Bethel Presbyterian Reformed Church Inc. is a union church affiliated to two denominations- the Presbyterian Church of USA(PCUSA) and the Reformed Church in America(RCA). It draws its foundation from what started in 1991 as “Ghanaian Presbyterian Church” by persons from different denominations– Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics etc. who desired to worship in America with full Ghanaian cultural expression and identity.
Its origin is traced to three women – Adelaide Agyemang (Mrs.), Elizabeth Andoh (Mrs.), and Grace Ocansey (Ms.) who felt the need for a congregation to serve the many Ghanaian Presbyterians who lived in Brooklyn. Hitherto they had been members of one such congregation in Harlem – The Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York. The initial idea to start a Ghanaian congregation it said to have been discussed in the home of the Late Nana Yaw Boakye, then First Secretary at the Ghana Embassy in January 1991. The idea gained momentum when Nana Boakye and his wife Bernice Boakye agreed to allow the use of their home for meetings. A number of important players at this point joined the planning and organization of this new congregation. Among these were Ebenezer Obiri Addo (Rev.), an ordained pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, then a doctoral student at Drew University, Mr. Ofori Mankata (deceased), Mr. Ben Djoleto (deceased) and later Rev. Andrew Aboagye, also an ordained minister of the Presbyterian church of Ghana studying at Drew University. The group that became the nucleus of the church met for a number of times. The main objectives for the formation of their fellowship later to be a congregation was to (a) nurture members and their children in the Christian faith (b) keep alive Presbyterian Church of Ghana worship traditions and (c) Attending to the welfare needs of members and other immigrants.
It is important to understand the broader context that served as the backdrop for the formation of this congregation. Starting in the 1970s, migration from Ghana to the United States increased considerably. This was part of the general increase in Post-1965 African migration to North America. These Ghanaian immigrants, majority of whom were Christians brought to the United States their own brands of Christianity which they sought to practice and also propagate. Particularly in the early 1980’s, Ghanaian Presbyterians living in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area began organizing themselves into a prayer fellowship partly in response to mysterious deaths of Ghanaian immigrants in the New York area. Other non-Presbyterians joined the fellowship. Eventually, this lead to the formation of the first Ghanaian Presbyterian Church in New York (now Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York) in 1985. This congregation nurtured a number of persons who subsequently formed other congregations in New York City and other cities in the United States.
Between February and August 1991, a number of consultations with representatives of the Presbytery of New York City(PCUSA) and Brooklyn Classis(RCA) were held to determine the polity and ecclesiastical affiliation of the congregation. In March 1991 Rev. Daniel Ramm, then pastor of Dutch Reformed Church, Flatbush and the leadership of the church granted the congregation the use of their chapel for monthly worship services. The first public worship service was held on August 18, 1991 led by Rev. E. Obiri – Addo and Mr. Ofori Mankata. Eighty adults were in attendance.
Beginning January 1992, negotiations primarily aimed at creating a union church began. A task force comprising representatives from the Brooklyn classis and the Presbytery of New York city was formed. After a year of its existence, the need for a temporary pastor was proposed by the leadership of the church and approved by the task force. Rev. Helena Opoku- Sarkodie, a pastor of The Methodist Church Ghana who was then studying for a Master’s Degree in theology at Drew Seminary served as a temporary supply pastor in January 1993 for a year. From 1994-1995, Rev. Felix Busby provided pastoral oversight for the growing congregation. In 1995, The Rev Samuel Manukure Atiemo originally ordained by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, was contacted to lead the church. However, due to the refusal of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to transfer his ordination to the PCUSA, he could not officially do so. He assumed full responsibility of the Church in 1998 after completing a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Fuller Theological Seminary and being ordained by the PCUSA.
In the next fifteen years, Rev. Atiemo led the congregation as organizing pastor and also the first installed pastor. During this period, a number of important developments occurred. First, the congregation was chartered as a particular congregation of the Presbyterian Church of USA under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of New York City and the Brooklyn Classis of the Reformed Church of America. Second, in furtherance of its mission to propagate the gospel to and among all peoples and also attract a membership beyond the Ghanaian community, the congregation changed its name to Bethel Presbyterian Reformed Church and was as incorporated in the State of New York in 2006. In March of 2010, the Presbytery of New York City made available to Bethel, the church building of the defunct Fort Hamilton Presbyterian Church. After spending about $250, 000 to renovate the building, Bethel moved from its original place of worship in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn to Bay Ridge. Three years after, Rev. Atiemo transferred to take up an appointment as the Associate for African Emerging Ministries at the PCUSA in Louisville, Kentucky.
In December of 2013, Rev. Dr. Moses O. Biney (the current pastor) was appointed Interim Pastor, and subsequently installed as the Pastor on July 19, 2014.
It is important to acknowledge the contributions of a number of persons who played various roles and assisted in diverse ways to at the inception of the church. These include: Elder Robert Ruffin, Rev. Oliver C. Herbert, Rev. Philip van Buren, Rev. Dr. D. Spencer Gibbs, Rev. Ebenezer Aduku, Rev. John Hinkamp, Rev. Bernard Mayhew, Elder Noel Nichols and Rev. William Paulson, My Yaw Brentuo and Mr. Eric Minta.