A REJOINDER TO THE PGG’S PASTORAL LETTER ABOUT THE VERY REV. DR. YAW FRIMPONG-MANSO
On Saturday April 16, 2016, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) yet again experienced one of its darkest moments as the news media buzzed with the publication of articles on the resignation of the Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso from the pastoral ministry of the Church. Most of the news headlines were not only misleading but the content fell short of the facts and it would be fair that records are straight.
The Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso, we note, is the immediate past Moderator of the Church, having served the Church for over 30 years with many accomplishments during his period of service. We are thankful that the current Moderator even acknowledged this feat in 2010, when addressing the Bomso Congregation of the church at a farewell service in Kumasi. “The Rev. Professor Martey, then Moderator-elect, affirmed his willingness to liaise with the out-going Moderator, Right Reverend Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso and other past leaders in the discharge of his duties. He described the out-going Moderator as a visionary leader whose six-year term of office saw the total progress of the church. Rev Martey said his predecessor left a legacy which ought to be protected”. (“New Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Ghana to advance Presbyterianism” Ghanaweb.com, Monday, 27 September 2010.
Reviews of the past few years, however, show a rather abysmal relationship between the PCG and the former Moderator and we beg to question the true spirit of love and unity in purpose that have been the hallmark of PCG. We do not fault the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in the exercise of its prerogative to accept or reject the resignation of the former Moderator but we wonder if in its disciplinary procedures a PCG minister is not allowed to resign on his own volition. We note that Ministers of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana may separate from or cease to be agents of the Church by a) Death b) resignation, c) suspension d) termination, or e) dismissal. Questions continue to plague the minds of many if a resignation may imply the forfeiture of all rights including entitlements.
The circumstances that led to the resignation of The Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso were shared with a high profile 2 man-delegation from the PCG that visited New York from January 11-14, 2016. The team made up of Rev. Dr. Ayete-Nyampong and Rev. Dr. Kwame Amoah-Kuma held meetings with the Pastor and the Session of Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, New York. Also represented at the meeting were Rev. Nkansah, Moderator of the Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches in North America and the immediate past Moderator, Rev. Kobina Ofosu-Donkoh, Phd.
In the discussions, the Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso gave a historical perspective of his call to the Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, a member Church of the Presbytery of New York City (PNYC). It was noted that Rev. Dr . Kwame Amoah-Kuma led the Church as Pastor from 2006 through May 22, 2011 when the Church became chartered. Rev. Amoah-Kuma, immediately after chartering, however accepted a call to the Presbyterian Church of Ghana effective September, 2011 thus leaving the Church in an unexpected orphan state for almost two years.
Upon a request for a new PCG Minister made through the Presbytery of New York City, Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso was selected to replace Rev. Dr. Kwame Amoah-Kuma on July 24, 2011. On September 6, 2011, the Committee on Ministry of PNYC voted to appoint Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso as Pastoral Supply for Emmanuel Presbyterian Church from November 30, 2011 until he would arrive finally with an R1 visa to take up the position of Pastor. He could not come in November 2011 because of the unavailability of his R1 Visa.
The Presbytery of New York City voted to approve his terms of call and his membership at its stated meeting on March 31, 2012 for an initial period of two years subject to renewal by the Church. He was installed into the position of Designated Pastor for the Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church on May 19, 2013 once his visa requirements were met and would serve in this capacity retrospectively from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2015.
On May 2, 2014, a letter transferring the membership of Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso from PCG to the Presbytery of New York (PC (USA) was issued by Rev. Dr. Ayete-Nyampong, Clerk of the General Assembly, to satisfy the membership requirements of the Presbytery of New York City. The letter cited the existing partnership between PCG and the PC (USA) as basis for the transfer and noted as well the common membership of the two bodies in the World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches as additional factors for effecting the transfer.
