Bishop TJ Johnston Moves to C4SO

7/26/15 UPDATE: Someone informed me that Bishop Johnston never actually returned to AMiA in 2011/12, but that he and John Miller stayed in ACNA. This means Bishop Johnston is only transferring between jurisdictions within ACNA. The strange thing about this is that AMiA had him listed as a leader as recently as December, 2014:

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AMiA will have to explain how it is possible that someone active in ACNA was also part of their Conference of Missionary Bishops.

The Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) announced that Thomas William (TJ) Johnston, Jr. has transferred to C4SO. In December 2014,  the AMiA listed Johnston as part of the “Conference of Missionary Bishops” in an inactive status.

Bishop Todd Hunter served with Johnston in AMiA and they both participated in the mass resignation from Rwanda that triggered the collapse of AMiA in late 2011. Bishop Hunter later apologized publicly for his actions and was quickly received into ACNA.

Bishop Johnston is a friend of Archbishop Foley Beach. Johnston once said:

But I dropped that into a context of a friend, of a dear friend that I trust completely since seminary, Foley Beach. We’ve been partnering in ministry no matter what label we’ve had, when he was in Tech when I was in the Mission, when he was with Bolivia when I was in the Mission. Now that he’s a bishop, and I was his co-consecrator with Bob Duncan and Frank Lyons.

So this is a natural relationship. This is not something like I just jumped to ACNA ’cause it’s ACNA. Foley Beach is a guy that I’ve been with.

Johnston had one of the first relationships with Rwanda in the 1990s, which as we know turned into AMiA. He said of that time:

 …started with Rwanda in ’98, before there was any other relationship to be had. That is the only way that I was Anglican. Ed Salmon, the bishop of South Carolina, voluntarily took my license and sent it to Rwanda. I was the first that ever had that done. And the national church passed a canon immediately blocking that kind of action from taking place again.

After Bishop Terrell Glenn resigned from AMiA during the conflict of 2011, Bishop Johnston and David Young worked out an arrangement for Glenn and Chuck Murphy attempt reconciliation.

In the wake of the AMiA collapse, Bishop Johnston and Bishop John Miller of AMiA met with Bishop Charlie Masters and Bishop Leonard Riches of REC/ACNA to attempt to reunite AMiA with ACNA. Johnston and Miller were also received into ACNA as “temporary honorary assistant bishops” working with Bishops Neil Lebhar and Foley Beach, while at the same time remaining within AMiA. These talks were not successful and in an email to Bishop Masters on 27 August 2012, Johnston wrote:

Personally, I have appreciated the integrity, leadership, and faithfulness that both you and Leonard brought to our conversations. I am disappointed with the outcome. I had hoped for so much more, but I trust that the Lord of the Church will continue the conversation. Practically, this means that I will be working with Bishop Beach to he transferred from my present position as an assisting bishop in the Anglican Diocese of the South so that I might continue my ministry with the Anglican Mission    

I assumed from this that Johnston and Miller actually did transfer back to AMiA, but this was not the case. Johnston changed his mind and remained in ACNA, as did Miller. Another update for my book!

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The Silence of Rwandan Religious Leaders

David Himbara served under Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the president. He since fled the country to preserve his life, as so many others have.

Himbara wrote a post this week, asking the same questions I have frequently asked. He says:

Rwanda is very religious nation in which 56.9% of population are said to be Roman Catholic; 26% is Protestant; 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist; 4.6% is Muslim; 1.7% with no religious affiliation; and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs. These numbers show why the church is a force to reckon with in Rwanda.

So where is Rwanda’s Bishop Tutu? Where are religious activists condemning dictatorship in our homeland? Even outside Rwanda, our church-going brothers and sisters are largely silent.

Rwandan churches have a long history of playing wrong politics. The Catholic Church in particular has almost always played ethnic politics. The church favored the Tutsi during the colonial period, then switching allegiance to the Hutu after 1959. Church leaders were to develop even closer ties with political leaders, especially in the Juvenal Habyarimana dictatorship.

