After months of intense cover up, the matrimonial crisis of charismatic Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, founder of Believers' Love World Inc, (aka Christ Embassy Church) blew into the open yesterday with revelations that his estranged wife, Anita had served him formal papers for a divorce in a London court.
According to reports monitored yesterday on TheCable.ng, an online newspaper, the dissolution of the marriage between Chris and Anita, has entered the final phase with the wife seeking divorce on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviour" and "adultery".
The report said she outlined several other unpublishable allegations against the pastor.
TheCable reports that the divorce case, with Suit No FD14D01650, was filed on April 9, 2014 at Divorce Section A, Central Family Court, First Avenue House, High Holborn, London, United Kingdom, on Anita's behalf by Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors, a full-service law firm with expertise in commercial law and a strong consumer focus in family, wills and estate, personal injury law and medical negligence.
"Sources said efforts to reconcile the popular couple, whose church is one of the biggest denominations in Nigeria and has branches all over the world, have failed. The pastor, according to an elder of the church, has denied allegations of adultery and believes his wife is being influenced by "bad friends" who are intent on destroying their home," reports TheCable.
The online newspaper reports that while Anita believes she has been relegated in the scheme of things in the church, her husband reportedly accused her of trying to usurp power and authority above her seniors in the ministry.
TheCable reported further: "Sources told us that the pastor had been making efforts to avoid divorce in the hope that the wife would eventually have a change of mind. However, we can also report that the decree nissi was served on the charismatic pastor in his hotel room during a recent visit to the UK. Decree nissi, in legal terms, is like a yellow card in a football match which is a precursor to a red card ("decree absolute") if no new evidence is provided to stall proceedings.
"Church insiders said Oyakhilome had been hoping for rapprochement, but he was left with no option than to receive the papers when the lawyers cornered him at his hotel in London. The decree absolute, which will effectively end the marriage, is expected to be issued soon while terms of the divorce will be worked out by the lawyers on both sides."
A member of the church who spoke to THISDAY last night on condition of anonymity said the entire Christ Embassy Ministry was disappointed by the action of Anita.
He said: "The members of the church have been aware of these issues for a long time. These allegations are not new. What is new is the divorce issue. We are surprised that she (Anita) went to file the suit in London despite the fact that they got married in Nigeria, obviously for financial reasons. What is happening to Chris can happen to any man of God. He (Chris) will seek the face of God and come out strongly from this. He has been taking it calmly. Remember the case of American preacher, Benny Hill. His wife divorced him but he eventually remarried her again. Just like Benny Hill, Chris will come out stronger from this."
Another member of the church, who described himself as a "senior member" said it is a shame that things have gotten to this point . He revealed that Anita has worked very hard to build the United Kingdom branch. "I believe that the church will survive it, just as it survived the TB Joshua crisis. It may affect the younger ones in the church but the older ones will understand. The key thing is to focus on his preaching and not his personal failings or the crisis."
A Lagos-based lawyer told THISDAY last night that there was nothing wrong with Anita's decision to file the divorce suit in London. He said: "If the Nigerian position is anything to go by, by virtue of Section 81 of the Matrimonial Causes Act where Nigeria recognises foreign marriages and others for the purpose of dissolution, then one can safely say that the English court can hear the case."
Another lawyer who declined to be identified, opines thus; "The grounds for divorce are the same all over. All Anita needs to show is that the marriage was contracted in Nigeria and that it was a monogamous marriage. Her own lawyers in London will only ask the London court to take judicial notice of Nigeria's Marriage Act and then she will now have to prove that that Act had been breached by the man's adulterous behaviour. Adultery is a ground for divorce all over the world."
Oyakhilome is the President of Believers' Love World Inc., the registered name of the ministry, while his wife is the vice-president. They have two teenage daughters, Sharon and Charlyn.
- With agency report