Pentecostalism And The African Diaspora An Examination Of The Missions Activities Of The Church Of Pentecost

Pentecostalism And The African Diaspora  An Examination Of The Missions Activities Of The Church Of Pentecost

Click to join the conversation with over 500,000 Pentecostal believers and scholars

Click to get our FREE MOBILE APP and stay connected



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 216

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities

of the Church of Pentecost

Opoku Onyinah


For over three decades, there has been tremendous progress in African missionary enterprises all over their own continent and also among the migrated Africans in the West, as a result of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal.1 One of the churches that have been involved in such ventures is the Church of Pentecost in Ghana. Little has been said about this new trend of Christianity in Africa and its proliferation in the West, especially that of the Church of Pentecost, which is the focus of this essay.

Scholars who have touched on the Church of Pentecost’s missions include Gerrie Ter Haar2 and Rijk A. Van Dijk.3 In her presentation of the relationship between African-led churches in Europe and churches in the home countries of Africa, Ter Haar gives an overview of the Church of Pentecost’s mission. She remarks that it is one of the most successful of the African-led churches in Europe. But her main focus is on the True Teaching of Christ’s Temple Church, a “prophet-healer type church,” which emerged among the Ghanaian diasporic community in the Netherlands.4 Van Dijk writes about the role “Ghanaian Pentecostalism appears to play in the forming of their [Ghanaians’] identity as strangers in Dutch soci- ety.”5Although he mentions the Church of Pentecost, Van Dijk plays down


Matthew A. Ojo, “The Dynamics of Indigenous Charismatic Missionary Enterprises in West Africa,” Missionalia 25, no. 4 (1997): 537–61.


Gerrie Ter Haar, “Strangers in the Promised Land: African Christians in Europe,” Exchange 24, no. 1 (1995): 1–33; Gerrie Ter Haar, Halfway to Paradise: African Christians in Europe (Cardiff: Cardiff Academic Press, 1998).


Rijk A. van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment: Discourses of Transsubjectivity in the Ghanaian Pentecostal Diaspora,” Journal of Religion in Africa 26, no. 4 (1992): 1–25.


Ter Haar, Halfway to Paradise, 174.


Van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment,” 135 (italics mine).

© 2004 Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., Boston pp. 216–241


Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 217

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

the contributions being made not only by this church but by all Pentecostals and Charismatics; instead, he hypothesizes “the prayer camps”6 as the “sending discourse.”7 And yet, there is no direct link, and possibly not even an indirect one, between the camps and the Church’s missions, as Van Dijk suggested.8 Thus, Van Dijk not only gives his readers a false impression, but he also fails to report about the missionary activities of the Church of Pentecost. Notwithstanding, it is still important to make the Christian world aware of the enterprising missionary activity of the African Pentecostals—for example, that of the Church of Pentecost—to the Ghanaian Diaspora, and by so doing to invite dialogue with them.

Boundaries of nations in West Africa are in many ways artificial, drawn by the colonial masters. Many people have relatives on both sides of the international boundaries, and border guards are easy to avoid.9 People have traditionally moved to neighboring countries to improve their lives. The 1980s saw a massive exodus of Ghanaian immigrants to the industrialized world. While economic decline has been the main factor of the Ghanaian Diaspora,10 there are other contributing factors.11 The effect of these fac- tors is that both urban adults and rural school-leavers left the country in search of greener pastures. Peil rightly observes, “Ghana has become a major exporter of educated people and also of less-educated but well- trained artisans.”12 It is estimated that about 20 percent of the Ghanaian population is living outside the country.13

It is against this background that many Christians left Ghana for the West. The desire to worship God in ways relevant to them, and to maintain


A prayer camp is a place where people go to pray. Some people may reside there for some time, until their needs are met or otherwise.


Van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment,” 135, 143.


Van Dijk’s bibliography shows that he had enough material to have helped him bring the facts to surface. One is inclined to think that he used his authorial skill to fashion such a hypothesis, highlighting “ritualistic religiosity” to arrest his Western audience’s attention.


Margaret Peil, “Ghanaian Abroad,” African Affairs 94 (1995): 348.


Ibid., 348.


These include several coups d’état, increasing political instability, rising educational levels and aspirations unaccompanied by a commensurate level of job creation, low crop prices, low wages, rapid inflations, and a drought in Ghana, in 1982, which was followed by bush-fire, which devastated more than three-quarters of the nation’s farms and vegeta- tion. Ibid.; Douglas Rimmer, Staying Poor: Ghana’s Political Economy 1950–1990s (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1993), 1–6.


Peil, “Ghanaian Abroad,” 348; cf. A. Segal, Atlas of International Migration (London: Hans Zell, 1993), 153, 156.


Van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment,” 139; cf. Peil, “Ghanaian Abroad,” 349–52.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 218

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

links with fellow Ghanaians at home and abroad, made them contact their churches, including the Church of Pentecost, which has become the largest Protestant church in Ghana,14 to open branches for them. Thus the mis- sion work began.15 In response to this, the Church of Pentecost has estab- lished a missionary network, under an International Missions Director, which is responsible for its international mission activities among the Ghanaian Diaspora. The Church offers its members the opportunity to worship in an indigenous way, it gives the people a sense of identity and belonging, it responds to the social needs of the people, including marital and funeral affairs, and it creates conditions that prevent its members from falling victims to crime, such as drug abuse, drug trafficking, and excessive use of alcohol. Though the Church is successful in reaching out to the Ghanaian diasporic community in this regard, it intends to use the Ghanaian communities overseas as a springboard to contribute to the christianization of the world through evangelism.

This article attempts to discover the missiological principles underly- ing the Church of Pentecost ministry to the Ghanaian Diaspora, especially those that were set up by its founder, James McKeown. It also seeks to assess how effective these principles have been to its ministry to the dias- poric communities and to its ultimate intent of world evangelization. The article assumes that the Church of Pentecost lays much emphasis on the necessity for individual persons to experience the Spirit baptism, and that it is this experience of the Spirit baptism, coupled with its advocacy of the importance of Ghanaian indigenous worship, that caused the members in diaspora to establish branches of the Church overseas.

Previous work on the Church of Pentecost16 will be used extensively in addition to the writer’s own research. Furthermore, since the writer has


Ghana Evangelism Committee, National Church Survey: Facing the Unfinished Task of the Church in Ghana (Accra: Ghana Evangelism Committee, 1993), 16–17; Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk with Robyn Johnstone, Operation World: 21st Century Edition, 6th ed. (Carlisle: Paternoster Lifestyle, 2001), 274; David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, eds., World Christian Encyclopedia, 2 vols., 2d ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 203–4.


In the strictest sense this is not missions work, but the Church of Pentecost sees it as not only a mission to the Ghanaian Diaspora but also as an opportunity to reach out to other nationals.


The three main works on the Church of Pentecost are Robert W. Wyllie, “Pioneers of Ghanaian Pentecostalism: Peter Anim and James McKeown,” Journal of Religion in Africa 6, no. 2 (1974): 109–22; Kingsley Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism: A Study in the Appropriation of the Christian Gospel in the 20th Century Ghana Setting with Special Reference to the Christ Apostolic Church, the Church of Pentecost, etc.”



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 219

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

been in a leadership position of the Church for over twenty-seven years and was the first international missions director, he writes as a participant observer. The paper adopts the abbreviation CoPfor the Church of Pentecost. The term Ghanaian Diaspora is used to describe the global scattering of Ghanaians outside their own country.

