CAC Bethel Theology
We now turn our attention to the theology of Bethel, which was started by Joanah. The CAC Bethel started in 1966 as part of the CAC in general. It is the purpose of this chapter to examine Bethel’s theology and the areas of similarities and differences between the two theologies if any.
All CAC doctrines are believed pure and sanctified by God in all Bethel churches. The difference is simply in practices and some liturgical idiosyncracies in the Bethel churches. Firstly there are more meetings, called permanently revivals and taking place every evening at 5.00pm except Saturdays and of course Sundays when you have only a single service which is long enough to stop at 12 or 1.00 pm sometimes may extend to 3.00pm, and in Bethel Abadina 5.00 pm or 6.00 pm. Hence the issue of Sunday evening worship is cancelled. Bethelites as they wish to call themselves tend to spend more time doing revivals which end up as preaching and praying sessions almost everyday. During these permanent revivals individuals are free to bring water to be sanctified at the end of the prayer session. The prayers may last up to 8.00pm but rarely it reaches 10.00pm in the night, especially when a new preacher or pastor/evangelist etc comes. It usually involves more of praying for problems from individual homes, which invariably are problems associated with witchcraft, sorcery, charms from home etc. Sometimes fasting is prescribed for the entire congregation to engage in and then go home to break after the revival. These revivals are taken very seriously in the CAC Bethel churches. Some still follow the old method of service and liturgy as in other CAC, but the one being described here is common in Ife, Ibadan, London and many more places.
During Sunday services there is no difference in liturgy from what obtains in the revivals of the week days. However there is a long praise/worship session which may be as long as 2 hours sometimes with shouts of halleluyah ringing everywhere during the service. After this praise/worship normal session begins in which hymns are sung, prayers are offered etc. Homilies are delivered which sometimes may be marathon. Whatever be the case, one of the causes of marathon service includes personal thanksgiving depending on the magnitude of the thanks and the danger which was missed. For example a person may come for thanksgiving because he escaped accident the previous week. He could be given the opportunity to address the congregation to his fullest without requesting for any summarizing. After his testimony he may request to shout 24 halleluyah and then sing five songs etc. Others may follow and it is when every one has finished that the service will close. During the singing by the praise person, serious dancing and clapping of hands will then take place. During that period, it is possible that a person may prophesy and the entire congregation may then be requested to be attentive to his prophesying.
CAC pentecostalism applies also to CAC Bethel. Bethel has been using English language since the first English Language church was founded in Ife in 1971.
CAC Bethel members have a distribution of pentecostal gifts and are encouraged to pray for gifts of the Spirit. They are also told to try to practice the use of their gifts within the church fold. The comments made for CAC in general is also applicable to Bethel. Gifts are emphasized far more than fruits but it is not very bad.
The gifts are the same for Bethel as it is for the entire CAC as follows
The gifts are also personalized for the workers in Bethel
Bethel and CAC Doctrines
The following is placed on baptismal card for adult baptism. In the CAC there is no room for paedobaptism. This equally applies for the CAC Bethel.
There seems to be more emphasis on repentance in the ordo salutis and preaching of born againism in Bethel than main line CAC. This is probably because there are more secular scholars in Bethel than CAC
Bethel is a cult?
Some have also asked the question of cultism in Bethel. There is no such thing in Bethel although the practice of cultism may have been tried by some individual members. The central doctrine and homilies condemn it seriously. In Bethel the use of prayer water is not as much as in main line CAC. There also seems to be increase in use of oil for anointing in Bethel.
Christology in CAC main line and Bethel is the same.
CAC Bethel seems to practice more pneumatology than the CAC although its doctrines are the same. It believes very much in baptism of the Holy Spirit and teaches all members to ask for gift of baptism of the Holy Spirit with signs and wonders following. It also emphasizes the greater importance to fruits of the Spirit, appealing to 1 Cor 13.
Bethel Healing doctrines
CAC believes in divine healing aided by faith but not faith healing.
The doctrine of healing is quite profound in the CAC. In the early days it led to the schism between the CAC and TAC in 1939. It theoretically forbids all manner of medicine, whether western or juju. In this particular instance, it was not appeal to Bible or any proof text in the Bible that led to this practice. It was fueled by the Ilesha revivals as mentioned in the early parts of this chapter. Here there is a major difference between CAC main line and Bethel. Bethel does not forbid the use of western medicine. It discourages the use of herbal medicine unless it has been proven it is not demonic. The process of proof is quite profound. Bethel still however preaches divine healing and in fact encourages it but does not teach that you should not use medicine. After all Jonah is a trained nurse!
