Founder of Perez Chapel International, Bishop Charles Agyinasare, has said the state should not use the wealth-flaunting attitude of “a few” people who do not understand their calling, as justification to institute a tax-paying policy that affects the generality of the church in Ghana.
“…We shouldn’t use the actions of a few [to judge all other men of God] because you know a few are misbehaving, you don’t take that and come up with a policy for every pastor, it doesn’t work like that”, Bishop Agyinasare said in an interview with some journalists on his way to Paris, France for Miracle Crusade.
The debate over the payment of taxes by churches resurfaced recently when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said the call for churches to be taxed is “understandable” because of the wealth-acquiring posture of some of them in recent times.
Speaking at a synod of the Global Evangelical Church at the University of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo said: “It could not be lost on anyone that there are increasing calls for churches to be taxed. It is not difficult to see what is driving these calls.
“For years, the churches were seen as leading the drive for development; they built and ran schools and hospitals, they led the campaign for good sanitation, cleanliness was next to godliness, they preached and practiced”, the president continued, adding: “I am not getting into the merits and demerits of the prosperity gospel that appears to be the main theme for many of our present-day churches. The Good Lord knows I preach prosperity myself, and I do not want this country and its people to be poor, and I am very much for wealth creation.
“But the difficult truth is that, once you get into the wealth and prosperity sphere, you necessarily slip into the tax and accounting language.
“The public looks on as priests compete to show who is the more powerful and who is the richer. The public looks on as some of the churches appear to forget about the poor and the vulnerable in our society, and concentrate on being outrageous.
“It is not surprising that there are calls for taxes to be imposed on church incomes. When you step out of the charity sphere, out of education and out of healthcare, you are putting yourself in the line of the taxman”.
“When you step out of the charity sphere, out of education, health care, you are putting yourself in the line of the tax man”, the president said.
In his interview with journalists about the debate, Bishop Agyinasare said: “All the staff who work in any church have to pay tax because once they earn a salary they must pay taxes, however, you can’t tax the offerings, it’s unheard of and we can’t start in Ghana. When you go to the UK, for instance, they have what they call the Gift Aid where at the end of the year, the government looks at the church’s income and then returns part to the church, of what the church has received from members, because the members have given and they can prove that those people have given”.
“The businesses of the church; those that run commercial transportation, those things can be taxed and other businesses, some have guest houses registered, they pay VAT etc. Those can be taxed.
“When it comes to flaunting of wealth, most of the pastors we have known in this country hardly flaunt their wealth because the wealth they have, God has given them; the blessings of the Lord makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it”.
Touching on the wealth-flaunting pastors, Bishop Agyinasare said: “You start out with God, He blesses you, the blessings overtake you, however, those blessings make you humble because you know that it is not by your might nor by your power, so, you have no business flaunting it. You also use it to help others by paying the school fees of the needy, hospital bills etc.
“There is a new group of people, very few of them who don’t understand their calling, and, so, they are flouting their wealth; well, if they bought those expensive cars themselves, it means that they have made income, and, so, those incomes they should pay taxes on it and then use those things, but as a man of God what edification do you bring to society when you display your wealth?”, he asked.
He continued: “To talk about the kind of car you ride or the kind of house you live in, it doesn’t heal anybody, it doesn’t save anybody, it doesn’t deliver anybody; we must stick to the preaching of the word, however, preaching of the word doesn’t mean the church must be poor. The term, ‘As poor as the church mouse’ didn’t come from the church because in the Bible, the Apostle John said: “Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health as your soul is prospering’. God is interested in our spirit, soul and then in our body. Your body must be well, you must prosper so that you can take your children to school, so, that you must help accomplish the things of God and be a blessing to your generation.
“When God blesses you, in fact, He doesn’t bless you for you, He blesses you for others. He told Abraham: ‘I will bless you and make you a blessing to many others’. In our salvation the Bible says in Galatians 3 that Christ redeemed the Christian from the curse of the law that the blessing of Abraham which included wealth and riches might come on the Gentiles (non-Jews). People who understand the blessing of the Lord do all kinds of generous things: they sponsor people, they give scholarships, they pay hospital bills of people; it’s one of the things I do.
“I give regularly to the Graft Foundation they go to places and they do plastic surgery so that they can put a smile on the faces of people”, Bishop Agyinasare added.
“Yes, we shouldn’t use the actions of a few [to judge all other men of God] because you know a few are misbehaving you don’t take that and come up with a policy for every pastor, it doesn’t work like that”.