The House of Prayer for all Nations;
Jesus makes reference to two passages of scripture in the bible. The first is Isaiah 56:7. I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my House/Temple shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
The second is Mark 11:17, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”
God’s house is the house of prayer for all nations and God is the God of all Nations. Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
Today is the time for religious leaders in Africa through their councils to start advocating for a united church in Africa? Isn’t it time to say no to denominations, to say no to divisions among the people of the same God?
The measure of any church, whether inside or out of a denomination, is not how it is organized nor what name it is called, but rather how faithfully it adheres to the teachings of the Word of God. No church is inerrant, because churches are made of people who are capable of error. Even the apostles, with all the gifts God gave them, were not without error. Paul records in Galatians 2:11 that “when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” Peter, the first to give the gospel to a Gentile, gave in to pressure by the Judaizers to separate himself from Gentile believers. Paul’s ability to confront Peter was not based on his position as an apostle, but on the revealed truth of God’s Word. Paul complimented the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11) for checking his own teaching against the Bible to find out if he was telling them straight doctrine.
With an increasing number of interracial and intercultural marriages, frequently between two people of differing religious beliefs, the diversity that can be found within a no-denominational church can be very attractive to those who don’t feel comfortable in the old, conventional religious divisions.
There is truth in a sense that the Christian church was always meant to be non-denominational. There are no such divisions within the Bible itself, certainly; a passage from Paul’s letters to the Romans in the New Testament claims that the Bible offers salvation to everyone who believes in it. It is also true that the church was always supposed to be united under God, rather than divided into different sects. It is clearly seen that each denomination’s traditions and beliefs serve to distract people from the messages and moral principles espoused by Christianity, and thus do more harm than good. Many of the tenets of these denominations have no roots in the Bible at all, but rather in tradition and decrees by their governing bodies, or principles held by their founders.
With this in mind, it can hardly be surprising that Christians today can read the Bible and follow the same logic that Martin Luther himself did; it is possible to be a true Christian without wanting to participate in denomination rituals and politics. While it is true that many denominations were founded in good faith and with the best of intentions for following the word of God, most of their foundations are in nature not of Christianity and the Bible itself.
The biggest mistake by religions in Africa- Dividing a people that God already united through his son Jesus Christ
Why denominational divisions among believers of the same God, followers of the same savior Jesus Christ (save for Muslims), seekers of the same Kingdom. How many Heavenly kingdoms are wee seeking? If we believe that we are all seeking for the same Kingdom of God, then why divide ourselves? Is there any logic for taking different directions while going to the same destination? Or shall we find in heaven Catholics in their own kingdom, Anglicans in their own kingdom, the Pentecostals, Orthodox and SDAs alike?
Look at the way Christians take the sacrament of Holy Communion; and other sacraments alike. A catholic cant share in the Holy Communion administered by an Anglican priest, and an Anglican can’t share in the Holy Communion administered by a Catholic Priest, and none of the mainstream denominations will accept a Pentecostal to share in the same Holy Communion. What is Holy Communion? Holy Communion is simply sharing of the body and blood of Jesus Christ; the same Jesus Christ who died for us all. A catholic Priest cannot baptize an Anglican child, and if it happened the Anglican Church will re-baptize this person in order to accept this person in the church. Is it necessary? Is it important?
But, how did it begin? How is this divisionism on denomination lines growing and affecting people who are meant to be one? I did not study history, but I am an interested follower of history. History tells us that in Africa there were no denominations from the beginning until the coming of European religious missionaries. However, this didn’t mean that there were no religion in Africa; religion was there and Africans knew that there was God and they all glorified this one God. As it is written in the bible that ‘‘a fool says in his heart that there is no God’’, in African tradition there were no such a fool. In my Kinyankole culture everyone knew that there was God, they called him Ruhanga Kazooba Nyamuhanga; Kazooba (the one above the sun), Nyamuhanga (the creator of all things). And each culture glorified God the creator in their customs and traditions. Until the Religious missionaries from Europe came with different denominations and Africans were given a challenge to choose which religion to follow based on incentives such as education, health services and political power; these divisions continued to grow into what we see today.
