The beginning of Christianity in Ghana dates back to the 15th century when the Europeans arrived at the then Gold Coast. Yet, before their arrival, there had been different traditional practices which were in operation in the country. Ghana, together with the whole of the West African region, was known for various forms of spirituality that they were practicing. But as the Europeans invaded the country during the era of colonialism, Christianity began to gain its footing. Eventually, the religion overshadowed other forms of traditional or spiritual practices. As a result, various denominations today like the Catholics, Baptists, Charismatics and Methodist are in operation. Christianity has become the most practiced religion in the country. It currently has the largest number of followership in Ghana.
Since the introduction of Christianity, the religion has continued to have a widespread influence. According to statistics released in 2012, 74.1% of the entire population of Ghana practice Christianity while Islam has around 17.5% of the entire population. As it stands today, Christianity is the most pronounced religion among all the religions in Ghana. Thus, this article takes a look at the history of Christianity in Ghana. It also discusses the current status of the religion. Then, we consider various churches that are in Ghana together with the impact of Christianity on the country as a whole.
Religion in Ghana before Christianity
Before we look at Christianity in Ghana, it is worth considering the religion that was in operation before this European-introduced religion came to take over. Among all the ethnic groups that existed in Ghana, there was a traditional practice before the introduction of other forms of religion. Because of their close relationship with family loyalties as well as local mores, the traditional religion still maintains its influence in the land. This has stayed in place despite the wide spreading of Christianity and other forms of religion in Ghana.
The traditional worshippers believe that there is a major supreme being whom they assume to be isolated from the daily religious activities of the people. This supreme being is known by different names. For example, in Akan, He is called Nyame while in Ewe, He is Mawu. Then, there are lesser gods that live in different places like the streams, mountains, rivers and trees. All these gods are generally assumed to be those that intermediate between the supreme being and the society.
How Christianity started in Ghana
The coming of the Europeans to the Gold Coast and their spread was what led to the introduction of Christianity in Ghana. Among the mainstream Christian religious missions that Ghana has witnessed are the Catholic and the Methodist churches. Because of the missionary activities of Christian religious groups like the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Methodist Church Ghana was birthed. This happened after Joseph Rhodes Dunwell came into the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1835. The Methodist church was founded by people that were of Anglican background.
Moreover, at just about the same time that the Methodist church came into Ghana, the Roman Catholic was also introduced in the 15th century. The only difference was that the Roman Catholic had a moderate representation at the Central region and Ashanti region.
However, there is a claim that the first mission to be established on the soil of Ghana was the Roman Catholic. They are said to be the sect that brought Christianity to Ghana. The introduction of this religious group took place in 1482 at Elmina. This was after some Catholic priests came with the Portuguese immigrants to the Gold Coast in January 1482. At their arrival, they built the Fort St.George (Sao Jago) which is known as Elmina Castle today.
Because of the fact that the Catholic Church members were proscribed by Calvinist Dutch in 1642, the Roman Catholic had to go into recession for a total period of two hundred and thirty-eight years. It was later in May 1880 that the Catholic Church emerged again. Because of this, the denomination became the last major Christian denomination to be established in Ghana in the 19th century.
Forms of Christianity in Ghana
There are various forms of Christianity that exist in Ghana today. Even though they are all classified as Christians, there are some differences in their doctrinal beliefs. These different forms of Christianity include the Evangelical Presbyterian, the Catholicism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
There are also some groups that formed the Ghana Christian Council, a unifying body of Christians in the country. Members of this Council include the Methodist, Anglican, Mennonite, and the Presbyterian. Others within this category are the African Methodist Episcopal Zionist, Christian Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Baptist churches, and the Society of Friends.
Impact of Christianity on Ghana
Christianity has played a vital role in the development of Ghana in so many ways. The emergence of formal education is traceable to the introduction of the religion in the country. The religious mission started different several socio-economic institutions which served as a platform for evangelizing and converting the people of Ghana to Christianity. These socio-economic institutions include health-care delivery units, educational institutions and industrial institutions which really impacted on the economy of the country.
Every level of education in Ghana has several mission schools that teach the Government approved curricula. There are many churches today that operate primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning. In fact, it is recorded that almost all the top second cycle level of institutions that exist in Ghana are mission schools. Some of these institutions include St. Charles Secondary School in Tamale and Notre Dame Secondary School. We also have Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary, and Adisadel College on the list.
Furthermore, in terms of health care service delivery, there are quite a number of churches in Ghana who have also played a major role. There are various clinics and mission hospitals that have been established to cater for the health need of Ghanaians. Many of these mission hospitals and clinics focus on areas where people seem to be impoverished and marginalized.
The Christian religious group has also taken active roles in national politics. Since the nation got her independence, there have been many leaders from the Christian body who have held major leadership positions in the country.
The state of Christianity in Ghana
Christianity was initially known for sound doctrine and moral teachings that were aimed at grooming a responsible set of people in the nation. But unfortunately, this was betrayed after many of these churches began to experience internal crises. As a result of the crises, many Ghanaian churches began to break apart. Some of the orthodox churches were forming their own groups and raising their own set of leadership without the approval of their mother church.
Later, many leaders who claimed to be called of God without any formal or spiritual training began to emerge. The effect of this led to the proliferation of mushroom and fake doctrines in the country. Unfortunately, many of these churches followed after the Old Testament doctrine and so, they got involved in the sacrifice of animals and others. In fact, most of these groups claimed to belong to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
In recent times, there have been splits in churches with many of them going on to start their own. The reason for many of this break-aways is fracases which the people had with the founders. So, today, there are lots of one-man churches. There are also prophecies on the increase as people have been made to believe that until a prophet speaks or prophesies over them, they cannot experience real freedom.
Because of the rapid spring-up of a lot of these faith-based groups, one of the major concerns of many citizens of Ghana is the that they are bringing about confusion in the land. This is because many do not know which church is good or fake, hence, the reason for them falling victim to fake preachers. As it is, the preaching of adulterated messages has brought about spiritual pollution in the land.
Based on all that has been said so far, it is a proven fact that the presence of Christianity in Ghana has brought major developments into the land, although it has had it's ups and downs. The focus is that the positives outweigh the negative. It is worth noting that since the introduction of the Christian faith, it has overshadowed all other forms of religions operating in Ghana.