Visiting the Akrofi-Christaller Institute (ACI)

Yesterday, we left the bustle of Accra to travel north to a mountain town called Akropong. In the quiet of town life, students at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute (ACI) complete their Master’s and PhD level studies in theology.

ACI is the first private theological institution to receive a charter to focus on African Christianity. Western colonizers brought Christianity to the continent as early as the 15th century and encountered African traditional religions. Western Christianity spread, and for some, at the expense of their traditional cultural identities. ACI explores the intersection of professing Christian faith while maintaining connections to traditional culture, which is usually thought to be mutually exclusive.

One of the lecturers stated, “We knew God’s name before the settlers came. God was already here.” He went on to say, “Christianity isn’t popular here because it is seen as more “civilized” but because it answers spiritual questions that all humans have. We use our culture and identity to interpret the Bible and make it relevant to our contexts.”

During our visit to Akropong, we had the opportunity to see the historical first Presbyterian church in Ghana, founded in 1835. This landmark serves as a testament to the long-standing presence of Christianity in the country. We also explored parts of a local chief’s palace and ceremony space, both of which hold sacred significance for those seeking communion with the divine.

The integration of traditional culture and Christianity among Ghanaian Christians is a complex and sensitive issue, often leading to internal and external conflicts. ACI, however, takes a different approach. It strives to bring cultural identity alongside Christianity, enriching both aspects and fostering a harmonious coexistence.

–Kathleen Murphy
April 29, 2024