Is it necessary to continue with these religious divisions in Africa even today? I don’t go to Europe and probably I would not want to; but a question for our religious leaders who have moved to Europe and who have seen religion in Europe, is it necessary for us as Africans to continue being divided along the religious divisions which we got from Europe? They came, they divided us, they achieved their missions and it ended. Do we then have to continue dividing ourselves as African Christians along those religious lines?
Here we ask; who are the promoters of these divisions in Africa today? The Europeans introduced these divisions and left, who are the promoters of the same divisions today? The reality is that it’s not the believers in our churches at the centre of these divisions, but our leaders are. Several times I see for example Pentecostal pastors invited into Anglican families to conduct prayers. I see many Anglicans and Catholics from up country going to the capital city to have prayers with powerful Pentecostal pastors. I see Anglicans, Pentecostals and Muslims going to Bukarango (a catholic prayer mountain). Certainly, believers do that because they don’t see these divisions as important; they see Jesus at work in all the prayer places. But, do the believers do all this with the consent of their leaders? Can an Anglican Bishop or Priest go for prayers at Bukarango? Haven’t believers been rebuked by their leaders for going into Pentecostal churches to meet prophets and other prayer warriors?
Do we remember John: 17? So, do we still have authority to claim that we are one? Isn’t this deception? How do we become one when we can’t serve each other, when we can’t share sacraments such as Holy Communion? Do we then believe that by holding communal National prayers and through councils makes us one, when an Anglican leader thinks it’s a mistake for Anglicans to attend prayers at Bukarango? What would happen for example if there is a Catholic priest who takes his daily morning prayers from the Anglican Church? Or an Anglican priest who goes to the nearest Pentecostal church for morning prayers every day?
I have been moving a lot within this country, and wherever I find a church and depending on the faith of the people am with I feel comfortable attending a mass from any Christian church. All the time I feel the togetherness, I feel loved, I learn new things and bring glory to the Lord. But there come time for Holy Communion in a Catholic Church; it’s time to realize that I am not one of them; probably that Jesus whose body and blood they are sharing is not the same Jesus who died for me. ‘‘How I pray that they may be one’’. See how they introduce visitors in the Anglican Church, ‘‘Visitors from other faiths’’. How many faiths, is it not one faith in Jesus Christ our savior?
How do these religious divisions affect our society today? It has led denominations to stick to their own things and refusing to be part of those things that belong to other denominations such as educational institutions, financial institutions and other developments. For instance, at the beginning of this year I met my friend who was struggling to get a place for his son at St Josephs Secondary School, a Catholic founded school and a good school in the region. Unless a child has a Catholic name or a rosary in the neck or introduced with a recommendation from a Catholic leader it will be difficult to be admitted in this school.
See in our communities how Anglican parents can’t put their children in a nearby good Catholic primary school and their children must walk the distance to an Anglican school even if it is not so a good school. Even teachers are rejected in schools which are founded by denominations different from theirs. Is that how we become one under the same God as followers of the same Jesus Christ?
Recently I was invited to attend a meeting of Old Students of my Secondary School. During our time 1993-1998 the school had grown to over 1000 students. It was the best performing school in the entire district both at O and A levels. During that time we knew it was an Anglican founded school because we used to see Rev Canons from Anglican Church were then the leaders of the school governing body, they used to come there to conduct masses and to give us Holy Communion. Now the school is Catholic founded after very hard struggles which have left the school in a dire mess. The school now has an enrolment of less than 500, no more first grade at both O level and A level. It is hard to blame these struggles at the followers of the Anglican and Catholic denominations, but the very leaders of these denominations are to blame. Leaders serving the same God, following the same Jesus, seeking the same Kingdom dividing a community that was originally united under one God.
In my country people believe in church founded-missionary hospitals for their compassionate care but which has changed in the past years. However good a doctor is, a nurse or midwife will not work in a catholic founded hospital if he/she is an Anglican. Similarly a good doctor will be rejected in an Anglican hospital if he/she is a Catholic. How does this affect service delivery is a different story. If a doctor knows he is employed in this hospital partly because he is a catholic, may be at the same time this doctor has been denied chance to work in another hospital because of being a Catholic; how does he treat those patients who come into his care when they are from the other religion?
‘‘How I pray that they may be one’’; by continuing in these divisions are we not ignoring God’s call on oneness? How does Jesus feel about these divisions among Christians? He must be feeling the same way you would feel as a parent if you had in your house children who do not believe in your instructions and each one is taking their own instructions which are not in line with the values of the family.