The Congregation of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church upon a satisfactory review of the ministry of Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso, voted on January 25, 2015 to extend his call for 6 years beginning April 1 2015 through March 31, 2021. The request was approved by the Presbytery at its stated meeting on May 19, 2015. The Pastor, after duly informing the PCG of the extension, was rather issued a recall letter dated August 15 2015 citing the severed relations with the PC (USA) as basis for denial of his request. PCG further gave the pastor up to December 31, 2015 to wind up all activities with Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, USA and return to Ghana.
We find it quite ironic that the PCG took the decision to sever relationships with partner Churches that endorsed gay marriage in August 2011. Meanwhile, PCG approved the call of Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso in October 2011 and was permitted to join the Church (EPRC) in the USA in 2013, a period of almost 2 years after the decision to sever relations with the same PC (USA).
Further, the PCG approved and wrote a letter of the Pastor’s transfer to the PC-USA in May 2014 long after it had taken a decision to sever relations with the PC-USA. In light of the above, how could PCG turn around in 2015 and ask The Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso to wind down and return in December 2015?
We noted and agreed during the meeting of January 2016 that the call process of the PC(USA) and the posting/transfer or secondment process of the PCG have been the major cause of misunderstanding between PCG and PC(USA) in resource sharing. Per the PC(USA) call process, once a Pastor’s membership is transferred from a Partner Denomination, the Presbytery of call becomes responsible for his practice of ministry as he becomes accountable to the PC(USA) and the Presbytery. He thus becomes a full member of the receiving Partner Denomination and under the jurisdiction of the receiving Presbytery. This process appears contrary to the posting system as practiced by PCG, which was evident during the discussions held with PCG in January 2016.
In the PCG system the minister is posted by the General Assembly Council on behalf of the General Assembly to any Presbytery/Congregation they like and recalled by them at anytime they want with or without the consent of the Congregation or that of the minister. This is different from the call system of the PC(USA) where every Presbytery and every Church are independent and receives Pastors through the call system as it was in the case of Rev Dr Yaw Frimpong-Manso whose membership was also transferred to the PNYC by the PCG as per the letter by the PCG Clerk of General Assembly on May 02, 2014.
It was basically because of this misunderstanding and the ensuing confusion and for the avoidance of conflict between the two denominations, particularly regarding polity, jurisdiction and the unnecessary tagging by the letter of recall by PCG with the same-sex issue, among other things, that according to the Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso made him write his letter of resignation/disaffiliation for the period that he would serve under the PNYC of the PCUSA. Other pertinent issues regarding the soured relationship between the current Moderator, himself and Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches worshiping with the PCUSA among others were also mentioned by the Very Rev Dr Frimpong-Manso during the discussions as being contributing factors to his decision. One thing that came out was the fact that his name had been expunged from the PCG Handbook of Ministers since 2012 in addition to the letter transferring his membership to the PNYC.
Rev Dr. Frimpong-Manso had made it clear that he and his family were not happy with the content and motive of the recall letter especially with the relatively short notice and disregard to the ministry that he was in charge of. He rejected the PCG smear campaign that his Church was a gay Church and that none of its members were engaged in such a practice.
The Rev Dr. Frimpong-Manso was amenable to change of his decision to resign following further discussions and not as characterized in the Pastoral letter. What he said in the end was that the PCG should withdraw their letter of recall connecting him with the same-sex issue and forcing him to come home at short notice for them to find a way out.
We, therefore, find it strange that the Rev. Dr. Ayite-Nyampong’s delegation presented a report with such inaccuracies that seek to ruin the reputation of the Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso and further “strip” him of all the titles, achievements and entitlements as indicated in the Pastoral letter. The media has once again been given “new fodder” and the slander, denunciation and the vilification that followed the announcement of Rev. Yaw Frimpong-Manso’s resignation and once again filled the airwaves with the PCG acting as cheerleaders while the flock of the Church continues to hurt.
This is unfair to the Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso and his family and we as a Church and Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches worshiping with the PC (USA) find it expedient to issue this Rejoinder to the PCG Pastoral Letter widely circulated about the Very Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso.
