A Manchester church was today at the centre of a BBC “miracle baby” investigation.
Childless couples are assured they can have a baby despite medical evidence that they cannot conceive, according to the programme.
Now both the Church of England and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology are calling on police to investigate The Gilbert Deya Ministries.
Many couples have gone to Kenya, the homeland of the evangelical church’s founder, and returned within days with babies said to be gifts from God.
But the women were proven not to have been pregnant before they left Britain, according to an investigation, broadcast today, and there are concerns about the source of the children.
The Gilbert Deya Ministries are based in London, but last year opened a church in Warwick Street, Hulme and are attracting a growing congregation.
One of its worshippers is currently planning to travel to Nairobi be the next “miracle” mother.
But today the leader of the church in Manchester, Pastor Benjamin Mensah, denied there was any wrongdoing.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “We are a Christian church and believe in prayer”, he said. “The Bible speaks of a couple, Sarah and Abraham who were too old to have children but God gave them a child, Isaac.
“My wife was told she could not conceive but we prayed and now have two children who were born in this country. The programme makers should check the hospital records in Kenya which will show these births are genuine.”
Radio 4’s Face the Facts programme alleges the self-styled Archbishop Gilbert Deya, pronounces the women worshippers as pregnant “by Jesus” and they then “give birth” in backstreet clinics in the slums of Nairobi.
It claims British authorities have already taken one of these babies into care after tests revealed its DNA did not match either of its supposed parents and its Kenyan birth certificate was found to be a forgery.
Dominic Walker, the Bishop of Monmouth and the Church of England’s spokesman on deliverance, said: “Charismatic church leaders are very powerful. And they can abuse that power.
“I believe in miracles, but with the DNA evidence, I don’t believe these are miracle children.”
Gynaecology consultant Patrick O’Brien, added: “Childless couples are very vulnerable and so desperate that they would believe virtually anything.
“These are not miracle children, but someone else’s children and the authorities should find out whose.”
There are 36,000 members of The Gilbert Deya Ministries in Britain, which also has branches in Europe, Africa and Asia. Archbishop Deya has been at the centre of controversy before when he was investigated in 2000 for allegedly exorcising demons from children.
But he remains unfazed by fears, prompted by the DNA evidence, that the “miracle” births are a scam. He told the programme: “The miracle babies which are happening now in our ministry are beyond human imagination. It’s not something that I can say I can explain, because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by humans.”
Archbishop Deya claims to have helped post-menopausal women give birth – including a 56-year-old who has had 13 such babies in three years.
Funds have been flooding into the church in response to the “miracles”.
Members, many of them middle class and well educated, are expected to contribute a tenth of their income. A new church, worth a million pounds, is being built in south east London
Charles Nyeko, a product designer, is the proud father of Daniel, a child he describes as a “miracle I never thought I’d see in my lifetime”.
Daniel was born in Kenya last month, but just two months earlier, scans carried out by British doctors confirmed his wife Miriam was not pregnant.
“Now we have the proof,” he told the programme, “a miracle from God. We don’t understand how it has happened, we are just grateful that it has.”
Kenyan authorities are now insisting on DNA tests to establish whether Daniel is really the Nyeko’s child.
The BBC has agreed to had over its findings to the Metropolitan Police.