The theology of demons in the CAC is same as you have in Bethel. Deliverances are more in the church activity however in Bethel especially during and after revivals in the week days, (not Sundays). Bethel too does have problems with witchcraft, ogbanje etc. and it tries to grapple with it just as in the CAC
Case report: The story is told of how Joanah Ogunranti performed deliverance of a female who claimed she was a queen of one sort of a cohort in the sea. They met in their meetings in the sea in their spirit rather than physical body. This lady hails from Calabar but lives in Port Harcourt; extremely pretty young lady. She had had this, according to her since she was born and she rose to be the queen of the sea group of the said cohort through the ranks. She narrated the story of how one day she was in the church and could feel the power of the Holy Ghost coming from Joanah towards her. The heat was unbearable. This was the time Joanah was preaching and as usual was going through her normal marathon homily. After the service, she went to Joanah to tell her of her problem. In her characteristic way Joanah rang the prayer bell three times and commanded the marine spirit in her to get out. It did, according to her, and she was delivered since then without much problems. She later claimed that the members of her group could not accept her exit. So they beat her with sticks spiritually and the marks appeared physically on her body. But the lady said she was stubborn and resolute that she would never go back to the demonic group again. After a period of time, which could have been up to a year, the members of this demonic group ceased for ever to flog her or persecute or disturb her in any way. She had a lasting freedom which she enjoys till today.
Bethel Liturgy of worship
Thanksgiving in Bethel for Joanah’s life
31 December2006 at
Bethel Theology of Prayer
Bethelites pray a lot and seem to be closer to the original aladura in this regard. Aside from their evening revivals they also have morning prayers every day beginning at 5.00am, except Saturday. Not only that, there are at least two night vigils every week- one of Thursday and another for Friday. No wonder this church has been highly successful in the CAC because of its prayer habits. Joanah is well known for engaging prayer. Also those who are close to her report of her long sessions of prayer in her closet. Joanah rarely sleeps. She prays all night and any other free time she has. Her ability to pray is legendary which is believed to be responsible for her huge success in achieving the goals of her ministry before she gave up the ghost.
Technique of prayer
In Bethel the technique of prayer is the same as main line CAC with persons speaking loud while praying, as if God cannot hear if you are silent. This practice seems to be the norm in the Old Testament (but may have been modified in the New) for why would Eli, the High priest rebuke Hannah, saying to her she was drunk, since he saw her lips moving but did not hear her prayer audibly (1 Sam.1:14). Also the day of Pentecost was very noisy (Ac 2-10).
Bethel and Fasting
Fasting is very popular in Bethel. There are many who wish to do the whole Lent every year and there are a number who undergo long (day-night) fasting, not for prosperity but for deliverance from enemies who use juju and black magic to do in members of the church. This has taught many the practice of prayer and fasting ‘to set the captives free.’ They do not differ essentially from the CAC practices.
This kind of fast is rarely found in Bethel, but is not condemned.
Deliverance in Bethel
This is quite profound and Joanah sometimes leads the deliverance session. It is amazingly short, and many have been delivered from ogbanje spirits, spirit –husbands, emere, marine spirits, witchcraft etc.
No earrings- Traditional CAC worship does not allow women to wear any form of gold or indeed earrings, in keeping with the admonition to women by Peter in1 Pt 3:3. This is strictly forbidden in service or indeed the church in main line CAC. But this is not the case in Bethel world wide. This is the only real difference between Bethel and mainline CAC. If you enter Bethel Church you will see women wearing their jewelry and other things. Joanah explains her position this way
The Lord said I should not molest them in what to eat or wear. I was not to molest them on the wearing of good clothes, and jewelry. After all, the high priest of old wore garment with embroidery and precious stone. Let the people be free to use their money as they chose.
Bethel and CAC have the same doctrine. Some little practice differ which may just suggest locationary idiosyncracy rather than complete disagreement or controversy or indeed polemic. We would no turn our attention to certain doctrines in the church which has caused considerable controversies, divisions and rancour over the centuries so as to provide answers for the future of both CAC and its Bethel and indeed the entire Christian enterprise.
Peel, J.D.Y. Aladura: A Religious Movement Among the Yoruba. Oxford University
Press. International Africa Institute. 1968.