This is a guest post by Claire, a regular commenter who has been personally affected by SCOAN. She tells us the things that led her to question the ministry of TB Joshua.
I have been interested in SCOAN since 2002 when friends of mine became involved and as has been mentioned already on this site, one of those friends is now dead. But my concerns about SCOAN pre-date her death and I am taking this opportunity to put forward the concerns I have. I do not expect people who are involved with SCOAN to change their minds but I do hope to warn those people who are unsure.
In 2003 my friend Anna (not her real name) told me that she had been healed by TB Joshua and was therefore not going to accept further treatment for her cancer. This immediately raised concerns for me because there was no medical confirmation of this healing and I had never before (or since) come across a church which does not encourage people to continue medical treatment until healing is confirmed.
Another friend of mine had family in SCOAN in Nigeria. Her family cut her off – it became difficult for her to contact them and they did not contact her. It just seemed odd to me – their relationship may never have been particularly close but they were always together for the big family occasions and met up several times a year and then suddenly – nothing.
In 2004 I saw the documentary ‘God is Black’ by the theologian and journalist Robert Beckford, on Channel 4 in the UK. Within this documentary there was an incident with a young disciple I knew (I had babysat her when she was a small child). She was sent by TB Joshua to Mr Beckford’s room late at night to escort him to ‘Prayer Mountain’. On the way the cars they were travelling in came under gunfire. They finally returned to the Synagogue in the early hours of the morning. When he spoke to her later that day he found that she had been up for a prayer meeting at 6am.
This raised all sorts of questions in my mind. What sort of church is this that sends young people in its care into dangerous situations and then deprives them of sleep? If they wanted to take Mr Beckford to Prayer Mountain they didn’t have to do it in the middle of the night, nor did they have to have a young person involved – so why did they? And why did this girl then need to be up so early? I have heard of other disciples that are summoned to prayer meetings at all hours, this was not a one off. I cannot think of another church that would unnecessarily put its workers at risk or deprive them of sleep.
It struck me as deeply concerning that a church should apparently encourage people to believe that they were healed when there was no evidence of healing, that people involved with it should limit their contact with other family and friends, that encourages its workers into dangerous situations, that deprives its workers of sleep. The latter point in particular is one that rings alarm bells, because this is an activity that I associate with ‘brain washing’, with people being made more vulnerable to wrong ways of thinking through sleep deprivation.
I then heard of a former disciple who had alleged that she had been sexually abused by TB Joshua. These allegations were very similar in nature to allegations that we would hear a few years later from another former disciple. But at the time, these allegations were like a bolt out of the blue. While at the time I thought TB Joshua was not what he claimed to be, that he was not able to heal everyone as he claimed and that his behaviour in exposing young people in his care to risk was not what I would expect from a church leader, it had not crossed my mind that he may have been guilty of sexual abuse. But there it stood as an allegation that at the time I did not know whether to believe or not.
Over time I became more convinced that SCOAN was not a Christian church. My friend died and her son gave a sermon at her funeral. In this he referred to her not as his mother, but instead as his ‘sister’. He referred to TB Joshua as his father. This is clearly unbiblical – we have an earthly father (our birth or adoptive parent) and a heavenly father (God). How did Anna’s son come to refer to TB Joshua as his ‘father’? We are told to honour our mother and father, but here was this young man denying them both – his mother passed off as his sister and his father replaced by someone else.
Since then I have become more and more concerned about what exactly is happening at SCOAN. My friend Anna died, Giles on this site reported that his mother had died and the BBC and Sky News have reported that other people have died. A young woman was sent unnecessarily into a dangerous situation. Young people have been deprived of sleep. Many of those involved in SCOAN cut themselves off from family and friends (or are isolated from them). There are similar allegations of sexual abuse from different people and no evidence of any form of independent investigation nor any evidence to suggest that TB Joshua does not meet with women in private.
People I know who are involved find it very difficult to accept that the allegations that have been made may be true. In some cases to acknowledge deception will open a can of worms.
If Anna’s husband and son are to accept that she was never healed, that TB Joshua got it wrong when he told her his prayers were enough, then there are some very difficult issues to confront about her decision (and their support for that decision) not to have the treatment that could have saved her life.
For parents that have entrusted their daughters into the care of SCOAN, there is the possibility that they may have exposed them to sexual abuse.
And when families have cut themselves off from their loved ones under the impression that this is the will of God, how do they accept that they have cut themselves off from parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, nephews and nieces for no purpose?
This site has been a blessing to me. It has introduced me to people who have come through the experience of SCOAN and emerged with a sense of humour and a zest for life.
However it has also shown what I believe to be real fear amongst some of those who are involved. When people have reported negative experiences of SCOAN on this site, they are often cursed by those who believe in TB Joshua and believe in SCOAN. Some of the commentators on this site have shown real hatred towards those who would expose the deceit that I believe lies at the heart of SCOAN. I believe this hatred is caused by fear.
So for those who are considering a trip to Lagos in order to find healing, I say go to your local church and become part of the community there. Receive prayer from your local church family – and also the love and support of fellow believers. There’s no charge. If God wants to heal you, he will.
For those who have become involved in SCOAN and have doubts, talk to people outside. You will find only love and acceptance.
And for those that will no doubt seek to curse me for raising concerns, I would ask why the need to curse? What does it say about you that you have only hatred for those like me that question TB Joshua and SCOAN?