The epiphanic pangs of the National Cathedral of Ghana

Dr. Paul Opoku Mensah, CEO, National Cathedral Secretariat Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah, CEO, National Cathedral Secretariat

Wed, 4 Aug 2021 Source: Lawrence Green

A national cathedral is generally the main church [religious edifice] which is usually situated in a city where the bishop[s] [p]reside[s] and where [t]he[y] celebrate[s] the liturgy on festival occasions] sometimes in an Omni-doctrinal and multi-jurisdictional manner [by John Meyendorff in Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity].

The national cathedral of Ghana is an elaborate, over $100 million [now estimated to be around, $200 million as recently disclosed by Mr. Victor Kusi Boateng, Secretary to the Board of Trustees], a five thousand-seat auditorium, which was born out of a pledge, HE Nana Akufo-Addo claimed to have made to God before winning the 2016 presidential elections.

The Sir David Adjaye [the Ghanaian-British architect] designed interdenominational Christian national cathedral is also expected to bequeath to the country a gracious national park for all Ghanaians, bring new skills, technology, and jobs to the country and act as a beacon to national, regional, and international tourists.

According to Hon. Ken Ofori-Atta [the minister of finance], this project is to be commissioned on March 6, 2024 [www.myjoyonline.com].

What is rather intriguing, is the mixed reactions from citizens to the unveiling of the cathedral’s design by the president of the republic, in March 2018. On one hand, is a [passive] session of the people —cheering the project and on the other hand, a cacophony of criticism[s] usually from ardent critics of the government and the political system—who believe that the whole project is a misplaced priority, neglect of social challenges and huge infrastructural deficits or at best, a show of little concern for the weak social safety net, etc. by the government.

After few years, several months and weeks of monitoring the discourse dispassionately, I am by this [sketchy] piece registering my opinion on the subject matter, even as I surmise that—in as much as I agree that social amenities are not just important but necessary to nation-building, I also believe that the construction of a cathedral in honour of God in such a religious country, like Ghana, is not misplaced.

In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service—Christianity [the largest religion] and Islam [which already has a national mosque-sponsored by the Turkish government] constitute 71.2% and 17.6% of Ghana's population respectively based on the 2010 census figures [www.statsghana.gov.gh].

The foremost and pretty doleful truth is that It is [would] rather [be] better to spend our money on such a noble cause or project of a cathedral, for once in our country’s history than the usual dissipation, misappropriation, embezzlement of state resources or funds for personal, private and parochial gain[s] or satisfaction [perhaps] of a very few political actors and public servants at the expense of the suffering majority [ultimate collective interest]—a phenomenon [pervasive corruption] which has characterized our political and economic landscape since independence.

It is worth noting that, this is, but a single cathedral, perhaps for a very long time, if not forever. Put differently, whether a national cathedral is constructed or not, our meagre state resources are continuously abused and misapplied or wasted by the managers of the economy [not limited to any regime].

Of course, we must, however, continue, even increase the frequency of building schools, hospitals, factories and the provision of social safety net for the needy, poor, vulnerable, etc., unabatedly and proportionally with our population increase [needs]. This too, is non-negotiable and an uncompromising reality [fact]—for, same shall always be with us [but for an apparent need for mitigation].

Also, verily, the essence of building a cathedral [spiritual symbolism and value] and the construction of social infrastructure [a critical need of our time] are not mutually exclusive—analyzing them from a hybrid perspective or “realms” [both spiritually and socially or with “areligious” lenses]. Thus, the construction of a cathedral is not and cannot be made a substitute for delivering social project[s] and intervention[s].

So, let us rather shift our focus and energy on transparency and demand accountability from managers of this project [for the funds raised or yet to be raised and any other related activity] and also ensure that there is value for money. For, with due diligence, the building of one cathedral will not become the sudden and sole cause of our lingering retardation or huge developmental deficits.

After all, many civilized countries, all over the world, had [have] cathedrals way before their economic liberation[s] peculiar to them [from Europe, Oceania to the Americas]. Ghana is neither better nor worse than [these...], in any way [in context].

