Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Journey to Ghana Begins

This morning I am heading to Heathrow to join the other 20 some pilgrims of the Compass Rose Society who are making their way to Ghana.  

Ghana is in West Africa, right along that little bump that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.  The name Ghana means "warrior king" and is what the medieval kings were called.  The country was colonized for its Gold and eventually became a key to the slave trade. After a number of military and civilian governments it today stands as an emerging economic hub in Africa.  It is rich in natural resources.  

We will be going to Southern Ghana flying into Accra.  Then we will make our way to the Cape Coast which was the center of the slave trade. We will pilgrim to one of the sites that is said to have been the port for largest export of human trafficking during that awful period of global exploitation which lasted the longest in our own country and has had a lasting impact on the U.S.  I expect this to be a very powerful part of our trip.

We are going as members of the Anglican family to see the ministry of the Church in Ghana.  It is alive with Television programming, emerging mission communities, strong women's ministry and youth programs.  They are very focused on being and forming Anglicans.  We plan to visit the cathedral as well as other congregations and ministries.  

I am grateful for their hospitality and for allowing us to share int he richness of God's work in Ghana.  As we pray in one of our Eucharistic prayers - that we may see God's hand at work in the world around us.  I know this will be true as we make our way to Ghana. God is doing great things there through the Anglican Church and The Most Rev. Torto and his flock. I am excited and interested to make connections.  I am proud to represent the Diocese of Texas and to represent the Compass Rose Society.

Here is information on the history of the Anglican Church in Ghana taken from their website.  It was written shortly after Archbishop Torto's election but before his leadership began.

The website may be found here:

Diocese of Accra (Anglican / Episcopal)

In Memoriam Our Ancestral Leaders.
The Diocese of Accra, carved out of the Diocese of Equatorial Africa in 1909, was the fruit of the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), now United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG), which started in Cape Coast in 1751. Through some two centuries the mission spread through the Gold Coast. In response to that growth, and in consonance with the Anglican polity of "Synodically Governed, Episcopally led" the Diocese of Accra was created in 1909. The succession of Diocesan bishops to date have been Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Temple Hamlyn (1909 – 1910), Rt. Mowbray Stephen O'Rorke (1913 – 1923), Rt. Rev. John Orfeur Aglionby (1924-1951), Rt. Rev. John Charles Sydney Daly (1951 – 1955). Rt. Rev. Reginald  Richard Roseveave S. S. M (1956 – 1967). So for the duration of the colonial story of Gold Coast, the Anglican Diocese was led by expatriate bishops who were, time and again, lampooned as colonial bishops. Though not official established Church of the British Colonial nation the Gold Coast, Anglican Church appeared to be closest to the British government.

Native Leadership 
However,  with the metamorphosis of Gold Coast to the Sovereign independent  nation of Ghana on 6th March 1957, the Diocese of Accra which covered the whole landscape of Ghana,  began to have natives leaders – Rt. Rev. Ishmael Samuel Mills LeMaire (1968 – 1982) Rt. Rev. Francis William Banahene Thompson (1983 – 1996) and Rt. Rev. Justice Ofei Akrofi (1996 – 2012). At the time of writing a coadjutor bishop has been elected to be consecrated on 24th  June 2012 to succeed Rt. Rev. Akrofi, who retires 29th October, 2012.

Native Assistant Leadership  
With the increasing volume of the mission Bishop Daly initiated an African Assistant Bishop, first native bishop Rt. Rev. Ezra Douglas Martinson and Rt. Rev. Richard Roseveare in his time had three Assistant bishops – Rt. Rev.  I.S.M LeMaire (1968-1982), Rt. Rev. John Benjamin Arthur as assistant but located  in Kumasi (1966-1973) and Rt. Rev. Major Aruna  Kojo Nelson (Rtd) as Assistant Bishop (1966-1977) who served as Provost of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity  , Accra.

