View Full Version : A Lower Calling: Pastors Who Harm Their Flock

21st August 2011, 02:10 PM
Bishop Daniel Obinim, Founder and General Overseer of the International God’s Way Church, has been making sensational headlines for weeks now.

For over a month, he has been continually on the front pages of the dailies for having had a sexual relationship with the wife one of his junior pastors, an allegation he openly admitted to on air.

However, after his admission sparked public debate, with radio stations hosting call-in programmes on his conduct, the so-called man of God got offended and armed himself with a crowbar. Together with two of his pastors, they vented their anger on workers of Hot FM who were just a part of the larger public airing their concerns.

A tearful Bishop Daniel Obinim bows his head in shame and Rev Paul Nkansah, in custody for raping 5 blood sisters

Obinim is now in court facing criminal charges.

His case is not peculiar. There has been a trend of pastors running afoul of religion and the law. Sexual assault, financial exploitation, occultism, and even murder are growing issues in some congregations, especially for women. A debate is building up between human rights activists and members of the clergy about how to deal with the problem. One side of the argument calls for government regulation of churches and pastors, while the other side wants internal measures to deal with the canker.

The problem pastors
Nana Kofi Yirenkyi, also called Jesus One Touch, founded the Jesus Blood Prophetic Ministry in Accra. At the beginning of the year, an Accra Circuit Court sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment for raping his own 10-year-old daughter.

Bishop Vaglas Kanco, General Overseer of the Vineyard Chapel International, was convicted in May and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for defrauding a British woman of £120,000. He made her think she would die if she did not turn the money over.

Vincent Bassaw, General Overseer of the Fountain Living Waters Church in Takoradi, was arrested in February for allegedly impregnating a 15-year-old girl.

Prophet Nicholas Osei, also known as Kumchacha, is the leader of Heaven Gate Ministries.

He was arrested after he allegedly attempted to rape a married woman from his congregation at a Kumasi hotel in May. He allegedly told the woman that her ------ was haunted by evil spirits and he would need to exorcise them with his -----.

Reverend Daniel Essan Kojo, aka Pastor Oboy, is pastor at the Rhema Power Ministry at Tanoso in Kumasi. He was arrested for an armed robbery in which he allegedly snatched a taxi cab.

In April, 2010, a Catholic priest, Rt. Rev. Father Charles Asamoah, allegedly inflicted multiple wounds on his girlfriend when their secret relationship went sour. He almost killed her in the process. She allegedly got offended when she caught her sweetie with another lady, whom he claimed was his sister.

Rt. Rev. Kow Bosomefi Egyir, an administrative bishop with the Methodist Church, allegedly raped an errand girl, after which he fled to the United States. The Methodist Church is still investigating the allegation.

In April, Stephen Addy-Powell, Pastor of the Crown Miracle International Ministries, allegedly appeared at a woman’s house, told her to pray, undressed her and began licking her ------. He was arrested.

Adebayor Adedeji, a Nigerian pastor domiciled in Ghana, was arrested mid-August for attempting to traffic a 13-year-old girl from Accra to Ivory Coast. He was arrested with pornographic materials in his belongings. The girl told police he met her at Kaneshie market and asked her to follow him. She refused, and he gave her a red and black long-sleeved shirt to wear. After donning the shirt, she said she blacked out until they arrived at Elubo in the Western Region.Pastor Akwasi Oppong was arrested in May for the allegedly attempting to rape a 30-year-old policeman’s wife at a hotel in Koforidua. According to media reports, police said the woman consulted him in the morning and met him that evening. He allegedly stripped naked and asked her to masturbate him.

Pastor Richard Addo was arrested in February for penetrating women with his fingers, saying God told him to so because their bodies were unclean.

Rev. Michael Martey Marmah, the founder and Head Pastor of the Lord of Nazareth Church, was remanded by an Accra Circuit Court into prison custody on fraud charges.