In addition, [I stand to be corrected on this score], I understand that this project is not financed by our meagre state resources or public fund [contrary to the general perception out there]. For this reason, a committee of clergy [members] and few [eminent] others was set up with the mandate to [among other things] privately solicit for funding, including spearheading a fundraising campaign for a voluntary contribution by well-meaning citizens, expatriates, etc. [certainly not an imposition on anyone].

In that vein, the building of our national cathedral is not government-financed but by privately generated funds [s]. The government is only giving leadership or at best, facilitating the same.

Nevertheless, having said all these, I still do have few challenges, and these are in three-fold [antithesis]. Firstly and conversely so, the fixation on a particular location for the establishment of a cathedral even to the [costly] demolishing of [historic] dwelling places [houses] meant for judges [senior judicial officers]—against the backdrop that, there is a vast expanse of lands uninhabited, across the sixteen regions of [in] the country.

Secondly, on a lighter and relative magnitude, however, the importation of sacred stone[s] [pebbles] from Israel, does not show much faith in the universality and omnipresent nature of the Sovereign One in whose name [I believe] this cathedral is being built. In fact, as far as I am concerned, this is counter biblical [perspective].

This point is copiously captured in 2kings 5:17 —[“If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD”].

In context, Naaman thought that the God of Israel can only be potent, present, and even be worshiped on [and only on] an Israeli or Jewish soil [sand]—thereby limiting the power and authority of God to limited jurisdiction.

However, I want to quickly admit that, this is a matter of relativity in the measure of faith we all have in JAHWEH. Consequently, I do not intend to claim that my view on this score is right and other’s is wrong—perhaps they were animated by a different perspective altogether [which I am not privy to, from where I stand].

Even if not so, they can still be pardoned for the same. This is because of the biblical injunction imposed on us by[in] Romans 12:3—[“...to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according to as God hath given to every man a measure of faith”].

Finally, it is difficult to contend with those “raising” the motive or intent argument [“men's rea”]. It is simply impossible to decipher or fathom [out] the true motive and intent of a person and for that matter, the government or president who midwife this great and elaborate project. To this effect, it is expedient to give them [him] the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

For this cause, even if our leaders have an abusive religious agenda, I will prefer such a danger to see them advocating and fronting for a perverse circular cause like same-sex marriage [LGBTQI+] in Ghana under the guise of human rights [No to Sodom and Gomorrah].

In sum, a Cathedral is not a blood-sucking project, neither is it coming to dissipate state resources at the expense of governmental social obligations or otherwise. The monetary contribution or donation to the project by citizens is voluntary, not mandatory.

But if one thinks and prefers to give[ing] his [her] money to the poor, orphan, needy, widow, etc.—the godly and spiritual purpose is sufficiently served and adequately so.

But as for me and my house, we pray for the grace to do both [in context] and even more. The point is, even as we build these social infrastructures [s]—schools, hospitals, roads, etc., we “can still lick our fingers”, celebrate birthdays, organize picnics, our-days [Oswald’s letter, in mind], valentine-day soirées, etc. [literally speaking] and also build [at least] a cathedral.

Again [as hinted early on], our leaders, since independence, have been wasting state resources on frivolous and extravagant personal pleasures long before and perhaps even after this cathedral brouhaha. At least, for once, let them waste an infinitesimal fraction [amount] of that coveted money [s] on a national cathedral.

It is instructive in Matthew 26:11, where [O]ur Lord Jesus—[T]he Christ, said: “for ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” Thus, to me, this monument is a lifetime opportunity for both spiritual and religious [cultural] estimation.

That notwithstanding, the ardent advocacy for social infrastructure and safety net [for the vulnerable, needy, poor] should continue [and perhaps intensified], even after our rather interesting cathedral epiphany.

I also wish that the discourse [healthy] is encouraged, perhaps other beneficial use may emerge in addition to the obvious spiritual, religious and [the recent] economic investment one —which was disclosed by the Executive Director of the National Cathedral Secretariat, Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah, in an interview with Accra-based Citi FM on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 —describing the facilities to be built within the National Cathedral as “income generators” which is expected to generate about $83 million within three to five years of its completion [www.citinewsroom.com].

Sallam Alaikum [Shalom] and may God bless our homeland Ghana ????????.

NB: This is my opinion on the subject matter and I know, I am entitled to the same, regardless.

Columnist: Lawrence Green