The Church of Pentecost

The origin of Pentecostal churches in Ghana can remotely be traced to Peter Anim, who received a magazine from the Faith Tabernacle,17 called Sword of the Spirit, in 1917, and, believing the contents, claimed he was healed of his ailment. As he began preaching healing in Christ’s name, a new movement began. His desire to know more about the baptism of the Holy Spirit finally linked him with the Apostolic Church of Bradford, England, which sent Rev. and Mrs. James McKeown to assist him in 1937. CoP traces its origin to the ministry begun by James McKeown at Asamankese, in Ghana, in 1937.18

Before the arrival of McKeown, the initial attempt to evangelize Ghana by the Roman Catholic Mission had been a failure. Christianity had firmly been established in the mid 1800s, however, through the enterprising mis- sionary activities of the Basel Mission (1845), the Bremen Mission (1847), Wesleyan Methodists (1840), and the Catholic Mission (second attempt in 1880).19 For various reasons, including a desire for freedom to worship in culturally relevant ways, religious changes, socioeconomic and spiri- tual hunger (prophetism), from 1922 onwards some Ghanaians established their own independent churches.20 These are commonly referred to in

(Ph. D. diss., Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, University of Edinburgh, 1995); Christine Leonard, A Giant in Ghana: 3000 Churches in 50 Years—The Story of James McKeown and the Church of Pentecost (Chichester: New Wine Press, 1989). Though Leonard’s work is not presented in an academic style, it is a very good piece of work on the Church.


Faith Tabernacle Church was not a Pentecostal movement in the strictest sense, but combined an emphasis on healing with its primary aim of cultivating and protecting the inner holiness of the sect as a distinctive community. For further reading on this sect, see Harold W. Turner, History of an African Independent Church I: The Church of the Lord (Aladura) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 22–10–26; J. D. Y. Peel, Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 63–71.


The Church of Pentecost, Final Reviewed Constitution (Accra, 1999), 25.


Hans W. Debrunner, A History of Christianity in Ghana(Accra: Waterville Publishing House, 1967), 7–100; Peter Bernard Clarke, West Africa and Christianity: A Study of Religious Development from the 15th to 20th Century (London: Edward Arnold, 1986), 7–26, 41–62.


Some scholars have shown that, before this period, schism had already taken place



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 220

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Ghana as sunsum söre (spiritual churches).21 These churches seem to thrive and promote the spread of the gospel effectively. The attraction of these churches is that they seek to provide the form of worship that satisfies Ghanaian holistic needs.22 Yet, what is termed “classical Pentecostal Christianity”23 had not been established.

The Role of Pastor James McKeown

James McKeown, whose parents originally came from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, was born on September 12, 1900 in Glenboig, Scotland. Although converted in Ballymena in the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (presently the Elim Pentecostal Churches) at the age of nineteen, after re- settling in Glasgow McKeown had to join the Apostolic Church, which has its birth in the Welsh revival. McKeown thought that the Apostolic Church shared many things in common with Elim, but later it became evi- dent that there were some significant differences between the two. For example, while Hollenweger assesses the Elim Pentecostal Churches as “a moderate Pentecostal group,”24 he describes the Apostolic Church as a

in the mainline churches. However, the distinguishing mark of the Spiritual churches from these early independent churches is that while the later group is virtually indistinguishable in doctrine and practices from the mission churches from which they sprang, in the former all the colors of the Akan traditional spectrum are to be found. For discussion on these early independent churches, see Kofi Asare Opoku, “A Brief History of Independent Church Movement in Ghana Since 1862,” in The Rise of Independent Churches in Ghana , ed. Asempa (Accra: Asempa Publishers, 1990), 12–26; Kwesi A. Dickson, “The Methodist Society: A Sect,” Ghana Bulletin of Theology 2, no. 6 (1964): 1–7.


Elsewhere there are called Ethiopian and Zionist churches; Separatist churches, Aladura churches, African Initiated Churches, African Initiatives in Christianity, African Indigenous Churches, African Instituted Churches, African Independent Churches. See Bengt G. M. Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 53-55; John S. Pobee and Gabriel Ositelu II, African Initiatives in Christianity: The Growth, Gifts and Diversities of Indigenous African Churches (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1998), 4; Allan Anderson, Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist/Apostolic Churches in South Africa (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2000).


For works on these churches, see Christian Goncalves Kwami Baëta, Prophetism in Ghana: A Study of “Spiritual Churches” (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1962); Robert W. Wyllie, Spiritism in Ghana: A Study of New Religious Movements (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1980); David M. Beckmann, Eden Revival: Spiritual Churches in Ghana (London: Concordia Publishing House, 1975).


By classical Pentecostal this paper refers to Pentecostal churches that lay much emphasis on speaking in tongues and may have a direct or indirect link with the Azusa Street Revival.


Walter J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1972), 200.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 221

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

church that “gives greater play to the gifts of the Spirit.”25 It was the Apostolic Church that sent McKeown to the Gold Coast (Ghana) on March 7, 1937.26 After encountering initial problems with Anim, the man who invited him, which ended in division, McKeown settled down to set up the Apostolic Church.27

Right from the beginning, McKeown wanted the Church to be indige- nous with Ghanaian culture, ministry, and finance. He realized that “it would be difficult to grow an ‘English oak’ in Ghana. A local ‘species,’ at home in its culture, should grow, reproduce and spread: a church with foreign roots was more likely to struggle.”28 Meanwhile, McKeown thought that the mainline churches were westernized in their worship and prac- tices.29 His concern was to sow what he called the “local species” to pro- duce an indigenous church.

To achieve this goal of indigenization, McKeown’s philosophy was “just to evangelize”30 and make the people know God. He said, “Once we have a strong Church of people who really know Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then everything else will follow,”31 the implication being that he was not going to provide social services. The people who knew God were going to provide finance, build schools and hospitals, and serve their nation in diverse ways.


Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 192. In the Apostolic Church men were called through prophecy to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Others were called to the offices of elders and deacons, and women were called as deaconesses. Consequently, the Apostolic Church developed a ministry organized as a strict hierarchical structure. Moreover, they held to an ethical rigorism, the prohibition of things such as drinking alco- hol and smoking. Members who were found guilty of such practices as going to question- able places and committing open sin were to be disciplined. The Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Church: Its Principles and Practices (Bradford: Apostolic Publications, 1937), 35–44, 245–49; Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 191, 290–293; Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 138.


Wyllie and Larbi date McKeown’s arrival as March 2. Leonard also sets it as March 4. But on the only recorded documentary interview of McKeown on video, he dates his arrival as March 7, 1937. Robert W. Wyllie, “Pioneers of Ghanaian Pentecostalism: Peter Anim and James McKeown,” Journal of Religion in Africa 6, no. 2 (1974): 114, 109–22; Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 94; Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 27; James McKeown, video recording, Interview by Norman Christie (May 1986, Ballymena).


For this encounter, see Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 93– 95; Wyllie, “Pioneers of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 114–16; Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 32–39.


Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 69.


Ibid.; Debrunner, Christianity in Ghana, 325.


Cf. Debrunner, Christianity in Ghana, 325.


Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 76.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 222

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

The implications of McKeown’s preaching were significant: First, he accepted the Ghanaian concept of the Onyankopong (the Supreme Being), that he was far away because of sin.32 He explained, however, that through the death of his son Jesus, he had come to dwell with humanity; he is no longer far away. Second, McKeown accepted the Ghanaian worldview of malevolent and benevolent spirits;33 he preached that receiving the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues meant that nothing would hurt the person, even in evangelization.34 Third, he accepted the Ghanaian belief in life after death.35 This was implied in his preaching about righteous- ness.36 Fourth, he showed his trust not only in God but also in Ghanaians by saying that they could do without the help of white men or other evan- gelists. This was sowing the seed of an indigenous church.