Recently, I found a group of our staffs at work place in a conversation about denominations. One of them asked, what is the difference between Catholic Church and Anglican Church? The other replied that the difference is that Catholics do not consider beer or alcohol as a sin where as Anglicans consider the taking of beer as one of the major sins in the life of a believer. A third person asked ‘‘what is the percentage of members who take and those who don’t take beer in the Anglican Church’’? They all agreed that it’s about 10% for those who don’t take beer and 90% for those who take beer among the Anglicans. Then one concluded that if taking beer is sin, the Anglican Church is built by sinners on the basis that the Church is highly built by the 90% than the 10%. It was a very tough argument, the rest part of it I can’t go into now. But, look at this, beer being a cause for division among the Anglican and Catholic Christian believers.
What is the meaning of the word denomination any way?
The most literal analysis of the word “denomination” shows that it is the very definition of division. In fact, this is how Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the word. It can easily be reasoned that, by their very nature, denominations promote division among a religion that is supposed to be united, as one, under the same God. Even as far back in history as the sixteenth century, there were people like Martin Luther, the theological scholar and founder of the Protestant reformation, who believed that the existence of denominationalism went against biblical purposes.
We cannot continue to have our churches (houses of God) serving just a section of people who believe in that particular denomination and neglecting others who don’t belong to the same denomination. We can follow John: 17 and become one. Jesus makes reference to two passages of scripture in the bible. The first is Isaiah 56:7, ‘‘I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my House/Temple shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’’. The second is Mark 11:17, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” How then, shall it be a house of all nations if it continues to divide nations along denominational differences? God’s house is the house of prayer for all nations and God is the God of all Nations. Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb”.
Christianity and Culture:
“African spirituality simply acknowledges that religious beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane.”
For starters, the word “religion” is problematic for many Africans, because European missionary teaching suggested that religion is separate from the other aspects of one’s culture, society, or environment. But for many Africans, religion can never be separated from all these. It is a way of life, and it can never be separated from the public sphere. Religion informs everything in traditional African society, including political, art, marriage, health, diet, dress, economics, and death.
This is not to say that indigenous African spirituality represents a form of theocracy or religious totalitarianism, not at all. African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the mundane.
African spirituality is truly holistic. For example, sickness in the indigenous African worldview is not only an imbalance of the body, but also an imbalance in one’s social life, which can be linked to a breakdown in one’s kinship and family relations or even to one’s relationship with ancestors. African spirituality considers ones ancestors as spiritual beings or angels who are living among the multitudes of angels with God in heaven.
We define the African traditional religious system as the basis of understanding Christian spiritual aspects within an African context. This background is essential to any application of Christian spirituality in Africa.
Relationship between Christianity and Culture
There is a variety of perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and culture. According to Dr. Bruce Riley Ashford, the conversation boils down to these three main views:
- Christianity against culture as portrayed by the European Missionary teachings
This first perspective sees Christianity and culture as two opposing forces of influence. The church stands on one side of the line, and culture on the other. “This is especially a temptation for Americans who realize that their country is becoming increasingly post-Christian and in some ways, even anti-Christian. They realize that their beliefs on certain theological and moral issues will increasingly be rejected and mocked by the political and cultural elite and by many of their fellow citizens.”
- Christianity of culture
The second view embraces culture and brings it into the church. “Those with a ‘Christianity of culture’ perspective tend to build churches that are mirrors of the culture.”
Cultural shifts that happen independently of the church aren’t always bad. “God has enabled all people, Christian or not, to make good and valuable contributions in the cultural realm.” The human rights movement and the abolition of slavery brought about monumental positive changes. Looking back now, we can recognize that there were Christians on both sides of these movements—some advocating them, and others resisting them. We can agree that the Christians resisting these cultural shifts were in the wrong. Not all culture isn’t always right, and the church can’t mirror every move culture makes. Without God, culture raises up idols in his place, celebrities, politicians, sex, wealth and power.
- Christianity in and for culture
It’s no secret that we believe this is the best way to view the relationship between church and culture: “A better mindset is one that views human beings as representatives of Christ who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context, and whose cultural lives are characterized by obedience and witness.”
We don’t need to use a metaphor to describe this perspective, but here’s a common example you might find helpful:
As Christians, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we represent another world, while we live in the midst of this one.
