When Bishop Kwame Yirenkyi Ampofo logged onto his Facebook on May 9, 2021, he had a dark artwork titled #IAmAgainstDisloyalty, ready to post.
In it, a man stands in a hoodie, in the shadows, with a menacing look associated with death. Atop the artwork is the faces of six former pastors of Lighthouse Chapel International, who have left the church and sued it for abuse and economic exploitation.
Some notable members and bishops of Lighthouse have responded to the pastors’ action through a social media campaign. They use social media to discredit the pastors and solidarise with their leader, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills.
In this campaign, Bishop Kwame Ampofo had his role to play and he was going to do it with the flyer on God’s day, Sunday, May 9.
The picture invited his 2,800 Facebook friends and followers to answer a question “What do these six disloyal characters have in common?” He compared their fate to six rebellious characters found in the Bible.
The first comment was “death”, the next, “hang to death”, then “execution”, “execution”. Within an hour, the Christian leader’s post amassed 240 mainly death-themed comments.
One of the six pastors in the artwork, Larry Odonkor, said he found the comments “chilling.” Another, a former bishop, Emmanuel Oko Mensah, also said he had already been receiving threats from low-level associates of the church since he sued Lighthouse Chapel in April 2021. But when Bishop Kwame Ampofo posted his artwork, he knew it was about to get serious.
Oko Mensah and Bishop Kwame Ampofo had been friends dating back to 2002.
“We both attended Presec, and we both trained as civil engineers,” he told The Fourth Estate.
When they both found themselves in Lighthouse Chapel International after school in the early 2000s, the bond grew even stronger.
“We worked closely on Healing Jesus Crusade,” Oko Mensah explained their role in the evangelistic campaign which meant they worked together long hours planning and praying to win souls for Christ.
Within a short time, the relationship moved to higher levels.
“At Anagkazo Bible school, Kwame Ampofo was my Provost and I was a lecturer,” Oko Mensah said.
When Oko Mensah was getting married, Kwame Ampofo was there to lend support. “My wife dressed up in his house for our wedding in 2005,” he said.
When Oko Mensah had a daughter in 2013, he named her in honour of the bond formed between his family and Kwame Ampofo’s family. “I named her Rosa Mensah after Kwame Ampofo’s wife, Dr. Rosemary Ampofo, who is popularly called Rosa.”
But on May 9, 2021, when Bishop Kwame Ampofo took to social media, this Christian bond and brotherhood counted for little.
Oko Mensah and the five other pastors and bishops whose pictures were used in the artwork, reported the “death threats” to the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service in October 2021.
Three months later, the cybercrime unit of the police service in Accra invited Bishop Kwame Ampofo and the complainants to a meeting at the police headquarters.
“I normally don’t post these things,” Kwame Ampofo
What could have moved Bishop Kwame Ampofo to publish a death-themed Facebook post against a man who had named his daughter after his wife?
The former pastors believe the answer to this question is found in the writings and sermons of the founder of Lighthouse Chapel International, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills.
On page 136 of his book, “Those Who Leave You”, Dag Heward-Mills teaches Lighthouse members that “people who try to leave our churches with our hard-won members must expect certain responses from us.”
The book continues that those who leave the church and take others with them should be treated like “thieves” “killers”, “kidnappers” and “destroyers.”
The book “Those Who Leave You’” is one of nine books that espouses the Lighthouse controversial doctrine on loyalty.
There’s another controversial book in the loyalty series titled, “Loyalty and Disloyalty”. The book has on its cover, a Doberman Pinscher.
It is a kind of dog typically used in military and law enforcement and described by Animal Planet as “natural-born guard dogs…fiercely loyal and known to consistently obey their masters.”
On page 31 of Loyalty and Disloyalty, the book says the 8th stage of disloyalty to the church is “Execution”.
That page has statements such as, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live”, and “The fruit of rebellion throughout the Bible is very clear – execution.”
These books are religiously taught in Lighthouse Chapel’s 4,000 churches. It is religiously studied at the church’s theological school, Anagkazo Bible College. The Church has sold 30million copies of such books written by Dag Heward-Mills.
And so when Kwame Ampofo posed the question on what happens to “rebels” of the church, the former pastors say, the well-taught members did not have to imagine the answers.
They say those comments posted under Kwame Ampofo’s post were religiously charged terminologies in Lighthouse. “They are dog whistles that could alert anyone to cause them harm,” their lawyer, Kofi Bentil told the police.
Bishop Kwame Ampofo said he later pulled down the posts after what he said were worrying comments made under it.
Who is Bishop Ampofo?
Bishop Kwame Ampofo is a very popular official of the church. He responds to the nickname ‘Karpos’, and uses it on his Facebook wall.
He wields more influence beyond pastoring the Nsawam branch of Lighthouse Chapel International in the Eastern Region. He is the chairman of the Ghana Charismatic Bishops’ Conference.
The Conference is an organisation also founded by Dag Heward-Mills several years ago. Its website, ghanacharismaticbishops.org, says it is an assembly of “powerful” clergy, “seasoned” and “matured” men and women of God to “make known the views and opinions of the church to the nation and to the public”. The council is made up of 110 bishops who control 4,000 churches and influence one million Christian members.
The former pastors and bishops say Kwame Ampofo’s words carry as much as his weight.
On Tuesday, January 11, 2022, Bishop Kwame Ampofo was invited by the Cybercrime Unit of the Ghana Police Service for a meeting with the six pastors and bishops.
What began as a cordial meeting soon burst into a near-fight.
Emmanuel Oko Mensah explained that while he was trying to get Kwame Ampofo to appreciate the implications of his post, an unnamed man who accompanied the bishop to the meeting kept interjecting.
“We have no idea how many people were influenced by [your post], Oko Mensah said. But the unnamed man replied, “Should we be responsible for what others have said?”
It ticked off Oko Mensah, whose friends say he is usually calm.
Oko Mensah charged, “My friend, what kind of rubbish is that?” The unnamed man’s reply was instant. “You can’t tell me that stupid thing!” he said.
The quiet corridors of the cybercrime unit burst into cacophony.
Investigators scurried across the hall, bursting into the office to put out pitchy voices of anger and menacing gestures.
The unnamed man in the company of Kwame Ampofo dared the pastors to go to court over the Facebook post, and said they were ready to match them anywhere.
The police officer in charge of the meeting, ACP Dr. Hubert Yankson, walked out the man and promptly instructed that Bishop Kwame Ampofo be charged with offensive conduct over his post that contained death threats.
When tempers calmed, Emmanuel Oko Mensah apologized for his reaction to the interjections. There was no apology from the other side.
The head of the cybercrime unit, ACP Dr. Hubert Yankson, rose up to end the meeting but not before delivering a sermonette. “I am also a child of God,” he said.
“The devil came to kill, destroy and…” he started a popular bible verse but looked pleadingly in the face of the pastors for theological support to finish what he had started.
“….and to destroy,” the pastors helped him. The meeting was dismissed.
On March 11, 2022, the Police Service informed the lawyer for the six former pastors, Kofi Bentil, that the Criminal Investigations Department is going to “process the matter before the law court for a determination to be made.”