disciples:
All visitors have their movements tightly controlled by SCOAN staff, and their passports are taken from them on arrival:
“She told Charisma that Synagogue staff members would not let her leave the compound when she wanted, and they held her airline tickets and passport for seven hours despite her protests.”
This is an issue that will be looked at further- we know of seriously ill people that have been prevented from leaving despite their desperate condition. In one case a young Austrian disciple died of malaria because she didn’t get treatment in time.
Bizarre sexual tone of some of the meetings:
“Kiser claims that while at Joshua’s compound, she was urged to watch testimonial videos that showed people masturbating. She also said the prophet used profanity during prayers.”
This sounds very odd but there are a lot of similar accounts- including those of ex-disciples we’ve talked to. Even in TB Joshua’s official magazine there are testimonies of dubious ‘sexual healing’, quoted here in the article:
“In testimonies published in his magazine, people give credit to Joshua–as well as Jesus–for miracles. One man said he was delivered of bestiality after Joshua asked him to touch two women while standing in front of the audience.”
Backs up other accounts of strange brainwashed behaviour of disciples:
“Kiser said she was “terrified” during her visit, and she described his disciples as “zombies, with vacant looks on their faces.”
TB Joshua’s mysterious background:
“Here is a man who says he was born again in his mother’s womb,” said Anselm Madubuko, pastor of 12,000-member Revival Assembly Church in Lagos. “Nobody knows his pastor. Nobody knows his former church, and then he shows up as a prophet and begins to work ‘miracles.’”
Hopefully this is helpful to those trying to gain a general idea of SCOAN. Next we will look at the allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the church.