The Reformed Tradition and the Presbyterian Church

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


-The Church Today and the Way Forward

I am a life-member of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. I do identify with the theology of the reformed tradition which the church is based on. The tradition is identified with the characteristics of “always being reformed”. The Latin slogan “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” which translates as “The Church reformed and always to be reformed” places importance on the church’s need to seek constant renewal. The church is always in need of improvement, we must never cease learning with relevance and sensitivity in response to changing realities. Implicit in the Presbyterian understanding of the church is dissatisfaction with the status quo. If this is the basic foundation of the church, then the big question is what went wrong? Why does the church today seem to be so satisfied with the status quo? There are a couple of issues that, I think, the church needs to look at and address.

First is the issue of ‘postings’. By this I mean the process by which ministers are allocated congregations after their training. This process has become so ‘political’ that one wonders whether the apostolic example in the New Testament means anything anymore. These decisions are made by a group at the ‘top’ and the closer one is to that group the better one’s chances of landing a plush congregation. You see, there are big congregations and then there are small congregations. There are city congregations and there are village congregations. There are rich congregations and not so rich congregations. I believe you know which congregations are the ‘hotcakes’. All the vices that one would normally find in politics are present during this process-nepotism, lobbying and any others you can think of. Ministers go to the head office to lobby for placement to congregations/stations they consider favourable. If you are not ‘connected’ at the head office, then your chances of being posted to any of the ‘plush’ congregations are virtually nil. Some ministers spend their entire period in the ministry moving from one village/town to the other whilst others move from one city to the other. The Methodists have a better system and I would suggest that to the Presbyterians. They (the Methodists) have a laid down structure where new ministers join the ‘queue’ and wait their time. You start your ministry from the village/town and work your way to the city. One would hardly ever find a minister straight from the seminary being appointed to the head office. On the other hand this is becoming the norm in the Presbyterian Church. Depending on one’s academic qualification, one stands a better chance of getting a ‘top’ appointment. The problem this has created is that the young ministers coming up have all decided to pursue academic qualifications to further their chances of ‘avoiding’ field work (posting to the village/town). Whatever happened to being led by the Spirit?? So now instead of being available for the Lord’s work in the Lord’s vineyard, they stay in the cities because they need to go to school. Then after school they are too ‘good’ to be sent to the field what with their M.S’s and PHD’s.

Second issue is that with Ga ministers and postings outside Accra. I don’t know their motive for joining the ministry and why they believe they have to operate only in Accra. One would have thought that they joined the ministry knowing that they could be sent anywhere to do the Lord’s work. So why do they come up with the excuse that they cannot understand/speak Twi and so they need to be in Accra? But this is where it gets tricky. Within the Ga Presbytery are a number of Twi-speaking congregations. In fact many of these Twi-speaking congregations are dynamic and resourceful. Some of the ‘rich and big’ congregations that I mentioned earlier are Twi-speaking. The Ga ministers seem to have no problems at all when they are posted to any of these (even though they are Twi-speaking) but when the station is outside Accra, somewhere hinterland, then there is a problem. I believe they should take up the challenge and go where ever in the name of the Lord and He shall make all things possible.

Third issue has to do with the ‘Christian Messenger’ (Ghana’s oldest Christian monthly newspaper). I have never seen any Christian newspaper that is as unchristian as the Christian Messenger. If you pick up this newspaper expecting to be edified or spiritually exhorted forget it! You would be lucky to find a page of biblical/spiritual content. The rest of the pages are reserved for obituaries and announcements. There are pages devoted to activities that various congregations have embarked upon. For years the former editor had a stranglehold over the paper. Nobody could say anything to him. The quality got from worse to worst. During private conversations with some ministers, they acknowledged the sorry state of the newspaper but were not ready to cross the editor. I wondered why. He eventually went on pension only to be contracted back as a consultant, for what I don’t know. I recently read of some overseas (USA) appointments. I could only say, here we go again. The same people over and over again. They are the ones who move from Kaneshie to Adum to Bantama and to Dansoman and all the ‘big’ places. Then they get to the head office as Synod Clerks, Ecumenical Secretaries, and/or Chair of Youth Ministry. They also gladly accept Presbytery Chairmanship positions. When they are done with all of these, the same group of people now decides that the next ‘frontier’ to ‘conquer’ is the ‘foreign service’. The Church of Pentecost had a problem sometime back. Thank God they allowed the spirit to lead them to a solution. There was fierce competition amongst their ministers vying for postings abroad. It got to a point where the body of Christ was being torn apart due to the petty quarrels and back-biting. Finally their solution was to put an end to the practice of sending ministers abroad. Now they train members who are already abroad to become ministers and then give them a congregation to pastor. I believe the Presbyterian Church can look at this and learn a thing or two.

It was reported not too long ago that the moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso, suggested that there were some spiritual forces behind the recent spate of road accidents in the country. Well, he may know something that I don’t so I would leave it at that. But I can assure him that the issues that I have raised here are purely ‘human’ and therefore we need humans to deal with them and find solutions.

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw