The National Cathedral: A potential uncompleted project?


By Emmanuel ACQUAH-SAM (Ph.D.)

I write this article about a national cathedral for the God of Heaven and Earth with deep solemnity and humility.

Since President Nana Akufo-Addo Danquah announced his intention to build it, the cathedral has been the subject of sacrilegious discussions domestically and internationally.

For many, the point of contention has been where it all started – whether his promise to God should be considered a national priority, and how his standing before God has been to make such a promise.

Furthermore, many people do not see its significance for the spiritual and economic advancement of the country, especially as many churches have cathedrals and the country is emerging from a near-debt trap.

In addition, some wonder who should pay for it and worry that after the president leaves office in 2024, it will just end up like all the other unfinished projects in Ghana.

In light of these, the underpinning reasons for this article are to help address many of the misconceptions bedevilling the project and reiterate the need for its completion, having transcended personal promise (desire) to a “national call” (must-do national project).

Moreover, it will provide some suggestions regarding the appropriate solutions for its completion, and hammer home the fact that no economic resource should be wasted.

A personal promise or a national responsibility?

I premise my discussions on the promise of King David of Israel of old to build a temple to the God of Israel for making him king, giving him many victories, saving him from his enemies and making Israel a great nation under his reign.

Therefore, the temple would provide a permanent abode for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, serve as a footstool for God, preserve true worship in Israel and ensure the development of the spiritual state of his nation to form the bedrock of their national existence.

Unfortunately, the Almighty God told the man after His heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Psalm 89) that he had soiled his hands with blood, so his son Solomon should build it for Him.

In that regard, he started building it in the second month of the fourth year and finished it in the eighth month of the eleventh year of his reign.

After King David informed his elders about the promise and the word of God, it became a national assignment (1 Chronicle 28).

President Nana Akuffo-Addo Danquah’s national cathedral is akin to King David’s so the very day he announced the project, it assumed national status. He saw a vacuum in the spirituality of the nation, which he felt could be realised under his leadership, though in appreciation of God’s help to him.

Moreover, the enormity and ownership of the project require national attention. Additionally, he could have announced it as one of his numerous presidential initiatives with the necessary legal backing. In sum, it has passed from a personal promise to “a national call” – a must-do project of the nation.

The question about his spirituality does not belong to anyone to ask because no one qualifies to judge a servant of our maker in heaven because before Him all stand or fall and He can make anyone stand (Romans 8:1-4; 31–33; and Romans 8:14:4).

It is God who makes one find favour in His eyes; otherwise, Noah, Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, etc., per human standards, would have been disqualified.

The need for its completion

As it stands now, the project poses potential benefits and costs to society, which must drive the expedition of the actions meant to address its challenges.

A national cathedral is a symbol of a nation’s faith in the Holy Lord God of all flesh, a place for national gatherings devoid of denominational or interfaith differences. Quite intriguingly, the president’s objective of building the cathedral, according to Manglos-Weber (2023), is that “The cathedral provides a historic opportunity to put God at the centre of our nation’s affairs and serves as a symbol of our eternal and continuing gratitude to Him for the blessings He continues to shower and bestow on our nation”.

The echoes of these words must be each one’s daily reflection on the fact that by strength shall no man prevail (1 Samuel 2:9; John 15:5), and there is no leader without God’s approval (Romans 13:1–8), a testament of unison and national spiritual identity that gives the can-do spirit to put the nation’s spiritual and physical development efforts on track as a semblance of the group that was determined to build the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:6).  Probably, the phrase “mankind’s such for God” will be embellishment.

Also, the cathedral will be a part of our national pride for present and future generations, bringing beauty to the nation due to its special architectural designs.

According to Adjaye Associates (n.d.), the cathedral’s drawing is based on Christian symbolism and traditional Ghanaian heritage, such as the nation’s seat of power, the Stool, and the shade of celestial authority.

It will house a series of impressive chapels, a baptistery, a 5000-seat two-level auditorium, a grand central hall, a music school, choir rehearsals, an art gallery, a shop, and multi-use spaces. It will also be home to Africa’s first Bible Museum and Documentation Center, dedicated to Christianity and nation-building in Ghana.

Moreover, the cathedral, when completed, will generate revenue and foreign exchange from Ghanaians, tourists and international bodies that may want to use it for spiritual and non-spiritual activities.

The cathedral will create jobs for different groups of workers, including architects, contractors, pastors, singers, food vendors, etc., who will also spend their earned income on goods and services to improve their living standards and increase economic growth. Above all, it will generate positive net social benefits.

The cathedral can be used for national celebrations like Independence Day, Thanksgiving, presidential swearing-ins, etc., and save the citizens’ souls in times of national crises when they gather there to praise and seek the face and the help of the creator of the heavens and the earth. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read how King Jehoshaphat sought refuge in the temple court when the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites waged war on him. The rest is history.

The cathedral will be a means to remember Nana Addo, the leader who saw that heaven is the final arbiter in all situations and petitioned the maker of heaven and earth to bring his destiny to pass. Posterity can dwell on it to put their trust in God, with its numerous benefits.

