Struggling Ghana church seeks support

Buduburam United Methodist Church in Ghana is in danger of closing if leaders who helped establish the church fail to act quickly, said the Rev. James Y. Kaifunbah, pastor in charge.

“Though we are called United Methodist Church, we are operating alone in what we think of as a global connection,” he said. “The extinction of this church would mean the end of United Methodism in Ghana.”

United Methodists who fled Liberia during the civil war in the 1990s established Buduburam United Methodist Church in 1994 at what was formerly the Liberian Refugees Camp.

Considered part of the Monrovia District in Liberia, the church reported to the Liberia Conference. Although still part of the conference, the church receives no administrative or financial assistance, Kaifunbah said.

Buduburam United Methodist Church is the only United Methodist church in Ghana, he said. In its early days, the church was holding two services on Sundays with a preaching site called Krisan Refugees United Methodist Church in the western region of Ghana. Today, the church barely manages to bring 50 people together during a regular worship service.

“The highest number of attendants we can get on a program Sunday, such Father’s or Mother’s Day, is 50 persons,” Kaifunbah said.

The Rev. George D. Wilson, director of council on connectional ministries and the strategic commission for The United Methodist Church in Liberia, said the Liberia Conference has not supported the church over the years or done ministry with Buduburam United Methodist Church.

Members of Buduburam United Methodist Church in Buduburam, Ghana, leave after worship on Nov. 3. The church’s pastor, the Rev. James Y. Kaifunbah, is asking for support from the Liberia Conference and global United Methodist Church to help save the small parish. Photo by E Julu Swen, UM News.

The Rev. James Y. Kaifunbah (center with microphone) prays for the members of Buduburam United Methodist Church in Ghana during Sunday worship on Nov. 3. The church, established by United Methodists who fled Liberia during the civil war of the 1990s, is in danger of closing, according to Kaifunbah. Photo by E Julu Swen, UM News.

“The church is a potential steppingstone for the establishment of The United Methodist Church in Ghana,” Wilson said.

Kaifunbah said the church also lost its school more than 10 years ago. The school was established in 2004 as a source of expanding the mission of The United Methodist Church in Ghana. The church was unable to maintain the school after many Liberians returned home and leaders could not secure Ghanaian partnerships in running the school.   

Kaifunbah told United Methodist News that he and his members are left alone to sustain the church.

“Since Bishop John G. Innis negotiated the deal for the Methodist Church of Ghana to take over this church in 2007, we have been left in the cold,” he said.

Despite those negotiations, authorities of the Methodist Church in Ghana have said Buduburam United Methodist Church cannot fit into their system. “They said we don’t have legal status for us to be absorbed into their church system,” Kaifunbah said.

He said it is his hope that denomination can come together to turn Buduburam United Methodist Church into a mission station, which could be used for the expansion of the church in the West African country.

The church’s mission station in Guinea is an example of what could be done in Ghana, Kaifunbah said.

“(The church) could use a similar setup that was used to turned Diecke United Methodist Church in Guinea into the Guinea Ministry, which was started in 1997 and now has 15 churches, one referral hospital and one high school,” he said.

Without assistance in the next five years, he said, Buduburam United Methodist Church would die just like the other churches established by Liberian refugees at the camp.

The African Methodist Episcopal church is one church that no longer exists because either its members went back to Liberia or it was simply not getting support from its denomination, Kaifunbah said.

The Rev. Marilyn V. Clinton, who previously served as pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal church and now is associate pastor at Buduburam, confirmed the threat facing the church.

“I came to this church because originally I was a United Methodist before going to the AME,” Clinton said. She indicated that most of the churches that are surviving from the Buduburam camp have either merged with their Ghanaian half or have been taken over by Ghanaians.

“We will not survive as a United Methodist church if the Methodist Church of Ghana refuses to incorporate us into their structure,” she said.

United Methodist News contacted two former superintending ministers of the Kasoa Circuit, Winneba Diocese of the Methodist Church. The Very Rev. Isaac Tawiah Fynn and the Very Rev. Percy Omanano, both confirmed that the Buduburam United Methodist Church presents a challenge for the integration process into the Ghana Methodist Church.

Fynn indicated that the leadership of the church needs to be persistent in its engagement process, stressing, “All is not lost, we just need to keep talking.”

Wilson pointed out that what has been done in Guinea could be done in Ghana. He said the Liberian church has the human resources in the country now to get the process going.

“We need to dialogue with the global United Methodist Church for the establishment of a mission station in Ghana,” Wilson said.