At 5.30 p.m on Saturday, August 23, 2014, that is two weeks ago, I received a terse message from a voting member of the 8th Biennial and 46th Annual Conference of the Methodist Church, Ghana, which was taking place at the Wesley Methodist Cathedral at Adum in Kumasi, as follows: Boafo 131, Pratt 198.
I had received an earlier message minutes before that the first round of voting had taken place with no one clearing the 50 per cent plus one vote hurdle, so a second ballot had become necessary between the first two top vote getters, the Very Reverend Paul Boafo, Chaplain of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the Bishop of the Accra Diocese of the church, the Right Reverend Titus Pratt.
With the second message, therefore, I received confirmation of the election of the new Presiding Bishop for the Methodist Church of this country. As a matter of fact, the current Bishop of the Accra Diocese of the church, the Rt Rev.Titus Pratt, becomes the next and fourth Presiding Bishop as from October 1, 2015. Bishop Pratt will replace the Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Asante, who is well-known in this country as the Chairman of the National Peace Council. Rev. Prof. Asante’s six-year tenure runs out on October 1, 2015. That, of course, instantly conjures the social and political importance of this essentially religious position in this country.
I, therefore, decided that today’s epistle should be devoted to this Christian gentleman, even though he will assume office 13 months from now. Bishop Pratt will be the first Ghanaian clergyman to have attained the position his own father attained in his lifetime, meaning, inferentially, that he is also the first son of the manse to be elected to this position. His father, the late Most Rev. Charles Awotwi Pratt, was the President of the Conference [as was the title then], from 1977 to 1979, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger Pratt’s progression mirrors the eminent pedigree from which he emerged to be chosen as the incoming Presiding Bishop.
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Indeed, Osofo Titus was commissioned into the Methodist ministry, that is, made a minister of the gospel, by his own father in 1977. He was, however, ordained two years later by his father’s successor, the Most Rev. Samuel Essamuah.
As a matter of fact, I sat together with him on the same pew in the Wesley Church in Sekondi on the night of Thursday, August 9, 1979, during the induction service for his father’s successor, which was conducted by his father! Try as I could, I could not find the picture that was taken of the two of us together singing away 35 years ago! I am very certain Bishop Pratt is blissfully unaware that his father baptised and christened my brother Kakra and I over 55 years ago in Bekwai where my father was serving as the Superintendent Minister!
Bishop Pratt mirrors career path of father
So who is Bishop Pratt? Born nearly 67 years ago to the Most Rev. and Mrs Grace Pratt, he was successively educated at the Wesley Grammar in Dansoman, Accra; Komenda College of Education, Trinity Theological Seminary, University of Ghana, the Victoria University of Manchester and at the Haggai Institute in Singapore. He had his bachelor’s degree in Historical and Contemporary Theology from Manchester and his Master’s from the University of Ghana.
As already indicated, he has a career path which mirrors that of his father in several ways. He has been a bishop twice in The Gambia District for nine years, and is currently the Accra Bishop. His father was thrice a bishop, Winneba, Cape Coast and also The Gambia dioceses/districts! He has been a tutor and a chaplain at several institutions, including Fijai, Kumasi Wesley Day SHS, conference and synod and daily record secretary in Kumasi, Cape Coast and The Gambia dioceses, meaning he has rich and valuable experience in church management which would serve him in good stead as the head of the church.
Because he was so long outside the country in The Gambia and the United Kingdom, his return to normal pastoral duties at Mount Olivet in Dansoman, and Macedonia in Kwashieman, revealed his considerable pastoral gifts to the Ghanaian Methodist faithful, with the result that he was elected as the Accra Diocesan Bishop in 2011; the position he currently holds. Incidentally, he is fluent in both Ga and the Twi languages, in addition to his native Fante and English.
This observation draws me naturally to the fact that his elevation at this time may signal a return to the centrality of the pastoral ministry for Ghanaian Methodists.
I believe church leadership at any time reflects the needs of the church, and the graces and gifts of the favoured individuals who have headed the church in the past have all contributed to making the church one of the most significant organisations in the social life of Ghanaians.
At this time, Ghanaian Methodists, with this fantastic choice seem to be saying that chairing a leaders’ meeting, presiding at society and quarterly meetings, and practising visitation of the sick and communion services may be the kind of hands-on, grassroots experiences they need at this time.
But I should sound a note of caution to him. Church leaders in this country seem to have forgotten entirely that this country is a multiparty democracy, and the Sunday congregations reflect the diversities of our political inclinations. It has become fashionable for some to announce spiritual and political calamities borne out of a confused appreciation of the freedom of choice of Ghanaians of diverse faiths.
To paraphrase my friend Augusto d’Almeida, our pastors must make sure the biblical texts are the Word of God. Secondly, they should acknowledge that the Bible cuts both ways, and lastly the saving grace of the gospel message must never be diluted or pruned to reflect partisan biases.
To cut and paste the Word is to substitute consistent exegesis with election season sermons, which constitutes ‘’spiritual malpractice.’’ Fortunately, Bishop Pratt, like the present holder of the office, has shown dexterity of thought and speech certain to win the church much respect and affection from all Ghanaians.
On this note, I want to congratulate Bishop Titus Pratt on his election, and wish him all the best in his preferment from October next year as the occupant of Wesley’s Chair in Ghana.