Founder: Oschoffa, Samuel Bilewu Joseph (b. 1909; d. 1985) Country of origin: Benin Republic
One of the most widespread indigenous prophetic-charismatic movements in West Africa is the CCC. It falls under the category of churches popularly known as Aladura (the prayer people) which emerged among the Yoruba in Western Nigeria. They are so called owing to their strong emphasis on prayer, healing, prophecy, visions, dreams. CCC was founded in 1947 through the charismatic initiative of a Yoruba ‘carpenter-turned-prophet’ Samuel Bilewu Oschoffa who claimed to have undergone his first visionary experience in a mangrove forest in Porto Novo (Dahomey) during his search for timber. Through this vision, he got a spiritual calling from God to embark on a’special mission’ and to found a church charged with ‘cleansing the world’. Following this transformation, he received spiritual gifts of healing, prayer and prophecy and became famous for his healing miracles (i.e. raising the dead).
CCC started among the Egun and Yoruba peoples, and thus had its worldview largely shaped by these religio-cultural backgrounds. Although the church had its origin in Porto Novo, it was its inception in Nigeria in 1950 that gained it popularity and fame. From its first base in Makoko-Lagos, it began to witness a phenomenal growth and spread first to virtually all Yoruba-speaking areas and later to other parts of Nigeria. As the church was spreading outside the Egun-Yoruba geo-ethnic context to other parts of Nigeria, parishes were being planted concurrently in the West African sub-region i.e. Togo, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Cameroon, Ghana, and Senegal. It also started to spread to the USA, Canada and to European countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands). Between 1976 and 1996, CCC parishes increased from 254 to 2,051. Of these, 1,744 are found in Nigeria alone while 307 parishes are scattered within the West Coast of Africa, Europe, America, Canada, and other parts of the world. Within five decades of its existence, the movement had transcended geo-ethnic boundaries with a membership running into several millions and over 4,000 parishes scattered worldwide.
CCC beliefs occupy an important place for its members as they lie behind the ritual practices, principle of membership, and decisions of the church. The Bible represent the basic source and foundation of their beliefs and modes of worship. The CCC Constitution (p. 29) explicitly states ‘that the name and organisational structure of the church, its doctrines and rituals, are derived primarily from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit’. Apart from the centrality of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, angelology occupies an important place in their belief system. CCC is structured around the centralized authority of the Pastor (Founder). As both the spiritual and administrative head of the church, the Pastor has the unchallengeable authority on all matters, and legitimates this authority through his personal charisma. The Pastor-in-Council under the ultimate authority of the Pastor represents the highest organ of government. The internal organization of the church provides a complex hierarchical structure that can be classified into the upper and lower cadres. CCC Worldwide is run through its international headquarters located at the Mission House in Ketu-Lagos. The Supreme headquarters is located in Porto-Novo by virtue of its birth there. Other sacred CCC places include the Celestial City (New Jerusalem) at Imeko, the International Camp Centre along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and Mercy lands attached to each local parish of the church.
The demise of Pastor-Founder Oschoffa in 1985, marked a watershed in CCC’s history as it struggled to deal with the problems of succession, continuity and the routinization of charisma. Abiodun Bada was enthroned as Oschoffa’s successor in 1987, amidst leadership tussles and prolonged legal crisis, a position he held until his death in 2000. Bada’s demise did not put an end to the legal crisis. The church hierarchy swung into action to fill the leadership vacuum created, and Philip Ajose who was until then the head of the CCC Overseas Diocesan headquarters in London, was enthroned in March 2001. Philip Ajose died on 2 March 2001, six days after he was officially installed Pastor of the CCC Worldwide. Following his death, a leadership vacuum was again created until January 2003 when Gilbert Jesse was appointed as the new spiritual head of the church.