THE General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), Rev Dr Fred Deegbe, and the Administrator of the Maranatha Evangelistic Ministries in Kumasi, Rev Nicholas Awuah-Sarpong, have endorsed the call for a check on the growing misuse of academic and religious titles.
They, however, said the call, made by the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Kwesi Yankah, could only be left to the conscience of those charlatans, since the country had not yet developed any regulatory framework to check the misuse of religious and academic titles by pastors.
Expressing his view on the issue, Rev Dr Deegbe said although the 1992 Constitution guaranteed freedom of worship, there was no regulation to stop pastors from making false claims to religious and academic titles.
He said the only way out was for the public to be discerning enough and shun men of God who cloaked themselves in "vanities of religious titles" to attract a large following and deceive them.
He said titles and credentials did not make one a true man of God, adding that that honorific used by "charlatans" was just a mere bluff and only used as a false representation to deceive unsuspecting people.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Rev Dr Deegbe said it was unfortunate that "Ghanaians are fast copying our Nigerian brothers in some of these vanities of religious titles".
His comments followed a publication in the Wednesday, December 9, 2009 issue of the Daily Graphic in which Prof Yankah made scathing remarks about the misuse of academic and religious titles by people he described as "impostors and charlatans".
Agreeing with the pro vice-chancellor’s assertion, Rev Dr Deegbe described the phenomenon as "very ridiculous and laughable".
He observed that some of the people who claimed to be ‘Rev Drs’ had not even gone through basic education, while others were totally illiterate, but because they could speak the vernacular fluently, people misconstrued them to be lettered.
He said there were all kinds of pastoral schools operating in the country which conferred various degrees on people claiming to be men of God.
He cited one school which had posters all around town inviting pastors to undertake a 16-week course for the award of a doctorate degree.
He said in these days when everything had become commercial, some of the pastoral schools even rented academic gowns from some public universities, as well as their campuses, to organise graduation ceremonies, thereby lending illegitimate credence to the degrees that they awarded.
He, therefore, urged university authorities to critically check the background of any religious school which might want to rent their academic gowns and campuses for graduation ceremonies.
Rev Dr Deegbe said the problem was also due to the lack of a regulatory framework to guide the use of such titles, indicating that although the Constitution guaranteed freedom of worship, there was no regulation on the use of religious titles.
He said members of the CCG, for instance, had their own internal procedures and processes for conferring religious titles, adding, however, that as a matter of policy, the council did not interfere in the internal management of members, except to give advice in the event of breaches of such procedures.
He said as a result of the absence of a regulatory framework, it was very difficult to weed out the quacks from the system, just as pertained in the journalism profession which embraced all shades of characters, regardless of their professional qualification, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Asked about how he felt when he, as an academic, was equated with a non-academic by virtue of using the same title "Rev Dr", the CCG General Secretary said, "Let’s leave it for the public to judge who is the Rev Dr by achievement."
For his part, Rev Awuah-Sarpong blamed the problem on church leaders with no conscience but who would want to create a myth around themselves to attract large congregations to their churches overnight.
“Some church leaders want to stand out clear among the rest and they believe that the best way to do this is to confer such titles on themselves,” he said.
“In real Christian principles, such practice is not good and it is time we in leadership positions in the Christian community stood up to speak against it,” he said.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Rev Awuah-Sarpong said it was a fact that church leaders in the country who carried academic and big religious titles were held in high esteem, no matter how they got those titles.
Kumasi has a good number of such pastors who are carrying various academic and religious titles.
Some of the titles are Rev Dr, Rev Dr Dr, Bishop, Apostle Bishop, Bishop Prophet, Prophet Dr, among others.
Most of the leaders carrying the titles are found in the charismatic churches, especially “the founder and leader” type of churches. The leaders founded the churches and owe everything in them.
Rev Awuah-Sarpong said there was nothing wrong with titles that were earned or conferred on individuals by recognised institutions.
“The problem lies with pastors who confer such titles on themselves,” he added.