McKeown’s ministry had an impact on Ghanaian society, and he won many converts. Among his early converts who became prominent were Pastors J. A. C. Anaman, Joseph Egyir Paintsil and Mrs. Christiana Obo. Their “contextualized messages” caused people to pray for the Holy Spirit baptism, most importantly as a protection against witchcraft and power to witness and confront evil powers.37 At this period, McKeown always allowed the indigenous people to preach; he then offered comments and straightened up areas he felt went wrong. Training the indigenous people by allowing them to take up the task of preaching and teaching in their


This belief is depicted in the story that it was the pestle of a woman pounding fufuo (mashed plantain and cassava) that drove God upward. It continues that the attempt to reach God by climbing skyward on a heap of mortar failed. Kwesi A. Dickson, Theology in Africa (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1984), 52; T. C. McCaskie, State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).


For the Ghanaian worldview of spirit, see Robert Sutherland Rattray, Ashanti(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923), 136–212; Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Ghana in Retrospect(Tema: Ghana Publishing Corporation, 1974), 14–19; Max J. Assimeng, Religion and Social Change in West Africa: An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion (Accra: Ghana University Press, 1989), 38–66.


McKeown, Interview by Christie Norman. By this he had accepted the existence of, for instance, bayie (witchcraft), suman (fetish), and other evil powers, and the resulting existential felt need of protection by the Ghanaians.


For such belief, see Sarpong, Ghana in Retrospect, 21–22, 41; Robert Sutherland Rattray, Religion and Art in Ashanti (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), 154.


He preached that only the righteous people would enjoy the next life. To become righteous, as he explained, was to receive Jesus. Thus, through such acknowledgment of the culture, the believers could confidently face the next life. Cf. Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 83.


In fact, the Church puts so much emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evi- dence in speaking in tongues that even at present, those who are not baptized in the Spirit are not allowed to hold any ministerial office.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 223

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

own culturally related ways could be considered a process of indigeniza- tion that was adopted by McKeown.

As the church grew, McKeown brought in a Ghanaian Executive Council to lead the church and administer its affairs. He would sit down in meet- ings and make contributions to the discussions when he thought their deci- sion went against Scripture. Not surprisingly, McKeown often said, “I never founded anything. I never opened a single assembly [church].”38 This shows the extent to which McKeown recognized and acknowledged the involvement of Ghanaians in his mission work; for him, they did the work.

Characteristics of the Church

Eventually, a centralized structure emerged that is similar to the Apostolic Church in the UK.39 At the top comes the General Council, which con- sists of all confirmed ministers of the church, area executive members, chairmen of boards and committees, and movements directors. While the structure may have its weaknesses, as a whole it seems to fit in with the Ghanaian culture, especially that of the Akan with its various military organs.40 Thus it makes the members feel secure in its formality, account- ability, and disciplinary measures.

Worship in the church is similar to that of other classical Pentecostals,41with some cultural variations that manifest themselves in such activities as the giving of testimonies, praises, special times of prayer called worship, and preaching.42 There is the opportunity to express oneself before God in diverse ways—prayer, dancing, and testimonies.43 Eventually the church developed a form of worship, especially its songs that have had an impact


Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 9, 116.


The Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Church; cf. The Church of Pentecost, Final Reviewed Constitution.


For readings on Akan military organs, see Robert Sutherland Rattray, Ashanti Law and Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929), 120-26; Kofi Abrefa Busia, The Position of the Chief in Modern Asante (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), 1–22; G. K. Nukunya, Tradition and Change in Ghana(Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1992), 67–74.


Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 130, 149.


For example, in preaching someone moved by the Spirit may cut across and sing.


During one of such meetings Afua Kumah, the mother-in-law of one of the apos- tles, claiming to move by the Spirit, came forward and applied the names used in praise of a chief to the praise of God. Often she was called during conventions to praise the Lord this way. Later her words were put into writing. See Afua Kumah, Jesus of the Deep Forest, trans. J. Kirby (Accra: Asempa Publishers, 1981).



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 224

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

on Ghanaian society.44 It could further be said that its form of worship has become paradigmatic to Ghanaian Pentecostal churches.45 On finance, McKeown would not allow the Church to ask for any outside support. Basing his policy on the Apostolic Church’s teaching on tithes and offer- ings, he asked the indigenes to use whatever local resources were avail- able. By insisting on being self-supporting, McKeown made the church stand on its feet right from its beginning, and it has done so up to the pre- sent time.

Until 1971 there was no formal training for any of the church’s officers. From time to time a minister holds retreats for teaching and prayer for his district officers, and the area head holds them for ministers (including other officers) within an area. Currently full-time ministers undergo a nine-month training period at the church’s Bible Training Institute. Primarily, the train- ing, which goes on in the church, can still be termed as in-service training.

Break with the Apostolic Church in the UK46

Though McKeown might not have agreed with all the policies of the Apostolic Church, he had no intention of breaking away from them, but breaking was inevitable, since McKeown had a very strong personality.47 The break followed a visit of the Latter Rain team from the U.S. from January 23 to February 13, 1953.48 The aftermath of their visits subse- quently led to the reaffirmation of an amendment of the constitution of the Apostolic Church during the General Council—Quadrennial Conference in May 1953.49 Meanwhile, McKeown had asked for an amendment of


Cf. Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 68; Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 153; Rosalind I. J. Hackett, “Charismatic/Pentecostal Appropriation of Media Technologies in Nigeria and Ghana,” Journal of Religion in Africa 27, no. 3 (1998): 270.


Beside the fact that many Ghanaians will confirm this, most of the leaders of the Charismatic churches were either members of or affiliated with the Church of Pentecost. These includes Duncan Williams (leader of Action faith), Eric Kwapong (formerly one of the key leaders of Otabil’s International Central Church), Agyin Asare (Miracle Center), and Addae Mensah (Gospel Light International Church).


This was a major issue, and it has been dealt with in detail by Larbi (“The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 153–86) and Leonard (A Giant in Ghana, 129–43).


For example, McKeown would always confront someone whenever he thought that person had told a lie. He would never give in to something that he thought was contrary to scriptures. David Mills, Personal Communication (Mexborough, November 28, 1998).


James McKeown, Circular Letter, January 6, 1953.


David Tenobi, A Short History of The Apostolic Church in Ghana (Accra: Tenobi, 1985), 23. The council was composed of fifty-four apostles and prophets.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 225

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

the revised constitution, but his request had been refused.50 According to McKeown, the amendment sought to make it virtually impossible to invite an outside speaker. Moreover, a black apostle could not exercise control over a white apostle, although a white apostle could exercise control over both whites and blacks.51 All participants in the Council Meeting were required to reaffirm the amended constitution by standing.52 To this McKeown, just like Martin Luther in the sixteenth century, declared, “I cannot conscientiously accept this.”53 He was joined by Pastor Cecil Cousen.54 Considering themselves dismissed from the ministry of the Apostolic Church, they walked out of the meeting. Their dismissal was duly confirmed on the evening service of the same day. On hearing this in Ghana, the executive, led by the Acting Chairman, Pastor Anaman,55 convened an emergency meeting of all Pastors and General Deacons. They resolved to break from the Apostolic Church in the U.K. and invited McKeown to return and lead their independent church, which they named “the Gold Coast Apostolic Church.” This brought about a sharp con- frontation between those who were on the side of the Apostolic Church’s and those who supported McKeown. In 1962 the President of Ghana became involved, resolving all the disputes and asking McKeown to choose a new name to avoid any confusion over the names. Then, on August 1, 1962, The Ghana Apostolic Church became known as The Church of


Leonard, A Giant in Ghana , 138; Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism,” 162.


