May 20, 2023 is a historic day for the advent of Pentecostal awakening in Ghana. It marks 100 years since the appearance of the Holy Ghost Fire on the roof of the Anim's Temple of the Christ Apostolic Church International at Asamankese in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Instances of this new Christian awakening in the West Coast of Africa started in Ghana in 1923 under Apostle Newman Anim, a tongue-speaking Pentecostal, founder of CAC International, credited as the Father of Ghanaian Pentecostalism. In Nigeria in 1931 under Joseph Ayo Babalola this revival also took place – making Babalola the father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria. Some accounts refer to William Wade Harris from Liberia as the father of Pentecostalism. This is because prior to 1923 and 1931, he had a great healing ministry in 1915. Unfortunately, his ministry did not function under any of the Pentecostal movements and Harris himself did not lead a movement to operate his ministry under the glossolalia experience. He cannot therefore be credited as father of Pentecostalism in Africa as Anim in Ghana and Babalola in Nigeria.
Christianity was already in Africa in the North and East of the continent: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church founded in 328 AD and the Coptic Church of Egypt founded in 42 AD bears witness to this. Africa knew Christ before the European Missionaries arrived on the continent. It was only in West Africa and the SADC region that is Southern African countries which did not have the Church and were lately introduced to Christianity by the Europeans. It is acknowledged that Western European and American merchants and missionary societies brought Christianity to West Africa, but in reality, for African Pentecostal Movements with the glossolalia phenomenon thus speaking in tongues with the enablement of the Holy Spirit, no doubts, were indigenous experiences. This movement helped to change the face of Christianity in Africa. It must be on record that, this new spiritual experience did not emanate from the efforts of Western European and American missionaries, but the Holy Spirit Himself worked through indigenous West Africans to prepare the African Church for future world mission and transformation.
Portuguese Christians, although, were the first to explore the West Coast of Africa, such a great move of the Holy Spirit never happened. They, only arrived in then Gold Coast thus present-day Ghana to trade in gold and ivory under the authority of Prince Henry, the navigator in the 1470's. The earliest to come were Pedro d'Escobar and Joao de Santarem. In 1482, a fleet of Portuguese ships also arrived in Ghana at Elmina under commander San Diego d'Azambuja. He met the king of Elmina, Kwamina Ansah on 19th January, 1482 and requested for a piece of land to build a castle. By January 21, 1482, he laid the foundation stone for the construction of the first castle, St. George's Castle in Elmina (Elmina Castle). He and his team were Christians. European merchants, in one way or the other brought their Christian faith and the Bible to the then Gold Coast (Ghana).
Thereafter, in 1500, European missionaries flocked into Ghana and Africa. Chaka Zulu founder of Southern Africa's Zulu Empire, in the 1770's saw this influx as a threat to the continent, but his countrymen could not see it. Eventually, some of these Europeans worked through his own people and murdered him. This is because, activities of European merchants and Missionaries in Ghana and Africa did not have the gospel life as a motive for black people. Rather, it was a grand hidden scheme: destruction of African spirituality and cultural values, introduction of unbiblical Christianity, Europeanization of Africans and colonization of the continent to amass wealth and political superiority over blacks. They left the Holy Spirit aside, whether they knew Him or not, and pursued their agenda for African resources—slaves, gold, diamonds, ivory, etc, is a story for another day. But Truth is, most of them did not even know Christ and the Holy Spirit, yet they came as missionaries. Many just boarded merchant ships for no other spiritual reason than economic gains. Somehow, missionary work was just a bait to fish in African waters. The Berlin Conference in 1844, for instance, divided and left Africa despised, rejected; a continent of economic, political and religious sorrows as Prophet Isaiah referred to Jesus Christ, our Lord as “the man of sorrows.” Today, Africa identifies with Christ, the man of sorrows – (Isaiah 53:3)
Move of the Holy Spirit in Ghana
Truly, Christian spirituality, especially, the Spirit-controlled life, did not come from Europe. It came from Africans' own effort to seek God. Just as, the Holy Spirit used a black man, an African American – William Seymour, to introduce Himself to the oppressed people of America in 1906 to change the country, so the Holy Spirit used another black man, Peter Newman Anim, to introduce Himself to Ghanaian Christianity in 1923 and 1932 respectively. Emphatically, Europeans did not demonstrate any knowledge of the Holy Spirit for African spiritual revival and growth till it happened, indigenously, in 1923.
It can be said that the then Gold Coast received Christianity as a body of Western civilization, instead of a reformative Biblical Christianity. The way they brought it was powerless and non-transformative! Christianity that simply, lacked authority and power in Christ through the Holy Spirit to preach, teach the gospel, heal the sick, cast demons, win souls and transform lives for godly living. Little or nothing was known about the Holy Spirit to the Ghanaian as the Eternal Life Giver and Healer of nations. Ghana and the entire African continent needed God Himself to revive our crushed spirit from the inhuman treatment from fellow human beings.
Pentecostal Awakening & Revival
Monday, 20th May, 2023 will be exactly 100 years since the Holy Spirit literally showed Himself in the Gold Coast (Ghana) at Asamankese in a Biblical way as it happened last in the first century Church in Jerusalem. That was when the founding fathers and mothers of the Christ Apostolic Church International sighted the Holy Spirit's presence on top of their little Church building. This unusual flame of fire, was believed to be the Holy Spirit's divine presence on top of the roof of Anim's temple, one Monday night, when the church was fasting and praying. It was about 8.00pm on that date and occurred at Anum, a suburb of Asamankese, which this Temple stood and still exists.
Theological Scholars of the time, believed that the event, as glaringly seen by many, was a mark of the beginning of the Pentecostal awakening in the Gold Coast (Ghana). The news spread fast and far in the Gold Coast. This was how and when the Gold Coast received a unique testimony of the Holy Spirit presence and visitation at Asamankese. Its kind had been witnessed before in Biblical times in Jerusalem in AD 33, and Los Angeles, California, USA during the Azusa Street revival in 1906 under William Seymour, an African American. God did it again in Ghana with another African, Peter Newman Anim in 1923.
Reformation of Christianity in Ghana
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [ Romans 14:17]
Gold Coast did not experience this fire or get it on a silver platter. Some Christians at Asamankese were fasting and praying for five continuous weeks earnestly seeking the face of God for the Holy Spirit baptism. They had read much about the Holy Spirit from their Bibles in local dialects, but they did not know Him.
In Church history, Christian revivals are usually borne out of intensive prayer and fasting of a determined Christian or group of Christians. The characteristics of this long period of prayer, convinced scholars to attribute it to the reformation of Ghana's Christianity. The event happened under the watchful eyes of ordinary men and women at Asamankese, when they rushed to the scene with buckets of water to put out the fire which supposedly was going to burn down the temple. Little did they know, it was God Himself, who meant no harm to the village, but His gentle divine visit to Africa to console the people of sorrows. It was also the demonstration of God's power of love for Ghana and the rest of Africa. For a while, the flame of fire disappeared. The mission was to transform and empower Ghanaian Christianity and touch the continent.
The Asamankese Experience – Transformative Impact on the Nation
Many scholars believe that, although, Ghana's Pentecostal awakening is young as compared to the contemporary ones in the 18th century like those of Jonathan Edwards (1733), George Whitefield (1735), John Wesley (1739); and the 19th century ones under Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher (1800-1830) and others in other parts of the world, the Asamankese experience in Ghana produced transformative impact on the nation, spreading to many parts of Africa.
About 31.7% out of the 71.6% Christians in Ghana are Pentecostals and Charismatics. Truly, many Pentecostals and Charismatics still follow the move of the Holy Spirit in their daily spiritual lives for directions. It is noted that the awakening usually begins with a change of the human heart.
