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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie/Daily Dispatch

THE OUTSIDER: The archbishop does it again

I am not a fan of Nicholas Duncan-Williams. I went to his church a couple of times and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like his opulence. I didn’t like his message. And I didn’t like the way he carried himself. Simply put, I think he is a very bad example to both Christians and non-believers alike. The man drives around in a convoy and he has a full security detail as if Christ’s protection is not good enough for him. He dresses and behaves like a pop star. Sometimes, he ‘blings’ himself up so much you will think he’s a part of Jay-Z’s Def Jam crew.

Duncan-Williams’ message over the years has consistently been about prosperity – get rich quick. He claims Christians have no excuse to be poor. In other words, if you are a Christian and you don’t have money, you might not be practising the faith as you should. He likes money a lot. His is one of the churches where the size of your bank account qualifies you for a deaconship.

Go to Action Faith and ask for the list of elders and I can bet my last pesewa there will be no carpenter or table-top trader on that list. But there will be a lot of high net-worth people there: doctors, lawyers, architects and big time business executives.

Years ago, I went to Action with an auntie and he was preaching about (what else?) prosperity. And he spoke about why he hates to fly on economy class. Christ rode on a damn donkey but for Duncan-Williams economy class is not good enough. If you are a poor man and you go to Action, trust me, you will feel miserable every Sunday. If you are poor, woe betides you if you dare try to get within a 50-metre radius of Duncan-Williams. If you are rich however, he will always have ears for you. He will single you out and make you feel good about yourself. Do you remember the drug dealer who gave Duncan-Williams a Mercedes Benz?

Money is not all Duncan-Williams cares about. He also cares about titles. Years ago, he started calling himself Bishop Duncan-Williams. He was the first leader of a Ghanaian charismatic church to confer that title on himself. Then before long, most of the other pastors started calling themselves bishops too. This annoyed Duncan-Williams in no small way. So he decided to elevate himself. He started calling himself ‘archbishop’. I am sure that if any of the bishops dares to take up this title, Duncan-Williams will tell us to call him ‘cardinal’ and before long he might be pope.

I think Archbishop Duncan-Williams stands for everything that’s wrong about Christianity in Ghana. Since he is one of the first leaders of the charismatic movement in this country, many pastors look up to him. Unfortunately, he only sets bad examples.

Pastors are driving around like heads of state because they want to be like Duncan-Williams. Pastors care more about the wealthy members of their congregations than the poor ones who need to be uplifted and helped. I’m not saying all the blame should be heaped on Duncan-Williams. But he surely deserves a chunk of it. He was placed in a position of influence but he missed the opportunity to provide the quality leadership expected of an ‘archbishop’.

As if that wasn't enough, Duncan-Williams very publicly divorced his wife and has recently re-married. That divorce from his first wife shocked many. He and Francisca had been married for more than a quarter of a century and they seemed very happy. They were respectively the king and queen of the fiefdom called Christian Action Faith Ministries. Their every whim was law.

Nobody could question the actions (and inactions) of Nicholas and his wife. They were the winning team. I don’t know how they did it but together their kingdom grew by leaps and bounds. If you want to look at Action Faith Ministries as a business (and that’s what it is) their bottom line should make the managing director of the Ghana Railway Company weep. Nicholas couldn’t have done it alone. He did it with Francisca almost always by his side.

That’s why many Ghanaians were surprised to hear the news that their marriage had fallen on the rocks. When the two of them decided to slug it out in divorce court, making a public spectacle of themselves, we were all shocked. Then just a few days ago, we heard the news that Duncan-Williams has remarried in a secret ceremony in the American state of Maryland. He left this country without telling his congregation that he was going to the US to marry. The church was only told about their leader’s nuptials after he had finished tying the knot.

What sort of archbishop goes to court for a divorce and remarries immediately thereafter? That’s the question on most Ghanaian lips right now. The archbishop is being criticised for flouting a biblical injunction against divorce and second marriages. His critics point to Matthew 5:32. Check it out. Last Sunday, the archbishop came to church with his new wife. “Call her lady Rosa,” he instructed his followers. Then he proceeded to deflect the criticism of his actions. “I am committed to the sanctity of marriage and I will continue to fight for marriage as I have always fought for,” he said.

That’s very re-assuring. I hope that with those words, the archbishop is going to be stuck on Lady Rosa until he’s called to eternity. But I’m not sure whether anyone preparing to enter into marriage will seek counselling from him. I will also very much pity those who will allow Duncan-Williams to officiate their weddings. And I pray that he doesn’t try to reconcile couples who are having a tough time with their marriages. Someone should advise him not to try that: an embittered husband might punch him in the face and a scorned wife might spit on him.

In my opinion, Nicholas Duncan-Williams has lost his moral authority to advise married couples. But he has also gained one very important thing: a new wife. For that I congratulate him. I also congratulate him for setting yet another (bad) example for Christians and people like me. This, though, is an example, I will gladly follow. Marriage is not by force. If I marry on Saturday and start having problems on Sunday, I will go to court on Monday for a divorce. I just hope it won’t be as public and as nasty as the archbishop’s. But most important of all, I hope I will get a new wife before the divorce proceedings end.

PS: I wrote all of this on the assumption that, perhaps, Duncan-Williams is not as anointed as he might want us to believe. So ‘touch not my anointed’, as God reportedly warned, should hopefully not apply in this case. However, if he’s that anointed then I’m going to hell for writing these things about him. And for reading it, you are coming with me. Sorry, I should have warned you earlier!