Originally published April 19, 2013
This piece deals with the fallout of the meeting held between President John Mahama and the leadership of the Church in Ghana, at the Flagstaff House, on the 19th March, 2013, and what I consider to be lack of decorum in the attitude of some members of the clergy towards the presidency.
As someone with a commitment to the biblical philosophy, which clearly and openly recognizes God as his source of values, the President’s signals during the meeting for communion- inward fellowship- with the Clergy, while muted, was penetrating; albeit the fact that it did not suggest fusion of the church and state. It offered a dimension that unifies a people, while providing common goals and values for society’s existence. And this, it seems was rejected and flippantly cast aside by a section of the Clergy who raised a furor in the Press, with the issues the President spoke about
becoming a spur for scorn right after coming out of the meeting.
Objectively speaking, during the meeting neither the gestures nor the issues raised by the President did warrant the kind of reaction the nation witnessed after the meeting. In addition to the pilgrimage to Israel, he spoke about the acute water situation, the erratic power supply, and the national thanksgiving service. Interestingly for me, what got highlighted at the meeting but was missed out in the aftermath, was someone yearning for fellowship and counsel. Suffice to say that what the media picked up and carried was not gathered at the meeting itself, because they were not allowed to sit in by the president.
Later, a section of the clergy that was quizzed by the media chose only to speak about the pilgrimage and suggested that monies for the trip must be used to solve the problems of the country and cater for the poor. Perfect! But was the poor not in Ghana when football enthusiasts were sponsored to South Africa? When did these men of God woke up to the realities facing the country?
How do we answer to the public perception which suggest that there is a muted “acrimony” towards the presidency by some members of the clergy? The answer to that perception if not vague, may be found outside the pilgrimage issue. A case of doing proxy politicking?
The meeting with the clergy was intended to be a leadership forum for people who shared a common faith which the President himself has enthusiastically embraced. Was the President’s expectation legitimate; and was what he sought for right? Did he commit “civil blasphemy” by being too Christian in a setting he thought would be sympathetic to his remarks; or were his words in any way offensive in the ears of the clergy within the context of what the “political” meeting was dedicated to?
Who hears the yelling of the fish for help when the thermostat brakes in an aquarium and the temperature begins to rise. When we later discover the dead fish in the water, we ask just how long it struggled before it died.
THE GENERAL SECRETARIES MEETING
Before this meeting, the General Secretaries to the various Christian Councils met to consider the proposition by government to facilitate a pilgrimage for 200 Ghanaians from the Christian community. The letter did not mention pastors. The letter advised the Councils to select people who will return to Ghana after the pilgrimage. The General secretaries knew, back then, that the invitation also said nothing about going to Israel to pray for the President. Therefore speaking to the media after the meeting, I expected the clergy to refer to their Joint Council’s formal response to government on the proposition.
Some arguments posited in the media called on the president to make a full disclosure on who was to sponsor the trip, if not government. To that, I think the President need not breach confidentiality to undermine corporate relational practice; or it doesn’t apply in this context.
THE CRY OF THE PRESIDENT’S HEART
Rather than just being relevant, spectacular and powerful, the President is counting on the Clergy to come in with the informal use of its referent power to strive to legitimize it concerns through the presidency. Some christian denominations and political groups understands this and never fails in the use of their referent power through its members in power around the world.
As major stakeholders in national affairs, the Church will interact intermittently with the government, and such government could be constituted by any of the political parties; namely; PPP, CPP, NPP, NDC OR GCPP. Politics is about influence and with the rising of secular humanism advocating for enactment of laws that contradicts the Christian faith, the Church cannot claim to have no need for the ear of the Head of State. Whoever thought,God would be “shown the exit” in the school system of ‘Christian’ America . Now God is being asked to leave the public arena. Let us pause to find out what happened? Are we not shooting ourselves in our own foot? As the irresistible flow of partisanship engulfs us; a sense of direction eludes us.
It is about time the Church defines its relations with the Presidency-not President Mahama- and take steps to establish protocols to guide such relations. This will enable the Councils to offer friendship and counsel to the presidency in a principled manner; and to avert getting embroiled in partisanship. Even if the church choose to ignore her deep need for filial responsibility or her mission to meet the President’s spiritual needs, an advocating body with such stake in national development as the Church, must not forgo or gamble away, an opportunity to establish a decisive bridgehead in government.