Winners Chapel Accused of Tax Dodge

The Ghanaian Chronicle has been reporting on Ghana’s Charismatic churches, with an emphasis on the powerful Winners Chapel:

we have learnt that at Winners Chapel alone, over $60,000 was sent monthly from Ghana to the Nigerian headquarters of the church – tax-free! It is significant that but for the current leadership struggle in the church, the average citizen and probably the ordinary church member would never have learnt the truth of how the tithe and offering money were changed into dollars on the black market and sent to Lagos, smuggled in car tyres and what not, like some drug barons trying to launder their dirty money.

What has been revealed so far about the strange goings-on in that church points to just one thing: a massive illegality has been perpetrated against this country and as far as we at The Chronicle are concerned, must be accounted for, no matter whose ox is gored.

According to an earlier report, this has all come out because the leader of Winners Chapel of Ghana, Bishop George Adjeman, had decided to stop making the payments to Nigeria. The church’s Nigerian head, Bishop David Oyedepo, responded by dismissing Adjeman against the wishes of the Ghanaian congregation, leading to secession, legal action, and – if an astonishing piece of gossip is to be believed – regional tension:

news [is] going round that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has threatened to stop supplying oil to Ghana if a Nigerian did not replace the Ghanaian bishop.

Oyedepo is very popular on the international circuit of Charismatic and neo-Pentecostal speakers, and is an associate of NAE leader Ted Haggard. Oyedepo’s flagship Faith Tabernacle in Lagos is described by one Christian source, writing in 2000, as follows:

the largest church facility in the world, seating an approximate 53,000 people. In addition to this mega sanctuary, their campus also consists of a Bible college, residential quarters and various other facilities that enhance their outreach to the city. Judging by the more than 47,000 attendees in one service, they are doing an excellent job of impacting their region.

The BBC, profiling the Tabernacle in 1999, provides some wider context:

As living standards have collapsed in the past 15 years, and as schools and hospitals fall down, so bigger and bigger churches are still being built.

Online Nigeria provides a profile of the man himself:

David Oyedepo, general overseer of Living Faith Ministries aka Winners Chapel has grown to become an oak tree in Christendom. His 50,000 capacity worship centre known as Cannanland in Otta, Ogun State , has attracted Christian worshippers from within and outside the country. Newswatch learnt that in the last 10 years of his ministry, many barren women have given birth to babies after attending his miracle programmes. Many more claimed that they received healings, secured employment, financial breakthroughs, turn-arounds in their respective businesses and deliverance from ancestral curses.

Oyedepo’s motivational, faith-building teachings have also endeared him to many. As part of his outreach programmes, the church acquired an aircraft in 1996 to facilitate his evangelism programmes to countries outside Nigeria . Tagged “Gospel on Wings,” the programme was launched as an arm of the World Mission Agency Incorporated – the organ responsible for foreign mission operations.

Today, the church is said to exist in every state of Nigeria and in some other African countries. Oyedepo has more than 20 books published by his Dominion Publishing House to complement his soul- winning efforts.

Newswatch gives further details:

David Oyedepo, bishop of Living Faith Outreach more popular as Winners’’ Chapel, is a man who lives like an accomplished person. Whenever he or Faith, his wife is going out in the town, either separately or together, they usually go out with a convoy of vehicles and blaring of siren to beat the traffic. The couple like riding in posh jeep vehicles with one or two vehicles in front and a similar number of cars following the one occupied by either of them.

Although the Winners’ Chapel is one of Africa’s fastest-growing Pentecostal churches, Oyedepo is often invited for crusades by other churches. He has a global vision of evangelism and has taken the gospel outside the shores of Nigeria, which have yielded a lot of financial rewards. “Your financial revolution is tied to what you do with your finances on the gospel,” he often tells his congregation.

As part of his outreach programmes, Oyedepo, who is stupendously rich acquired a multi-million naira aircraft in 1996 to facilitate his evangelism programmes to countries outside Nigeria. This earned him the appellation “Jet-Age pastor”. This powerful man of God believes that he is sent to a generation and not just a denomination to work signs and wonders. Only recently, Oyedepo established the Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State, thereby using his wealth for the promotion of tertiary education in Nigeria.

Dipo Ajayi, a pastor of the church, however, said that the money Winners’ Chapel has made came from voluntary contributions. “Your financial standing as a Christian, born-again is not dictated by the economy of the nation. We are self-sufficient; we operate the heavenly budget,” he said.

Last autumn Oyedepo contributed to a book about the global significance of Nigerian Christianity edited by C Peter Wagner, the influential American Charismatic who promotes “spiritual warfare” ideas. The article from 2000 also notes that in Wagner’s terminology, Oyedepo is running an “Apostolic reformation” church, meaning a church held together through the spiritual charisma of its leader rather than a denominational structure. Wagner sees these kinds of churches as the future of Christianity, and just last October Oyedepo was speaking at a revival conference convened by Wagner at Haggard’s New Life Church in Colorado. Perhaps a financial accountability conference should be next on the agenda?