HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA
In 1815, a group of Christians from the Lutheran Moravians and other reformed church in German and Switzerland formed the German Missionary Society. The mission later changed its name to the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society, and finally the Basel Mission. Their aim was to train people to work with missionary society operating in heathen countries and unevangelized areas in the world.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE BASEL MISSIONARIES: Eminent church historians submit that the arrival of the first four (4) missionaries at Osu on 18th December, 1828 was in response to the special invitation sent by a Danish governor, john Christian Von Richelieu.
The first batch of the four (4) missionaries sent in response to the SOS message by the Danish Governor of the gold coast were:
1. Karl F. Salbech (German) – 27 years
2. Gottlieb Holzwarth (German) – 26 years
3. Johanness Henke (German) - 23 years
4. Johanness Gotttleb Schmidt (Swiss) – 24 years
They landed at Christiansburg on 18th December, 1828, and settled near the Osu castle. They opened schools and started learning the Ga language and preaching the gospel, but the depraved life of the European traders and soldiers, which had affected the Mulattos, made life too difficult
By the end of August, 1829 (barely seven months) three had died. Hence, the last person died in November, 1831.
In 1832 another team of three namely:
- Andreas Riis (Danish)
- Peterson Jeager (Danish)
- Dr. Christian Fredrick Heinz (Medical Doctor)
They arrived in Ghana in March, 13th 1832. Soon after arrival Dr. Heinz died on 18th July 19, 1832. Jeager also died. Riis felt seriously sick but was taken by his friend Lutterodt, a trader, to a village where he was cured by a native herbalist. With Lutterodt, Riis moved from Osu through Aburi to Abiriw and finally to Akropong and was receive by Nana Addo Danquah l, Omanhene of Akropong in January 1835. Riis worked alone. He built for himself a house of stones and hatch. He was nicknamed “Osiadan” which means a house-builder.
While Riis was working alone, three more missionaries were sent to augment the fleet. One of them, Miss. M. A Wolter, later became the wife of Riis. Riis started mission work among the people but there too he met success; he could not even make one convert. Between 29th December 1839 and 12th January, 1840, he visited Kumasi and got the impression that no mission work could be done there at that time, therefore the Directors of the mission made up their mind to abandon this fruitless work and Riis was ordered to return home.
Before the departure of Riis, the chief and principal people of Akropong come and bade him goodbye. He told them that, he had been ordered by his superiors in Europe to go home and that mission work was to be closed.
The people keenly felt his departure from amongst them and the chief was reported to have addressed him through his linguist, in the following words:-
“When God created the world he made book for the Whiteman and fetish or juju for Blackman; but if you could show us some Blackman who could read the Whiteman’s book then we would surely follow you”.
When Riis reached Europe he had an interview at base on the 7th July 1840 with Directors of the mission. They decided to close the work in Africa. Riis strongly encouraged them not to be disheartened but to make another effort. He remembered the address of the chief of the chief of Akropong and narrated it to the committee. The home committee agreed to recruit Christians from Africa (Jamaica) who could withstand the tropical climate (Africa) descendants from emancipated slaves in Jamaica to renew the missionary work in Gold Coast.
In 1842, John George Widmann, Hermann Halleut and George Thompson were appointed to go to Africa with Riis. Halleur were direct to Africa but Riis and his wife, Wolter, Widmann and Thompson proceeded first to the West Indies to try and engage some black Christian who should accompany them to West Africa.
With the help of Lord Elign, Governor of Jamaica, Rev. J. Zorn, Superintendent of the Moravian Mission in Jamaica, Rev. J. Miller, agent of the Africa Civilization Society, suitable person were recruited.
West Indians who accompanied Riis and Widmann to the Gold coast consisted of six (6) married men with their wives and children namely :-
- Mr . & Mrs. John Hall with their child – Andrew
- Joseph Miller and their three (3) children – Rosina, Robbert and Catherine
- Mr .& Mrs. James Babriel Mulling with their child – Elizabeth
- Mr. & Mrs. John Walker
- Mr. & Mrs. Green
The three bachelors were:
- Joana Hosford
- David Robertson
- Alexander Worthy Clerk.
With the exception of Horsford, who was from Antiqua, all of them came from island of Jamaica. Their total number was 24.
The West Indians brought some seeds with them, among which were mango, pear, cocoyam, bananas of different kinds, plantain, cassava, yam, quavas, breadfruit, breadnut, coffee, cocoa etc. It should be noted that in 1858, over twenty years before Tetteh Quarshei brought some cocoa seed from Fernando Po, the missionaries experimented with cultivation of cocoa at Akropong.