God created the structure that allows culture to exist, shift, and progress. As humans, we formulate and shape that culture within God’s structure. “Every cultural context is structurally good, but sometimes directionally corrupt,” “For this reason, we must live firmly in the midst of our cultural contexts (structurally), all the while seeking to steer our cultural realities toward Christ rather than toward idols (directionally).”
As ambassadors of Christ, we are fully immersed in the culture, but everything about us points back to the one we serve. This doesn’t mean we agree with everything culture does, but we learn to understand it and speak its language, identify its true desires; all with the intention of showing how Christ is the only one who can correctly fulfil those well-meaning desires.
Every aspect of human life and culture is ripe for Christian witness. Every dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, or politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him with our lives. We thank God for the existence of culture and recognize whatever is good in it, while at the same time seeking to redirect whatever is not good toward Christ.
Jesus in Africa
Jesus in Africa needs to be understood to refer to how black and white Christians in the light of past discrimination, racism and artificial separation, can come together as participants in a largely homogeneous culture perceive and proclaim Christ.
On the Christological debate, we affirm that Christ is the healer, liberator, ancestor, mediator, elder brother, the crucified one, head and master of initiation and the black messiah.’ Therefore, the role of Christ in the African worship of God needs to be clear. We need to explain further how Jesus is ‘the healer, liberator, ancestor, mediator, elder brother and the crucified one. Within African cultural and religious arena there is big room for Jesus to transform African life.
When the question of the relation between Jesus and Africans is raised, it is often in terms of what Jesus has done for Africa and Africans – or at most what He has done with them.
Jesus as an ancestor
There are several expressions that are often used by African people when they speak of dying, namely: ‘going to one’s Fathers’, ‘going home’, ‘being taken away or being received’, ‘departed’. ‘Going away’ in an African worldview implies going to the spiritual world, because the spiritual world is as real as the physical one.
God is the Originator and Sustainer of all things’, and this includes the living dead and the spirits. At the point of death a person becomes part of the ‘living dead’ and joins other members of his or her household who have preceded him or her in the spirit world.
This person would from time to time visit the family; some people may see the person and some may not. Those who are lucky enough to see the person are the elderly. However, the revelation of God is not based on luck but on grace and is for all generations and age groups. Luck suggests that only a few can ‘see’, depending on how lucky they may be, but the grace of God is for all.
The understanding of African Christianity is that since Jesus died and was seen by some walking the streets of Jerusalem, he is regarded as living dead at that moment. When Jesus died on the cross He went to meet others.
Those who accept Jesus and partake in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are to be joined with the spiritual world. Water baptism is symbolized as death – ‘the sacramental death when baptizing a person is regarded as the doorway into the New Testament world of the spirit’ (Mbiti 1971:153). It is believed that the saints commune with God and the whole of heaven. The Christian practice of sharing the Eucharist, eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood, is regarded to be the same as Africans sharing their meal with the living dead (ancestors). In Christianity the two worlds of the living and the living dead overlap in Jesus Christ, and the goal is to transform and emulate the numerous African traditions that are associated with Jesus.
Contextualizing salvation in Africa and African worldview to salvation
The theological approach to the teaching of salvation in Africa is similar to that of the teaching of the Trinity in Africa. After the identification of the mistakes and the attitudes of the missionaries from European and other Western cultures, an attempt is made in order to introduce an approach that is not influenced by Western culture, but by being African in approach and content.
Although soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) has always occupied a central place in Christian theology, the shape of soteriology has changed many times as Christianity’s centre of gravity shifted to a new cultural context.
A lot has been said about the holistic approach from an African perspective. An African is made fully aware that the individual’s life and the pursuit of life are not attainable in isolation and apart from one’s fellows because life is communal and is possible only in a network of mutual interdependencies between an individual and his or her community; life in Africa and for an African is viewed as a pursuit of the maintenance of relationships. As stated in many ways and forms, these relationships include extended family, clan or tribe, ancestors, God and nature.
An African is introduced to these relationships through a process that is called ‘rites of passage’. These rites and rituals are subdivided, as illustrated by Cox (1998:x), ‘according to the functions they perform for the faith community.’ Here are the subdivisions:
- Life cycle rituals
- Crisis rituals
- Calenderer rituals.
