The Challenges of Pentecostalism and the Dominican Response

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The Challenges of Pentecostalism and the Dominican Response
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The brothers of the Province of Nigeria and Ghana, and some members of the Dominican family, gathered at St Thomas Aquinas Priory, Ibadan, from October 17-21, 2016, to discuss the challenges of Pentecostalism. The theme of the workshop was: The Challenges of Pentecostalism in the Church in Nigeria: A Dominican Response. In the spirit of St Dominic who refuted the errors of his time, especially Albigensianism, the workshop was seen as a necessary move to examine the challenges of Pentecostalism; identify the distortions to the true Christian faith; and promote the truth of the gospel message of Christ.

The preparatory work of the workshop was done by the members of the committee namely: Joseph Ekong (chairman), Felix Onemheghie, Emeka Nwosuh, Emmanuel Taiwo and Clement Uzoanya. The workshop was set rolling with an opening address by the Provincial, Bro. Charles Ukwe, who traced the initiative of the workshop to the Master of the Order's recommendation following his Canonical Visitation to the Province in 2014. It also became necessary with the increasing wave of Catholics leaving the Church.

The keynote address was delivered by His Lordship, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, the Bishop of Oyo Diocese. In his address, he affirmed the Pentecostal nature of the Church, as it was the Spirit which mobilized the Church on the day of Pentecost to spread the news of God's salvation to all nations. Thus, the Catholic Church is the true Pentecostal church. He averred that the markers of Pentecostalism today which are teaching, manifestations, healing, signs and wonders, and joyful exuberance are by no means foreign to the Catholic Church. Furthermore, he addressed the theological, pastoral, moral and the socio-political challenges of Pentecostalism. He stated emphatically that the Church must take the work of evangelization more seriously by “doing things differently.”

In his presentation, Bro. Anthony Akinwale traced the history of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, highlighting the fact that the Charismatic movement was brought into the country in 1971 from the United States of America by Francis Macnutt, a former Dominican. This movement found its roots in St Thomas Aquinas Priory, Ibadan. He submitted that owing to the lack of proper doctrinal and pastoral guidance, some members of the Charismatic movement left the Church, while some became allies of Pentecostalism, facilitating its entry into Catholicism. Amidst the challenges posed by Pentecostalism to the Church in Nigeria, Bro. Akinwale is of the opinion that we go back to our roots as Catholics and Dominicans.

The workshop was also enriched with the paper presentation of Msgr John Aniagwu, the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Lagos, on “The Pastoral Challenges of Pentecostalism.” In his presentation, he shared his vast experiences as a parish priest. He advised that the different societies in the church, especially the Charismatic renewal who happen to share similar charisms with the Pentecostals, be incorporated more actively into the life of the church. This will ensure their loyalty to church authorities.

There were also presentations by Bros. Augustine Momoh (Pentecostalism and Para-Normal Phenomena), Felix Onemheghie (Pentecostalism, Material Well-Being and the Business World), Augustine Agwulonu (Pentecostalism and the Use of Scripture), Kenneth Nkadi and Gabriel Avbenake (Pentecostalism and the Use of the Media) and Alphonsus Ozoemene (Pentecostalism, Grace and Charisms).

In order to forestall the movement of Catholics to Pentecostal churches, catechesis was seen as the first step in doing this. Priests and Religious are encouraged to be present to the people and understand their conditions. Moreso, they are to show concern not just for their spiritual but also for their material welfare. Youths, who are usually the target of the Pentecostals are to be duly empowered so that they are not lured away with the attractive offers from the Pentecostals who are ready to "tie them down" with the provision of their material needs.

The outcome of the workshop is not just to be filed to satisfy the need for such a workshop, but is to be implemented in assisting the Church in Nigeria. The discussions are to help each of us have a better understanding and the right disposition to Pentecostalism such that we will be able to direct the people of God along the right path.

 

(04 November 2016)