Monday, September 28, 2009

The Rot In The Methodist Church Ghana!

Agreed! Agreed!! This is a refrain often heard from the lips of delegates at the Methodist Synods and Conferences. These Synods/Conferences are organized yearly or biennial at chosen locations in the Methodist Connexion.

The refrain as I choose to call it has become a shibboleth among Synod/Conference members. It has also become a derisive word in Methodist circles signifying blind or sycophantic acquiescence to decisions - questionable or otherwise - taken at these Synods and Conferences.

These Synods/Conferences, according to the Methodist Constitution, meet to take stock of the activities, programmes among others of the past year and to plan the way forward for Church growth and development. It is at such Synods and Conferences that the bishop or the Presiding Bishop as the case may be gives his address on the state of the Church.

Last year’s Conference which was hosted by the Winneba Diocese incidentally happened to the last to be addressed by the outgoing Presiding Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Robert Aboagye Mensah. He surprised many by his almost two-hour delivery. As expected the then Lay President in the person of Mr. James Abadoo Brew profusely congratulated him for his address describing it as a ‘Fidel Castro-like’ because of its lengthy nature. Predictably the whole conference also gave him a standing ovation. Applause! Applause!! Conference was happy. According to the speech delivered and in the estimation of conference the Methodist Church Ghana was moving forward in numbers, projects and developments. But is that the case on the ground?

Unfortunately, certain diocesan synods and even pronouncements from some bishops do not seem to agree with this assertion by the Presiding Bishop.Why they could not and did not even see it fit to question the truth or half-truths peddled by the outgoing Presiding Bishop may well epitomize the camaraderie and the blind allegiance that characterize the way things are done in the Methodist Church Ghana.

However, as God would have it there were some few diocesan bishops who tried to speak out and tell it ‘like it is’ at their respective synods. A perusal of past copies of the church’s publication The Methodist Times reveal that the bishop of Accra, Rt Rev. Abraham Tagoe on two occasions expressed grave concern about the stagnation in church’s growth and warned the hierarchy about doing business as usual. At a similar diocesan synod in Kumasi, the Rt Rev Nuh Ben Abubekr also had something similar to say about the church.

A concerned lay member, one Solomon Quaye-Lartey was also worried that ‘the church and all lack commitment.’ Apparently the church talks more than it acts. No wonder the Administrative Bishop in a sermon he once delivered at a thanksgiving service to round off an anniversary celebration of a church organization remarked that ‘the church needs practical leaders and not theorist.’

Meanwhile concerned church members have been asking themselves questions as to what the church has been up to these past five or six years. Call it the wasted years!

Their questions become legitimate when viewed against previous Methodist administrations manned by the late Rt Revds. C.F.C. Grant, Wallace Koomson, Adama Stephens and in recent past the surviving Most Rev Dr Samuel Asante Antwi. It was during these periods that structures were mapped out for proper administration of the church.

It was during that period the Methodist Headquarters had a building befitting its name. It was during that period that the Donewell Insurance Company came into being. It was during that period the Methodist Church Ghana joined the Episcopal family – with all its faults. It was during that period the church revisited the Wesleyan revival of old at an unprecedented outreach programme at the nation’s Independence Square not to mention the evangelistic foray into the Volta Region. It was during that period that the Methodist Church established the Methodist University. On the contrary these past few years have not only witnessed a lull in evangelism across the connexion but also physical development and growth has also been stagnant. What a shame?

It must however be said that when the outgoing Presiding Bishop. Most Rev Dr Aboagye Mensah came onto the scene he made half-hearted attempts to continue with the evangelism drive and tried hard to harp on it. As it turned out the strings on his harp and lyre where discordant. Mere noise, no melody! He tried to do his own style of evangelism by embarking on trips abroad.