As a person goes through the process of development, they pass through certain phases of life and relationships. The development begins from the moment of conception and continues after death. According to African tradition ‘a ritual must be performed as soon as a woman is pregnant; the elders in some communities go to the kraal and perform the rituals;‘ There at the kraal the elders communicate with the ancestors to ask them to safeguard the foetus. Then the event proceeds through the introduction of a traditional healer, giving of African herbs, birth and child naming, ritual washing, introducing a child to family members, relatives and community, and through growth and development a child goes through different ritual activities. African Christians need to realize the impact of these relationships and accept being part of them.
Within these highly charged and dynamic communal interrelationships, for better or worse, an African cannot avoid experiencing and being influenced by the activities of the individual existence of his or her fellows who shape, mould and channels his or her life’s fortunes in certain directions as much as he or she in turn also shapes and influences others’ lives.
An African continues living life as part of a community, not in isolation as an individual. Life is lived in connection with those that are alive in the here and now, but also with an awareness of those who have died, yet who are also present in the here and now in a more spiritual form.
When an African suffers disappointment or frustration, success or failure, when a beloved one falls ill or loses children in succession, he or she is apt to look for the cause, in a context outside that of physical cause and effect.
The reality of life for an African is that there is never a separation of physical from spiritual. To the traditional African there is no coincidence or accident. Nothing happens by chance. This is the reason Maimela (1991) mentions that the traditional African lives his or her life through the manipulation of certain supernatural forces or spirits. The forces and spirits are also manipulated by the witches and sorcerers with evil intent or by medicine men and women to arrest and cure illness.
When an African lives life outside his or her community and becomes an individual, he or she becomes exposed to forces and spirits that can bring misfortune upon his or her life, ‘The traditional African is a victim of anxieties that are born out of the foal of evil spirits and malicious persons, especially witches and sorceress.’
Salvation is to be understood as wholeness. Evil is constituted by whatever detracts from such wholeness of black people, or the powerlessness of black people in a social order designed to deprive them of the full humanity that God intends for them.
Imperialism and apartheid were perceived as systems that were designed to deprive Africans of the full humanity that God intended for them. Salvation needs to meet the concerns of the African people. The primary concern of African Tradition Religion (ATR) is to realize an ideal life, for in ATR healing and cleansing was meant to restore all kinds of broken relationships whether between the individual and the community or with the world of the spirits of which God is supreme.
One needs to realise from Liberation Theology or Black Theology that the evil of systems were meant to oppress and to deny blacks their full humanity by avoiding emphasis on relationships. Salvation is understood in terms of relief or help in a time of trouble in this life. Salvation is expressed in acts such as healing, driving away evil spirits, empowerment of the individual self, the promotion of fertility and success in life’s ventures.
African Traditional Religion has a space to exist within the Christian faith; it’s only the approach to worship that differs. African Tradition Religion as a religion existed before Christianity, before the arrival of the missionaries and it cannot be ignored at all. Both can continue to exist together today.
The Living God
“The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.’ “In traditional Africa there are no such “fools.” In traditional Africa, God is experienced as an all-pervading reality. God is a constant participant in the affairs of human beings. A Muslim never projects into the future or talks about the past without the qualifying phrase insha Allah, “by the will of Allah.” Christians will say “God willing”, and the Akan of Ghana will convince you that all is “by the grace of God.” Nothing and no situation is without God. The Akan of Ghana say Nsem nyina ne Onyame (“all things/affairs pertain to God”). That Africans maintain an integrated view of the world has been expressed by many.
We experience the total dependence on God in African Religion in the prayers. God is the ultimate receiver of all prayers, so all libations begin with calling upon God. This God has been with Africans from the beginning and features in prayers and greetings, blessings and curses: “God will pay you back” is feared as a most potent curse. People are discouraged from using it as it may rebound on then when they deserve what they have received at the hands of those they curse.
In African Religion it is not God who suffers from the evil we do to each other. God does not suffer at the hands of the exploiter and the oppressor; it is the individual who suffers. However, when individuals suffer through evil not of their doing, God who is the Creator of all humans demonstrates concern. Behind the unpronounceable curse is the expectation that God judges impartially, that God sees when we cheat and exploit the weak. Most important is the experience that God guards the weak. Often, when children and others deemed weak in society escape calamity, all agree that it is God’s doing.