“And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines” [2 Samuel 5:24]
Literally, King David had to listen to the sound of the movement of the Holy Spirit with his mind and heart to follow God in order to win his battle. So are revivals. So was the sign of Revival in Gold Coast at Asamankese in 1923. Anim, the leader of the Pentecostal movement, like King David, saw the sign and heard the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees. He also like David, advanced quickly and God went ahead of him to strike the “CAMP OF IDOL WORSHIP IN GHANA”. The end result was tearful repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ in many parts of Ghana and Africa from 1923 till now. “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus”. [ Acts 20:21]
Significance of the Holy Spirit Revival
1) Apostle Peter Newman Anim and his group are credited with the origin of classical Pentecostalism in Ghana (Larbi 2001: 33-34)
2) Apostle P.N. Anim's leadership in the Pentecostal Movement helped to make Ghana a not just a Christian but Spiritual nation – without whom the story might have been different?
3) It teaches us that God started with Africans in the 2nd century — St Augustine of Hippo and others, He is continuing with Africans again in the 21st century.
4) New awakenings from the Holy Spirit will always follow the works of Anim Ghana.
5) The “glossolalia experience,” came into Ghanaian Christianity from the Holy Spirit at Asamankese. This phenomenon of speaking in tongues makes Christian prayers personally powerful and extremely exciting. Such prayers gave taste to the Asamankese revival from 1923.
6) In 1932 the Holy Spirit released another wave of baptism, where ordinary members preached under heavy anointing and diverse miracles became the order of the day.
7) The Asamankese revival brought the UK Apostolic Church to the Gold Coast on the ticket. of Apostle P. N. Anim. God's servants such as Pastor Perfect, Pastor Vivian, Pastor Secrombe, Pastor James McKeown, Adams McKeown, etc, all came to know the Gold Coast and helped spread the gospel.
8) Public and power evangelism for soul winning became characteristic of Ghanaian Christianity after the Asamankese revival.
9) People turned from idol worship and shameful rituals like human sacrifice through repentance towards God and faith towards Christ.
10) Discipleship was on the increase in the Churches.
11) Sinful behaviours decreased. Lives became exciting as people lived in holiness.
12) Pentecostal Churches sprung up and spread across the length and breadth of Ghana and Africa.
NB: Revival and transformation of hearts happened from there. Pentecostal churches sprung up and spread across the length and breadth of Ghana.
Who was Apostle Peter Newman Anim, who led this awakening?
Apostle P.N. Anim, a man whose life has become a witness and a testimony in Pentecostal Christianity of the world,considered a key pillar in Christianity in Ghana, was a man of fragile health, poor social and economic backgrounds, with little education of Middle School Leaving Certificate (MSLC), yet a man with a great heart of faith.
He was born on 4th February, 1890 at Boso in the Eastern region of Ghana. His father was the late Mr. Simon Kwabena Appiagyei and his mother, the late Madam Anna Adwoa Lartebea – both from Boso. Anim was educated at the Basel Mission School and became a member of the Basel Mission now Presbyterian Church of Ghana. He was the church's pianist at Boso, his home town in 1915 and married his wife, Miss Dora Sakyibea in 1916 at the age of 27. He received divine healing in 1921 after forming a Prayer group in 1917 to pray for divine healing for his chronic stomach ulcer. His prayer group became the Christ Apostolic Church International, as we have in Ghana and other parts of the world today.
Anim grew with the Bible and became closer to Jesus Christ. He was like any of the powerful Berber Christian theologians of the second and third centuries from North African counties like Carthage, Algeria, Libya, etc. These countries knew Christ and understood Christianity far ahead of most European nations. Theologians like Tertullian, the founder of Latin Christianity and the founder of Western theology, the first to use the term Trinity was a Black Latin theological scholar. Anim was also like Minucious Felix, a Latin apologist also of a Berber descent, like Lactantius Optatus of Milevi, Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage and a Christian writer. Anim could also be likened to the brilliant African theologian, St Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo who preached between 6,000 to 10,000 sermons, and whose numerous theological writings helped to shape Western Christianity and civilization. Anim was a distinct man of God.
