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Cardinal Turkson: The Rising African Tide PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 02 August 2009 16:42
ID reader (and C & G alum) Eric Rogers of Anchorage made sure that I saw this Whispers piece on Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

I've heard simply glowing things about Cardinal Turkson from Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries who have collaborated with him on numerous evangelistic initiatives in Africa so the quotes from a 2007 London Times interview delight but don't surprise me.

But how wonderful to have a prelate at the highest levels of the Church who really gets it - and is willing to actually say it on record for attribution! Per the Times:

"It is easy to see his appeal. He has an international outlook, having studied in Rome and New York; he is a biblical scholar and is fluent in eight languages. In Ghana he has good relations with the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, and is regarded as a forward thinker. What is more, at 59, age is on his side.

There are about 3 million Catholics in Ghana. All of its 18 bishops are indigenous, as are 95 per cent of its 1,200 priests. However, there is alarm in the Vatican over the exodus of Catholics in developing countries to Pentecostal and evangelical churches. During a visit to London in October, the Cardinal Turkson suggested that the Catholic Church has much to learn from these churches, not least their emphasis on the Bible and personal conversion.

“I think that our traditional way of making people Catholic needs to be reconsidered. The declaration that Jesus is Lord is meant to be an expression of a person's commitment. It's like somebody being offered knowledge of a person and consciously accepting to enter into a relationship with that person and establish personal ties. This is what holds people in these evangelical churches,” he says.

He added that some priests and bishops were products of “notional Christianity” — they had been brought up in a Catholic home, had a Catholic education, and learnt their theology in seminary, but they had never experienced a personal conversion.

“The danger facing the Catholic Church in Africa is that we just feed people with a few notions. Who is God? What is the Trinity? What is a sacrament? These definitions can be learnt by heart and just repeated to anybody who asks questions.

“At the last meeting I attended of the Council for Christian Unity we discussed the threat of Pentecostals in Latin America. I said that we need to celebrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit more: prophecy, healing, intercessionary prayer and all of that. This is one of the things the Pentecostals do.”

I have been told that Cardinal Turkson goes to great lengths to evangelize his seminarians and priests because he knows that some of them got on board the clerical train without being disciples. Notice that he named the Name. He even used the phrase "Jesus is Lord".

His comments on our western practice is particularly striking in light of the responses of participants in last week's Making Disciples to the question we have asked so many pastors and pastoral leaders over the years.

What percentage of your parishioners would you estimate to be Intentional disciples?

Two bits of background to help understand their responses:

1) Obviously, this kind of estimate must be based upon the people pastoral leaders actually know - the people who actually show up at the parish on a regular basis and are visible enough to engage. That eliminates the 70% of Americans who were raised Catholic and either have dropped the identity altogether or still call themselves Catholic even though they seldom or never attend Mass. So the following estimates are based upon pastoral experience of the active minority (approximately 30% nationally of those raised Catholic).

2) We asked this question after we had been together for 3 days and had spent two days wrestling at great length with recognizing pre-discipleship levels of spiritual development. So people had a pretty clear idea of what was meant by the term "intentional disciple".

The responses? One leader guessed 2%. Two additional participants, presenting two other parishes, said "1%". The parish that took the prize for the most encouraging estimate said "10%".

Which was interesting because the pastor came up to me later and told me privately that he would have answered "5%" and that the 10% was the guess of one of his staff.

Over the years, the average estimate has been consistently "5%". Lets take that figure as a loose, educated guesstimate - which is all we have, of course.

Do the math. 5% out of the 30% of those raised Catholic and who actually attend Mass at least once a month.

An average 1.5% of those Americans raised Catholic are probably intentional disciples. Of course, your local results may vary dramatically. But the basic trajectory is clear.

We could learn alot from the good Cardinal from Ghana.

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