Celestial Church of Christ
|Celestial Church of Christ|
|Founder||Samuel Joseph Bilewu Oschoffa|
|Origin||29 September 1947
The Celestial Church of Christ is an African Initiated Church founded by the Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oschoffa on 29 September 1947 in Porto-Novo, Benin. Mainly located in Africa and in the Afro-descendant communities in the world, particularly in Benin and Nigeria.
The movement was founded by Samuel Joseph Bilewu Oschoffa, a former carpenter born in Dahomey (now Benin) in 1909. Raised as Protestant (Methodism), he had a divine revelation on 27 May 1947, during a solar eclipse, in a forest where he was lost. He felt called to pray, to heal the sick and raise the dead and founded his church in September 1947. Having appointed himself prophet, Reverend, pastor and founder, he occupied the highest office of the movement he had just founded. The hegemony he exercised on doctrine and discipline issues made his succession difficult after his death in 1985 in Lagos (Nigeria).
The movement has continued to grow since Oshoffa's death, but has also suffered setbacks—the most immediate being severe difficulties related to the matter of succession. Oschoffa was succeeded by Alexander Abiodun Adebayo Bada, who was head of the church until his death on 8 September 2000. Bada was briefly followed as leader by Philip Hunsu Ajose, who died in March 2001. There was a dispute over the succession to Ajose, with some declaring Gilbert Oluwatosin Jesse the leader, while others recognised the Reverend Emmanuel Oschoffa, son of Samuel Oshoffa. Following Jesse's death, his faction declared that Superior Evangelist Paul Suru Maforikan was the new spiritual leader of the church.
Contrary to the procedure of succession in Nigeria, Porto-Novo, the supreme headquarter, successfully chose Benoit Agbaossi(1931-2010) to the head of the church, who in his turn appointed Benoit Adeogun as the next Rev. Pastor shortly before his death in 2010. The Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) was recognized and authorized by the Republic of Dahomey (former name of Benin) in 1965. From 1976, the church launched an evangelistic campaign in former colony of the French West Africa, which became independent in 1960. From the late 1990s, this church has shown its willingness to use the Internet as a privileged means of evangelization thus allowing the many existing branches of the church within the African Diaspora (United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, France, USA) to maintain contact with each other and with Nigeria, the country in which the church is the most popular.
On Wednesday 10 June 2015, the Celestial Church of Christ was enmeshed in another leadership crisis as Tosho Oshoffa, another son of the late founder of the church, declared himself as a factional pastor. His elder brother, Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa, is the spiritual head of the church until this latest development. Prior to this, there had been issues between the two Oshoffa brothers. Tosho was said to have given his elder brother who is visually impaired, Emmanuel some documents, which he ignorantly signed. Unknown to Emmanuel, the documents he signed stipulated that he has given the mantle of the church’s leadership to Tosho. 
The Celestial Church of Christ is a prophetic with Christian background. The faithful are called 'Celestians'. The name of the church is inspired by a vision by which Jesus would have said that Church members adore him as do the angels in heaven. It claims inspiration from God through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit among the faithful. Its doctrinal teachings are based on the Bible and any superstition or animist belief from traditional African religions is excluded, as in other churches in the Aladura movement.
The Church is governed by twelve major recommendations, consisting several banned things, including food, common to other monotheistic religions. Tobacco, alcohol and eating pork are forbidden. The faithful must remove their shoes for prayer and in the places of worship. Men and women are separated at the church. Menstruating women and those who have recently given birth are unclean and can not attend the church for seven days in the first case after which they would be "sanctified". Members of Celestial Church of Christ are forbidden to engage or participate in any form of idolatory, fetish ceremony or cults, black magic and charms. Only men who are anointed are allowed to access to the altar.
The Church uses the King James Bible and the Yoruba translated versions. Although the church takes elements from Gungbe and Yoruba thought, it also has strong similarities to the "purification movements" against paganism that are relatively common in African Christianity. Oshoffa believed he had a mission to combat "'Satan', 'fetish priests' and other 'powers of darkness'."(Marburg article) The name of the Church comes from the Bible: Deuteronomy 26:15 "Look down from thy Holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel and the land which thou hast given us, as thou didst swear to our father, a land flowing with milk and honey". The name signifies that they deem themselves as celestial or a representative of the heavenly on Earth.
The temples of worship in Celestial Church of Christ always face East.
In 2001, it was the second largest church in Benin by the number of its practitioners (nearly half a million).
