The USD 200 million 5000-seater interdenominational National Cathedral has fallen prey to old-time trouble of power confluence between the state and religion.
The undergirding question is who is in charge; the state or the church?
History bears the scars of painful lessons of confusion that erupt in many close partnerships between the church and the state. Amidst the streams of resignations of Members of the Board of Trustees, the already disputed National Cathedral has had its credibility in the mud to a very unbearable level amongst the public.
Perspective-wise, these resignations emanated from leaders of some of the most populous elite churches in Ghana. Beyond their churches, they bear a wide following and influence among not only Christians but the entire citizenry. Cephas Omenyo, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Pastor Mensah Otabil of International Central Gospel Church, Bishop Dag-Heward Mill of Lighthouse Church International, Archbishop Duncan-Williams of Action Chapel International, and Reverend Eastwood Anaba of Eastwood Anaba Ministries have all withdrawn their association with this landmark sacred sanctuary.
It is also notable, that all these revered church leaders own state-of-the-art cathedrals and many of them continue to pursue monumental cathedrals. Hence the impact of their resignation cannot be understated.
Topical in most of the resignations is a sense of lack of clarity as to who is in charge and the lack of accountability.
In the run-up to the 2016 General elections, the then-presidential aspirant of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made a public promise that he would build a National Cathedral in God’s honor when he wins the elections. As expected, Christian leaders were enthused about his idea and hopped onto the agenda.
However, like most promises during electoral seasons of Ghana’s infantile democracy, it lacked the clarity and details it needed to translate into a credible policy.
Notwithstanding, on assumption of office as President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo pursued the vision vigorously. Having instituted a Board of Trustees made up of the most established leaders of churches in Ghana, many followers of the church supported the vision of a National Cathedral as well.
However, many opposed the idea too. In the early days of the whole project, few answers were given to those who sought the clarity the project required.
Unresolved Confusion, Unchecked “Corruption” And Derivative Conceptions
First, and most importantly, there was the pivotal question of who was building the cathedral; the state or the church. This is still a rolling question. For most of it, the state seem to have a lead on the project, from its conceptualization through to the provision of seed money, and siting, amongst others.
In opposition, the leadership of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) said the government needed to consult with Christian leaders in the country, even if it were a “minimum level of consultation.” Also, Rev. Opuni-Boateng, a former General Secretary of the Christian Council, emphasized how unclear the council was on whether it was the church or the state that was building the cathedral. He believes that the church should be left to undertake the project with very minimal intervention from the state. This has never been answered.
Moreover, citizens raised concerns against the government’s decision to build a USD 200 million cathedral amidst economic hardship. The public outrage triggered the efforts of the leading church leaders to devise a participatory fundraising approach. This appealed to Christians across the country to contribute at least GHS100 to the project.
However, the Catholic Bishops in Ghana faulted for calls on citizens to donate at least 100 GHC (US$6.00) monthly for the construction of a national interdenominational cathedral. The Archbishop of Tamale GCBC said, “I think the modality for funding the project should’ve been different.”
While the attempt to expand participation may have gained some grounds in achieving its intent, the question of accountability quickly came to bear.
Okudzeto Ablakwa came to the rescue of those who sought accountability with his exposes on the project. To the surprise of the nation, his findings revealed that some GHS 28.2 million was allegedly given to a “crèche” company that has not been able to raise a revenue of GHS 800,000 in the last three years. Also, his findings alleged that some GHS 2.6 million had been given to a company related to some members of the Secretariat in some shady deals. These two have since not been opened up for any proper investigation. The allegations were left to die in public discourse.
Then again, Ghana’s church landscape remains very denominational. Thus, many persons quizzed how the administration of the facility would be. At the very beginning, it sounded minimal but as these times have shown, the inability of the Board, made up of Christian leaders, to work together may be the answer those who asked never had.
Moreover, while the government viewed the project as a tourist attraction and a little more than that, the church leaders envisioned the project as an opportunity for the church to have an inter-denominational cathedral-done nowhere in the world. Even for that, little to no clarity is known on how effectively the church will be run in Ghana’s very denominational landscape. This is another of the quagmire of confusion surrounding the project.
Notwithstanding, the lack of originality in the stories that will make up the tourism perspective of the government has been challenged by many.
In the ever-evolving landscape of global tourism, the significance of originality in storytelling holds a pivotal role in captivating the imaginations of tourists. The authenticity of a tourism narrative lies in its ability to weave a compelling and genuine tale that reflects the soul of a destination.
However, the attempts of the government seem to replicate the traditions of Israel and Christianity as Ghana’s by interweaving them into the nation’s traditions. What a blend of confusion!
Consequently, the USD 200 million National Cathedral has become a sheer quagmire of unresolved confusion, unchecked “corruption”, a derivative idea, and a misconception.
Separating the church from the state remains a critical pursuit in modern governance. Beyond, fundamentally promoting a diverse, inclusive society, where citizens of varying beliefs can coexist harmoniously under a shared legal framework, it also preserves the sanity and reverence of the church from a very tainted business of Ghanaian politics. For politicians and government, the distance may afford them to navigate the stormy seas of partisan deadlocks more easily.
History they say, repeats itself for many who don’t learn from it. The Church and the State should have known better.