CHURCH OF PENTECOST (Religious Movement)

This church of Ghanaian origin was founded by James McKeown in 1953. The four main classical Pentecostal denominations in Ghana today are the Church of Pentecost, the Assemblies of God, the Apostolic Church of Ghana (see Apostolic Church of Johane Masowe), and the Christ Apostolic Church. Three of these are ‘Apostolic’ churches (so named because of their belief in the continued function of ‘apostles’ in the church) with origins in the work of a remarkable Ghanaian, Peter Anim (1890-1984) and his contemporary James McKeown (1900-89). Anim, regarded as the father of Pentecostalism in Ghana, came into contact with the publication of the Faith Tabernacle Church in Philadelphia, USA in about 1917. He received healing from stomach ailments in 1921 and resigned from the Presbyterian church to become an independent healing preacher who gathered a large following, adopting the name ‘Faith Tabernacle’ in 1922. Similar developments took place in Nigeria at the same time, when David Odubanjo became the leader of Faith Tabernacle there. Recognition was awarded these

African leaders entirely through correspondence, as no personal visits were ever made from Philadelphia to West Africa.

In the meantime, Anim’s evangelistic activities were creating churches throughout southern Ghana and as far as Togo in the east. When a report of the dismissal of the US leader of Faith Tabernacle for moral reasons reached Anim in 1930 he broke the connection and changed the name of his organization to Apostolic Faith, after the periodical Apostolic Faith from Portland, Oregon, to which he subscribed. In 1932 a Pentecostal revival broke out in Anim’s church and many were baptized in the Spirit and spoke in tongues. Nigerian leader Odubanjo made contact with the Apostolic Church in the UK with a view to affiliation, and Anim and two leaders travelled to Lagos to meet their representatives in 1932. Anim affiliated with the Apostolic Church in 1935, and negotiated with the Bradford headquarters for missionaries to be sent to Ghana.

In 1937 James and Sophia McKeown arrived as these missionaries from Northern Ireland. When McKeown contracted malaria soon afterwards and was taken to hospital for treatment, Anim and his followers found this action as deviating from their understanding of divine healing without the use of medicine. This led to the withdrawal of Anim and many of his members in 1939 to found the Christ Apostolic Church, some time before a different organization of the same name was founded in Nigeria for similar reasons. McKeown himself came into conflict with the Apostolic Church over administrative protocol and seceded in 1953 to form the Gold Coast Apostolic Church (to be called after independence, the Ghana Apostolic Church). The church from which he seceded was known as the Apostolic Church of Ghana. In 1962 President Kwame Nkrumah intervened in a protracted legal battle over church properties between the two Apostolic churches and ordered McKeown to change the name to avoid confusion, when the name ‘Church of Pentecost’ (COP) was adopted. In 1971 the COP affiliated with the Elim Pentecostal Church in Britain, a cooperative arrangement that still exists. Elim have assisted in the areas of leadership training, radio ministry, and publishing, and there was, in 2003, one British Elim couple working in Pentecost University College, the ministerial training college of the church.

From the beginning, although McKeown was Chairman of the church, he worked with an all-African executive council and Ghanaians took the initiatives for the expansion of the church. To all intents and purposes this was an autochthonous Ghanaian church. McKeown began to withdraw from his dominant role in the church from the 1960s, when he would spend increasing amounts of time in Britain, eventually spending only half the year in Ghana. On his retirement and departure from Ghana in 1982, he was followed as Chairman by Apostle F.S.Safo (1982-7), Prophet M. K.Yeboah (1988-98), and Apostle Michael K.Ntumy, elected in 1998. Another important event occurred in 1969, when the three Anim-derived Apostolic churches and the Assemblies of God formed the Ghana Pentecostal Council. By 1998 150 denominations had joined this organization, a remarkable and unusual feat of Pentecostal and Charismatic ecumenism. The Church of Pentecost is today the second largest Christian denomination in Ghana, and will soon have more members than the Catholic Church. It is probably the most respected of the Pentecostal churches in Ghana.

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