In France, the church is suspected by two anti-cults associations, ADFI and CCMM, of "cultic deviances" and of having committed acts of violence involving the death of a fifteen-year minor.
- (French) Apollinaire Adetonah, Lumière sur le Christianisme Céleste, 1972, 85 p.
- (French) Christine Henry, Pierre-Joseph Laurent and André Mary, « Du vin nouveau dans de vieilles outres : parcours d'un dissident du Christianisme Céleste (Bénin) », in Social Compass, 2001, vol. 48, no 3, pp. 353–68
- (French) Christine Henry, La force des anges : rites, hiérarchie et divination dans le Christianisme Céleste, Bénin, Brepols, Turnhout (Belgique), 2008, 280 p. (ISBN 978-2-503-52889-2)
- (French) Codjo Hébert Johnson, Le syncrétisme religieux dans le golfe du Bénin : le cas du 'Christianisme céleste' , Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, 1974, 139 p.
- (French) Joël Noret, « La place des morts dans le christianisme céleste », in Social compass, 2003, vol. 50, no 4, pp. 493–510
- (French) Laurent Omonto Ayo Gérémy Ogouby, « L'Église du christianisme céleste », in Les religions dans l'espace public au Bénin: vodoun, christianisme, islam, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2008, pp. 46–48 (ISBN 978-2-296-06111-8)
- (French) R. Saint-Germain, « Les chrétiens célestes, description d'une Église indépendante africaine: Questions d'éthique en sciences des religions », in Religiologiques (Montréal), 1996, vol. 13, pp. 169–94
- (French) Codjo Sodokin, Les 'syncrétismes' religieux contemporains et la société béninoise: Le cas du christianisme céleste, Université Lumière, Lyon, 1984, 306 p.
- (French) Albert de Surgy, L'Église du Christianisme Céleste: Un exemple d'Église prophétique au Bénin, Karthala editions, 2001, 332 p. (ISBN 2845861303)
- (French) Claude Wauthier, « L'Église du christianisme céleste », in Sectes et prophètes d'Afrique noire, Seuil, Paris, 2007, chapter XV, p. 227 and f. (ISBN 9782020621816)
- Afeosemime U. Adogame, Celestial Church of Christ: the politics of cultural identity in a West African prophetic-charismatic movement, P. Lang, Francfort-sur-le-Main, New York, P. Lang, 1999, 251 p.
- (French) Regard sur le christianisme céleste, documentary film produced by Albert de Surgy, CNRS Audiovisuel, Meudon, 1995, 40' (VHS)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Celestial Church of Christ.|
- Adetonah, A. (1972). Lumière sur le Christianisme Céleste (in French). p. 85.
- "Le Christianisme Céleste en France et en Belgique". Cairn. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- Crumbly, Deidre Helen (2008). Spirit, Structure, and Flesh: Gendered Experiences in African Instituted Churches Among the Yoruba of Nigeria p. 54 on. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-299-22910-8. Retrieved February 2010.
- Partridge, Christopher (2004). New Religions A Guide.New York:Oxford. ISBN 0-19-522042-0.
- This Day Online
- "Celestial signs lighten Bada's burial". The Comet. Celestial Church. October 2, 2000. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- Yemi Akinsuyi (October 11, 2003). "Celestial Church: Oschoffa Renews Call for Peace". ThisDay. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- BISI ERETAN. "Cele: Maforikan succeeds Jesse". Celestial Church of Christ. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- Obafẹmi Kẹhinde Olupọna, Jacob; Rey, Terry (2008). Òrìşà devotion as world religion: the globalization of Yorùbá religious culture. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 257–58. ISBN 0-299-22464-3.
- Farrell, Cecila (24 August 1991). "Church Rooted in Africa Mixes `Best of All Religions' Into One; Hyattsville Parish Blends Traditions to Help Cleanse the World". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- De Surgy, Albert (June 2001). L'Église du christianisme céleste un exemple d'Église prophétique au Bénin (in French). Series: Chrétiens en liberté. Paris: Karthala.
- "Le Préfet veut relancer la vigileance contre les dérives sectaires". AFP (in French). 7 January 2005. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
- "Church members jailed after exorcism kills teen". Radio France Internationale. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- St-J., D. (24 February 2010). "Procès en appel pour les responsables de l'église du Christianisme céleste". France-Guyane (in French). Retrieved 2 August 2010.