In the Kagame regime from 1994 onwards, the church seems to have become intimidated into silence like the rest of Rwandan society. Like other Rwandans, church leadership is resigned to a fear-driven life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear of what harm the current dictatorship can do.

I would broaden what he says to PEARUSA, a branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church that operates in the United States and never says a word about the totalitarian government of Rwanda. How can PEARUSA remain silent?

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Anglican Connection Conference

It is good to see this outlet for classical Anglicanism:

The Anglican Connection, an American Gospel Partnership:

  • affirms the Jerusalem Declaration of GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) of June 2008.
  • is Bible-centered – affirming the unique authority of the Scriptures, as God’s Word written;
  • is Gospel-centered – the services of ordination and the Catechism (teaching) commit ministers in the Anglican Connection to ministries that are gospel-centered and pastoral;
  • affirms The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church as setting out the essential doctrine of the church;
  • is liturgical – affirming the theological and liturgical principles of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (grounded in Thomas Cranmer’s second Prayer Book of 1552);
  • is Protestant – affirming that whatever cannot be found in Scripture is not required of anyone as an article of faith, and that while creed and custom are helpful, God’s Word is the final Word in matters of faith, doctrine and morals;
  • is Reformed – affirming the great biblical insights of Luther, Calvin and Cranmer; and We are keen to bring into the life and ministry of churches today the truth of the Scriptures framed by the riches of our reformational heritage. Rather than returning to the past we want the best of the past to speak into our life and gospel ministry today.
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Human Rights in Rwanda, 2014

In a letter to the Emperor, St. Ambrose says to Roman Emperor Theodosius:

Should I keep silence? But then my conscience would be bound, my utterance taken away, which would be the most wretched condition of all. And where would be that text? If the priest speak not to him that erreth, he who errs shall die in his sin, and the priest shall be liable to the penalty because he warned not the erring.

The United States Department of State recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, Rwanda’s report is available here. I am interspersing highlights from the report with quotes from Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent”, which was foundational for the Anglican Mission in America (and what is now PEARUSA). The quotes from the book are from Bishop John Rucyahana, who is now a mouthpiece and tool for Rwanda’s dictator. The irony is thick.

The most important human rights problems in the country were disappearances, government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; disregard for the rule of law among security forces and the judiciary; and restrictions on civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties and nontransparent vote-counting practices, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

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Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings, torture, harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. Security for refugees and asylum seekers continued to improve but was at times inadequate. The government restricted and harassed local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights. There was a small and declining incidence of trafficking in persons. The government restricted labor rights and child labor continued to be a problem.

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On June 5, President Kagame defended the government’s policy and practices with regard to individuals suspected of posing a threat to state security. During a speech in Nyabihu District, Kagame stated, “those who talk about disappearances…we will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilize our country.”

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On September 25, the commissioner of the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Criminal Investigations Division announced the arrest of two RNP officers in connection with the July 2013 murder of Transparency International Rwanda Office Coordinator Gustave Makonene. Makonene was strangled and his body dumped on the shores of Lake Kivu near the town of Rubavu; the government and domestic observers noted that Makonene was investigating cases of local police corruption and the trafficking of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the time of his death.

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From July to October, a number of corpses appeared in Lake Rweru, which is bisected by the border between Rwanda and Burundi. Fishermen reported seeing dozens of floating bodies, some bound and wrapped in sacks. The fishermen alleged that the bodies were carried into the lake by the Nyabarongo River and that the majority of the bodies were then carried away from the lake by the Kagera River. Four bodies were recovered and buried near Kwidagaza village in Burundi’s Muyinga Province. Fishermen living near Kwidagaza reported that on the nights of September 21 and 22, Rwandan marines attempted to exhume the bodies, allegedly to return them to Rwanda. Both Rwanda and Burundi called for a joint investigation into the identity and origin of the bodies. On December 16, Burundi’s minister of foreign affairs accepted an offer of forensic assistance from a group of countries through an international NGO for an investigation led by the African Union. Rwandan officials stated that the government also supported a joint investigation, but no investigation was conducted by year’s end.

