Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021
OCMC Joins Ghana's Orthodox Christians in Celebrating Their Silver Jubilee
Accra, Ghana - At Cape Coast Hospital, in the Central Region of Ghana, an 86-year old Bishop Bresi-Ando fell asleep in the Lord on the 2nd of October 1970, spiritually orphaning the church he founded and led for nearly 45 years. Though called Orthodox by this visionary African spiritualist, the members of Bishop Bresi-Ando’s “Orthodox Catholic Church” had an incomplete picture of the terms depth and little knowledge of its origin. They did, however, posses an understanding of Orthodoxy’s implied universality. This understanding would evolve into a deep longing, which would inspire a search for true Orthodox Christianity. Their faith in Christ fed the hope that they were not alone in the world and that there existed, somewhere, a larger family that would adopt them.
This quest was undertaken by the youth of Bishop Bresi-Ando’s then struggling church. It was their unflinching gaze beyond Ghanaian borders and their droning call for truth that would ultimately establish authentic Orthodox Christianity in this West African country.
Ironically, Greek émigrés had been practicing their Orthodox Christian faith in Ghana’s capital, Accra, since the 1960s. Due to political upheaval however, most of the Greeks, and the Orthodoxy they practiced, had left Ghana by 1970, the very year Bishop Bresi-Ando died.
On August 8, 1972, in a moment that would change the Ghanaian religious landscape forever, Godfried Mantey, leader of the “Orthodox Catholic Church’s” youth organization, would happen across a copy of Timothy Ware’s book “The Orthodox Church” in a University of Ghana bookstore. Two years later, Godfried and his friend, Kwame Labi, would go on to discover Orthodox clergymen, present for a World Council of Churches meeting, at the University’s Legon campus. In Fr. John Meyendorff, Fr. Thomas Hopko, theologian Nicolas Lossky, and Alexandrian Patriarchate representative Dr. Parthelus, the orphaned Ghanaians of the “Orthodox Catholic Church” would find their adoptive family.
Archbishop Irinios of the Archdiocese of West Africa, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, would make the first of several visits to the faithful in Ghana on January 15, 1978. By September of 1982 Kwame Labi, having graduated from St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York, had been ordained priest and Ghana’s “Orthodox Catholic Church” was received into the canonical Orthodox family.
What measure of goodness exists within the hearts of the young? Does the hope of youthful idealism know any bounds? Truly, the goodness of youth of the “Orthodox Catholic Church” was immeasurable and their hope knew no bounds. Today, there are thousands of Orthodox Christians in Ghana under the pastoral care of 23 indigenous Orthodox priests. Blessed by the spiritual direction of His Grace, Bishop Damaskinos, the Orthodox Church in Ghana offers wide variety of ministerial services and will soon be home to a new Orthodox seminary.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Ghanaian Church’s reception into canonical Orthodoxy. The celebration of this momentous anniversary will focus on creating an opportunity for spiritual renewal that will guide the Church’s growth into the future. In doing so, the Church will be equipped to play her proper role of being an agent for the true transformation of the Ghanaian communities in which she bears witness. This transformation comes through creating awareness among the general public, and among the Church’s own members, to make the Church better known in Ghana, Africa, and beyond.
In an effort to continuously respond to the call of the Ghanaian youth that went out more than 25 years ago, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) regularly supports its Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in Ghana through financial stipends to their clergy and through the volunteer service of OCMC’s Orthodox Mission Team members.
It is through the support of OCMC’s initiatives in Ghana that American Orthodox Christians can join Bishop Damaskinos and the Ghanaian faithful in the celebration of their silver jubilee. As financial gifts increase to the Mission Center’s Support a Mission Priest (SAMP) program, new clergy are able to serve and catechize a growing number of believers. To assist in this catechization, an Orthodox Mission Team will travel to Ghana this year, conducting three-weeks of religious education seminars in Accra.
By the grace of God, the children of Bishop Bresi-Ando’s “Orthodox Catholic Church” found their new home. Over the years, they have been shown the true depths of Christ’s love in the many hands and hearts that have served them. In Orthodoxy, they have become part of a family that transcends national identity and the passage of time.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official international mission agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Its purpose is to encourage, support and facilitate the establishment and development of self-supporting, Eucharistic Orthodox Christian communities worldwide, thus incorporating the person into the fullness of a life in Christ. Please pray for the Orthodox Church in Ghana. To support and Ghanaian priest or to volunteer of the Orthodox Mission Team going to Ghana this year please call 1-877-463-6784 or e-mail the Mission Center at firstname.lastname@example.org