Pastor Kofi Boakye, 53, head pastor of Arise and Walk Foundation Church, was arrested and detained by the Adenta District Police Command over his alleged involvement in a visa fraud case. He allegedly took a sum of GH¢1,600 from the complainant under the guise of securing him an Italian visa.

Prophet Yaw Daniel Nkansah, leader and founder of Vision Church and a presidential candidate of New Vision Party, a comatose political party, has had a long-standing and multiple alleged fraud cases leveled against him at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters. Some of the charges bordered on visa and car fraud.

Pastor Emmanuel Nartey, the leader of a Nima-based prayer group, was arrested together with a druggist, Quarshie Penastum, and a 61-year-old retired ward assistant by the Nima Police over the death of the pastor’s girlfriend after an illegal abortion in January this year.

The lady has since died.

Rev. Paul Nkansah, who claimed to be the head pastor of the African Faith Tabernacle, was arrested by the Oda police after raping five biological sisters, one of whom he defrauded of a sum of GH¢1,200. He had told his victims, who visited their sick sister who later died at his prayer camp, that there were evil spirits tormenting them. The victims came to him individually, and he would then order a spiritual bath, after which he goaded them for sex. When they refused, he sprinkled some whitish substance on their faces, which made them unconscious while he committed his crimes. He said he was commanded by the Holy Spirit to do all that.

The church has denied Rev Nkansah as a member of its flocks, not to talk about being a pastor.

The concerns
Rev. Gideon Titi-Offei is the general secretary of the National Association of Charismatic Christian Churches. His church is Sheepfold Ministries, and it has five branches in Ghana and Nigeria, and a new one in New Jersey. All together, he has about 3000 member congregation.

“At NACC, we are extremely worried that pastors of late are making the front pages of various newspapers for the wrong reasons,” he told Daily Guide. “But it’s not surprising to us at all, because the Bible is not silent on wolves coming in sheep’s clothing. And the Bible also talks about Satan coming in the form of an agent of light.”

Members of the human rights community have also taken notice. They see an uncomfortable tension between Ghana’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and association and other fundamental rights, like those violations suffered by women.

“I think with the current trend of events, it is not only human rights activists who are concerned or should be concern,” said Daniel Asare Korang, programmes coordinator with Human Rights Advocacy Centre.

“There is a constitutional provision of religious freedom and freedom of association, and some charlatans have started to abuse it by engaging in all manner of perilous acts to the extent that the Daily Graphic front page has a report of a so-called pastor who has raped five sisters.

To that extent, it’s cause for worry.”

Rev. Ivy Hiadzi is a female pastor and co-founder of the High Powered Ministries International, which she said has ten branches and about 3,500 members.

“What I can say is that, this trend of male pastors affecting women negatively is because women seem to be more vulnerable in society than men, just as the Bible said, women are weaker vessels,” she said. “People misinterpret it as if women are so weak they can not defend themselves in conditions or situations they find themselves in. But for me I think it is not true.”

Rev. Titi-Offei, however, objected to all the attention the media pay to these men. He said the trend is worrying, but there are far more people in the church who are crucial players in national development. Judas Iscariot, he said, was just one lost disciple.

“There are eleven other disciples who are doing the right things,” he said, “but will never be able to find the front pages of the Daily Guide and Daily Graphic or all these papers.”

Why women?
Rev. Titi-Offei doesn’t think the problem is gender-related. He acknowledges that women seem to make up the majority of victims, but said that reflects a broader trend in society.

“Women generally are the victims of our society,” he said. “So it is likely that more of them will be in the church, as well. Women easily believe anything. They easily fall victim to things.”

He added that many men are also victims of crook pastors, but they don’t discuss it openly the way women do.

Rev. Hiadzi took a slightly different view. Years ago, when she was a young mother, she met a dubious pastor who tried to con her into sex.

“My first daughter used to have very severe attacks at night,” she recounted. “On one of such occasions, it was so severe that I had to fall on a lady pastor at the Labadi beach area where we used to meet and pray.”