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There were more reports of disappearances and politically motivated abductions or kidnappings than in previous years. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) and domestic observers alleged the SSF–including the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF), the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), and the RNP–were involved in reported disappearances. The government stated the police opened missing persons investigations for all individuals reported to be missing by families or human rights organizations, but no perpetrators were identified or punished.

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From March to September, domestic observers alleged that several hundred persons disappeared in Musanze and Rubavu districts in connection with an extensive security operation conducted by the RDF and RNP. The SSF reportedly detained individuals incommunicado without access to legal representation for up to two months. The SSF released numerous individuals without charge; however, the government charged 77 individuals with crimes against state security, including for collaborating with the FDLR. Of those 77 individuals, judges ordered the release of 33, while upholding charges against 44 in pretrial hearing. At year’s end 44 cases awaited full trial, while the whereabouts of at least 150 individuals reported missing during the March to September security operation remained unknown. The government noted the majority of persons reported to be missing by human rights organizations had not been reported to the police by family or community members.

Applauding a Madman
Applauding a Madman

On June 27, the organizing secretary for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), Jean Damascene Munyeshyaka, disappeared after meeting with an unknown individual in Nyamata town, Bugesera District. Police investigated the disappearance but reported no credible leads.

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There were reports that torture continued in the Kami military intelligence camp, Mukamira camp, Ministry of Defense headquarters, and undeclared detention facilities as first reported by Amnesty International (AI). In 2012 AI documented 18 allegations of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment perpetrated by military intelligence and other SSF personnel in 2010 and 2011 to secure information or force confessions. Former detainees alleged they endured sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, starvation, extraction of fingernails, electric shocks, scalding, melting of plastic bags over the head, suffocation, burning or branding, beating, and simulated drowning through confinement in cisterns filled with rainwater. Local and international human rights organizations reported the RDF took positive steps in 2012 to reform military interrogation methods and detention standards, resulting in fewer reports of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment at Kami and other military detention facilities. They cautioned, however, that the increased use of undeclared detention facilities by NISS, the RDF J-2, and RNP Intelligence made monitoring more difficult.

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Although there is no requirement for individuals to carry identification, police and the LDF regularly detained street children, vendors, and beggars without identification and sometimes charged them with illegal street vending or vagrancy. Authorities released adults who could produce identification and transported street children to their home districts, to shelters, or for processing into vocational and educational programs.

Bishop Mbanda and Paul Kagame.
Bishop Mbanda and Paul Kagame.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, there were numerous reports the government monitored homes, movements, telephone calls, e-mail, other private communications, and personal and institutional data. There were reports of government informants working within international NGOs, local civil society organizations (CSOs), religious organizations, and other social institutions.

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RPF cadres regularly visited citizens’ homes to demand contributions to the political party and the government’s Agaciro Development Fund, and there were some reports of persons being denied public services if they had not contributed. Despite orders from cabinet ministers not to do so, there were reports that local leaders, employers, and others coerced persons into donating one month’s salary to the Agaciro Development Fund.

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My summary:

Times have changed. Anglicans are silent in the face of evil again, despite all the hoopla about “never silent” 15 years ago.

 

 

 

 

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R.I.P. Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone, the co-author of the famous book “Hagarism” about the origins of Islam, passed away. I wrote Professor Crone in 2010 because I read that she had more or less refuted the premise of Hagarism.  She responded, “As regards the central thesis in part I, yes.”

I asked her what were the best modern works that advance her line of thinking from Hagarism and also if there are works that interact with Hagarism in an attempt to refute it? She replied:

I don’t think there is any of either type. The closest you get is Hawting’s book on Idolatry and the Quran.1

I pass this along in her memory.

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  1. Link

Bishop Mbanda Shares the Stage with Kagame

Rwandan Anglican Bishop Laurent Mbanda shares the stage with (and applauds) Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, pictured below, for Kwibohora 21. This was July 4, 2015.19405386702_53e8bda8b9_k19411624015_bdf924e2a5_k

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