COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE 18TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA HELD FROM AUGUST 17 – 23, 2018 AT THE CHRIST CONGREGATION AKROPONG-AKUAPEM IN THE EASTERN REGION
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
Fellow Ghanaians and people of God, we bring you warm felicitations from your brothers and sisters of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
We, Commissioners, representing the various Presbyteries and other constituencies of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, meeting at the 18th General Assembly of the Church from August 17 to 23, 2018 at the Christ Congregation Akropong-Akuapem have deliberated on a wide range of issues affecting the Church and the State. In acknowledgement of the Lord’s protection of our nation and His provision for the poor and the vulnerable in our land, we bless Him and continue to pray for wisdom for the political and religious leaders of the country. We also praise the Lord for the relative peace and stability our nation continues to enjoy and urge all Ghanaians, especially, the Christian community to continue to work and pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation.
THEME FOR THE YEAR
This year, the General Assembly was held in Akropong-Akuapem to commemorate the very first of such gathering, then called “Synod”, which was held there in 1918. Before the first Synod the Church had existed in Ghana for ninety years. We are grateful to God for how far He has brought us. The theme of the 18th General Assembly has been, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This theme will also guide the life and activities of the Church in the 2018/19 church year. This theme is built on that of the 17th General Assembly: “Let the Earth Hear” (Romans 10:14-17). It is a call to the Ghanaian Christian community to recover the sense of urgency surrounding the command by the Lord to take the Gospel to all lands to build communities of persons with transformed lives who brighten the world with the values of the Kingdom of God.
The General Assembly appreciates the massive show of solidarity by Ghanaians and our ecumenical partners when our Moderator, the Rt. Rev. Professor Cephas Narh Omenyo fell ill. The prayer of faith and the financial and other forms of support offered have not been in vain. We are happy to report that his condition has significantly improved and the Lord who works miracles will soon bring to accomplishment the good work He has begun. Meanwhile, going by the Constitution of the Church, the General Assembly has elected the Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante as the 18th Moderator of the General Assembly. We invite all our members, friends and well-wishers, wherever they are in the world, to join us in thanking God for the renewed enthusiasm, the clear vision and hope inspired by the Rt. Rev. Professor Cephas Narh Omenyo during his brief tenure as Moderator of the General Assembly.
CONTRIBUTION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA
Since inception, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana has made significant contributions to the development of the nation. Apart from the historical role in education, health and agriculture, our Church continues to be involved in several social intervention programmes, including livelihood empowerment and advocacy on behalf of the underprivileged
As citizens and stakeholders in the progress and welfare of our nation, we consider it appropriate to draw attention to the following as issues that need to be urgently addressed.
POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP
The General Assembly commends both the political and religious leaders of the country for their pursuit of the values of unity, inclusion, freedom and justice to sustain and improve upon the relative peace and stability, which the nation has enjoyed since the return to constitutional rule under the Fourth Republic. Despite the few moments of tension, the good sense of our people has always prevailed.
However, the General Assembly observes with deep concern, the increasing polarization of the country along political lines. This does not only threaten the peace and unity of our people but also carries the potential to erode the gains made in our developmental efforts. The quick politicization of every single issue of national importance that comes up must stop. The General Assembly calls on the leadership of the two main political parties, and others to refrain from feeding this dangerous tendency by educating their followers to be considerate in their utterances.
The General Assembly also notes with dismay reports of widespread abuses on the religious front. While calling upon leaders who indulge in teachings, practices and behaviours that depart from the spirit and letter of the Gospel and violates decency to cease from them, we urge the people of God to be discerning. The Assembly recognises the anxiety, frustration and despair engendered by the social and economic crises of unemployment and poverty amid the high cost of living that expose majority of citizens to the pranks of charlatans.
Nevertheless, we admonish the faithful to have hope and exercise patience in the face of trials as is characteristic of true disciples. In this connection, the General Assembly directs all Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) agents to, in keeping with the theme for the Church Year, return to the basics of the Christian faith and intensify their teachings on the topics of faith, repentance, love, hope, hard work, endurance and other such themes that build the Christian character and wean believers away from greed, selfishness, laziness and such self-defeating tendencies.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly calls for heart searching on the part of all religious leaders, especially, preachers and teachers of the Christian gospel, and admonish them to adjust their messages, practice and life-style to conform to the simplicity, humility and compassionate character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE FINANCIAL SERVICES : BANKING SECTOR
The General Assembly notes with dismay, the several scandals that have rocked the financial sector in recent years. These tend to undermine public confidence in financial institutions and derail government efforts to build a savings and investment culture. We commend the Bank of Ghana (BoG) for the strong supervisory role it is seen to be playing. While urging them not to relent in this, we wish to admonish them to be even more proactive to protect both the national vault and the savings of the ordinary citizen.