In 1848 Dieterle and Widmann started a Theological seminary at Akropong. Another seminary was opened at Christiansborg in 1850 by John Zimmerman. It was later on transferred to Abokobi in 1854.
In 1856 both seminaries were joined at Akropong and Zimmermann accompanied his students there for some time. The seminary provided two courses of Training:
1. A two (2) year Teacher Training.
2. Catechist Training.
SEMINARIANS AT AKROPONG IN 1848
David Asante, Rober Roohoster, William Hofmann, Paul Staut and Isaac Ostertag.
SEMINARIANS AT CHRISTIANBORGH IN 1850
Carl Riendorf, Goerge Lomote , Paul Flescher , Thomas Cyenikier, Goerge Cleleud, Carl Meyer, Thomas Quartey.
SEMINARIANS MOVED FROM CHRISTIANBORGH TO AKROPONG IN 1856
Theodora Wulft, Gottfried Alama, Dahl Quist, Elisha Ofori , Daniel Ablorh , Adolph Briandt, Andrews Klufio, W. M Hesse, Lebracht Hesse, Noa Agwae, Peter Nyarko, Neils Holm, Christian Svanikier Saniez, Goerge Butherodt.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA –PRESBYTERIAN GOVERNMENT
In is important to state that the church which was founded by the Basel Mission did not originally follow a strict “Presbyterian Liturgy”. The major elements in the liturgy were of Moravian, but this soon became coloured wtih other influences from Lutheran and Calvinistic traditions. Later on, the Scottish Presbyterian system became one of the important influences.
In the second week of December, 1917, during the First World War, all German Missionaries were taken from their station to Accra for deportation. On the 16th of December, 1917 they left by ship.
The British Government had decided to terminate the entire work of the Basel Mission in Gold Coast. Therefore, the British authorities invited the Church of Scotland to take over the work of the Basel Mission.
The Basel Missionaries who had been allowed by the British Government to return to Gold Coast, arrive in 1925.
In 1926 synod meeting at Abetifi, the status of the Basel Mission was Discussed. The church could not thank the Scottish Mission and ask them to retreat because of the return of their beloved parent – the Basel Mission.
The church prayerfully guided by the Holy Spirit, and with the moral support of the two mission bodies, declared its complete independence. It assumed the “THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GOLD COAST”. and at independence in 1957 , this was change to the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
By 1918, the church had developed into 11 Central District, each with a number of Sub-Districts. The original Districts of the Church were: Christiansborgh, Abokobi, Akropong, Aburi, Odumasi – Krobo, Begoro, Abetifi, Nsaba and Kumasi. These were constituted into a synod in 1918, when the first African Moderator and synod clerk were appointed. These happened to be two descendant of the Jamaica group. The Rev. Peter Hall and Rev. Nicholas Timothy Clerk respectively. The synod meeting at Kibi in July 1922, decided to create Presbyteries which were therefore constituted as follows:
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA CREST
When the P.C.G. become self – governing, it sought a crest which would symbolize the triple-faced nature of the Church. The crest which was adopted combines our triple heritage of:
- Basel mission
- Scottish Mission
- Ghanaian tradition
v The Basel Mission heritage is represented by the white cross on a red background.
v The Scottish Mission heritage is represented by x - cross (also known as St. Andrew cross)
v The traditional Ghanaian heritage is represented by the green palm tree in the middle of the white cross
A system of integration of the two missionary bodies evolved and symbol of the Church with the motto under the crest are inscribe the words of Jesus in John 17:21. “THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE” was adopted and accepted.
THE CHURCH ORGANIZATION
The term “Presbyterian” denotes a system in which elder’s play an important role. The P.C.G. in the true reformed tradition, is therefore governed by presbyters (sometime referred to as ruling elders) and minister (sometime referred to as teaching elders) the Church is governed through its four (4) courts.
- The General Assembly (Formally Synod)
- The Presbytery Session
- The District session
- The Local session
General Assembly, which is the supreme court of the church meets once a year and it’s composed of all representatives of the Presbyteries. In between the General Assembly, major affairs of the church are handled by the General Assembly Committee which is the executive committee of the General Assembly. The Moderator of the General Assembly, who is the lead, presides over the meeting of both the General Assembly and the General Assembly Committee. The General Assembly Clerk is the Executive Secretary of the Church.
A Presbytery is made up of four or more District and is administrated by the Presbyterial Council. Each Presbytery is headed by a Chairperson. There is also a Clerk who is the Executive Secretary of the Presbytery. A Presbyter is also elected to represent the Lay of each Presbytery on the General Assembly Council.
