Headline: CAN and the Social Transformation of Oyo State

Posted on: 2014-05-26

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of Oyo State held its one day stakeholders conference last Thursday. The general theme of the conference was “Repositioning CAN Oyo State chapter for Dynamism and Relevance in the Evolution of a New Oyo State”. It is worthwhile to congratulate the Chairman of CAN in Oyo State, Pastor Ayo Olabisi, the State secretary, Venerable Collins Babalola and the entire State Executive for the courageous move. It is not always a matter of course these days that Christians of different denominations be gathered together to pursue a single cause. The theme of the CAN conference could not have been better chosen. Ask the government of Oyo state and it would claim to be rebuilding a new Oyo State and one can hardly deny that it is giving it a good shot in many ways. However, what needs a new evolution in Oyo State, albeit the entire Nigerian nation, goes well beyond what government alone can handle. The CAN, as an association of Christian churches working together, has well defined capacity for spiritual evolution and moral transformation well beyond the administrative forces of government. It is that synergized capacity that the organizers of the conference hoped to re-awaken and harness by inviting the stakeholders of CAN to come together.

Heart of the Matter

And come the stakeholders did! Church leaders, apostles, evangelists and delegates filled the splendid Anglican Cathedral of St. James’ Oke Bola Ibadan and sat through four paper presentations on salient issues of concern. Presentations were made on: “What CAN is not and what CAN should be”; “Resisting Marginalization of Christians and Mobilising Christians for Participation in Transformational Politics”; “Recovering Commitment to True Evangelism and Mission” and “The Imperative of Christian Unity and Unified Efforts in Times Like This”. All the speakers acquitted themselves creditably. The overarching result of the reflections was multifarious. Member churches of the CAN agreed to recover the element of unity which would enable them to join forces for the work of evangelization, social transformation and witness to the Gospel of Christ. In order to further encourage reflection on the papers presented the organizing committee would make available all the presentations to the teeming registered participants who eagerly applauded the decision.

Forward into the Past

It was good for participants to be reminded that the CAN at inception in 1976 had its objectives well laid out having been started by Church Leaders of the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and the Catholic Church. Both parties arrived at the decision to form an organization which would help Christians to work together on common concerns. With the motto: That they all may be one (John 17, 21), the CAN’s objectives were:

·       To serve as a basis of response to the unity of the Church

·       To promote understanding, peace and unity among various peoples and strata of the societies in Nigeria, through the propagation of the gospel

·       To act as a liaison committee, by means of which its member-churches can consult together and, when necessary, make common statements and take common actions

·       To be a watch-dog of the spiritual and moral welfare of the nation.

The association, in the past, pursued these objectives creditably through health care services, education, works of charity and political advocacy. In all this it enjoyed unity among its member churches. In Oyo State over the last years and for many reasons the association has been the worse for wear. The stakeholders’ conference came at a good time as a reminder of the noble objectives of the founders.

Back to the future

From the presentations and the follow up comments and questions it was clear at the conference that participants would like to see the CAN return to the era of high relevance in the areas of authentic evangelization, holistic education, political education of the populace, concern for works for charity, ecumenical dialogue and interreligious harmony. The CAN must position itself in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, engaging with the government when necessary, providing leadership and service in areas where individual churches can scarcely help themselves. One of the speakers proposed a CAN school of governance where Christian politicians can be trained. Another proposed a more vigorous commitment to inter-religious dialogue as a way of pre-empting discord in the society and of collaborating with other religions for social transformation.

The Foremost Imperative

At the end of the day, the CAN members would not lose sight of the supreme mandate of Jesus who called his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Paramount among the duties of the CAN therefore would be to help secure a safe environment and a level playing field for Christians to respond to that divine mandate. That can be done only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of evangelization and with trust in the power of God, creator of all mankind. It is a daunting task but the leadership of the CAN in Oyo State have, with the stake holders’ conference, already given it a good go. Undeniably however, if the CAN in Oyo State is to truly respond to the above-stated obligations, all its member-churches must play their part, do an examination of conscience, respect the leadership of the association and support it financially. They must emphasize more the points and imperatives of unity among them and jettison those that divide them. Their preference must be to win souls for God by corporate and personal sacrifice and Christian witness. Only then will the CAN become a credible instrument of social and moral transformation for those who belong to it and for others who would benefit from its engagement with the society.