Of greater concern to the General Assembly is our inability to build indigenous banks that survive several generations. The rate at which indigenous banks rise and fall is alarming. It betrays, either a lack of talent on the part of the main players or reveals serious inadequacies in the legal regimes that regulate the sector or both. Furthermore, some details in the reports about some of the recently collapsed banks reveal gross disregard for ethics and lack of good judgment on the part of some leaders in the sector. The General Assembly calls on the government to initiate comprehensive reforms to address these and other issues of the sector.
TAXING THE CHURCHES
The General Assembly has followed with interest the ongoing public discussions generated by calls to impose taxes on the income of churches. The General Assembly wishes to explain that the Presbyterian Church of Ghana makes conscious efforts to honour its obligations to the state in terms of paying the income tax (PAYE) of its employees as well as withholding taxes deducted for goods supplied and services rendered. Furthermore, all the profit-making ventures of the Church pay corporate taxes.
However, the General Assembly rejects suggestions for taxes to be imposed on tithes, pledges and offerings. We advise the government to ignore such calls. If the calls are to address perceived abuses, more appropriate ways must be found to deal with them.
The General Assembly expresses satisfaction with the efforts by the government to address important issues affecting the environment. We note, especially, two developments: the fight against illegal and destructive mining activities with their damaging effects on our forests and water bodies; and the campaign against open-defecation. Although these efforts are facing challenges, the General Assembly urges the relevant institutions involved not to relent but up their game by mobilizing wide-scale support from relevant quarters, including the religious.
The General Assembly deplores the sanitation situation of our towns and cities. The situation becomes even more disappointing, considering the President’s stated commitment to make Accra the cleanest cities in Africa. We call on Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to pay greater attention to this challenge. The General Assembly directs the department of Development and Social Services of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to develop an educational programme to mobilise the faithful to build a helpful waste management culture in their homes and communities.
The General Assembly also calls on the relevant state agencies to increase efforts at introducing sustainable recycling plants to take care of plastic waste. This can fit into the framework of the One District One Factory policy of the government.
A related development that threatens sustainable livelihoods of many families in some communities in the Northern regions of the country is the cutting down of trees such as shea nut trees for charcoal. The General Assembly calls on the government, as a matter of urgency, to address this menace before it gets to a crisis point.
Three issues on the educational front have engaged the attention of Commissioners at the General Assembly. These are concerns about the Free SHS policy, partnership and the status of the Colleges of Education connected to religious bodies.
We admire the resoluteness with which the government has managed the rolling out and the implementation of the Free SHS policy. However, as a key stakeholder in education, the Church is close to the educational managers at the lower levels and understands the frustration the heads of Senior High Schools encounter with insufficient logistics and delays in the release of funds. Therefore, the General Assembly urges the authorities to, as much as possible, ensure the timely release of funds to reduce the stress on school heads and other managers. The Assembly also calls on school heads to be prudent and transparent in the management of the resources at their disposal.
As the president continues to find ways around the challenges associated with the implementation of the “free SHS policy”, the General Assembly wishes to encourage him and his team to accept constructive and well-meaning feedback from other stake-holders to make this very good policy better. The Free SHS policy must not fail; the destinies of generations of young Ghanaians hang on it.
In this connection, the General Assembly calls on other stakeholders and the public to support the soon-to-be rolled out stop-gap Double-Track system, while the government works to find a more permanent solution to the challenges that occasioned it.
One suggestion of the more permanent solutions to the challenge of the spillover of the free SHS policy is the effective utilization of the Community Day Schools. Apart from these schools being day schools, several of them are built far away from the communities. To attract students from outlying communities, General Assembly suggests two ways to make the system functional. First, we urge the government to provide dormitories/hostels together with staff accommodation on site to allow students to stay on campus. Secondly, the government may provide high-seater capacity commuter buses to convey students from the communities to reduce the stress and fatigue on them.
The General Assembly observes with delight signals from the side of the government pointing to a readiness to pursue a stronger partnership between the Church and the state in the management of schools at the basic and secondary levels. The Presbyterian Church of Ghana commits itself to fulfill its responsibilities in the partnership. The General Assembly encourages the government to do same.