Two Diocesans were also Archbishops of CPWA
Diocese of Accra has been part of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) from its inception in April 17th , 1951. The Diocese of Accra has provided two of the Archbishops – Most Rev. I.S.M LeMaire (1981-82), the second African Archbishop of West Africa) and Most Rev. J. O. Akrofi (2004-29 October 2012). Straddling the two offices was taxing and demanded the charism of a conductor of an orchestra and ability to appreciate and encourage the use of others' charisms

Division of Diocese of Accra- Smaller Area: Daughters and Grand-daughters
In the episcopacy of Rt. Rev. I.S.M. LeMaire a number of Dioceses were carved out of the Diocese of Accra – Dioceses of Kumasi June 1973; Dioceses of Cape Coast, Koforidua , Sekondi and Sunyani-Tamale in October 1981. So the Diocese of Accra  has daughters and granddaughters like Diocese of Ho, Wiawso, Sunyani, Tamale, Dunkwa-on-Offin. With these daughters and grand-daughters, it can be said the Diocese of Accra has been alive-vibrant, vital and viable.

Space does not allow us to deal with each episcopate in the Diocese of Accra  as she is today. So let us concentrate on the last 15 years. 

Self-Understanding as Liturgical and Spiritual Renewal
1)    First in pursuit of Anglicanism's self-understanding as liturgical and spiritual renewal, the Diocese on the watch of +Justice Accra  has established a Retreat and renewal Centre at Ashaley Botwe. She is struggling to complete accommodation for would-be patrons, the Diocese has produced the Ga Hymnbook , Ga Anglican Asafo Solemo kε lala Wolo, 2010 (cf Article XXIV of The Thirty Nine Articles).  and reissued the Book of Common Prayer  in a more acceptable form (2012). The Diocese also instituted  Prayer Warriors  who Prayerfully accompany the Diocesan, especially on all major endeavours.
2)    In 2000 the Diocese the Diocese, for the first time, drew up a Diocesan Corporate Plan (DCP) which has gone into a second edition, as the road map of her mission and ministry. The DCP is unequivocal that the Diocese defines herself, above all, by mission . So while Anglicanism has tended to be urban, now the Diocese had been more oriented to be in more rural mission, the fruits of which include Dangbe  East & West eg. Ada Foah, Ningo, Buerko and Ga Rural like Ablekuma and Otinibi.

Traditional Handmaids of Mission: Education and Health
The traditional handmaids of mission education and health have continued to be maintained. With the help of partners through Dr. Maria Araba Akrofi, the bishop's wife, the Halton International Eye Team twice a year does clinics in the Diocese, to date at La General Hospital, Ridge Hospital, Tema General Hospital, Ningo, Buerko Through this ministry 4000 plus have been screened; excess of 2416 have received glasses and 796 surgeries, all of these free of charge. In this respect the Diocesan Health Professionals Guild has been established to collaborate with foreign associates. The Diocese now has one rural clinic at Akramaman. Mission has further defined as a composite of proclamation, making disciples (evangelism) and following the demands of Christ in social, economic and political life.

In addition to the Diocese's continuous work in formal education, the Diocese in collaboration with the Branches of the Vine of USA and England; a Senior High School has been established in reasonably modern buildings at St. Paul's Anglican Church, La and St. Justine's Vocational Technical School at Ablekuma

Quality Priests in Fidelity to High Church Tradition
Diocese of Accra in the Tractarian High Church tradition has a high demand for ordained priests, so as to honour the sacramentalism of the tradition. While in 1966 there were 41 priests, today there are priests in excess of 98. While in 1996 there were only six graduates among the 41 priests, today there are 40 graduates among the 98 plus priests. In other words, there is a conscious attempt at developing quality priesthood, including one with doctorate in Missiology. There is also effort at developing diversities of ministries in the ordained priesthood. So non-stipendiary priesthood has been encouraged, constituting about one half of the clergy strength. They include Professor Emeritus of Theology, Professor of Hematology, Doctor of Agriculture, Personnel Manager of Ghana Water Company, a Managing Director of Ghana Electricity Company, and a former manager of African Christian Press. 

As if increased numbers of clergy ranks, development of quality priests and diversities of ministries were not enough, the incumbent bishop doggedly and patiently and in the face of some opposition got the Diocese to ordain women priests. This is a pursuit of a more inclusive ordained ministry.

