‘Healing’ at SCOAN: Are people encouraged to stop taking medication?
TB Joshua was in the news recently when the BBC named the London branch of SCOAN in connection with the deaths of three women who were told by their pastor to stop taking their medication after being declared ‘healed’ of their HIV/AIDS.
It is clear that the claim of healing, including that of HIV/AIDS and cancer, is a key selling point of TB Joshua’s churches. However, SCOAN London firmly denied that they had ever instructed people to stop taking their medication.
So is there any truth behind the suggestion that SCOAN has encouraged people to stop taking life-saving medication? We have talked to several former SCOAN insiders and visitors who say that this is the case. We will present the story of a women who went into a coma after being directly told by a SCOAN disciple to stop taking insulin for her diabetes. We will also tell the story of a woman who died after turning down chemotherapy for her breast cancer because she had been declared ‘healed’ by TB Joshua.
While some report being told to stop taking medication, others say that there was a strong implication that stopping medication was an important part of the healing process, even if they didn’t receive explicit instruction. All speak of the same teaching that SCOAN visitor Hattie describes in her account, which can be summarized as follows:
- God wants to heal you, but this can only happen if you have complete faith that he can and will.
- Any reliance on medication or medical treatment constitutes a ‘lack of faith’ in the ability of God to heal, and this show of ‘doubt’ may stop the healing from taking place.
The testimonies we are publishing will show how damaging this teaching can be, often to the most vulnerable and desperate people. What follows is the story of one woman who nearly died because of this teaching.
Judith went out to SCOAN Lagos several years ago, hoping to be healed of her diabetes.“I had suffered from Type 2 diabetes since I was about 12.” said Judith. “I heard about SCOAN because an old friend of ours was a disciple. My husband and I decided to go and visit.”
Her husband Patrick describes their arrival at SCOAN. “When you get to SCOAN, everything is built up to the healing services. We must have watched five videos a day- all these dramatic healings, deliverances. You see all this incredible sights, and it makes you think that amazing things must happen there.”
As a foreigner and contact of a disciple, Judith was given a place in the prayerline. “Everyone is asked to write their illnesses and problems on a board,” said Patrick. “Judith did this and waited in the prayerline. She wrote the two things she wanted healing for- diabetes and depression. TB Joshua came down the prayer line, laid his hands on her, and proclaimed her healed. Afterwards she asked a female disciple if she had been healed of her diabetes. The disciple said ‘if it’s on the card, it’s covered.’”
Judith was excited but needed reassurance. “I found the disciple again and I explained to her my situation. I came for healing, I said, and you say I’ve been healed. So should I continue taking my insulin?”. Judith says that the disciple was very clear in her response. “She told me to stop taking it. She said that the process of healing was taking place but it would only happen if I had faith. If I was taking medication, it would mean I didn’t have faith for healing,” said Judith. “She gave an analogy, saying “When a farmer plants a seed, he doesn’t dig it up each day to see how much it is growing. Faith is unseen.” I could see what she was saying, but it still made me nervous.’
Talking to TB Joshua
She had one more chance to clarify if this was the right thing to do. “When we were about to leave the church, we had the chance to see TB Joshua in his office. I asked him the same question. He just laughed, and said “Do I have to tell you again? Where’s your faith?””. “I was surprised at his response.” said Judith. “To be honest it made me feel inadequate. I felt that by even asking the question, I didn’t have enough faith. But also, it hurt that he had just laughed at me. This was incredibly important for me but he acted as if it was a stupid question.”
Judith decided to take the leap of faith and stopped taking her medication. When she left Lagos on Friday morning, she was already in bad shape. “On the plane back, I was very ill. I started vomiting and got really dehydrated,” she said. “But I kept praying and kept believing that I’d be healed.”
From bad to worse
Judith says that after Friday night, she doesn’t remember anything that happened. Her husband takes up the story. “I’ve seen Judith through lots of difficult times with her diabetes, but this time was worse than any of the others.” he said. With Judith’s symptoms getting worse, Patrick began to have doubts that the healing was taking place. “I had doubts, of course. For a while I tried to banish them, because I felt we needed to stay faithful for healing. But I started to realise that it was getting serious.” said Patrick.
By Saturday she was critically ill. “I took her blood sugar levels and it was over 30. It was actually off the scale. I gave her insulin then. But it didn’t have any effect, it was too little too late.” said Patrick. “By this stage she was barely conscious and she couldn’t walk or do anything for herself. That evening I called an ambulance, and she was taken to hospital.”
The medical miracle
By Saturday evening, Judith, who just two days ago had been told by TB Joshua that she had been healed of diabetes, was in a coma. When she arrived at the hospital, the doctor was shocked that she hadn’t been given medical attention sooner. “The consultant asked me why I had left it so long,” said Patrick. “She said that she should have been dead.” I told her about the ‘healing’ at SCOAN. She was a Christian herself, and she said the real miracle was that Judith was still alive; she could have easily died 24 to 36 hours before.” Judith was in a coma for the whole of Sunday, regained consciousness on Monday and remained in hospital for a further week. “She would have definitely died if I had waited any longer.” said Patrick.
Questioning TB Joshua
Judith and Patrick continued to visit Scoan London after that, but they began to question aspects of the ministry. “I started to think, where’s TB Joshua’s accountability?’ It seemed like people there spoke more highly of TB Joshua than of Jesus.” said Patrick. “Disciples that we knew had ‘prayer areas’ in their house with pictures of TB Joshua. I thought ‘I don’t want a picture of TBJ when I’m praying to Jesus- I can pray anywhere I like.”’
“I began to ask questions about things that I was uncomfortable with at SCOAN UK, but I found I was sidelined by people in the church that had been really friendly to me before.” he said. “When I’d question them about TB Joshua, they would always get defensive and reply with other questions, like “don’t you believe he’s a man of God?’ After a while these people stopped talking to us at all.” This was the point that they realised something was seriously wrong with SCOAN, and they decided to stop attending.
Judith and Patrick now believe that they were the victims of brainwashing at SCOAN. Judith is very fortunate to have lived to tell the tale. In a further post, we will tell the story of someone who TB Joshua proclaimed healed of cancer, and who later died after refusing to have chemotherapy.
Judith and Patrick’s real names have been changed at their request to protect their identity.