The General Assembly wishes the Church in Ghana continues to partner with the State in the important enterprise of training teachers for our schools. Against this background, the General Assembly lauds the decision to affiliate our Colleges of Education to public universities. However, we disagree with any measure that would lead to the absorption of our colleges by the public universities and the loss of their historical identity and religious ethos. Therefore, the General Assembly entreats the Ministry of Education to continue its engagement with stakeholders to ensure that the historic and beneficial partnership between the Church and the State in the training of teachers is sustained.
INDISCIPLINE AND ACCIDENTS
In the recent history of the country, there have been too many accidents that have resulted in the loss of life and property. Most of these accidents are due to the general indiscipline, which seems to have become normal in our country. The most recent one is the Ashaiman incident in which a truck ran over sellers and buyers on the road, leaving several casualties in its trail.
The General Assembly urges both the central government and Metropolitan, Municipal and District authorities to enforce relevant laws and provide alternative market places for such traders to avoid similar incidents and their attendant deaths and injuries. The General Assembly calls on Metropolitan, Municipal and District authorities to be proactive in stopping the emergence of unauthorized markets when they start and not wait for it to develop before they set in to clear the traders who might have already taken roots and made substantial investments in these areas.
The desire to escape the frustrating traffic situation in the cities and the absence of adequate and effective public transport system have combined to make the so-called Okada a permanent feature of our transport system. However, the General Assembly is of the view that the delay in deciding whether or not to approve of it adds to the indiscipline and dangers on our roads. We call the government to regulate their operations to ensure greater discipline and safety on our roads.
The General Assembly notes with deep worry the persistent tendency of sections of the public to blackmail ruling governments anytime authorities attempt to decongest the city. We call on the public to cease from this self-destructive behaviour.
Then also, the General Assembly expresses its displeasure at the persistent attacks on public servants by political party vigilantes. We entreat the government to disband all such vigilante groups. We call on the leadership of the various political parties to cooperate in this matter.
THE PERSISTENCE OF CORRUPTION
The General Assembly commends the government for the bold efforts they are making to deal with the canker of corruption in the country. The introduction of various policies and mechanisms, such as the promotion of paperless system of revenue collection at the ports and the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor are testimonies of the government’s determination to deal with corruption.
Despite these efforts and others by previous and present governments, corruption remains endemic in high and low places in Ghana. In many state departments, citizens may not be served if they do not pay illegal monies to officers. This is not good and calls for the cooperation and involvement of all citizens in dealing with the challenge.
In recognition and support of the efforts by the government, the General Assembly directs the Department of Ecumenical and Social Relations of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to get together and fashion out an educational programme to change attitudes toward the realisation of a corruption-free society.
RECENT HAPPENINGS IN THE AKUAPEM TRADITIONAL STATE
The General Assembly cherishes the historical relationship between the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and the Akuapem state. The return of the Church to hold its 18th General Assembly in Akropong to commemorate the first ever Synod of the Church in Akropong a hundred years ago celebrates this historical relationship. The Assembly is grateful to the Akuapem state for being one of the major important centres of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, with regard to its heritage, through the years.
Consequently, any development that affects the integrity, peace and stability of the Akuapem state also affects the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Accordingly, the General Assembly notes with consternation, the recent disputes over succession to the Ofori Kuma Stool and calls on the various parties, the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs to speed up the process of resolving the dispute. The General Assembly encourages the relevant units of the PCG, especially, the Akuapem Presbytery, to continue to support efforts at resolving the dispute. Furthermore, we pledge our continued prayer support for the process.
The General Assembly also calls on stakeholders in other traditional areas where there are chieftaincy disputes to intensify their efforts toward reconciliation of the parties involved. We pledge our prayer and other forms of support for the efforts toward peace in such areas.
The General Assembly commits itself to cooperate with the state, other Christian and non-Christian religious bodies as well as traditional-state authorities to work for the peace, stability and the prosperity of this country. We commit to supporting all efforts and cooperate with all who work to promote the culture of hard work, responsible approach to keeping the environment, accountability in public office and equality and equity to achieve the national goals of freedom and justice. We encourage every Ghanaian Christian, home and abroad, to shun practices and behaviours that betray the cause of righteousness and undermines the effectiveness of the Gospel. The General Assembly is of the deep conviction that the salvation of the nation lies in the pursuit of righteousness and submission to the Lordship of Christ Jesus.
Peace to the nation Ghana, its Government, and its People.
December 09, 2018
December 09, 2018