In 1842 and 1846, Christianity was successfully introduced into Nigeria through Badagry and Calabar respectively. This renewed effect (after the unsuccessful attempt in the 15th Century by the Portuguese to Christianize Benin and Warri) came from the liberated Africans- former slaves- who were resettled in Sierra Leone by the anti-slavery societies. While in Sierra Leone, many of them had Western education and some became teachers, clerks, artisans, farmers or prosperous businessmen. Towards the end of the 1830’s many of Sierra Leonians sought permission to emigrate to the Eastern part of the West Coast of Africa. Thus in 1840, the batch comprising 14 Sierra Leonians emigrated to Badagry.
Consequently, on 24th September, 1842. Thomas Birch Freeman and William De Graft arrived in Badagry where they built a church and a house. In December 1842, Freeman also visited Abeokuta where he was warmly received not only by the emigrates but by Sodeke, who was the Egba leader and his chiefs. Before long, Christianity spread rapidly to Ijaye, Oyo, Ilesha, and Ogbomosho as well as Ondo.
Having established themselves in Nigeria, these mission realized that the costs of maintaining European officials in Nigeria was enormous and worse still many of the Europeans who were in Nigeria died . To solve the problem of acute staff shortage, the mission restored to recruiting and training indigenous people for their missionary work. Reverend Henry Venn, secretary of the CMS Mission believed that the ideal of the native pastorate (that is the church government by indigenous men) would relieve the CMS of pumping more funds for further evangelizatn as well as make Christianity indigenous in Africa. For this session, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, an Africa, was appointed as the Bishop of the Niger Mission. This opened the eyes of many of the educated African who continued to agitate for more independence in church government.
EMERGENCE OF THE AFRICAN CHURCH
One can say the real implementation of the ideal of The Native Pastorate stated when James Johnson took over Breadfruit Church, which was undoubtedly the most important and the wealthiest Church in Lagos. Due to the effort of indefatigable Johnson by 1889 all the Churches in Lagos save one, that is, the Christ Church, where Europeans and most Europeanized Africans worshipped, were absorbed into the Native Pastorate. By this token, Europeans were no longer in ministerial positions in such Churches, the prayers for the native kings, thus signifying the march towards the establishment of an African Church .James Johnson, had always believed that the Native Pastorate would form the nucleus of an African Church which would evolve distinctly African Christianity and would incorporate some parts of indigenous religion which bore resemblance to Christianity, adopt the vernacular languages, have its own hymns and liturgy. Later on, the founding of the African Church (Bethel) had its root in the unwillingness of the missionary societies to appoint an African especially James Johnson to the highest position in the Anglican Church following the resignation and later, death of Bishop Ajayi Crowther in 1891. This created the sharp difference between European missionaries and Africans. The 1894 settlement thereby an African Diocesan Bishop sought by African majority was turned down, while assistant Bishop in person of Isaac Oluwole and Charles Phillips were appointed to cover up this obvious retrogressive move made many Africans become disillusioned with the European missionaries. In December 2893, the three Bishops- Isaac Oluwole, Charles Phillips and Hill returned to Lagos after their ordination in London. In January 1894, however Bishop Hill and his wife died while Herbert Tug well, was consecrated to replace him. Owing to persistent agitation of Africans, particularly in Breadfruit Church, James Johnson was made the assistant Bishop over the Niger Delta in 1899. He immediately announced his Niger Bishopric fund, to which the Archbishop contributed the offertory collected at the consecration service.
However, the CMS authority felt that James Johnson’s presence in Breadfruit Church was undermining the authority and influence of Bishop Oluwole. He (James Johnson) was therefore demanded to resign his pastoral care of the Breadfruit Church. This view became unpopular amongst the congregation of the Church who preferred James Johnson to any other Minister. In July 1901, Bishop Johnson was away on Episcopal visit to the Delta when Bishop. Tug well announced that his (Johnson’s) resignation from Breadfruit Church had taken effect. On his return, Johnson found his family and belongings thrown out of the street as he was not allowed residence in the Church vicarage. This fury was aggravated by Mrs. Johnson during the crisis. It was in the midst of this that Nathaniel Johnson was appointed the successor of James Johnson. His appointment was met with stiff opposition and protest by the laity congregation of Breadfruit Church against such treatment and the unwholesome clergy’s authoritarian tendency. It was clear that by the turn of the 19th Century, grounds had been well prepared for the emergence of the African Church.
Thus on the morning of Sunday, October 13th 1901, Bishop James Johnson came to St. Paul’s Breadfruit, Lagos to conduct his valedictory service. It then dawned on his supporters who were in the majority among the congregation that their pleas to have him with them had finally fallen on deaf ears. Bishop Tegwell was quoted as saying that those parishioners who did not want Rev. Nathaniel Johnson, the new vicar, could leave the Church. to parishioners, numbering about 600, then left St. Paul’s Breadfruit before the commencement of sermon and marched towards Rose Cottage, the residence of the Church warden, Chief Jacob Kehinde Coker, Singing and chanting as they went. By the time the procession arrived at Rose Cottage, the residence other number had swollen up to about 800. The procession that day was more of a protest march than session.
As J.K. Coker recounted later, they severed themselves at once without any protect, without any preparation or arrangement for the journey to be undertaken’. at Rose Cottage, they resolve not to go back to St. Paul’s Breadfruit. They wanted to be independence Church within the establishment still accepting the authority of Salisbury Square, London, the Headquarters of CMS.