The trips brought little or no benefit to the church except to himself personally. A youth conference held in Brazil a couple of years ago is a case in point. Strangely, the youth director and some youth leaders who were to attend the programme were sidelined. It is said he went on the trip accompanied by the present General Director of the Board of Social Responsibility and Rural Development. It will be interesting to ask the Presiding Bishop what he learnt at the youth conference and whether the youth in the church are benefiting from it.One Evang. Jacob Ajavon has single-handedly opened a mission in Burkina Faso for the Methodist Church Ghana. Sad to say, support from the connexion has been abysmally poor. The story is no different at Donkorkrom in the Afram Plains.

There have been times; I have been reliably informed that the Minister-in-charge of evangelism has to dip into his pocket to feed the missionary stationed there because money from the connexion was not forthcoming.

The money that was available was spent on the purchase and maintenance of luxury cars for the comfort of the bishops and the overseas travels of some bishops and the Presiding Bishop. Just in your spare time visit the synods and conferences and you will marvel at the display of 4x4 vehicles by the bishops and some superintendent ministers.

It makes you wonder whether priesthood in the Methodist Church Ghana is a call, a vocation, a profession or a business. Once upon a time a foreign delegate to one of the conferences in a conversation with a driver assigned to him expressed horror and disgust at the flashy cars being used by the clergy.

‘How could they do this in the midst of all this poverty around’? He wondered.Still on their free spending, the 15 or so bishops accompanied by their wives in clandestinely visited the state of Israel on a pleasure trip for about 12 days.

It was only one bishop - the then bishop of Tamale in the person of Rt Rev Ato Brown who declined to go on that trip. Either his good conscience told him not to go on that trip or the Diocese could not finance the trip. The trip from what I gathered cost about 45 million old cedis per couple. Do the mathematics and you tell me the cost to the church? Believe it or not the Presiding Bishop in his report and final address to conference last August did not have the guts to tell the conference about this trip. What was he trying to hide?

It is strange that in his report to the Winneba Conference he tried to encourage the church to enter into partnership with private enterprises to generate income for the church. Another reason was to warn the church off its dependency on harvests collections and the like considering the discouraging contribution to the Methodist Development Fund. But has something concretely been done in this regard? The answer is no!

It is important to note that on leaving office the immediate past presiding bishop left handing over notes and blue prints to Most Rev Dr Aboagye Mensah. The notes dealt with the construction of a Methodist Headquarters complex, the establishment of a Methodist Trust Bank.

These proposals, if I may call them, were all at advanced stages. What has happened to them? These things were spitefully left in locked drawers to gather dust. So how come in the twilight of his administration, Most Rev Dr Aboagye Mensah now sees the wisdom to invite private enterprises to partner the church.

Lest I forget I am told that recently the bishops, the Presiding Bishop included, visited Nairobi, Kenya, and saw at first hand how the churches there have entered into partnership with private enterprises and are doing wonders.

‘We can also do same here,’ he reportedly told his fellow bishops. Hypocrisy?Notably the church has acquired a near three billion old cedis new manse for the Presiding Bishop. The purchase was made after the first manse for the Presiding Bishop located at Asylum Down, Adabraka, was sold off to a business concern.

The furnishings and all reportedly cost over 800 million old cedis and were brought in from China, people say.

In spite of all these free spending, the Methodist Church Ghana for the past six years has been marking time and for inexplicable reasons church members have lost their voices and the clergy are having a field day.

Meanwhile church workers are getting poorer and being turned into mendicant paupers. Condition of service for church workers leaves much to be desired. The workers are afraid to join Unions for fear of losing favour with the church.

I suggest that the incoming administration headed by the Most Rev Prof Emmanuel Asante must stay focused and business-minded. He must say no to paternalism and the professional praise singers.

The holistic aspect of church work is something he need not lose sight of. The accounts are rusely having a field day and adding to their bank accounts because they know their bishops and ministers are equally guilty. ‘Scratch my back, whilst I scratch yours.’ That is the name of the game.

NB: Those trooping into the offices of the Daily Searchlight should stop because their pleas won’t stop me from exposing men of God like I do the corrupt politicians.