My attempt to get one of the 1953 Apostolic Church’s constitutions failed. According to Pastor Bryan Thomas, the Public Relations officer of the Apostolic Church in the UK, the revised constitution in the 1950s was unpopular and the 1937 edition still stood unique; a copy of this was given to me. This remark suggests that there was a problem with the 1953 constitution. Bryan Thomas, Personal Communication (Birmingham, November 11, 1999); cf. Larbi, “The Development of Ghanaian Pentecostalism.” 162.


The wording of affirmation was, “I affirm my belief in the tenets of the Church which involves Church government in its principles and practices as embodied in the Constitution subject to the amendments to our practices which have already been made and may yet be made in the Council Constitution of Apostles and Prophets as led by the Spirit of God from time to time.” Tenobi, The Apostolic Church, 25.


Roland Herbert Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951), 185; cf. Tenobi, The Apostolic Church, 25.


Pastor Cecil Cousen was the son of the missionary chairman of the Apostolic Church in Bradford. He introduced the Apostolic Church to the Latter Rain. Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 138. Pastor David Mills says that in his discussions with Cousen ten years ago, he confirmed the story as told by McKeown. Mills, Personal Communication.


At this time there were two Apostolic Church pastors in Ghana assisting McKeown. But it was Anaman, a Ghanaian, who was the acting Chairman. James McKeown, Circular Letter, February 20, 1953.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 226

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Pentecost. A greater part of the people remained with McKeown’s orga- nization, for he had already won the hearts of the people. Later, in 1972, desiring to feel part of the worldwide Church, the Church established links with the Elim Pentecostal Church of the U.K.

The break did not affect the growth of the CoP. From 1962, the year of settling down, to 1982, the year that McKeown retired to the U.K., the CoP grew in geometric progression from a membership of 20,000 to over 170,000 in 1987. The reason for this growth is not hard to find. Its foun- dations had already been laid. Every CoP member who had been baptized in the Spirit was actively involved in witnessing. All pastors gave promi- nence to evangelism.

Retirement of McKeown and Indigenous Leadership

Finally, McKeown retired in 1982 and handed over the chairmanship of the Church to Pastor Fred Stephen Safo, a Ghanaian.56 To some extent, leadership before this period could be considered indigenous, since most of the decisions were made by the Executive Council, either in the pres- ence or the absence of McKeown. Besides, all regional heads had the autonomy to administer the affairs of their regions. Thus, apart from the issue of African chairmanship, which arose in the wake of Ghanaian inde- pendence in 1957 and so before the birth of the Church of Pentecost in 1962, there is no trace of major leadership tension in the annals of the history of the church. In a way, indigenous leadership was just a normal continuation of the running of the church.

From 1982, the Church continued to grow rapidly under the leadership of Safo. A National Church Survey conducted by the Ghana Evangelism Committee in 1987 showed that the CoP was the fastest-growing church in Ghana.57 Another survey conducted in 1991 revealed that it has become the largest Protestant church in Ghana.58 One special feature of the CoP during the leadership of Safo was the establishment of a social services department, which seeks to initiate, promote, develop, and manage the


On hearing of the death of Pastor Fred Steve Safo, Wynne Lewis, then the General Superintendent of Elim Pentecostal Churches, described him: “He was a big man spiritu- ally, physically and intellectually.” Wynne Lewis, Personal Communication, 1987.


Ghana Evangelism Committee, National Church Survey: Facing the Unfinished Task of the Church in Ghana (Accra: Ghana Evangelism Committee, 1989), 16–19.


Johnstone, Operation World, 241; cf. Ghana Evangelism Committee, National Church Survey, 18–19.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 227

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

social services of the CoP.59 Consequently, in the course of time, schools, farms (crops and livestock), mobile clinics, and hospitals have been estab- lished. After the death of Safo in 1987, Pastor Martinson Kwadwo Yeboah was elected the chairman in 1988. He held the position for ten years and retired in 1998. It was during Yeboah’s tenure of office that the diasporic churches in the West were established. Upon his retirement Pastor Michael Kwabena Ntumy, then a young man of forty, was elected chairman.

McKeown’s long stay in leadership may be considered a form of pater- nalism, as the Pentecostal historian Gary McGee hints that many early Pentecostal missionaries were guilty of this.60 He clearly hung on too long, more or less indefinitely playing the role of a father, which Luzbetak regards as a paternalistic tendency.61 This needs to be considered, how- ever, from the perspective that McKeown had been dismissed from the Apostolic Church and had been somehow employed by the CoP. Thus, in a way, McKeown had nowhere to go. Notwithstanding, if one considers that McKeown could have retired and left the leadership to the indigenes while still living in Ghana, he might be accused of paternalism. On the other hand, if the concept of paternalism is understood in the light of the insight gained from Bosch’s discussion, creating “conditions under which the younger churches just could not reach maturity,”62 which Luzbetak highlights as implying “lack of trust in the two primary agents in mission, the Holy Spirit and the local community,” then McKeown might not be regarded as paternalistic. This is reinforced by the fact that, like Hodges,63 McGee contends that denying the indigenous people “the gifts of admin- istration and leadership” was an important sign of paternalism.64 When


The Church of Pentecost, Final Reviewed Constitution, 49.


Gary B. McGee, “Pentecostal Missiology: Moving beyond Triumphalism to Face the Issues,” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society of Pentecostal Theology 16, no. 2 (1994): 279. See also Gary B. McGee, “Pentecostals and Their Various Strategies for Global Mission: A Historical Assessment,” in Called and Empowered: Global Mission in Pentecostal Perspective, ed. Murray A. Dempster, Byron D. Klaus, and Douglas Petersen (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 210–11.


Louis J. Luzbetak, 1963, Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology, 2d ed. (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988), 66.


David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991), 296.


For Hodges, who was a U. S. Assemblies of God missionary in Central America, paternalistic attitudes include a hesitation “to place responsibility upon the shoulders of young converts for fear that they will become discouraged.” Hodges, The Indigenous Church, 20.


McGee, “Pentecostal Missiology,” 279. See also McGee, “Pentecostals and Their Various Strategies for Global Mission,” 210–11.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 228

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Pastor Mills65 was asked to offer his personal view about McKeown with regard to paternalism, his response was this:

If paternalism has any negative implications, no! I saw him as a real father to the people. He indeed treated them as his brothers. I was surprised when I requested to attend CoP’s General Council in 1970. He said, “I cannot answer this question, I shall have to discuss it with my Ghanaian brothers.” The following day, he asked me to attend it. At the meeting, I saw that almost it was the General Secretary who was handling the affairs.66

From this background, McKeown’s long stay in Ghana may be seen in the context of his dismissal from the Apostolic Church, which left him with no other alternative.

International Missions Work

Spread of the Church of Pentecost to the World

The beginning of the spread of the CoP to other West African coun- tries was not an organized one. As CoP members migrated along West Africa, they shared their faith with others and, before long, small groups of new converts were formed. Those who had migrated sent information home about the existence of new churches that they had established. Being influenced by the fear of the imminent return of Christ, the leadership of the CoP is always challenged by the urgency of evangelization. Therefore, pastors are always sent as “missionaries”67 to foreign lands without for- mal training. In a way the establishment of the branches of the church outside Ghana shows the effectiveness of oral culture. Hollenweger observes that “all the elements of oral theology function as a logic system for passing on theological and social value information in oral society.”68


Pastor David Mills was the Elim Pentecostal Pastor who initiated the fellowship between Elim and the Church of Pentecost in 1970. He worked closely with McKeown from 1970 to 1982.


Mills, Personal Communication.


The CoP refers to all its pastors who minister overseas as “missionaries.” In a way, those in African counties are really doing missions work, since most of the members of the churches are indigenes. So far as CoP work in the West is concerned, it is within the Ghanaian community. However, to go with CoP language the term missionary is used to described all pastors of the Church who either go out from Ghana or otherwise minister in a country that is not their own.


