Criticisms have trailed the introduction of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code by the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners’ Chapel), introduced by Bishop David Oyedepo, to enable members make online payments of offerings and tithes, as services are largely held online due to the pandemic coronavirus.
According to critics, the initiative was a misplaced and insensitive step as they expressed that the church should have followed the path of other church leaders and organizations making relief donations to cushion the financial implications surrounding the stay-at-home directive by the Nigerian government in containing the spread of coronavirus.
An online post in reaction to the new USSD reads, “New USSD for offering and Tithe in Winners Chapel. See How Much I Paid. *389*30*1# for all networks. This is Oyedepo’s contribution to fighting Covid 19. See how much I just wired as my tithe.
“We always think politicians are the worst people in Nigeria but Covid 19 has exposed these. While politicians are soliciting for a fund for Nigerians, these pastors are thinking of how to empty us at this trying time.”
Another post reads, “Why should this be the priority of a church at this time of public health emergency?”
According to another critic, “This is gross insensitivity and desperation on the part of Winners’ Chapel. Instead of looking out for the welfare of thousands of their church members who are struggling to survive and eat at this critical period, the church is only concerned about how to further milk its malnourished members for tithes and donations…
“The judgment of God will be heavy and severe on Nigerian pastors. Is it too much for our mega-rich pastors to sell their private jets and donate the money to Covid 19 emergency funds? Is it too much to temporarily convert the exotic church buildings to isolation centers?
“The people I pity most are the gullible church members who cannot even afford to pay the exorbitant fees these churches are charging in their schools. Religion is not the major problem of Nigeria. The major problem is that Nigerians are very much gullible. The so-called GOs (General Overseers) are smiling to the banks. Jesus was never like that. He lived a very humble life.”
On the contrary, another critic, perhaps a member in defence of the church said, “I will surely pay my offerings, tithes, e.t.c. If it pains you just die, don’t wait for corona.”
But the church in its reaction, said it does not emphasise or make it compulsory for members to pay tithes, offerings alongside other financial commitments.
The church maintained that those who attach relevance, progress and fulfillment to payment of tithes, offerings and seeds will not be comfortable defaulting in the payment, hence their request for USSD to avoid backlog of payment.
While treating the allegation that the church was “irresponsible” and “insensitive” with a wave of the hand, Professor Sheriff Folarin, a representative of the church, in a telephone chat with Sunday Independent, said the church has always been in the forefront of bringing relief to the public both within and outside the shore especially in times of emergency. (Sunday Independent)