At Once Priest-Centred, And Yet Priesthood of All Believers
However, these developments have not been at the expense of the other Anglican principle of the priesthood of all believers. The catechist has been the unsung hero of African-Ghanaian  Church history. Somehow the catechists have declined in numbers with the introduction of Lay Ministers whose effectiveness may not be as of the former catechists. Be that as it may, Diocesan Akrofi established the Diocesan Lay Ministerial Training School at St. Barnabas , Osu which to date has turned out inclusive of hundreds of Eucharistic Lay Pastors, Lay Readers, Sunday School Teachers, Chalice Assistants. The School also served as music school, training organists for the congregation of the Diocese. Since Africans are culturally singing communities, music resource is vital and to the point.

The School was established with the assistance of Professor Brobbery Ellis, Bishop Akrofi's Professor at Yale Divinity School, to the tune of US$20,000. From the same grant the Pipe Organ of the Cathedral Church was rehabilitated to the tune of $10,000 as well as the above mentioned Music School.

Financial Viability of the Diocese
Finances of the Diocese have for long been touch-and-go. So it was uppermost in the mind of Bishop Akrofi. The contributions of Halton International Eye Team, Branches of the Vine  and the Ellis grant were all also attempts at securing the financial viability of the diocese. However, in Akrofi's episcopacy, efforts were made through the finance Committee of the Diocese to rationalize the finances of the Diocese. Such projects as the Hostel and Conference Centre of the Retreat Centre, the Transit Quarters at Kwabenya, the five year Diocesan Endowment Fund I established   2002 and revised in 2010 as five year, Fund II (2009) were all attempts at securing the financial backbone of the Diocese .

While earlier attempts like the Diocesan Press and the multistoried offices on prime land of High Street were not successful, the Diocesan has continued to dream and take initiatives vis-à-vis Desk Top Publishing which not only will be a service  to the faithful but also generate quick money for the Diocese; a revised vision of a multi-storied  edifice on High Street on a build, operate and let, use and return to the Diocese after some years, cassava-starch Project which collapsed not because of mistaken vision but other factors.

The unrealized visions are there for  Bishop Akrofi's successor to evaluate and come  to a mind on their viability.

Re-envisioning Threefold Formula
The Diocese of Accra has lived to actualize the three-self formulae of mission: self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. At least, from Diocesan LeMaire, the Diocese of Accra has lived the Anglican polity of being synodically governed and episcopally led. From even before the first African Diocesan, Diocese of Accra has been missionaries to them. Even if catechists, unsung heroes of African Church history, have dwindled in their numbers, native clergy and others have been leading the mission and therefore, have fulfilled the missionary principle of being self-propagating. The Diocese is conscious to be rid of dependency syndrome, overdependence on assessment and is seeking ways of being self-supporting.

However, Akrofi's Synod charge of 2008 stated the need to revise and reenvision the three fold principle of mission. The focus on self support should become the more dynamic principle of self-motivating for moving things. The vision of self-propagating should endeavour to be self-contextualizing, focusing on the quality of the message and the whole identity of the local church. The self-governing formula should be reworked as also self-critical, opening up to prophetic voices with mission rather maintenance of structures as the overriding concern.
These efforts have been attempts at building on the vision, work and contribution of our forbears. Vision of the particular episcopate may not be monopolized by even the dreamers of the vision. But history tells us to build on the work of others . But successors of one generation should feel free and indeed, are entitled to re-evaluate the work of their forbears and prayerfully chart their own course in the belief that what is of God will be  blessed by God and what is not of God will be purged by God, so that God's Kingdom may be realized on earth as in heaven through humble human efforts.

Other Interesting Data
The Diocese reorganized its archdeaconries in five clusters: the Cathedral cluster, Accra North, Accra West , Accra East and Tema. The aim was to have a more efficient, more rational and consequent administration . It is also mooted that Tema Archdeaconry may be a putative diocese which, some day and with proper nurturing, can become a full-blown diocese.  Documentation in the life of the Diocese leaves much to be desired. Statistics of Diocese and parishes have been difficult  to come back. The Diocese conscious of this weakness has employed two persons to help rectify the situation. This stems from the consciousness that accurate planning is shortchanged by unclear resources human and otherwise in hand.

For further reading: 
1.    John S. Pobee The Anglican Story in Ghana , From Mission Beginnings to Province of Ghana ,Accra: Amanza 2009
2.    Diocesan Corporate Plan and Updates
3.    Constitution of Diocese of Accra

Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent while out of office.

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