The immediacy of God in African affairs is also demonstrated through the God-related names we bear. Names like Byaruhanga (everything belongs to God), Kwarikunda (if God wishes), Akampurira (God heard me) are examples from the Kinyankole names in Western Uganda. Elsewhere in Africa, Nyamekye (gift of God) and Dardom (depend on God) are examples from Akan names in Ghana. Yoruba names beginning with Olu or Oluwa speak of human experience of God. In names we encounter the African ontology that is centered on God who is the source of life and cohesion, whose sovereignty over all cannot be questioned. We experience blessings when ideals like unity, community, caring, faithfulness, excellence, steadfastness, etc., abound among human beings, for in these we experience God.
God is experienced as the good parent, the grandparent, a source of loving-kindness and protection. Human beings experience closeness to God which they describe in terms of motherhood and fatherhood. There was never any need to debate the existence of God. The challenge was always to discern God at work. Does God take sides? If so, whose side is God on, and why? The African experience of God is that ultimately God is on the side of the weak and the side of justice. No one can explain God. No single hand can cover the eye of God, and so Africans grant a plurality of approaches to God and experiences of God. Experiences of God vary according to the circumstances surrounding people’s daily life.
Building Up Christ’s Body
How do these experiences of God in Africa relate to the building up of the Body of Christ in Africa? How do the churches respond to peoples’ experiences of God? There is a revival of traditional African images of God, in the African Indigenous Churches (AICs) and, to a lesser extent, in the “Prosperity Christianity” that has taken Africa by storm for nearly two decades. The AICs have a profile of being prophetic-healing-praying churches. Africans move to these churches to hear God through prophets, as they used to do through the divination of African Religion (AR). They seek and experience healing of body and soul and the efficacy of communing with God in prayer. Religion comes alive; it ceases to be a formal gathering with an ambience that is devoid of African culture.
To build up Christ’s body we need to demonstrate the liberating presence of God. When we are able to empower Uganda, Zaire and Rwanda, Sudan and Nigeria to learn to live creatively and justly with difference, we shall be helping to unveil God. African idea of separation attribute the felt absence of God to human acts of greed and callousness. To build up the Body of Christ everywhere requires building up human relations, seeing humanity as one family under God who is the source of the life of the human family. We cannot continue the rhetoric of loving, caring words about God if people are not experiencing loving, caring acts from one another.
We cannot tell people that creation is a “pure gift from God, unsolicited” when some enjoy more of these gifts than others and the Church does little to alleviate poverty. African affirmations about God and creation have to come alive in the projects, program and attitudes of the Church.
Faith in a God of love lives on in Africa in spite of the apparent absence. For Africans like the Masai for whom there is no life after death, and even for the Akan who are gathered to God and to the ancestors when they die, it is important to see the goodness of God here in the land of the living, for that is what establishes the presence of God among human beings. Many of the women I know are like Buchie Emecheta: they know that God has more important things to do than to punish them for having “ambitions” of fulfilling their potential. Like her they pray for miracles. God is a miracle-working God. Emecheta says, “When I saw a miracle flying by I would grab it.” Winning a scholarship for secondary school education was for her one such miracle. African women expect God to “deliver.” In lyrics, traditional and modern, they sing about the God who says and does and they invite all to come and see what God has actually done. They declare that words are not up to the task of expressing thanks to God.
When Africans can testify to sight for the blind, that becomes evidence that God is being experienced. To respond to these expectations and experiences of God in Africa is to build up the Body of Christ, not only in Africa, but worldwide. For God cannot treat Africa and Africans differently from other places and people and still remain the sole source of human being. The Church will build up the Body of Christ if it acts to heal, strengthen, nourish, and treat with dignity all of its members, and that means acting as God-in-Christ expects of the Church,
Therefore, at the Prayer House of all Nations;
- Our purpose is to make it easy for Africans to glorify God their creator within their cultural and traditional life as Africans without feeling offended. We want to see the traditional Ugandans come to the temple and partake in the Christian sacraments as true and confident children of God. We want to see Christians glorifying God within their families, clans and tribes. A tribe is a collection of families descending from one ancestor. The “twelve tribes” of the Hebrews were the twelve collections of families which sprang from the sons of Jacob. In Matthew 24:30 the word has a wider significance. The tribes of Israel are referred to as types of the spiritual family of God (Revelation 7). Matt 24:30: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 19:28: Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Gen 49:28: These are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each of them an appropriate blessing. We also find this in Deut 33: 6-25 where we find that through Moses God gave different blessings to different tribes of Israel. Therefore, since we know that we are all descendants of Abraham we so belong to the 12 tribes or ancestral families. It is important to ask God to unite us with the angels of our ancestral families and be able to share on the same blessings that God gave them.
