13.02.17 | News, Three questions for
Three questions for...Reverend Nii Armah Ashittey, the new Director for Ecumenical and Social Relations in the PCG
"We have the task to till and keep the world," says Nii Armah Ashittey. To achieve the task of taking care of the world we need to work together as women and men of faith around the globe. Therefore, he applied for the position Director for Ecumenical and Social Relations of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and was elected in September 2016. In Accra, he gained firsthand experience in an interdenominational setting which prepared him for his new tasks.
Is there a Bible verse with particular meaning for you as you take up new responsibilities?
I treasure the fact that we as human beings are created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1: 26-27). This gives me meaning for my life, knowing that I too am created in the image and Spirit of God, empowered to partner with God in caring for the creation. Of equal importance to me is Genesis 2:15: God's charge to humanity to "till and keep" the creation – i.e. rule over it responsibly. This also emphasizes the partnership relationship between human beings and God. We have the spirit and the mandate from God to keep his creation, acting in God's stead. This is powerful, very powerful. This in turn rhymes with Ephesians 2, where Paul refers to the Spirit of God being at work in us, taking up again the creation theme present in Genesis: Though we were once dead because of our trespasses, we are now united with Christ in God and seated in the heavenly places (Verses 5-6). This is humbling and empowering at the same time.
What prompted you to apply for the position Director for Ecumenical and Social Relations?
I have a deep interest and respect for ecumenism. This is rooted in my understanding of scripture, as indicated above: Created in the image of god, given the world to till and to keep. If we are to take care of the world, we have to be united, as no one can do this alone. We have no choice but to unite with others to achieve this task. The late Bola Ige, a Nigerian politician who co-founded the World Council of Churches' "Programme to Combat Racism" in the 1970's, liked to refer to "God Talk". In this Talk, we have partners: The Bible, the men and women of faith who have gone before us, those with us now, and thirdly our own particular situation. I understand ecumenism as an expression of this "God Talk".
I further have a passion rooted in this same mindset, which is that of the prophetic voice of the Church in society. I consider this to be a critical "talk" or discussion on all issues which affect the well-being of God. This has to do with who I am as a child of God: I have a God-given duty to act for the preservation of the world. As such, I am called to speak to society on God's behalf.
I gained firsthand experience in working in an interdenominational setting while serving as a Minister in the Ridge Church in Accra. It's beautiful there, as we have the Methodists, the Presbyterians and the Anglicans coming together, sometimes other denominations as well. The members of the Ridge Church retain their individual memberships – Presbyterians remain Presbyterians and so on. At the same time, they cooperate closely in the daily work of the Ridge Church Congregation. I have also worked as the Chairperson of the Ga Presbytery Committee on Ecumenical and Social Relations, which gave me insight into the work of the department as a whole. I see these stations in my biography as important preparation for my new task.
What goals do you have for your new work?
I would like to solidify the gains made by the department. The ecumenical linkages that have been made need to be shored up, made formidable. We have had a newsletter in the past, started by my predecessor Rev. Dr. Solomon Sule-Saa. It is now stalled for lack of funds. But it needs to be revived. That would help us to network among our supporters.
The creation of a course in ecumenism, targeting pastors in particular, would be another important task. We need to get them to appreciate the need for ecumenism. I have already consulted the authorities on this. We cannot play island, we cannot play solo. I want to make this department better known, within the PCG to begin with, but also beyond. We have pastors who do not know what our department is all about, sometimes even referring to it as the Department for Economic and Social Relations!
Finally, it is my passion to engage in the debate on those critical issues affecting the well-being of the people, both those in the church and those outside it. Matters of economics and other social issues cannot be left to the politicians alone. The church must also raise its voice. We can have press conferences, we can organize debates, we can act publically. How is the government using our money? That is as much the church's business as anyone else's. I remind you: We have the task to till and keep the world!
We already have done something like that when I was serving as a pastor at the Adentan Congregation in Accra. We held a series of seminars, one on the topic "The Christian Intellectual in Nation Building". We asked ourselves: Where are the Christian intellectuals? Why is their expertise not being brought to bear? We are charged to till and keep the creation! Where ordinary persons cannot make their presence felt, intellectuals can do so. They can write and speak. Such forums can serve to galvanize them into action.
The interview was conducted by Riley Edwards-Raudonat.