4 April 2017
As I will do a fair amount of international travel this year, I decided to write a blog on each trip, and this is the first. In 2002 Dr Opoku Onyinah graduated with his PhD from the University of Birmingham, one of my earliest PhD graduates and the first African one. At the time he was International Missions Director for the Church of Pentecost, the largest Protestant denomination in Ghana with well over two million members today. He went on to be the Rector of Pentecost University College and then in 2008 was elected Chairman of the church, the highest office in the church. He has led the church with distinction and has become a nationally well-known figure. The story of the Church of Pentecost can be found in the second edition of my Introduction to Pentecostalism, pp.128-9.
I visited Ghana for the third time for a week and am writing this on my last night here in Accra. Dr and Mrs Onyinah have been my hosts. Today I gave a lecture on methodological challenges and the dis/continuity debate at a seminar at the new facility of Pentecost Theological Seminary, on the massive new campus (opened in 2013) called the Pentecost Convention Centre. This was to around 40 postgraduates and academic staff. On Thursday, the day after I arrived, I gave another lecture on Global Pentecostalism, mainly to around 200 undergraduates and pastors gathered for an extension programme. Apart from this, I visited two churches with hundreds in attendance on Friday night and Sunday morning and experienced the vibrant (and loud!) African worship that I have been so used to and missed. I visited Trinity Theological Seminary and my old friend Dr Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, another Birmingham graduate, Regent University College and its Chancellor, Dr Kingsley Larbi, an Edinburgh graduate, and Pentecost University College and its Rector, Dr Dan Walker, another of my Birmingham PhD graduates. Great people and great reunions.
I have spent several hours travelling around the urban metropolis that is Accra. There does not appear to be any shortage of cars, universities, churches of all descriptions, and the ubiquitous street stalls and street vendors. People everywhere busy doing something. Temperatures go up to 34 deg C in the day and around 25 at night, so I am thankful for an air-conditioned bedroom for this week. I have also visited the Kwame Nkrumah Museum in the city centre, and have been treated to lunch at two different hotels, one on the beachfront. When I arrived at Accra airport last Wednesday, after most of the passengers had got onto a bus, there was a Mercedes-Benz waiting for me on the tarmac and I was whisked away to wait in the VIP lounge without having to personally queue for immigration formalities.
What has impressed me most has been the enthusiasm and hospitality that I have met everywhere. The Church of Pentecost is a highly structured and well-governed organisation. The many impressive buildings it owns have been built with Ghanaian money and Ghanaian enterprise. It plants new churches every week. I was told in 2017 they will provide finances for building 1,600 new church buildings each seating 200 people all over Ghana. Those will seat 320,000 people in churches in one year! There are now several of its leaders with PhDs from western universities, with others doing doctoral research now. The future is bright for the Church of Pentecost and Christianity in Ghana is in good health.