- We want to restore the connection between God and His people through the linkage with their ancestral connections. In Africa when a person dies we say that ‘’he has gone to live with the creator’’. We add that the heavenly angels have received him and he is living among the multitude of angels for the rest of his life. They too become angels and the role of angels is a messenger role between God and his people on earth. Angels are powerful spiritual beings who serve God and human beings in a wide variety of ways. The faithful from the world’s major religions believe that angels are messengers. The English word “angel” comes via ecclesiastical Latin, from the Greek word “angelos” or the Hebrew word malakh, both meaning “messenger.” Angels are pure spirits, in other words, they have no physical bodies. Angels do, however, take on human form sometimes, as clarified by St. Thomas Aquinas. Angels are beings who have greater power and ability than humans. (2 Peter 2:11) They exist in heaven, or the spirit realm, which is a level of existence higher than the physical universe. (1 Kings 8:27; John 6:38) Thus, they are also referred to as spirits. 1 Kings 22:21; Psalm 18:10.We challenge the Christian missionary idea that when a person dies he becomes a devil or Satan, and thus when you pray to God through the spirits of your ancestors you are worshipping the devil. Our ancestors who died in Christ are not devils; they are angels in heaven living among the multitudes of angels.
- We want to restore home prayer points as it was among the African tradition; also in the early church, the church fathers prayed from their homes. Home prayer points can be in the house (in bedroom or in seating room), can be established in the compound or anywhere near home. The idea is that families don’t have to wait to go to church in order to speak to their God.
- We want to restore the prophetic ministry in African societies. Prophetic ministry existed in African tradition and in the early church of the Old Testament. In Old Testament God spoke to the people, to the kings and to the nations through prophets. In African tradition for example in Uganda, prophets were called ‘’Abarangi’’ among Banyankole and ‘’Ba Nabbi’’ among the Baganda. Like in the early church of the Old Testament the work of Ba Nabbi or Abarangi is to foretell, to interpret dreams, to interpret the occurrences and define the course of action for remedy. Among the mainstream Christians today they refer to the current prophetic ministries as the devil worshipers. This is wrong; we want the prophetic ministry in our societies to be at the forefront. We understand prophesy as a discourse (speech) emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; especially by revealing the past events and foretelling future events. A prophet is one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God. A Prophet is called by God and filled with God’s Spirit, a prophet speaks God’s word to people who had in one way or another distanced themselves from God. In one sense, a prophet is a preacher. But in marketplace terms, a prophet is often a whistle-blower, particularly when an entire family, tribe or nation has turned away from God.
- We want to correct the misguiding ideas and attacks by the European missionaries onto our culture and society. For instance the attack on our family and marriage customs; that a man who marries more than one wife has committed sin before God and that a man who marries one wife is more holly before God. God did not have any intention to limit man in the number of wives to marry. In fact, God has blessed the world with more women than men; then you wonder whether its God’s plan that there are women He has put in the world to never get married. This was a serious attack on our society and culture, something that has resulted into high prostitution rates hence diseases such as AIDS in Africa.
