Celestial Church of Christ

An African Instituted Church with a focus on prophetic-charismatic movements and divine healing.

The Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) is an African Instituted Church founded by Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oshoffa on 29 September 1947 in Porto-Novo, Benin. It emerged under what was claimed to be divine guidance, following a divine revelation received by Oshoffa during a period of prayer. The church’s doctrine is heavily influenced by the belief in the absolute dictate of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus Christ.

Foundation and Development

The foundation of the CCC occurred amidst claims of a divine appearance to Oshoffa during a solar eclipse. He was reportedly in the forest of Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) to purchase ebony wood when he had a spiritual experience. This experience involved a winged angel bathed in intense light, delivering a message from God. The message instructed Oshoffa to embark on an errand of preaching to the world, focusing on nominal Christians who turned to fetish priests and powers of darkness for help. This mission was to be supported by miraculous works of divine healing carried out in the name of Jesus Christ.

The church’s name, ‘Celestial Church of Christ’ (Eglise du Christianisme Celeste in French, and Ijo Mimo ti Kristi lati orun wa in Yoruba), was revealed through Alexander Yanga, an early follower and beneficiary of Oshoffa’s divine healing. Yanga, in a trance for seven consecutive days, reportedly saw the church’s name written on a rainbow. He then wrote down the name as shown to him, marking the official naming of the church.

Beliefs and Practices

CCC’s beliefs and practices are centered around the leadership of the Holy Spirit. This includes the church’s tenets, mode of worship, and service hymns, all of which are believed to have been revealed through the Holy Spirit. Members are expected to adhere to strict codes of conduct, such as abstaining from idolatry, tobacco and alcohol consumption, pork, and wearing specific colors like black and red.

The church is known for its distinctive mode of worship, which includes specific seating arrangements, use of white candles, and separation of male and female members during services. Women are required to cover their heads within the church and are restricted from entering the altar area or leading worship. Moreover, the church observes various holy rites or sacraments essential to its form of worship, such as Baptism, Holy Communion, Annual Washing of Feet, Annual Pilgrimage to Imeko in Nigeria, and Harvest Thanksgiving Service.

Organizational Structure

The CCC is organized with a hierarchical structure. The pastor serves as the head of the church in all matters, represented at various levels by shepherds, district supervisors, regional heads, and heads of dioceses. The founder, Samuel Bilehou Oshoffa, was the first pastor and is revered as a great prophet. His leadership involved numerous accounts of miraculous healings and spiritual guidance.

Demographics and Reception

The Celestial Church of Christ has a significant following, especially in Benin and Nigeria, and has established parishes and dioceses worldwide. In 2001, it was the second-largest church in Benin, with nearly half a million followers. However, the church has also faced controversies. In France, it has been suspected by anti-cult associations of cultic deviations and has been linked to incidents of violence.

Significant Events

One of the notable events in the CCC calendar is the Imeko Convocation, an international event held every December in Imeko, Nigeria. This event is considered a pilgrimage, with members encouraged to attend as part of their spiritual journey. The location, Imeko, is believed to be a New Jerusalem for the church, as declared by Oshoffa.

The CCC’s architecture also reflects its beliefs. The temples of worship face east, and the altar stand typically features seven candle holders representing the seven spirits of Jehovah. There are different rows for male and female seats, and during certain weekly services, an alternate altar with three candles is used.

Membership and Inclusivity

The church’s membership is open to all who earnestly seek salvation and accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The church prides itself on being an inclusive congregation, welcoming anyone who desires to observe its tenets and mode of worship.

The Celestial Church of Christ continues to be a prominent religious movement, with its distinct practices and beliefs rooted in its African origins and spiritual revelations. Its emphasis on divine guidance, prophetic messages, and miraculous healing remains central to its identity and appeal to its followers.