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Opinions of Thursday, 28 April 2005

Columnist: Manu, Rev. Dr. G.

The Controversial Pastoral Letter

As an ordained and in fact senior pastor of one of the Churches whose leaders signed the controversial letter, I want to make the following comments and observations. I have to say that whatever way one wants to look at the letter, it has brought the good name of the four respected Christian denominations ? Anglican, Methodist, Pentecost and Presbyterian ? into serious disrepute.

To begin with, in what capacity and on whose behalf did these leaders take the action they took? The normal ecumenical bodies for dealing with such issues include the the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal Council. The gang of four as they are now known acted outside these bodies even though three are founding members of the Christian Council and the other a founding member of Pentecostal council. If they claim to have acted as leaders of their respective denominations, there are clear inbuilt procedures and organs in the various denominations for dealing with such matters. Did they individually follow those procedures? The surreptitious nature of the Pastoral Letter is vividly demonstrated in the Letter Head used. How come that a letter which is seeking to portray an ecumenical character is issued on the letter head of one denomination, the Presbyterian Church? In fact, the letter was written in the office of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana! I hope fair minded Presbyterians will hold their leadership to account for these.

The haste with which the Pastoral Letter was issued, following on the heels of the call on President Kufuor in the Castle by the ?High Powered Delegation? of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana led by the Moderator, Rev. Yaw Frimpong Manso, further undermines its credibility. At that meeting, as everyone knows, Kufuor complained to the Moderator like an incompetent JSS Headmaster reporting an unruly pupil to a school prefect; ?Have you seen how he has insulted me and disrespected my office?? On their part the Moderator and his team asked for Government assistance to get visas for their travels abroad. That these were the news worthy issues discussed by a sitting President and a Head of a respectable Denomination is indeed pathetic to say the least. Anyway, the deal was struck! The Moderator and his delegation promised to take the President?s concerns up and soon after that meeting the Government donates two brand new vehicles to the Presbyterian University College at Abetifi from the GET FUND!

So the Moderator had to keep to his side of the deal. In his bid, Rev. Frimpong Manso who was only recently elected and yet to be officially inducted into office, got hold of more seasoned clergy like the Heads of the Methodist, Anglican and Pentecost to sign the Pastoral Letter chastising Rawlings for bringing the good name of the Presidency into disrepute and demanding an unqualified apology to Kufuor. He failed in his attempt to robe in the Catholic and more reflective and thoughtful Moderator of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In fact, the Heads of the Methodist, Anglican and Pentecost Churches have shown how cheap and shallow minded they are by allowing themselves to be hood-winged by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church to serve his opportunistic and clandestine manoeuvres. Following the heaps of insults the letter provoked on the clergy as a whole and these denominations in particular I think these clergymen must render an unqualified apology to their colleagues and church members for bringing the good name of their churches into disrepute.

The next question is what were these churchmen seeking to achieve? The stated objective of the letter is that they were seeking to reconcile JJ and Kufuor. This is certainly a noble task! But just as many people have rightly pointed out, how can you seek reconciliation by passing judgment on one party and sentencing him to render an apology? But again, anyone who knows a little of the Presbyterian Church will know this is typically Presbyterian! Presbyterian discipline operates on two twin principles. First is that in Presbyterian discipline the cardinal rule is ?don?t wash our dirty linen in public?! What this means is that confronting issues squarely and criticizing those in authority are cardinal sins! The problem, though, is that they don?t even wash the linen in private! And so it eventually stinks and they scramble to control the stench. The second principle upon which Presbyterian discipline is founded and operates is that ?Opayin ndi fo?, in other words, the elderly or the one in authority is never wrong! So when an issue comes up, it is the age and position of the parties rather than truth and right that counts. Cases are therefore always concluded with the younger or subordinate party cajoled to render an apology to the senior or superior party. This is Presbyterian Discipline!

Coming back to the stated objective of the Pastoral Letter, the other question is whether the media is the right route for reconciling the two leading personalities in our nation? As it is now abundantly clear, the Pastoral Letter has made a bad situation worst. Regarding insults of sitting Presidents, the question many have asked is where were these clergymen when Rawlings was publicly and regularly insulted and called all sorts of names? But for me who was taught by some of these clergymen at Legon, Rev. Dr Asante Antwi, the immediate predecessor of the Rev. Dr. Aboagye-Mensah is well known for his daily personal insults of JJ when he was Head of State of this country. He repeatedly referred to JJ as bastard, rogue, criminal and the government as bunch of gangsters! At a point Asante Antwi who is now a member of the Council of State incurred the wrath of the son of the late Rev. Zormelo, then chairman of the Christian Council, whom he repeatedly insulted for not standing up against the Rawlings regime. Dr. Asante Antwi was nearly beaten by the son of Rev. Zormelo who was then a student! The point I am making is that senior clergymen have insulted and continue to insult sitting Presidents !

For me, the Pastoral Letter bears all the hall marks of Presbyterian hypocrisy and opportunism! Remember the Moderator went and asked for visas at a time people were on the streets demonstrating against the impact of high fuel prices! The Presbyterian Church more than anyone else knows how bad and hard things have become for ordinary Ghanaians. During their 175th Anniversary Celebration, the church left the Textile Industries in Ghana and went to China to print their Anniversary Cloth! Why? Too much cost! After printing the cloth, they cleared it through Lome, NOT Tema! Why? Too much import charges! Yet when the moderator gets rare audience with the President, his main concern was visas to travel abroad and after the meeting he turns his attention to demanding an apology for the President. The Pastoral Letter is nothing but Presbyterian opportunism dress-up in the robes of long standing Methodist anti-Rawlinglism, capped by Anglican naivety and collared by Pentecostal ignorance. As a pastor of one of the churches involved in this scandal, I am deeply ashamed of my clerical collar!

Rev. Dr. G. Manu
(Pastor of one of the churches whose leaders signed the Pastoral Letter)

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