MODERATOR’S ADDRESS AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE
195TH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA DAY
The history of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana is a story of God’s triumph amid adversity. It is usually traced to December 18, 1828, when the first batch of missionaries from the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society arrived at Christiansborg, Osu. They were Johann Philip Henke, Gottlieb Holzwarth, Karl F. Salbach, and Johann Gottlob Schmidt. They arrived following a request by Major de Richelieu, Governor of Christiansborg. His request to the Danish Crown for missionaries was forwarded to the Basel Mission which had been set up in 1815 to train missionaries.
Before they arrived, they had to submit to a Danish ordination in Copenhagen. In Denmark, they met a young African prince, Frederick Noi Dowuona, who was appointed Missionary-Assistant and therefore arrived with them. Sadly, the Europeans died less than three years after their arrival. Another team of three missionaries followed: Andreas Riis, Peter Petersen Jaeger, and a doctor, Christian Friedrich Heinze. Once again, the mortality was high as Dr. Heinze and Jaeger failed to survive after three months, leaving Andreas Riis alone.
Riis later moved the mission to Akropong in 1835. He was joined in November 1837 at Akropong by two more missionaries, Johannes Murdter and Andreas Stanger who came together with Anna Wolters, the bride of Riis. Stanger died in December 1837, while Murdter survived until November 1838. The time in Akropong was not altogether very successful, causing Andreas and Anna Riis to leave Akropong in 1840 for Europe. At this point, the Basel Mission decided to abandon the mission.
The Mission was renewed in 1843, following the recruitment of African Christians from the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Antigua agreed to find. These Caribbean Christians introduced mangoes, cocoyam, avocado pear, groundnut oil, and many others to the local food economy. One must also add that the Basel Mission introduced the cultivation of cocoa before Tetteh Quarshie. The Lord blessed their mission and soon schools were started in Akropong and Osu. Stations were opened all over the country. The Mission was involved in the establishment of schools, hospitals, development of the vernacular, development of roads, commerce, etc.
Following the deportation of the Basel Missionaries from Ghana in 1918 (the First World War), the Scottish Mission was invited to organise the church. Considering its size and the small staff of two missionaries of the Scottish Mission, it became necessary for more indigenous leaders to be drafted into the church’s national leadership. The Scottish Mission through Dr. Arthur Wilkie took the significant step of organizing the church to become a self-governing Church. A Synod was held on August 14th, 1918, at the Akropong Church where two second-generation Caribbean Christians, Rev. Peter Hall and Rev. Nicholas Timothy Clerk, were elected Moderator and Clerk of the Synod respectively. This was the beginning of the move towards an independent church. For the first time, the young African church had her own indigenous leaders.
In 1922, the Kyebi Synod accepted the creation of the first five Presbyteries. They were Ga and Adangme, Akuapem and Anum, Agona and Kotoku. Akyem and Okwawu, Asante and Asante Akyem. In 1926, the Synod, meeting at Abetifi adopted the name ‘The Presbyterian Church of the Gold Coast’ which was to become ‘The Presbyterian Church of Ghana’ when the nation attained independence. The name ‘Presbyterian Church’ recognized the polity of the Scottish Church which traced its background indirectly to Switzerland of which Basel was for several centuries an important Christian center. The Church therefore upholds a Reformed polity.
At the Abetifi Synod of 2000, the Church replaced Synod with the General Assembly as its highest court and the first General Assembly was held in Navrongo in 2001. Presently, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana is the oldest continuously existing church in Ghana with over Two Thousand Five Hundred (2,500) Basic Schools; Four (4) Vocational Schools; Thirty-Six (36) Senior High Schools; Five (5) Colleges of Education; Four (4) Nursing Training Colleges; Two (2) fully fledged private Universities; Seven (7) Agriculture Stations; Relief Services, several Community-Based Rehabilitation Programmes, Five (5) Lay Training Centres, numerous Water Projects and Sixty Health Facilities in twelve of the sixteen political Regions of Ghana.
There are 21 Presbyteries, 6,519 Agents, (Ministers, Catechists and Caretakers) 360 Districts and about 5,500 Churches. Today we celebrate the goodness of God in His Church. The legacy of the Church is seen in how the Christian faith has grown in this country. We remember the sacrifices of the early missionaries and Christians. We cherish the virtues of humility, discipline, and prayer that they upheld. May these move us to do great exploits for the Lord in our time. To God be glory. Amen.
PCG Public Relations