Walter J. Hollenweger, “After Twenty Years Research on Pentecostalism,” Inter National Review of Mission 75, no. 297 (1985): 10–11; see also Walter J. Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997), 293;



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 229

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

Thus, although the CoP has not yet intellectually systematized its faith and practices in theological categories, these are echoed in its normal church activities, such as worship, songs and preaching, conventions and meetings, and the members transmit these orally.

In a similar way, when the Ghanaian immigrants came to the West, they began to worship and contribute to the growth of Western churches. Yet, they could not find their identity. Roswith Gerloff, writing about the African Americans, rightly says that “the religion of the slaves [Africans] and the religion of the slave master [Whites] were never identical, even when both referred to the same Bible.”69 Thus, in the attempt to find their identity, members of the CoP among the immigrants were able to estab- lish churches in their places of abode. At the end of 1999, the Church has not only got branches in all the West African countries but also in other parts of Africa.70 Churches have also been established in countries of other continents, including Israel, Holland, Belgium, the United States, Canada, Norway, France, Germany, India, Italy, Switzerland, Lebanon, and Japan. The International Missions Director’s annual report for 2003 indicates that there were 1917 churches and a total membership of 150,416. Fifty-three new churches were opened and 6,405 converts were baptized in 2003 alone.71

Establishment of the International Missions Office

In order to coordinate the activities of the branches overseas, the CoP established a department called the International Missions Office. This department is under the international missions director, who is directly accountable to the chairman of the church, on the same level as the church’s general secretary. Reporting directly to the chairman of the church means giving the international mission director free access to administer the missions office without any bureaucratic hindrances. This is an indication of how important missions is to the CoP. Part of the func- tion of the international missions director is to advise missionaries and,

Russell P. Spittler, “Implicit Values in Pentecostal Mission,” Missiology 16, no. 4 (1988): 413–14.


Roswith I. H. Gerloff, “The Holy Spirit and the African Diaspora: Spiritual, Cultural and Social Roots of Black Pentecostal Churches,” EPTA Bulletin 14 (1995): 91.


These include Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Malawi.


The Church of Pentecost, International Missions Report for the Year 2003, Accra (March 2004).



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 230

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

where appropriate, organize with them crusades, rallies, and conventions for the effective evangelism of the nations.72

Services Offered to the Missions Churches: Indigenous Worship

The overseas churches are known to copy the pattern of worship of the mother church. This includes the corporate expression of worship in singing, clapping, giving of testimonies, simultaneous prayers, speaking in tongues, giving of prophecies, preaching, and ministering to those in need, including the sick. The Akan language is used and is simultaneously interpreted into the indigenous language or English. Cox rightly identifies the great strength of Pentecostal worship as “its power to combine, its aptitude for adopting the language, the music, the cultural artefacts… of the setting in which it lives.”73

Preaching is the climax of Sunday worship. Usually passages or texts are read from the Bible and contextualized to suit their diasporic audi- ence.74 Ter Haar sees the place accorded to the Bible and preaching by the diasporic community as “a significant point of distinction between African and Western Christianity in general,”75 an indication that the needs of the diasporic community cannot be met by the Western churches. The giving of testimony is very prominent in the diasporic Christian community. Through insights from these testimonies, the leaders become aware of the basic needs of the individual members, including healthcare, lack of accom- modation, and unemployment. While prayers are said for such people at the end of such sessions, others are also counseled. Thus through worship in the indigenous way the church may meet the needs of its members. In many places Bible study meetings are held once during the weekdays. “All night” prayer meeting76 is one of the features of the overseas churches. Ojo rightly observes about African Christians in general that “[they believed that] the more they pray, the greater the power of God works through them to defeat the powers of darkness”77 and overcome social problems.


The Church of Pentecost, Final Reviewed Constitution, 20.


Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (London: Cassell, 1996), 259.


Cf. Anderson’s observation about the hermeneutical principles of the Pentecostals in South Africa. Allan Anderson, “The Hermeneutical Processes of Pentecostal-Type African Initiated Churches in South Africa,” Missionalia 24, no. 2 (1996): 174.


Haar, Halfway to Paradise, 48.


Praying throughout the whole night.


Ojo, “Charismatic Missionary Enterprises,” 557.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 231

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

A number of interpretations have been offered to explain Pentecostal forms of worship, such as those described in the Ghanaian diasporic com- munities, from different perspectives. For scholars such as Hollenweger and Ter Haar, they are psychological and therapeutic functions of relief.78 While this has its place in Pentecostal corporate worship, it must be pointed out that not all who attend Pentecostal meetings need such therapeutic relief; some are really settled down in life and they may have other purposes, such as “building [themselves] up in [their] most holy faith” (Jude 20).

Others have attempted to provide sociological explanations for Pentecostal worship. Gifford claims that “most young people have no money to go to night clubs, discos or concerts for their entertainment. The churches pro- vide a new forum for a parallel music scene. . . .”79 But Gifford’s “ridicule” is misconstrued, since such young people who join the churches later tes- tify to the power of God that has delivered them from worldly acts such as discos and clubs.80 Thus it is the consideration of those acts as world- liness, rather than socioeconomic circumstances, as Gifford claims, that puts the young people off from becoming involved in them.81 Van Dijk writes, “the global ‘strength’ of Pentecostalism is put centre stage; it is to this strength that a person can gain access through involvement in the leaders’ immediate social environment in diaspora.”82 Although Van Dijk does not spell out what he means by “the global ‘strength’ of Pentecostalism,” he appears to be speaking about Pentecostal worship in general, which, for him, is geared toward the provision of social help for those in the Diaspora.83 Although social services may offer some reasonable explana- tions for Pentecostal types of worship, they cannot be the focus of Pentecostal worship, since, with regard to the Ghanaian diasporic communities, for example, there are some clubs that offer render social activities for them,84 but some that Pentecostals would not attend.


Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 457; Ter Haar, “Strangers in the Promised Land,” 457.


Gifford, African Christianity, 90.


Cf. Emmanuel Owusu Bediako, Personal Communication (Washington, December 12, 1998).


Although Gifford was speaking about the neo-Pentecostals in Ghana, the fundamental principle is the same. For example, some Ghanaian Pentecostals in the Diaspora do not go to discos and concerts because they see these activities as worldly.


Van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment,” 148.


Ibid., 148–49.


See Peil, Ghanaians Abroad, 363–64.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 232

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Harvey Cox convincingly demonstrates in his book, Fire from Heaven, that Pentecostalism is the recovery of “primal spirituality.”85 Nevertheless, the difficulty that some Pentecostals may have with this viewpoint is that, for them, worship is always geared toward spirituality, which has its source in divine revelation.86 Thus most Pentecostals will embrace Land’s expla- nation for Pentecostal-type of worship: “the singing, preaching, testify- ing… prayer meeting, [speaking in tongues] . . . all the elements of corporate worship prepared people for… a life of missionary witness.”87 From this perspective, the diasporic community sees worship as enrich- ing their spiritual lives and thereby enabling them to face practical life situations with fortitude and hope, in addition to conducting their Pentecostal life of witness with zeal. For them, the most appropriate way to worship is through the form of liturgy that they had been used to in their home country; hence they had to import it to the land of their “strangerhood.”

Meeting Social Needs of the People

CoP, like other Pentecostal groups,88 draws a separation between evan- gelism (considered as spiritual and the the church’s main mission) and social activities (considered as bridges to evangelization). Thus, together with the spiritual services rendered to the diasporic communities, the church also responds to the social needs of the people. Both Van Dijk and Ter Haar rightly observe that members automatically become part of “a supportive socioreligious network,” which helps them to define their roles in their various respective societies.89 The meeting places become places of providing information on some issues such as jobs and accommoda- tion. Professionals among members, including council workers, educa- tionists, teachers, and solicitors, become consultants in their areas of specialty and render services to their clients on a voluntary basis. For example, those without resident permits are advised to apply for some or


Cox, Fire from Heaven, 81, 83, 228.


