....Signs of the Times?
Some of our columnists have had reasons from time to time to draw the attention of the community to the proliferation of Churches in our communities across Canada. And the constant Spring and Summer time Healing, Deliverance and Redemption Crusades during which contract “pastors” “God’s Anointed Ones” and “saviors” are imported from Ghana to lead. These proliferation of churches were based on the simple premise of any persons convincing themselves that they have been “called” by God and consecrated themselves as “pastors”. For all we know most of these are self-employed con-artistes.
Today we are concerned, very much concerned, about a new disturbing trend on the religious front, a frightening trend of divisions and multiplication of churches. Today (November 2003), there are close to fifty (50) churches in the Ghanaian community in Toronto alone!!. There are about eight in Montreal, six in Calgary, five in Vancouver and the list goes on and on. The phenomenon of community churches started from the late 1980s with the opening (usually in people’s basements, or in a little corner room in a community center) of small churches. Most of the early ones were “branches” of the established Orthodox churches in Ghana: The Catholics, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterians. In the early 1990s a trend began with the establishment of “Prayer Groups” which in a few months metamorphosed into all kinds of Pentecostal Churches with self-ordained and self-appointed “pastors” and “Prophets” leading the “faithful” and “believers”. Within a few years or sometimes months after the establishment of these new churches, disagreements crop up and part of the original “leadership” will break away to form another church sometimes with the same name with a little prefix attached to it. (The preferred prefix is usually the word “international”).
The following are a few examples of the divisions and multiplication of churches in the community: In Toronto the original Ghana Methodist Church split into three: Wesley Methodist Church and Ghana Calvary Methodist United Church (which claims affiliation with the United Church of Canada), the Assemblies of God Church has split into five. From the original Assemblies of God Church (Ghana), Canada Inc, four splinter churches have sprang up: Rema Assemblies of God, Liberty Assembly of God, Evangel Assemblies of God and out of Liberty Assembly of God has sprang up Ebenezer Assemblies of God Church recently consecrated by a spiritual delegation from the mother church in Ghana.
The Apostolic Church in Toronto has also divided itself into three: Out of the Apostolic Church International came Apostolic Church Assembly (Ghana) APOSA, and Redemption Power International Ministry. The Holy Alpha and Omega Church split into two with the second faction calling itself Christ Redeemer Church. The Resurrection Power and Living Bread Ministry has split into four: Resurrection Power Evangelistic Ministry International, God’s Army Church, and a struggling Resurrection Power (No. 2) which ended in court over the name use.
A group from the former Christ Gospel Church formed the End Time Harvest Ministry and the original founder of the Church now runs the City Chapel out of the ashes of the Christ Gospel Church. The Toronto Presbyterian Church of Ghana split into two, came back together and recently another one has sprang up in Malton called Ghanaian Trinity Presbyterian Church of Toronto. A splinter group has come out of The Trinity Baptist Church formerly located at Humberwood Community Center. The Christian Foundation Church of Toronto is also currently enveloped in crisis and many of the church’s members have left. Our information is that some are in the process of establishing their own churches.
Serious disagreements arose a few years ago within the Apostles Continuation Church International, Toronto. Some leaders of the church accused the pastor of financial impropriety and the long running battle led to some of the leaders and members leaving the church. A year ago, the Pastor and remaining members held a Thanksgiving Service to “thank and praise” God for exornerating the Pastor from the accusations. Disagreements within the Disciple Revival Church, Toronto also led to one of the Pastors breaking away to form the Peace Light Ministries.
In the mid-1990s, a splinter group from the Ghana Pentecost Church (Canada) Inc. in Montreal formed the New Anointing Baptist Church and located in the St. Michel district and out of the existing Pentecost Church has sprang up a new Apostolic Church. Out of the two-year old Ghanaian Presbyterian Church of Montreal has come the Ghana Methodist Church of Montreal.
Painstaking investigation over the years by The Ghanaian News has revealed that the conflicts which lead to the divisions and eventual multiplications of the churches start on three main issues: proceeds from the collection plate, personality clashes with the “host” pastor and claims and counter claims of ownership of the church. Some of the fighting, open and behind the scenes, have been bitter. In some cases some of the “pastors” have been secretly “bribed” or compensated with huge severance packages, a kind of lump-sum “pension” payments for them to leave quietly. But in most cases after taking their compensation packages, the “retired” pastors go on to form new churches of the same name with “international” attached to their names. Some of the division conflicts have ended up in court. There have been cases where police officers have had to be called into the churches to break up fist-fights among the leadership.
Where is all this leading the community? As the community’s mouthpiece and watchdog, we wish to sound a very serious alarm at these very disturbing developments. Are these developments signs of the times as they say in the Bible? That the End Times are near when the world will witness the mushrooming of all kinds of con-artistes claiming to be God’s own Anointed to hoodwink the people?
Even more disturbing is the role of the “Headquarters” or “Mother Churches” in Ghana in these crises of church divisions and multiplications. The leaders in Ghana always play roles and take certain questionable positions in times of crisis in the overseas branches. The role that the Ghana Conference of the Methodist Church played during the Methodist Church crisis in Toronto was very disappointing for a lot of the church’s members. They openly sided with one faction instead of using the Bible to settle the dispute. And recently the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Ghana sent their top officers to Toronto in the face of the crisis in the Assemblies of God Churches in Toronto Instead of helping to solve the dispute they came rather to consecrate the breakaway faction, thus legitimizing the break-up. The list goes on and on.
Instead of providing spiritual guidance and strength for the community, the churches are rather leading the march to tear the community apart. We urge our community members to sit up and ponder over these disturbing trends. The portends for trouble looms large.