Oshitelu, Josiah Olunowo
1902 to 1962
The Church of the Lord (Aladura)
Josiah Olunowo Oshitelu was founder of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) in 1930, one of the major branches of the Aladura religious movement. Oshitelu, an Anglican catechist and teacher, was dismissed in 1926 because he claimed to have visions, which were brought on by extensive fasting and devotions.
Aladura, "owners of prayer", began in 1918 as a prophetic healing movement and received its greatest impetus under Joseph BABALOLA. During three years spent in seclusion and spiritual discipline, Oshitelu received in a vision a revealed script with holy words and names that had miraculous power. He was assisted in interpreting his dreams and visions by a spiritual master who later became his apostle to West Africa. Oshitelu emerged in 1929 to begin an independent preaching and healing ministry in the Aladura tradition. He attacked idolatry, traditional medicine, and fetishes and healed by using prayer, fasting and holy water. He condoned polygamy and himself had seven wives. In 1930 he founded his church. It soon spread into all regions of Nigeria, including the Islamic north, where its use of Islamic dietary rules and prayer forms made it a breakthrough Christian presence. The Church of the Lord also incorporated a series of dramatic spiritual acts - rolling on the floor and jumping and clapping, all accompanied by characteristic cries and shouts.
The Church of the Lord began its successful expansion beyond its base in Nigeria throughout West Africa after 1947. It found support among prominent persons, including a daughter of PREMPEH I in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Aladura later spread abroad to England and the United States. Aladura includes some 500 separate sects, so it is no surprise that the Church of the Lord has spawned more than 25 breakaway groups since its foundation.
Norbert C. Brockman
This article is reproduced, with permission, from An African Biographical Dictionary, copyright © 1994, edited by Norbert C. Brockman, Santa Barbara, California. All rights reserved.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (complete article): Aladura