A District is composed of various congregations and is administrated by the District Session. The District Minister is the Chairman of the District Session. Each District has an elected District Session Clerk and a lay representative on the Presbytery Council.
The Local Congregation is administrated by the local session made up of the Agents (Minister(s) and Catechist/Caretaker) and the duly elected presbyters.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana is currently made up of the Twenty (20) presbyteries. The presbyteries are as follows:
1). Northen 2.) Brong Ahafo 3.) Ashanti 4.) Asante – Akyem
5. Kwahu 6.)Akyem Abuakwa 7.) Akuapem 8.) Damgbe - Tongu
9.) Volta 10.) Ga 11.)West Akyem 12.) Central 13.) Western
14.) Sekyere 15.) Upper 16.) West Bono 17.)Sehwi
18) North America. 19) Europe 20) Asante South
DEPARTMENT AND SUB – COMMITTEES
The day to day administration of the Church is undertaken by the Seven (7) Departments established by the constitution and Manual of Order of the Church. Each Department is headed by a Director appointed by the General Assembly, which also appoint the members of the committees. All committees and Departments are responsible to General Assembly through the General Assembly Committee. For this reason, our Presbyterianism is often describe as government by committees. They may formulate polices within their Department as long as these have no constitutional implications.
DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH ARE:
3. Administration & Human Resource Management
4. Development & Social Services
5. Ecumenical & Social Relations
6. Church Life & Nurture
7. Missions & Evangelism
The P.C.G has developed a structure in which members are catered for “from the cradle to the grave”. This means that no matter what age one attains there is group where one could feel at home. The dynamism and vitality that one sees in the P.C.G. can be attributed in a large measure to the existence of various group within the church. The P.C.G. encourage its members to belong to one or more of these groups. The group helps the individual members to develop their identities, and offer opportunity for leadership roles which are otherwise limited in the larger congregation.
P.C.G. HAS TWO MAIN TYPE OF GROUPS.
1. GENERATIONAL GROUPS - These are groups which are limited to various age groups within the church.
(a) CHILDREN SERVICE: - the children’s service was establish to take care of children from the age of zero to twelve (0-12). Separate service are organized for them by special trained teachers.
(b) JUNIOR YOUTH (J.Y):- The Junior Youth is a transitional group of the youth between the age of 12 and 18 years, who later graduate to Y.P.G. the Junior Youth group have their own service on Sunday mornings.
(c) YOUNG PEOPLE GUILD (Y.P.G) :- The Young People’s Guild was founded in 1938 by a Scottish missionary called A.M Atkinson. (It embraces all young people between the age of 18-30 years). Y.P.G group join adult service on Sundays.
(d) YOUNG ADULT’S FELLOWSHIP (Y.A.F):- The Young Adult’s Fellowship was formed by the 2005 General Assembly, which reduced the Upper Age Limit of the Y.P.G from 35 to 30. It comprises of people from age 30 to age 40.
(e) MEN’S FELLOWSHIP: - The men’s fellowship was inaugurated in 1943 for men above the age of 35. It brings together all men in that category for bible study, lectures, debates etc. By the formation of the Y.A.F. the lower age limit is now 40
(f) WOMEN’S FELLOWSHIP:-The women’s fellowship was establish in 1943 to mobilize all women in the church for effective evangelism and teachings. The currently encompasses women from age 40.
2. INTER-GENERATIONAL (INTEREST) GROUP: - these groups exist to cater for the different interest and talent of church members.
(a) CHURCH CHOIR: - Singing is one important part of the Presbyterian, therefore the choir has special role during worship. The black robe which became standard throughout the church was introduced by Scottish missionaries.
(b) SINGING BAND: - The establishment of this group was meant to encourage the singing of indigenous Africa songs which were not found in the hymn book. This was for the illiterates who could not sing from the hymn book. Dr. Ephraim Amu was quite instrument in popularizing this group through his indigenous composition. Through the great interest and hard work of Rev. F.W.K. Akuffo, a national union was inaugurated in 1956 at Kibi. The first singing band known to have existed in the church was found in the Akropong congregation in 1930.
(c) BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER GROUP:-This group originated out of spontaneous agitation within the church in the early 1960s. It was observed by some church members that Bible was being ignored in large measure. This resulted in the formation of group in 1962 to help bring back the cherished tradition. The group has since grown and gained roots in most Presbyterian congregation.
It has become the church’s vanguard in evangelism and church planting.
P.C.G HEALTH SERVICE
The purpose of the P.C.G. health service is to reach all manner of person with the good news of Christ through comprehensive health care delivery service. The church therefore collaborates with other agencies engage in health care as well as with our marketing of pharmaceutical product, and where appropriate the setting up of centres for special treatment and specialization in various medical discipline.