- The second major attack on African culture and society is the attack some Christian groups put on beer or wine. Beer is simply a form of starch foods prepared in some form of drink, the same starch we get from foods we serve on our tables such as cassava and banana. Traditionally, Africans used beer as a uniting factor among societies. Families came together to share beer for unity; societies used beer on parties for merry making and bonding. Likewise, Christians use alcohol at the altar in communion with Christ. The altar wine used in Holy Communion in the church has twice the alcohol content (18%) of ordinary banana wine. In the new testament Jesus made wine at a party; the English bible calls it wine, the Runyankole bible calls it Vinyo, the Rutooro bible puts it better as ‘’Amaarwa’’. So, the issue is not about taking alcohol, it’s about remaining in the realm of Christ, and that’s what we teach. Many people have taken alcohol their entire life and they have resisted sin, while many Christians have committed grave sins in their sober states. Beer in Africa has been an important staple food since the first pharaohs more than 5,000 years ago; archaeologist Jeremy Geller discovered a large brewery at the site of Hierakonpolis. Early Egyptians were similar to contemporary cultures in drinking a variety of beers, from a sweet beer to “beer of eternity” to “beer that does not sour.” In Africa beer is an essential staple for many communities, often considered a food rather than a beverage. Importantly, the consumption of beer adds considerably to daily caloric intake. It has more protein, vitamins and minerals than unleavened bread, and the low alcohol content kills bacteria that may be present in the untreated water. Beer binds people together and serves to reinforce social hospitality and communality during ceremonial and everyday activities. It is a common cultural marker of wealth and status; it may represent a payment of tribute to chiefs, and it is essential in the redistribution of wealth. Beer has fed the living and the dead in societies around the world, both past and present. Some contemporary indigenous societies produce and consume beer as a medium that bridges the ancestors and the living. Ritual, economics and status all come together through feasting, with beer acting as the social lubricant. Beer is also an indicator of status and wealth in other societies around the world. The payment of tribute with beer indicates its economic and political importance. Beer also plays an essential role in the establishment of social obligations. The importance of communal consumption is one of the reasons people process their grains into beer rather than bread. Beer is more than just a beverage to many African indigenous societies; it is a critical component of their social, religious, economic and political wellbeing.
- We want to be a symbol of peace in the world. Peace is our desire of all humankind. We are living among religious divisions, religious separations, religious disagreements, religious rejections all with potential to result into conflict and violence in this world. A religion like ours that teaches peace and tolerance amidst these challenges has an important role to play. We want to challenge all forms of religious divisions in a religious spirit, our aim is to achieve a peaceful society rooted in true religious foundations.
We are non-denominational
We are a non denominational fellowship, our places of warship are religious congregations with relevant, God focused Bible teaching, modern and powerful worship and gospel, and a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. Our worship places are known for the love of God and people, service to the community, and passion for sharing God’s word with emerging generations. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” Psalm 90:1
In order to have a foundation for unity with others, it is necessary to define the essential beliefs of our faith. To this end, as a non denominational fellowship we have chosen the Apostle’s Creed as that definition. It is one of the earliest and simplest statements of Christian belief and has remained a document of agreement and unity among Christian individuals and churches for nearly two millennia. Non denominational fellowships are willing to partner and fellowship with any individual or organization who confesses these same beliefs. However, this should not offend those non denominational churches that do not believe in the Apostles creed in its entirety.
Our mission is non-denominational in a sense that we are not part of a larger denomination. A denomination is a church organization that exercises some sort of authority over the local churches that comprise it. Examples of denominations are Roman Catholic, Anglican, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, etc. Most of denominational churches have established headquarters (most in Europe) and have established beaurocratic order. Non-denominational ministries go by many different names and hold to a wide variety of beliefs.
Changing religious and cultural backgrounds are causing Christians to be increasingly interested in joining and worshiping at nondenominational churches over their old denominations. Christianity has been divided by denominations for centuries. However, a recent trend has appeared where spiritual Christians are choosing to discard those divisions in favor of non-denominational ministries.
The Christian church was always meant to be non-denominational. There are no such divisions within the Bible itself, certainly; a passage from Paul’s letters to the Romans in the New Testament claims that the Bible offers salvation to everyone who believes in it. Others argue that the church was always supposed to be united under God, rather than divided into different sects. Each sects’ history, traditions and beliefs serve to distract believers from the messages and moral principles espoused by Christianity, and thus do more harm than good. Many of the tenets of these denominations have no roots in the Bible at all, but rather in tradition and decrees by their governing bodies, or principles held by their founders.
The most literal analysis of the word “denomination” shows that it is the very definition of division. In fact, this is how Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the word. It is easily reasoned that, by their very nature, denominations promote division among a religion that is supposed to be united, as one, under the same God. Even as far back in history as the sixteenth century, there were people like Martin Luther, the theological scholar and founder of the Protestant reformation, who believed that the existence of denominationalism went against biblical purposes.
With this in mind, it can hardly be surprising that Christians today can read the Bible and follow the same logic that Martin Luther himself did; it is possible to be a true Christian without wanting to participate in denomination rituals and politics. Jesus said, “I play that they may be one” (John 17: 21-23).