Cf. Steven Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 20, 23.


Land, Pentecostal Spirituality, 75.


For example, see Melvin L. Hodges, The Indigenous Church (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1953), 10; Paul A. Pomerville, Introduction to Missions: An Independent- Study-Textbook (Irving: ICI University Press, 1987), 153.


Van Dijk, “From Camp to Encompassment,” 139; Ter Haar, “Strangers in the Promised Land,” 17.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 233

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

go home rather than to live in a country without legal documents.90 Thus here the Church enables migrants of insecure states, often with no jobs, no houses, no money, and no legal documents, to find their right places in society.

The social services department of the church is also apparent in its concern for the general welfare of the members, such as marriages and funerals. Those whose spouses are not with them are counseled, either to go for them or to return home and settle down.91 For those who want to get married, the church helps them through its international network. In line with the Ghanaian cultures, the church officers in Ghana as well as those abroad make investigations about the prospective spouse, in order to ensure that the person is not a noted criminal, not given to quarrelling, and is hard working with good morals. After both parties are satisfied they communicate to each other, and then those at home eventually help to per- form the respective customary rites. Thus here the church takes over the role of the traditional abusua (family). By these services the church cre- ates conditions that help the immigrants to become well established in their family lives, and by so doing helps to arrest unforeseeable problems of divorce and its repercussions. With regard to funerals, donations are collected for people who are bereaved. Thus here the church helps to alle- viate the possibility of incurring debt, pressure, and “guilt and shame” from its members.92

The church’s emphasis of the concept of holiness,93 which may be con- sidered by some as fundamentalism,94 helps to protect vulnerable immigrants from falling victim to social problems. Members are reminded that committed


Bediako, Personal Communication; Emmanuel Koney, Personal Communication (Brussels, January 2, 1999).


The conditions that brought such immigrants did not permit them to bring their depen- dants. Most marriages have broken down because of the long separations of spouses in search of greener pastures. Koney, Personal Communication; George Arthur, Oslo, Personal Communication, February 2000; Rattray, Religion and Art, 79–90; Nukunya, Tradition and Change, 39.


For Ghanaians, funerals are very important. Bishop Sarpong, the Ghanaian Catholic anthropologist, writes, “One of the signs of a successful life and a good death is the way a deceased person’s funeral is celebrated.” Sarpong, Ghana in Retrospect, 26. Although the Church discourages expensive funerals, immigrants may fly home for the funerals of their parents, uncles, nephews, or siblings and thus incur debt. Those who fail to go usually send money for this purpose. Whether a bereaved person is able to attend a funeral at home or not, the Church allows another funeral to be celebrated abroad. Donations are made to the individuals concerned toward their funeral expenses.


Ter Haar, “Strangers in the Promised Land,” 225.


Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 50–52.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 234

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

Christians do not smoke, drink, abuse drugs, or visit the disco.95 Instead their bodies should be given to the Holy Spirit as the temple of God. Accordingly, the church prevents its members from falling victim to crimes such as drug abuse, drug trafficking, excessive use of alcohol, and other petty crimes common among immigrant communities in the West and elsewhere.

The missionaries provide counseling for members, especially in areas of marital problems, employment, need for legal papers, finance, and dreams believed to have been influenced by demons. That some of these are successful is indicated in the ways in which many people seek the attention of pastors.96

Evangelistic Activities and Other Characteristics

of the Overseas Churches

Often the churches organize activities such as in-door crusades, per- sonal evangelism, and door-to-door visitations with a view to ministering to the non-Christians among the diasporic communities and other nation- als.97 Although these attract some Ghanaians and few other Africans, scarcely do these attract “the whites.”

The structure,98 training of ministers,99 and financial policy100 of the overseas churches are similar to the CoP in Ghana. For instance, the CoP in Italy is similar to the one in Ghana not only in the pattern of worship but also in structure.

The problems facing the diasporic churches are that the lives of the Christian immigrants are those of uncertainty and anxiety. Although the CoP discourages its members from staying illegally in foreign lands, some


Bediako, Personal Communication; Owusu-Afriyie, Personal Communication, (London, June 10, 1998).


Bediako, Personal Communication.




It is a centralized structure, operating at national, district, and local levels. The Pastors may take charge of six to ten churches, while the local churches operate under pre- siding elders.


Training also follows that of the home church. Elders who have proved their min- istry in their local churches are called to full-time pastoral duty without attending any Bible college. Some of these are later asked to attend the Bible Training Institute in Ghana.


Because of the stress on the teaching on tithes and offerings almost all the mission churches are self-supporting. Ter Haar remarks that “they receive no support, financial or otherwise from the government”. Ter Haar, “Strangers in the Promised Land,” 1.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 235

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

of them do live illegally in a country, which opens the door for such immi- grants to fall victims to cheap labor, and at times people prove hostile to their presence.101 The church finds it difficult to purchase or erect per- manent church buildings in many places. It has become a difficult task for the churches to build up meaningful social programs that will make them acceptable in the Western Society.

The Church’s Interpretation of Its Missions Work

The church interprets its missions work as a fulfillment of prophetic utterances that proclaimed that God has given the world to it (the Church). The first of such prophecies was given by Prophet Yeboah in 1954,102 and several later ones from other pastors have kept this concept alive.103 Closely related to this, and often echoed in such prophecies, is the belief that the church has something unique (doctrine and practices) to share with the world. For the church, therefore, a mission to the Ghanaian Diaspora is seen as their contribution to world evangelization. It is hoped that a time will come when various indigenous peoples, both whites and blacks, will be won for Christ.


Basically the CoP may be classified as what Hollenweger calls a “Pentecostal denomination of Apostolic type,”104 but, in a wider sense, with its emphasis on “a strict Bible-centered morality” the CoP can be termed as “a holiness type of Pentecostals.”105

The CoP’s practices and principles have been based mainly upon what was set up by James McKeown, the founder. Being sent by the Apostolic Church, McKeown’s policy was heavily based upon the Apostolic Church’s


Bediako, Personal Communication; cf. Haar, Halfway to Paradise, 46.


The Gold Coast Apostolic Church, General Council Minutes, Kumasi (April 20–22, 1954), 3. Part of the prophetic message reads, “The Land of Africa has been called ‘the Dark Continent’ but the day has dawned and it is now time that the Lord will work with you in this land…. The whole world looks on you to emancipate her. I will send many of you to far off lands….”


For example, see The Church of Pentecost, Reports of the All Ministers Prayer Meeting, Koforidua (April 7–9, 1992).


Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 72.