We conclude with this reminder that, we as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are engaged in a spiritual battle with evil and malevolent forces that are irrevocably committed to destroying the image of God within us and the work of God through us. While we ought not to give them more credit than they deserve, we should not underestimate the forces arrayed against us and their capacity to wreak havoc wherever they are given a foothold. We have always known this truth. We know it more now than ever.
The Session Clerk:
Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, New York City
Cc: Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches in North America
BELOW IS THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING BETWEEN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA (PCG) DELEGATION AND
REV DR. YAW FRIMPONG-MANSO OF EMMANUEL PRESBYTERIAN REFORMED CHURCH, BRONX
LOCATION: EMMANUEL PRESBYTERIAN REFORMED CHURCH
4371 MARTHA AVENUE, BRONX, NY 10470
DATE: JANUARY 11, 2016
- Rev. Dr. Samuel Ayitey-Nyampong (Clerk of General Assembly, Presbyterian Church of Ghana
- Rev. Dr. Kwame Amoa-Kuma, PCG
- REV. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso, Pastor, Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, Bronx
- In Attendance: Rev. Yaw Nkansah, Moderator,Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches, North America
- Rev. Kwabena Ofosu-Donkoh, Immediate past Moderator, Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches, North America
- Session: Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church, Bronx
- Opening: Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso called the meeting to order with a devotional reading and a prayer. He welcomed the PCG delegation from Ghana, the Executives of the Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches and the Session of EPRC.
PCG Delegation Brief
- Rev. Dr. Ayitey –Nyampong, the Clerk of General Assembly, PCG shared with the meeting that Rev. Prempeh, who originally was part of the delegation was unable to make the trip and had been substituted by Rev. Dr Amoah Kuma.
- The purpose of the meeting was to engage Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso in a discussion about his recent resignation from PCG and to explore opportunities that could help reconcile any differences that might have contributed to this unfortunate situation. He noted that Rev. Frimpong-Manso was an invaluable asset to PCG, having contributed in various capacities to the church both locally and internationally. His absence from the county leaves only one overburdened past Moderator to provide the support system usually reserved for past Moderators.
- The August 15 letter that requested Rev. Frimpong-Manso to terminate his relationship with the Church and return to Ghana by December 2015 was in accordance with the practices of postings and transfers of pastors in PCG. He noted sadly that their expectations were dashed when they received a letter of resignation dated October 18 from Rev. Frimpong-Manso.
- The impact of the news about his resignation was immense as such situation had never been experienced in the history of the church and in the country. The associated media frenzy became uncontrollable despite appearances on national TV to explain the situation and to mitigate the harm and vilification.
- PCG, in order to preserve the goodwill of Rev. Frimpong- Manso and the integrity of the church thought it expedient to invite the Minister to visit Ghana for an exit interview. At the suggestion of Rev. Frimpong-Manso, both parties agreed to rather meet in New York from January 11-13, 2016. Rev. Dr. Kwame Amoah-Kuma reiterated that the purpose of the visit was to engage Rev. Frimpong-Manso in a conversation and submit their report to PCG.
Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso’s Narrative
- Rev. Frimpong-Manso confirmed his resignation from the pastoral ministry of the PCG and said the decision was a difficult one but was arrived at with much prayer and discernment.
- He gave a historical account of his call as follows:
- Rev. Dr.Kwame Amoah-Kuma became the first minister of the EPRC as a New Church Development in 2006 with the assistance of the Presbytery of New York City (PNYC) and Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG). The Church was chartered on May 22, 2011.
- Immediately after chartering, Rev. Amoah Kuma accepted a call to the Presbyterian Church of Ghana effective September 2011.
- A request for a new PCG Minister was made through the Presbytery on July 24, 2011.
- The Committee on Ministry, at its stated meeting on September 6, 2011, voted to appoint Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso as Pastoral Supply for Emmanuel from November 30, 2011 until he would arrive finally with an R1 visa to take up the position of Pastor. This appointment was subject to renewal after the pastoral supply period.
- Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso accepted the call but could not join the Congregation immediately due to an arduous visa application process. In the meanwhile, the PNYC voted to approve his call, terms of call and PNYC membership at its stated meeting on March 31, 2012 for an initial period of two years subject to renewal by the Church.
- Rev. Frimpong-Manso, was installed into the position of Designated Pastor for Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church on May 19 2013 once his visa requirements were met. He would serve in this capacity from from April 1 2013 to March 31, 2015.
- A letter of transfer of his membership from PCG to PNYC was made available to PNYC on May 02, 2014.
- The Congregation on January 25, 2015, voted to extend the call of Rev. Dr Frimpong-Manso for 6 years beginning April 1 2015 through March 31, 2021. The Committee on Ministry of the PNYC approved of the extension of call and terms of call which the Presbytery unanimously confirmed at its stated meeting on May 19, 2015. Rev Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso was introduced to the Presbytery same day.
- After duly informing the PCG of the extension, the Pastor received a letter dated August 15 from PCG requesting him to terminate his relationship with the Church and with an ultimatum, return to Ghana by December 31, 2015, due to PCG’s current relationship with PCUSA.
- He noted with dismay the request from PCG for the following reasons:
- The Emmanuel Presbyterian Reformed Church had not received any formal communication from the PCG regarding the strained relationship with the PC (USA) until he communicated the extension of his call to PCG.
- His membership as Pastor of PCG was transferred to PNYC per letter dated May 02, 2014 citing the partnership between PCG and PCUSA as basis for the transfer. PCG had also cited the common affiliation of the two bodies with the World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches as additional factors for effecting the transfer.
- The Congregation followed the due process of calling ministers i.e. 1) vote by the congregation. 2) review of the Minister by the Committee on Ministry. 3) approval by the Presbytery of New York City to accept him as pastor and member of the PNYC- which took place on May 19, 2015.
- The decision of PCG to sever relationships with partner churches that endorsed gay marriage was taken in august 2011. The Pastor, meanwhile accepted the call in October 2011 and was permitted to join the church (EPRC) in the USA in 2013, a period of almost 2 years after the decision was made and his membership transferred to the Presbytery in May 2014.
- PCG had also removed the name of Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso’s from the Directory of the PCG, an indication that he no longer belonged to PCG.
- The media frenzy, the slander and the denunciation and the vilification that followed the announcement of of his resignation broke his heart as he thought it could have been handled better. He noted that there was some misunderstanding with the call process of the PCUSA and the posting system with PCG that needed to be addressed. A Memorandum of Understanding that he started while in office could have resolved this unfortunate situation.
Post Office Experience
- Rev. Dr. Frimpong-Manso spoke about various incidents that had happened after leaving office that had created a gap in communication between the current Moderator.
- He noted the the Moderator had visited the US on many occasions but had never placed a call to him nor visited him or the church.
- Some PCG pastors have blatantly refused to associate with him and his church because of repercussions that they might face on their return home.
- The Moderator had visited a church that broke away from EPRC to form a PCG church under the pretext that EPRC was a gay church. The leadership of the church and other antagonists who disrupted services seemed to have had the current Moderators endorsement.
- Rev. Dr. Kwame Amoah-Kuma noted that both PCG and the Pastor had been wounded. The core of the matter was to address the issues surrounding the pastor’s extension of time and to discuss possibilities of his recall.
- Rev. Dr. Ayitey-Nyampong noted that a lot was required to be discussed but would require time, patience and prayer. He again noted the Memorandum of Understanding that was started by Rev. Dr Frimpong-Manso needed to be revisited, to which all parties agreed. The contribution of Rev. Frimpong-Manso, he again noted, could not be overlooked as there was so much to benefit from the church. He made his final appeal to Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong-Manso to consider rescinding his decision to resign.
Clerk of Session
Below is the transfer letter from PCG to PC-NYC