Northern Ireland news

Former north Belfast church believed to have been acquired by controversial Nigerian sect

The former St Lukes Church Of Ireland Church on Northumberland Street has been acquired by the Living Faith Church. Picture by Mal McCann

A FORMER Protestant church building on the peaceline in west Belfast is understood to have been acquired by a controversial Nigerian religious group.

A sign has appeared in front of St Luke’s Church on Northumberland Street indicating it has been taken over by the Living Faith Church.

Living Faith, which is also known as Winners' Chapel International, appears to have three outlets in the Republic, but none in the north.

However, the sign outside the former Church of Ireland building, located near Belfast's Shankill Road, suggests it is preparing to open its first church here.

It states: "Church acquired for Living Faith Global, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Coming soon".

The church building has lain derelict for a number of years with rumours in 2015 that it had been bought by members of the Belfast Islamic community for a new mosque.

The claims emerged as racist slogans were painted on pigs' heads and dumped outside the church. The rumours were denied at the time by the Belfast's Islamic Centre.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Ireland last night told The Irish News: "It was sold at the end of last year.

"The rector of St Stephen and St Luke's said he understood that it had been bought by another church organisation".

Living Faith Church Worldwide is led by its millionaire founder in Nigeria, Dr David Oyedepo and describes itself as a "word based church where the issue of faith is stressed".

"For us, faith cannot be over emphasised," it states on its website.

"We teach our people how to activate their faith for exploits in life. We heartily invite you to attend our next Sunday service and be refreshed by the Word, Worship and Warm Christian Fellowship."

However, the church has been at the centre of controversy in recent years.

It has been investigated by the Charity Commission amid claims of conflicts of interest and the charity's financial management. In 2011, Bishop Oyedepo's fortune was estimated at £94m.

The church has also been accused of linking poor discipline to witchcraft with its leader, Bishop Oyedpo also reportedly filmed accusing a woman of being a witch.

Living Faith Church had last night not responded to requests for comment.

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