Ibid., 50–51, 71.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 236

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

doctrine and practices, but with some flexibility.106 His concern was to build an indigenous church. His principles were very similar to the “Indigenous Policy” (self-supporting, self-propagation and self-govern- ment), as first set forth by Rufus Anderson107 and Henry Venn108 and later developed and redefined by others including Roland Allen and Melvin Hodges.109 Whether McKeown was aware of this policy is not clear. Many scholars, including Hollenweger and Spittler, point out that Pentecostals have been influenced by Allen’s Missionary Methods.110 For instance, McGee has shown that Allen’s books were already circulating in Pentecostal circles as early as 1921.111 While Leonard thinks that McKeown was not aware of the policy,112 McKeown’s stress on self-supporting and liability districts might imply that he had read about them somewhere else. Yet, one thing that is clear is that, for McKeown, like for many Pentecos- tals,113 he was implementing “New Testament methods” through the “lead- ing of the Holy Spirit.”114 Whether McKeown was aware of the indigenous policy or not, the distinctive characteristics of his ministry, indicated below,


The Church of Pentecost may not know the extent to which the Apostolic Church’s doctrines and practices have influenced the Church. For instance, one of the principal officers of the Church made a point that the Head Office structure emerged during the tenure of the first African Chairman. However, in 1991, when a committee was made to restructure the administration of the Church, their recommendation on the organization structure for the establishment of mission was almost the same as that in the Apostolic constitution drawn in 1937. Meanwhile, the committee did not have the constitution of the Apostolic Church with them. The implication is that the Apostolic Church’s principles have been built into what Jung calls “the collective unconscious” of the CoP, to the extent that the CoP could “sing the voice of the master (Apostolic)” without knowing it. Cf. The Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Church, 311–414 with The Church of Pentecost, Reports of the Committee Appointed by the Executive Council on the General Structure of The Church of Pentecost Administration, March 1991. See also Carl Gustav Jung, Dream, Memories, Reflections, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé (London: Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963), 350.


Rufus Anderson, Foreign Missions: Their Relations and Claims, 3d ed. (Boston: Congregational Publishing Society, 1874), 48, 60–61, 109–13.


Wilbert R. Shenk, Henry Venn: Missionary Statesman (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1983). Beaver in his foreword to this book rightly says that “the two men [Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson] are independently the authors of the “Three-Self Formula.” See page xii. For the development of the formula see also pp. 25–41, 109.


Roland Allen, Missionary Method: St Paul or Ours? (1912; first American edition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962).


Hollenweger, Pentecostalism, 298. Spittler, “Implicit Values,” 416.


McGee, “Pentecostals and Their Various Strategies for Global Mission,” 212.


Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 170–71.


Hodges, The Indigenous Church, 10, 133.


McKeown, Interview by Christie Norman.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 237

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

show that he might have done more than what the indigenous policy stated, to have built such an indigenous church that has become a “mission base.”

McKeown’s ministry was significantly different from that of the mis- sionaries from the mainline church in several ways: First, when the main- line churches agreed that Christians could follow “purely traditional customs” wherever possible, they could not respect this distinction.115 McKeown had considerably identified, respected, and accepted what to them was “purely custom.”116 Second, although the missionaries were involving Ghanaians in their work, their attitude implied they were not including them in the most important decisions, which, in effect, was a lack of trust in them. For instance, in 1912, in an attempt to settle a cultural issue result- ing in conflict in Kumasi, the Colonial District Commissioner summoned a meeting that included six representatives from the churches (Wesleyan, Basel and Roman Catholics). Busia significantly remarks that “they were all Europeans.117 McKeown actively involved the Ghanaians right from the beginning. Third, as Debrunner clearly writes, for the missionaries of the mainline churches “the existence of witches was officially denied”;118 thus the traditional worldview was considered superstitious. McKeown had not only accepted this but had also provided a possible solution for protection—the Holy Spirit Baptism.

Although McKeown’s ministry looked similar to the practices in the spiritual churches, especially in areas of praying for the sick, drumming, singing, and clapping, it was not difficult to draw a clear dividing line between them. In the spiritual churches, “power” was vested in one per- son: the prophet-healer, who became the center of attraction. McKeown’s ministry was not just what Cyril Eastwood attempts to identify as the priesthood of all believers,119 but what Roger Stronstad explains as the


This is clearly depicted in the reprimanding of Ephraim Amu, which eventually led to his resignation, for wearing Ghanaian national clothing to preach and introducing Ghanaian music and drumming into the church. Fred Agyemang and Nyaku Phanuel, Amu, The African (Accra: Asempa Publishers, 1996), 44. For the conflicts that went on between the mainline churches and society, see also Busia, Position of the Chief, 133–38; Elisabeth Isichei, A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to Present (London: SPCK, 1995), 266–68; Noel Smith, The Presbyterian Church of Ghana, 1835–1960: A Younger Church in a Changing Society (Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1966), 86–104; Harris W. Mobley, The Ghanaian’s Image of the Missionary: An Analysis of the Published Critiques of Christian Missionaries by Ghanaians 1897–1965 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970).


Cf. Leonard, A Giant in Ghana, 63.


Busia, Position of the Chief, 134.


Debrunner, Christianity in Ghana, 319.


Cyril Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers: An Examination of the Doctrine



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 238

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004

prophethood of all believers,120 in which all could become powerful and confront witchcraft and fetishism in their evangelistic activities. Beside, when praying for the sick and for protection against evil forces, the pas- tors of the Spiritual churches might include symbolic objects, but McKeown did not use any such things except prayer and emphasis on the Holy Spirit baptism. Thus McKeown’s uniqueness made him successful in building an indigenous church in Ghana.

The church’s emphasis on the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a mean of protection and of power against evil forces, and its stress on a Ghanaian indigenous way of worship, made it stand out in Ghanaian society. It also appealed to the peasants and the downtrodden, who constitute a majority of the population in Ghana. The rapid growth of the Church in Ghana is evidence of this.

Although the CoP’s mission among Ghanaians in diaspora is heavily based on McKeown’s policies, there is a remarkable modification. The main shift is from McKeown’s philosophy of “just to evangelize,” which appeared to take care only of the “spiritual” aspect of people’s lives, to the inclusion of social services that attempt to provide for the holistic needs of humanity.121 Thus there has been a progressive development here. Primarily, CoP ministry to the Ghanaian Diaspora may be considered suc- cessful if the number of branches of the church established in different parts of the world is taken into account, along with the fact that most of these branches are self-supporting and self-propagating.

Nonetheless, McKeown’s mission policies, carried to the overseas branches, turn out to be imperialistic, like some of the former Western missions.122 This is demonstrated in the imposition of centralized admin- istration on the overseas churches, which still take orders from the mother Church in Ghana, and of the “CoP traditional dressing code” and indige- nous worship on the diasporic churches.

Furthermore, although the missionaries may be doing well in their min- istries and pastoral counseling, provision of formal training opportunities

from the Reformation to the Present Day (London: Epworth Press, 1960), 238–39.


Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 114–15.


Presently it is the Church’s policy that at least one social service should be done in any country in which it functions, until the indigenous people are empowered to con- tribute more to their community. The Church of Pentecost International Mission, Missions Hand Book (Accra: The Church of Pentecost, 1994), 8.


Cf. Ojo, “Charismatic Missionary Enterprises,” 560; Vinay Samuel, Modernity, Mission and Non-Western Societies (Oxford: Regnum, 1994), 314.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 239

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

for them is weak and absurd. Thus the missionaries are not as effective as they should be; they are unable to adopt what Lartey identifies as “an intercultural approach to pastoral care and counseling.”123 Lack of this is reflected in the settlements of petty squabbles, which the international missions director or his representative often must handle in the overseas branches.

Thus, unless the CoP is able to address such issues as overcentraliza- tion of administration, imposition of local Ghanaian forms of worship, and formal training for its missionaries—or, simply put, come out with a bal- anced mission theology—the overseas branches are more likely to become stagnant than to grow like the church in Ghana did. The reason is that the mother church does not allow each overseas branch to develop along its own local cultural context and milieu.

In view of the foregoing, it would appear that although the CoP has a vision to reach out to the Western world through the diasporic commu- nity, it has not made the necessary impact on it. There could be other fac- tors to this, not least the general approach124 and the Western world’s resistance to the gospel.125 Nor has the CoP effectively influenced the Ghanaians in diaspora as it needs to have done, since it has not taken cog- nizance of the cultural transformation that is taking place in the diasporic communities. Considering the fact that Western society is becoming mul- ticultural, the leadership of the church needs to initiate dialogue that will develop into partnership with the body of believers in the Western com- munities. It is hoped that through this approach of dialogue and partner- ship the church will be able to tap the reserves within them for the new meaning needed for the multicultural society of this postmodern generation.


