Accra, April 27, GNA - The Reverend Philip Laryea, a theologian on Tuesday commended the late ethnomusicologist Dr Ephraim Amu for his efforts to reconcile traditional African religion with the Christian faith.
He, however, said neither Amu nor other African theologians have been able to reconcile the two religions in completely. Rev Laryea said there are "continuities just as much as there are discontinuities in the relationship between Africa's primal religions and the gospel".
He was speaking at the Seventh "Ephraim Amu Memorial Lectures" organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with International Centre for African Music and Dance, University of Ghana, under the theme, "Theological Landmarks in the Life and Thought of Ephraim Amu."
It was to throw light on Dr Amu's contribution as a Christian thinker, his career and legacy and explain the nature and significance of his theological landmarks and musical language to enable the present generations to draw inspirations from his rich experience. Rev Laryea who is also a Research Fellow of the Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology based at Akropong-Akuapem charge African theologians to continue to determine the points of convergence and divergence, a task Dr Amu set for himself and throughout his entire life worked assiduously to bring into fruition. He said an analysis of Amu's songs showed the extent to which he was engaged in the social and cultural contexts to register the African perspective in the Christian world.
Rev Laryea said the dexterity and sophistication with which the ethnomusicologist articulated his views through poems, songs and sermons always made a case for the African identity.
He said Dr Amu was ahead of his contemporary scholars noting, "Long before the University Departments of Divinity and Religions in Africa started discussing theological issues confronting the continent, Amu's views had already been published in a reputed academic journal, the International Review of Missions."
Rev Laryea said Dr Amu had argued that for Christianity to survive and achieved its purpose in Africa it must be intelligible and full of life drawing attention to the link between the intellectual dimension of the Christian faith and its praxis.
"For him, it was not an either or situation, nor were the issues mutually exclusive. Both belong to the warp and woof of the Christian faith".
Rev Laeyea said in this regard, Dr Amu could be considered as one of the forerunners in this debate since he anticipated the issue that was to engage the attention of academic theologians in modern times," Rev Laryea emphasis. More
Rev Laryea said Dr Amu contended that for Christianity to give life and meaning to the African, there was the need to reconsider the channels through which it was presented. He said the channels in Amu's view were alien and not likely to support the growth of the Church in Africa.
Rev Laryea said Dr Amu, therefore, advocated a method of adaptation that would make a careful study of social and religious institutions. He said Dr Amu saw that Christianity came into Africa clothed in a Western garb with all its trappings, thought-forms and presuppositions, Rev Laryea said: "His concern was to peel off these accretions and adapt Christianity to a more congenial environment in Africa, which postulated the idea that the gospel does not translate into a cultural vacuum."
He said in Amu's view, "If the gospel is represented by a seed, to what extent can we strip it of its husk (the cultural non-essentials) to get to the core (the divine essentials)." According to Rev Laryea, Dr Amu also questioned the fundamental basis for the translation of the gospel.
Rev Laryea said Dr Amu asked: "Did the gospel translate into a cultural vacuum in its European setting? If this was not the case, then how could anyone imagine that it must translate into a cultural vacuum in Africa?
He said Dr Amu, therefore, called for the adaptation of African rites of passage such as child naming ceremonies and puberty rites into the Christian practices of infant baptism and confirmation. Rev Laryea said Dr Amu also advocated the removal of footwear and the lowering of cloth by worshippers as a sign of reverence as they approach the communion table.
The lectures was interweaved with harmonious coral music from the Amu collections which included "Odomankoma Oboadee," "Abibirimma," "Asem yi di ka," Kasakyerew ho nimdefo, mo", "Agya fa firi won," "Asomdwee mu na meko makoda" by the choir of the Music Department of University of Education Winneba and Immanuel Presbyterian Church Choir at Madina. Professor Kwame Gyekye, Vice President of the Academy chaired the lecture, which was attended by the Amu family from Peki Avetile, academia, musicians, students and a cross section of the public.
As part of the lectures, an exhibition of books, musical instruments, typewriters used by Amu were displayed at the forecourt of the Christ the Kings Parish Hall venue for the lecture. 27 April 05