I’d heard different stories about the church SPAC Nation from different people, and what I’d heard didn’t sound too positive. A friend that had been to the church before mentioned that it felt ‘odd’ there. However I personally didn’t pay much attention to it all, that is until I heard of a BBC Panorama documentary which came out on Monday 16th December called ‘SPAC Nation – Conned by my Church’. What I watched was beyond what I could have imagined.
To start from the beginning, Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church (SPAC for short) Nation is a church that was founded and is run by a former property investor Tobi Adegboyega. The church is open to all, however the USP of the church and its particular focus in terms of members has been on ‘young vulnerable people’. Those that fit into this bracket, include gang members, young people without a family unit, ex-offenders, disillusioned young people unsure of what to do with their life etc. The church has professed that they have helped many young people turn their lives around, it all sounds so positive right? Well no, unfortunately it’s not quite that much of a fairytale story.
This church has reportedly swindled hundreds of young people, and the claims against them (which have been substantiated with evidence including official documents, a statement by the loans company Amigo and first hand reports from former Church members) include the following abhorrent acts:
1) Making loan applications using the names and personal details of church members without their consent.
One former Church member who appeared on the Panorama documentary explained how a loan was taken out in her name using the loan company Amigo loans. When she found out about this and approached the church leaders, she was simply told that the money was going towards helping the church and her ‘sowing seeds’ would reap rewards for her. The young person was surprised, but accepted this and wondered why she had not been told. To her dismay, later she found out that the loan money was used as ‘investment’ in a company owned by one of the church leaders. Unortunately for this young girl, she is now in debt that she cannot afford, whilst the interest continues to mount. She has left the church, but undoubtedly the scars and damage caused by this will take a long time to heal. This is not a one off experience and she is not alone, many more have experienced similar ordeals due to SPAC Nation and there are regular stories posted on this Exposer YouTube account detailing how these young church members continue to be exploited.
2) Making demands for large sums of ‘offering’ and constantly pushing a narrative of the congregation ‘sowing seeds’ in order to reap a large personal reward.
The manipulative lead pastor Tobi Adegboyega has made statements such as ‘the bigger the seed you sow, the better the reward’ and ‘giving £1,000 a month to the church isn’ t too much at all, it’s something small even.’ Whilst giving large sums of offering isn’t a bad thing at all, this decision should be out of choice and the person should actually be able to afford it. Feeling pressured to give large sums due to the ridiculing of what are seen as ‘small’ contributions of offering is something that former SPAC nation members say is part and parcel of the church. The Bible doesn’t specify a minimum amount of offering, in fact the emphasis is on the sincerity and intentions of the giver, rather than the amount.
3) Encouraging church members to make fraudulent applications for Universal Credit.
A former member of the church (aged 20) who appeared on the Panorama documentary explained how someone from the church filled out an online application form on her behalf. She then attended a meeting at the job centre, following the meeting someone changed her details to show that she had two children which made her eligible for a £1,200 payment. This young girl was told to pay £900 of the sum into two accounts, belonging to church pastors. She kept the remaining £300, but was later investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions, who fined her £600 and ordered her to repay the £1,200.
4) Encouraging church members to make blood donations for money.
The money received from these blood donations would then be used to ‘fund the church’.
There’s a particular phrase in the Bible ‘For the lack of knowledge my people perish’. I fear this is what is happening here, young people who don’t have the best knowledge are looking to the wrong people as guardians and role models. What makes this even more disgusting to me, is that it’s our own people destroying each other. These so-called pastors are happy to exploit their own black brothers and sisters for their greedy and selfish agendas. It hits an even more personal chord, when you know it’s our own people bringing their own people down and using vulnerability to their own benefit. The concept of divide and rule continues to tear us down and I just pray for the day when we can finally stand strong as a united front.
Particularly during this festive period, I hope we can remember and offer a helping hand to those that are less fortunate and going through difficulty – the SPAC Nation controversy is part of a wider issue, us failing to look out for each other is where I believe the ultimate problem lies.