According to Lartey this is the counseling that “requires a broad and deep engage- ment with living persons in their universal, cultural and unique characteristics.” Emmanuel Y. Lartey, Living Colour: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counselling (London: Cassell, 1997), vi–vii, 215.


The CoP is used to open air meetings. Usually crowds will be attracted when the congregation begins to sing. People share their faith with friends and relatives who have problems similar to theirs. These attract them to church attendance, which eventually leads them to conversion. The atmosphere in the West does not encourage this.


Commenting on Westerners’ new approach to truth with regard to evangelization, Seel remarks that “modern life is reduced to the ‘triumph of the superficial,’‘the delight in the unreal,’‘an orgy of the facade.’”John Seel, Modernity and Evangelicals: American Evangelicalism as a Global Case Study (Oxford: Regnum, 1994), 307.



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 240

Pentecostal Theology, Volume 26, No. 2, Fall 2004


This article has attempted to discover the missiological principles under- lying the CoP’s ministry to the Ghanaian Diaspora. It has been demon- strated that the church’s missiological principles are mainly based on those set up by James McKeown, the founder, with few modifications, includ- ing developing from a “just evangelize” attitude to the inclusion of social services. McKeown’s principles were similar to the “Indigenous Policy” as first set up by Anderson and Venn, but, like many Pentecostals, McKeown thought he was building an indigenous church with New Testament meth- ods. His fundamental principle of helping the native to know God and then trusting God to provide the rest yielded results; the CoP became indigenous, and its form of worship had impact on the modes of worship in other churches in Ghana. That this was untenable was revealed in the fact that Ghanaians in diaspora had to import from Ghana the sort of Christianity that was meaningful to them in the land of their “stranger- hood,” although Christianity had come to them from the West.

It has also been shown that the Church’s emphasis on Spirit baptism for individuals, coupled with its advocacy of the indigenous mode of spon- taneous worship, contributed effectively to the expansion of the CoP and hence to its exportation to Ghanaians in diaspora, who use the CoP as a source of cultural identity. It was demonstrated that the Church overseas offers its members the opportunity to worship in an indigenous way, which also gives them a sense of identity and belonging. The diasporic churches respond to the social needs of the people and create conditions that pre- vent their members from falling victim to crime. Though the CoP is some- how successful in its ministry to the Ghanaian diasporic communities, it has not accomplished its vision of reaching out to the Western world through the diasporic community. To some extent it was shown that it has not fully influenced the diasporic Ghanaian communities, because of its failure to recognize cultural changes that are taking place in such people. Part of the reason was shown to be the CoP’s failure to establish a mis- sion theology, which was exhibited in unconscious practices of imperial- istic tendencies by its leadership. Imperialistic tendencies were illustrated in such factors as the imposition of the centralized form of administration on the overseas churches. It was suggested that establishing a mission the- ology might help to address these problems. Again, it was recommended that seeking dialogue and partnership with the churches in the West might



Pneuma 26,2 f3_216-241III 2/27/06 11:55 AM Page 241

Pentecostalism and the African Diaspora: An Examination of the Missions Activities of the Church of Pentecost

help the CoP to achieve its ultimate goal of reaching out to the Western society.

As far as the members of the Ghanaian diasporic churches are con- cerned, the ministry offered by the CoP is theologically sound, intellec- tually stimulating, spiritually encouraging, and emotionally satisfying. It could be said that in both practical and psychological terms, the overseas churches help to create the necessary conditions for their members to acquire a sustainable position in Western society, supporting their attempts to integrate or participate successfully in the social mainstream and, as well, satisfying their spiritual appetite.




  • Reply November 29, 2023


    Link Hudson Roscoe Barnes III Bishop Bernie L Wade I found it in Espinosa’s book but there is more to this on another read. I will find it in the Apostolic Faith in due time
    “[Seymour] ….appointed Julia Hutchins, Lucy Farrow, and Lucy Leatherman to lead missionary teams to Africa and the Middle East. However, by 1907 Seymour’s views began to change. The shift was driven by tensions that surfaced after Frank Crawford, Florence’s husband, informed Seymour that she was using her divine calling to justify not taking care of her family. As a result, Frank and their daughter Mildrid were left to fend for themselves—even when their daughter was sick and had a broken arm. He tried to bring about reconciliation, but was unsuccessful, Frank claims. As a result, he filed for divorce!
    Seymour was genuinely divided about what to do. He had taught that a divorced person could remarry and remain in the ministry provided that they were not the cause of the divorce, did everything possible to maintain a biblical marriage, and met all of the biblical qualifications for the ministry. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Frank’s decision to divorce Florence because of “abandonment.”
    Seymour now had a divorced woman on his pastoral staff—and one accused of abandoning their family to work in his Azusa Street Revival ministry. He knew that the holiness and reputation of the revival was at stake. After carefully restudying the Bible’s teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, Seymour concluded that a divorced person could not remarry if their spouse was still alive, because according to the Bible this forced both parties to commit adultery since God did not recognize the dissolution of the first marriage.”
    William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism: A Biography and Documentary History 9780822376873

    Gastón Espinosa With a Foreword by Harvey Cox

    Duke University Press Durham and London 2014

    © 2014 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper ∞ Text designed by Chris Crochetière Typeset in Galliard and Trade Gothic type by BW&A Books, Inc.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-­Publication Data William J. Seymour and the origins of global Pentecostalism : a biography and documentary history / Gastón Espinosa, ed. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978–0–8223–5628–8 (cloth : alk. paper) isbn 978–0–8223–5635–6 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Seymour, William Joseph, 1870–1922. 2. Pentecostalism. 3. Pentecostals—Biography. 4. Pentecostal Churches—Clergy—Biography. I. Espinosa, Gastón. bx8762.z8s49 2014 289.9’4092–dc23 [B] 2013048705 Cover photos, top: William J. Seymour, author’s collection; bottom: Azusa Street Mission, used by permission of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

    This book is dedicated to Birgit Dickerman—“a Mother in Israel” —­Judges 5:7

    • Reply November 29, 2023


    • Reply November 30, 2023


      Interesting. Florence’s association with Seymour was a short one. She continued (as did Seymour) to be part of the Apostolic Faith Movement in the larger sense not just the part that was controlled by Seymour.

    • Reply November 30, 2023


      Bishop Bernie L Wade I have learned to note
      that at Azusa a few months was not short 🙂
      Some black churches claim Bartleman was only
      an occasional Roscoe Barnes III David Bundy
      but his foreign born wife had to swear citizenship too Link Hudson for the record

    • Reply November 30, 2023


      Troy Day From what I read, it seems like Bartleman’s wife was already in the US when he married her. He was from a Quaker background, so swearing oaths and being pacifistic might have been salient issues for him for that reason. I don’t know whether he addressed oath-swearing. He did not like boys to participate in the Boy Scouts because of similarities be perceived that and military service.

      There were other pacifistic individuals and individuals who accepted ‘Swear not at all’ literally in the Holiness/Pentecostal movement.

      Bartleman was part of other ministry efforts in LA, so he may not have been as regular at some at Azusa Street. That makes sense.

    • Reply November 30, 2023


      “From what I read, it seems like Bartleman’s wife was already in the US when he married her”

      haha and where did you read that 🙂 specific reference pls As per their census and upon returning to the US 1919 she travelled on his passport with the children SO pls do share where did you read this mew info jewel BTW she was very young minor upon coming to the US so no passport …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.