General News of Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Source: - Daily Graphic
The activities of some men of God have come under scrutiny in recent times following reported cases of scandals that have rocked the clergy.
While some of them are in jail for these activities, others are battling their cases in court or are being investigated by the law enforcement agencies on suspicion of various crimes.
Although the leadership of the church in Ghana condemns the activities of these so-called men of God, they are unable to prescribe any common antidote for resolving the crisis.
The Chairman of the Christian Council, Most Rev Professor Emmanuel Asante, has called for legislation to compel churches to be affiliated to the different Christian groups without infringing on their rights.
However, the Ghana Pentecostal Council and the National Christian Charismatic Churches think that there is no need for a legislation but that Christian leadership should promote the concept of affiliation to ensure checks and balances.
The behaviour of people described as 'sheep in wolf skin' has outraged not only members of the clergy but the generality of society who believe that by their actions, those 'charlatans' are telling their congregations to 'do what l preach and not what l do'.
These men of God are unable to measure up to the high moral and biblical standards they set for their members as they fall foul of the law and in some cases lay the blame on the devil.
For sometime now, a number of high profile clergy men have been punished for their wrong-doing. In January, the Accra Circuit Court sentenced Nana Kofi Yirenkyi, also known as 'Jesus One Touch,” the founder of Jesus Blood Prophetic Ministry in Accra, to 10 years in prison for raping his own 10-year-old daughter.
And then in May this year, the General Overseer of the Vineyard Chapel International, Bishop Vaglas Kanco, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment by the Accra Circuit Court for defrauding a British national to the tune of £120,000.
Bishop Kanco had lured the complainant into believing that she would die if she did not allow him to pray over a £120,000 cheque she had issued in the name of her former partner.
Apart from those who are serving jail sentences, others have become targets of police investigations.
Vincent Bassaw, General Overseer of the Fountian Living Waters Church in Takoradi, was arrested in February, this year, for allegedly impregnating a 15-year-old student.
Another pastor, Prophet Nicholas Osei, also known as Kumchacha, leader of Heaven Gate Ministries, was arrested by the police in May, this year, for allegedly attempting to rape a married woman at a hotel in Kumasi.
He was said to have told the 21-year-old woman that the Holy Spirit had directed him to exorcise an evil spirit that was tormenting her in the genitals and thwarting her efforts at making any progress in life and then attempted to use his male organ to exorcise the evil spirits but the woman resisted the action and raised an alarm, which attracted many people to the Sanbra Hotel, where he was engaged in a counselling session. The charges against him were dropped later for lack of evidence.
This August, a pastor of the Rhema Power Ministry at Tanoso in Kumasi, Reverend Daniel Essan Kojo, also known as ‘Pastor Oboy’, was arrested by the Police for alleged car snatching.
It would be recalled that in April, last year, a Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Charles Asamoah, allegedly inflicted multiple matchete wounds on the body of his girlfriend, Janet Dwamena Agyapomaa, when their secret relationship turned sour.
Another priest who made the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010 was the Rt Rev Kow Bosomefi Egyir, an administrative Bishop of the Methodist Church, who allegedly raped an errand girl and fled to the United States of America. The leadership of the Methodist Church of Ghana has been investigating the matter.
The latest to have got the nation talking about the integrity of some of the members of the clergy is , the head of the International God's Way Church, who went on rampage last week at Hot FM, an Accra-based radio station, with two other pastors to attack the host and panel members on a discussion programme.
During the attack, the trio, one of whom was said to be wielding a crowbar, reportedly smashed louvres in the studio of the radio station.
More shocking was Bishop Obinim’s confession on another radio station that he had cursed and maimed a child he was alleged to have 'fathered' by the wife of one of his associate pastors.
Apparently, the Kumasi-based minister of the gospel and television maverick is not new to the controversy hall of fame. Last year, he was involved in a scandal with another Kumasi-based pastor, Rev Ebenezer Adarkwa Yiadom of the Ebenezer Miracle Worship Centre, in which he (Obinim) was alleged to have conspired with a certain Frank Annor to bury some juju items in Adarkwa’s church. The case was later struck out for lack of evidence.