An uncompleted national cathedral will have negative externalities like producing dust, attracting rodents and mosquitoes, causing flooding, housing squatters and endangering lives.

Additionally, the nation will lose its many positive spiritual, social and economic benefits. It will also raise questions about the competence of the president, his administration and the board of trustees.

How should it be financed?

It would be a fiction of imagination for anyone to think that the president alone can complete this huge and expensive national monument with his resources; otherwise, we will probably be expecting him to be corrupt, which should not come to mind at all. The project needs multi-faceted funding sources – local and foreign.

Solomon executed his father’s promise to God with the wealth of his father and his, as well as foreign aid, leading Israel into huge debt with its ramifications. He obtained aid from Hiran of Tyre, who loaned him logs, craftsmen, gold, silver and other resources for which he supplied Hiram with wheat, oil, and wine, and used twenty (20) cities in northwest Galilee near Tyre as collateral after the completion of the temple and his palace.

However, over time, Solomon’s gold reserves and other riches increased, so he settled his debt to Hiram, reclaimed the cities and rebuilt them for the Israelites to occupy them (2 Chronicles 2:3–10; 1 King 5:1–6; 1 Kings 9:10–13; 2 Chronicles 8:1–2; NIV Study Bible, 1995). Nothing good in this life comes cheap, and success results from commitment and sacrifice. God will always sanctify his name.

Despite the economic hardships in Ghana, national annual budget estimates must make room for the project’s completion. Whether it is built or not, the poor and economic problems of the country will never be zero (Matthew 26:11).

The president should find the appropriate legal backing to use state resources and borrow funds to finance it, just as he has done for other government projects. Ex-president John Agyekum-Kuffour built the Jubilee House for government business with a soft-interest loan from the Indian government (I stand to be corrected, though.). Many Ghanaians now feel proud of it whenever they visit or drive past it.

The president and the Board of Trustees must, as a matter of urgency and necessity, deliberately appeal to all stakeholders, especially Christian churches, wealthy Ghanaians, foreign governments, non-governmental organisations, philanthropists and others, to assist the government in raising funds, materials and technical support to complete it.

In collaboration with the Christian Council, all churches must organise special offering services every quarter of the year, pay a percentage of their total tithe collections and make personal pledges toward the project.

There must be more education on any platform for personal contributions toward its completion. It may probably not be a misnomer for other religious bodies to contribute toward it.

The ‘Solomon’ of our day after 2024

As a matter of urgency, the president must conscientiously inform Ghanaians about the need for the continuity of the project after his term of office and engage the NPP and Dr. Mahamud Bawumia to take up the mantle if they win the 2024 General Elections.

Since no one knows how the elections will pan out on December 7, 2024, he must impress upon the flagbearers of other political parties the need to complete it if any of them is made president in 2025.

The Christian Council of Ghana and the Board of Trustees must coordinate their activities through prayer and engagement and seek technical, financial and material support to help the calling come to fruition.

Conclusion and recommendations

In a prayer to God for assistance, Nana Addo declared that he would construct a national cathedral to honour the name of God Almighty after Ghana’s president had lost two straight elections. Matthew 5:33 and Hebrews 7:20–21 forewarn that disobedience could have disastrous effects on him and the country. In fact, despite the lengthy construction process, the president has acknowledged that there is never a good moment to build a national cathedral.

Literature indicates that the national cathedral in Washington, DC, was completed in 83 years, St. Peter’s Basilica took 150 years to complete, and Notre Dame Cathedral took 182 years (Distinguished, n.d.).

However, it is important to critically evaluate the completion period for Ghana’s cathedral to prevent the project from becoming permanently unfinished due to the controversies surrounding it.

Since governments are transient, no current administration can ever finish all the projects and initiatives it starts. The president has only one year to end his tenure, sending shivers down the spines of servants and children of God who have the project at heart, the pessimists and the optimists about the project’s future from 2025 forward.

The government must resolve the ongoing discrepancies about its construction faster. The nation can now replace the current board of trustees with new ones, but the state must audit their activities so far.

Due to its high cost and eventual public ownership, its construction has transcended individual promise to “national call” commitment. If at all feasible, the government ought to obtain a loan and negotiate with other presidents to see it through to completion.

The cathedral bears similarities to several previous projects the president has constructed, many of which, although initially deemed not of national importance, have turned out otherwise. Hearing from a presidential candidate that he plans to finish it once elected must be exciting.

It is one of the most creative methods to pay tribute to their forebears, guarantee the effective use and distribution of national resources, and foster national cohesion. Rather than making fun of the project, one needs to help complete it because it is ongoing.

David and Solomon would have been naive to believe that every Israelite of their day supported the pledge they made to build God a temple, but they persisted; and in the end, it was finished. I humbly pray that the Almighty God, in whose name the national cathedral is being built, will provide the country and the project managers with the spiritual guidance and material means necessary to finish the work and spare the country from the unfavourable consequences if it is not completed.

The writer is a senior lecturer and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Wisconsin International University College, Ghana

Email address: [email protected]

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