The P.C.G. established the first ever hospital in Gold Coast in 1885 when the Basel Mission posted Dr. Rudolf Fisch to Aburi as resident medical officer. Although this clinic flourished well for some years, it collapsed with the onset of the world war and the consequence deportation of the Basel Missionaries. Work resumed after the war, but had to stop again due to lack of funding. For unknown reason, the Aburi clinic idea was abandoned, and work started on building of new hospital at Agogo.
PAST AND PRESENT MODERATORS
1. The very Rev. Peter Hall - 1918 - 1922
2. Very Rev. N.V. Asare - 1923 -
3. Very Rev. W. Quartey - 1924 – 1926
4. Very Rev. L.I. Richer - 1930 – 1931
5. Very Rev. C.N. Martinson - 1932 – 1938
6. Very Rev. S.S. Odonkor - 1938 – 1950
7. Very Rev. E.V. Asihene - 1951 - 1954
8. Very Rev. E. Max Dodu - 1955 – 1958
9. Very Rev. E.M.L. Odjidja - 1959 – 1966
10. Very Rev. G.K. Sintim –Misa - 1967 – 1978
11. Very Rev. I.H. Frempong - 1978 – 1986
12. Very Rev. D.A. Koranteng - 1987 – 1995
13. Very Rev. A.A. Beeko - 1995 – 1998
14. Very Rev. Dr. Sam Prempeh - 1999 – 2005
15. Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frempong Manso - 2005 – 2011
16. Rt. Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey - 2011 – 2016
117. Rt. Rev. Prof. Cephas Narh Omenyo - 2016 - Date
117. Rt. Rev. Prof. Cephas Narh Omenyo - 2016 - Date
PAST AND PRESENT SYNOD CLERKS
1. The Rev. N.T. Clerk - 1918 – 1932
2. The Rev. D.E. Akwa - 1933 – 1940
3. The Rev. M.A. Obeng - 1941 – 1949
4. The Rev. C.H. Clerk - 1950 – 1954
5. The Rev. A.L. Kwansa - 1955 – 1969
6. The Rev. T.A. Osei - 1970 – 1974
7. The Rev. A.K. Sah - 1975 – 1985
8. The Rev. E.S. Mate-Kodjo - 1985 – 1994
9. The Rev. Adu Twum - 1995 – 1997
10. The Rev. Nii Teiko Dagadu(acting synod clerk) - 1997 – 1998
11. The Rev. Djan Charlse Dua - 1999 – 2005
12. The Rev. Helbert oppong - 2006 – 2012
13. The Rev. Dr. Ayetey Nyanpong - 2013 – date
NOTE:- the Basel missionaries were replaced by the Scottish missionaries headed by Rev. Dr. A.W. Wilkie of the united free church of Scotland who was by then station at Calabar in Nigeria.
The First synod was held at Akropong from 14th – 17th August 1918 at which an African Moderator Rev. Peter Hall and Synod Clerk, Rev. N.T. Clerk were elected respectively. At the Synod held at Kibi in 1922. Presbyteries were created.
The decision of charging the name of the Supreme Court (Synod) to General Assembly was taken at Abetifi synod in the year 2000. First General Assembly was held at Navorongo in 2001.
A new constitution was drawn and a manual of order.
Six new department were created. They are:
1. Department of Ecumenical and social relations
2. Department of church life and nature
3. Department of development and social service
4. Department of Finance
5. Department of Administration and human resource management
6. Department of Mission and Evangelism.
Later on the year 2004, Department of Education was added to it seven (7)
*All the Department have their respective Directors in all the court. There were sub-committees under them
*The title of the Department Directors at the local and the District level was changed to “Coordinator”, that of finance was change back to treasurer.
*The Moderator is entitle, “THE MODERATOR OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY”.
*The Clerk is entitled, “THE CLERK OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY”.
*Before the year 2000, the departments of the church were:
1. Administration, headed by the administrative secretary; 2. Children 3. Youth 4. Women 5. Men, each headed by a General Secretary and 6. Education, headed by the General Manager of Schools.
*The Synod Sub-committees were:
a. Inter-Church & Ecumenical Relation Committee (I.C.E.R) which had two other sub-committees: Health Service Committee and Agricultural Service Committee each with a coordinator.
b. Property committee
c. Literature Committee
d. Scholarship committee
e. Worship committee
f. Evangelism and lay training committee (ELTC)
*The Church was formally governed using the Regulations, Practice and Procedure (R.P.P) before the Constitution and Manual of order came to being.
Credit:- D. K. Opoku