While some churches have for long been at the forefront of several development projects in the country, others do not live to the expectation of the society.
Proof that religion is a booming business in Ghana can be found in the increasing number of billboards advertising kaleidoscope of temples and tabernacles promising career success, wealth, status in society, good marriages and problem-free visa acquisition.
The doctrine of prosperity has taken centre stage in most of the churches.
Some of the churches interpret religious doctrines far more flexible than the traditional Christianity that was first introduced by the Europeans. Their trade in stock is faith-based healing and, sometimes, magic which preys upon the gullibility of their wealthier followers and the desperation of the poor.
The messages of healing, miracles and prosperity easily find sympathetic echoes among a populace down on the economic ladder.
With the vulnerable at their mercy, the emphasis is on good life, an antidote to the despair that thrives in the society outside the walls of their churches.
With the activities of some of the phoney pastors getting out of hand, President John Evans Atta Mills directed the police to take steps to deal with rogue pastors. While some Christians believe that the activities of these fake pastors are the signs of end times, others are advocating a legislation that would have grips on the situation.
Article 21 1(c) of the 1992 Constitution guarantees religious freedom and this protection prevents church leadership from stopping such pastors unless their activities are proven to be criminal.
The country’s religious leaders offer different solutions, but all agree on the need to sanitise the system now to ensure that the clergy live up to their calling.
Explaining further, the Most Rev Asante, the Chairman of the Christian Council, said as the council had no authority over independent groupings, 'the only way out is to regulate the activities of religious groups because though religion promotes peace, it can also plunge the country into chaos if not well regulated.'
'If churches are affiliated to a recognised Christian body, we could easily hold them to book. “Where you have an individual to preside over his church without an oversight responsibility, who disciplines such an individual, when he goes wrong? ” he asked.
The government, he stated, could not in the name of human rights allow the continuation of the misdeeds of such pastors while they caused confusion in society.
Rev. Gideon Titi-Ofei, the General-Secretary of the National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches (NACCC), disagreed when he said although the state had the right to protect its citizens, the church should not be singled out for any legislation but rather, the move should be to strengthen existing bodies and ensure that all pastors belonged to a Christian body.
“If you have nothing to hide, you will not have any problem having your activities scrutinised,” he stated.
Apostle Samuel Yaw Antwi, General Secretary of the Ghana Pentecostal Council, also re-echoes the concerns of the NACCC. 'We are not in favour of any new legislation to regulate churces. We believe that the churches should be allowed to regulate themselves. Every church should be made to belong to a recognised council, that way the councils could help regulate their activities. The various councils have codes of ethics and guidelines,” he said.
To stem the current trend, Apostle Antwi advised Christians to watch before they lept as at the end of the day, “you are responsible for where you go.”
“Christians should be discerning and use biblical standards before joining a church. We all must develop a habit of scripture studying, know the truth and stand by it,” he stated.
Most Rev. Prof. Asante also added his voice to the call for Christians to commit themselves to the scriptures. “As leaders, we have been called to preach the gospel and not to explore people’s gullibility, ” he noted.
For Rev. Titi-Ofei, Ghanaians should not despair as “out of every twelve apostles, there will be a Judas Iscariot who will occupy the front pages of newspapers for the wrong reasons.”
“It is time people began to raise questions about these vagabond, freelance and prodigal pastors who are bringing shame to the church. It is also important that people check the background of churches and their pastors and know, for instance, where they were trained and who ordained them,” he advised.
Concerned with the trend, the General Secretary of the Christian Council, Rev Dr Fred Deegbe, earlier in the year called on individuals who ran churches popularly known as 'one man churches' to move away from that and consider constituting board of directors to steer the affairs of their churches.
He said if that was done persons who set up churches for money and power would be discouraged.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, Rev Degbee said the current trend was nothing, explaining that “many have come and gone. The quarks will come and go but the will of God will prevail. God has a way of cleansing His own church.'