She said a visiting US-based pastor got acquainted with her during one of these prayer sessions. He invited her to his residence.

“I got to his home and met him with six other pastors where he told me in their presence that the Lord has asked him to marry me.”

She was shocked. The pastor and his cronies were very much aware that she was married and it was because of her daughter that she had run to the church for solution.

She refused and told the husband about the pastor’s overtures.

When the pastor visited her shop afterwards, her husband calmly asked him, “Are you the one God has asked to marry my wife?” Out of shame, he left and never came back.

“I am saying this as an encouragement to other women that if they know the word of God, they would never fall prey to such fakes,” Rev. Hiadzi said.

Pastor appeal
God is everywhere in Ghana, said Rev. Titi-Offei.

“The Ghanaian is incurably religious – and the easiest way to get the attention of the Ghanaian is to use religion,” he said. “And, unfortunately, we have some very smart people who know how to get the attention of Ghanaians by using religion.”

According to the reverend, there are two forms of preaching. One, called macro-pastoring, happens at the pulpit. The other, called micro-pastoring, happens in the congregation itself.

He said that Bishop Obinim might have failed in macro pastoring, but he may be good when it comes to micro pastoring. That might explain why some of his ardent followers still cling to him amid the scandal.

It’s possible, the reverend continued, that Obinim might have positively touched the lives of these people, who some may be called fanatics, and so they consider his current actions as faults he may overcome.

“The church is a human institution,” said Rev. Titi-Offei. “The pastor is a human being trying to meet the expectations of many people. Eventually, he will falter.”

But, he added, if a pastor sleeps with his junior pastor’s wife continuously, it cannot be called temptation, but deliberate wickedness.

“In a country where illiteracy is on the high side, one would expect some of these things to happen, and in a country where meaning is read into every occurrence,” said Korang.

Women who are desperate for marriage, money, children, travel visas, or employment are often lured by a category of pastors Rev. Hiadzi calls fallen angles. These are pastors who come to the pulpit seeking wealth and fame.

There are two other kinds of pastor, she said. She described one group as the ones who are called by God, but become impatient. The third group is righteous and doesn’t promise material gain.

“Because materialism has taken over the church, everyone wants to get to the top in a short period of time,” she said.

The debate
Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu is the Executive Director of Mission of Hope. Like Korang, he wants government to regulate the churches.

He highlighted the NGO Bill developed in 1999 and abandoned from 2000-2009.

Recently, he said, the government said it is considering a re-draft of the bill. Churches are part of NGOs because they are registered as non-profitable organizations, which is why they are exempted from paying taxes.

The bill, if passed into law, would see the establishment of a commission, with the role of monitoring the activities of NGOs and for that matter churches. The Christian Council of Ghana, NACC, and other religious groups would be answerable to the commission. “For me, I think it is high time for parliament to pass the bill into law to save the general public, especially women and children, from pastors who may want to take advantage of them.”

Korang also called for legislation. In the short term, he said, the Mental Health Bill could be passed. It would establish an authority to inspect prayer camps, occasionally controversial establishments in which people enlist for spiritual assistance to physical or mental problems.

“It’s not to stifle religious freedom,” he said. “But there should be a regulation. If you want to open a church or a prayer camp, what are the standards? What about monitoring systems?”

However, Reverends Titi-Offei and Ivy Hiadzi are emphatically opposed to any kind of regulation.

“The reason when we come to talk about church issues, once it is spiritual and the Bible says the salt of the earth and the light of the world, definitely the solution lies in the church,” said Rev. Hiadzi.

According to Rev. Titi-Offei, there is adequate oversight from larger religious institutions, like the NACC.

Regulation, he continued, would hamper Ghana’s freedom of religion. Alternatively, government could recognize institutions like NACC and endorse their licensing regimes.

“I believe the existing bodies should be strengthened,” he said. “For instance, by November, we will be issuing licenses to all members of NACC.”

Source: Rocklyn Antonio