Like the North African theologians, Apostle Peter Newman Anim was a West African theologian who founded the Christ Apostolic Church International and was among those who spearheaded the Pentecostal Movement in West Africa— Pastor David Odubanjo and Prophet Joseph Ayo Babalola of Nigeria; and Williams Wade Harris of Liberia, and some early preachers in the West Coast of Africa from 1915.What made Apostle Anim stand out was that,he was a tongue -speaking Pentecostal man with strong faith in the demonstrative power of God and was credited to him as the Father of Ghanaian Pentecostalism.
In as much as Ghana is, forever, grateful to the European missionaries for bringing to West Africa the printed Bible and denominations of the Church ——Catholic Orthodox and Protestant Churches in the 1500's, Ghana's Pentecostal movement, on the other hand, was Ghanaian in nature and style, started by the Holy Spirit Himself in 1923. This famous Pentecostal re-awakening in the West Coast of Africa with the glossolalia experience (speaking in tongues) was led by a native called Apostle Peter Newman Anim and embraced by the Ghanaian people as a new dimension of the Christian faith. God does not depend on human skin colour to move His kingdom. Any vessel that sanctifies itself is useful – just as Apostle Anim.
As Jesus did not use the Greeks and Romans with dominant cultures to start Pentecostalism in the New Testament, but simple unschooled Jews, so Jesus used simple natives like Apostle Anim, Apostle Owiredu, Madam Nyarkoaa, Dansoaa, and others to bring His message of life to Ghana.
To God, Africa is a holy land. To enlighten Africans who wrongly think Africa is a dark continent, it is not so spiritually. It can confidently be said, also, that Ghana's Pentecostal awakening was indigenous and well embraced by its people.
Formation and Beginnings of CAC International
The formation of CAC International started gradually as a process. From one stage to another, the Church was formed and the outcomes were amazing:
1) Unity Prayer Group/ Faith Tabernacle Church—— 1917–1926
2) First Century Gospel Church—- 1926-1929
3) Apostolic Faith —— 1930
4) The Apostolic Church—-1935
5) The Christ Apostolic Church —-1939
6) Christ Apostolic Church of Ghana——- 1960
7) The Christ Apostolic Church International —— 1994.
The church enjoyed considerable growth because of this experience of Spirit baptism. Thus, the phenomenon in the church attracted some Christian leaders in the other churches. This period was known as the Holy Ghost Dispensation among Anim's group. Anim indicated that the revival of 1932 spread to Ashanti, Togoland, Anlo (Awuna), Fanti, some towns in the Eastern Region, and many other parts of the country.
Through the holy Spirit re-awakening through God's servant Apostle Peter Newman Anim in Ghana, emerged Pentecostal and Charismatic sects in Ghana noted for their tongue speaking nature. Today, members of the Pentecostals and Charismatic Churches in Ghana are bonded spiritually as brothers, sisters and grand children of the father of Pentecostalism – Apostle Peter Newman Anim.We must therefore work together to win Ghana and Africa for Christ.
By Apostle Dr Joseph Sakyi
The writer is a member of the Christ Apostolic Church International, headquartered in Accra Box GP 1315. He has served the Church in various capacities, including being: a local pastor, foreign missionary, Area head pastor, Territorial Apostle and a National Executive Council Member in-charge of the Department of Christian Education. In his paper, Apostle identifies the starting place for the ambitious objective of Pentecostal movement in the Gold Coast. He has researched deeply into the rich history of the Church and narrates the true story of how the people of Asamankese became witnesses of the literal fire of the Holy Spirit on top of a church building believed to be the mark of the Pentecostal awakening from the Gold Coast days in 1923.