What could go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong when you offshore hardware, software, aerospace and defense department manufacturing to China? Just about everything, it turns out. You should really read this article.

The problem under discussion wasn’t just technological. It spoke to decisions made decades ago to send advanced production work to Southeast Asia. In the intervening years, low-cost Chinese manufacturing had come to underpin the business models of many of America’s largest technology companies. Early on, Apple, for instance, made many of its most sophisticated electronics domestically. Then in 1992, it closed a state-of-the-art plant for motherboard and computer assembly in Fremont, Calif., and sent much of that work overseas.

Centrality of scripture in Islamic life

Seyyed Hossein Nasr notes that the Quran is the first and last thing that Muslims hear:

The two testimonies (shahadatan), one bearing witness to the Oneness of God and the other to the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam, both verses from the Quran, are the first words uttered into the ears of a newborn child and in most cases the last words uttered by a Muslim in the last moments of consciousness before death. 

Catholic corruption

The latest ongoing news out of the Roman Catholic Church about systemic sexual abuse have shattered any remaining good-will I had for that institution. On the theological front nothing has changed from the days of the Reformation and the critiques of the Reformers with regard to idolatry, superstition and justification. Sexual immorality amongst the clergy is not a new phenomenon, as Richard Sipe pointed out:

The first recorded church legislation about sex and sexual violations took place in 309 CE at a council of the Spanish churches in Elvira. (Laeuchli, 1972) It produced 81 canons; 38 had to do with sexual behavior. Priests and clerics, even if they were married, had to abstain from sex with their wives. A list of sexual sins of bishops, priests and clerics were enumerated—including sex with minor boys—and severe penalties were imposed.

Beginning with this document and continuing through every century up to our time, there is a continuous and uninterrupted pattern of legislation aimed at containing the scandal of sexual activity of priests—including sex with minors. (Doyle, et al. 2005)

Some of the documents that record the prevalence and scope of celibate violations are worth noting. The Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian, (1051 CE) reported the sexual immorality of the clergy directly to the Pope. Peter strongly condemned the frequency of homosexual activity even with boys. In 1568 Pope Pius V wrote Horrendum in which he updated the legislation against clerical crimes where clerics solicit sex with men, women and young boys. Sacramentum Poenitentiae was an instruction that Pope Benedict XIV wrote in 1741 that addressed the problem of priests soliciting sex from people—including children—who came to them in confession. Between 1723 and 1820 CE, The Roman Tribunal recorded 3775 cases of clerical solicitation. Most prominent are the cases of seduction of young people in the confessional and in seminaries. (Haliczer, 1996)

Secret instructions have been sent regularly from the Vatican to Bishops around the world directing them in the correct procedures to process investigations and disciplinary actions against priests who sexually abuse. (1890, 1922, 1962, etc.) Church officials know and have known for centuries that some (a large proportion) of priests and bishops are sexually active, and some sexually abuse minors.

The historical record is obvious on this issue for those with eyes to see. The current situation makes sense of documents such as the Lollard’s Twelve Conclusions, the third of which says:

The Third Conclusion, sorrowful to hear, is: That the law of continence annexed to priesthood, that in prejudice of women was first ordained, induces sodomy in Holy Church; but we excuse us by the Bible, for the suspect decree that says we should not name it. Reason and experience prove this conclusion. For delicious meats and drinks of men of Holy Church will have needful purgation or worse. Experience for the privy assay of such men is that they like not women.

Many intelligent Protestants despair of the condition that they find in their local church and so they read of a splendid Roman institution, a dream-like place full of intellectuals, long history and beauty. I know because I have been down that road myself. Conjuring this fantasy church in their minds, they fly to Rome and make their peace with all kinds of theological errors. What they will find in Rome includes pitiful homilies, a lack of connection with local parishioners, and yes, the fear of sexual abuse for their children.

And yet I feel no sense of triumphalism in the Protestant world. I do not think we have the same size of institutional issues because we are smaller, more divided and do not possess the historical baggage of ingrained networks of perverts. However, there are examples too numerous to mention of predatory clergy, affairs, and abuse. 

In the case of Anglicanism, the continued silence in the face of complicity with wicked regimes in Africa is a grave evil. I see no movement on these issues from our leaders, if they are even aware of the problem. This will be shown to be a moral compromise as history unfolds, even though the church thinks it is fine now.

The effect of moral failures on the part of our institutions is to further isolate and atomize us. If I don’t trust the church, I stay home. Politics is a cesspool so why participate? Corporate environments are often full of cliques, injustice and foolishness, so we tolerate them at best. This leads to us withdrawing into a bubble of home, curated internet feeds and whatever else passes our time. I don’t have an answer for any of this, because it is so endemic, and I am sure nothing new either. In one sense we can thank the internet for shining more light than ever before on corruption in all walks of life, but it also hurts to be aware of it all!

The old “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” discussed our “circle of influence” and while it may seem hokey, I think it is true. All we can do is influence those around us by living an honest life ourselves, following the precepts of a wise life, and attempting to pass that on to the next generation. 

For Protestants who care about the loving God with our minds (which should be all of us) there are deep wells of intellectual material that are mostly untapped. I think most Protestants who convert to Rome are unaware of the historical intellectual resources available to them from the past four centuries. Places like the Davenant Institute and the Calvinist International provide books and articles about historic Protestant theology. Biblical resources abound in our day. Unfortunately, it is on you to do the work and not give up and erect a fantasy church in your mind.

Laurent Mbanda praises Paul Kagame at GAFCON

Archbishop Mbanda speaks to GAFCON

GAFCON’s latest conference in Jerusalem (2018) won nearly universal praise from orthodox circles within the Anglican Communion, and rightfully so. However, the perennial problem of Westerners not having any idea what goes on in Africa reared its head when Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda delivered a talk called “God’s World.”

Mbanda, an outspoken fan of Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, was made Archbishop this year. In his presentation to GAFCON he said, “…forgive me but I also love our President.” Mbanda told a story about Paul Kagame in the context of telling orthodox Anglicans to reject money and buildings from heterodox branches of the church. He said:

I love the country of Rwanda, and forgive me but I also love our President. Some time back there was an embargo on the country of Rwanda where they were saying that they need to freeze all the moneys that were given to the country. And I got that inspiration in me, he said, our President said, “With the little money that we are giving that seems like IV coming in to us, can we sell who we are, can we sell our identity?” And the people of Rwanda said “no.”

The little money that was coming from the countries that were trying to help the country, within a short time, in a time of six months I believe, Rwanda started what they called, the Dignity Fund, and that fund raised more money than those countries were giving us within six months. (applause)

And I know sometimes that we are tempted with that money that comes from those places, that makes us sometimes sell our soul. There is no way we should be afraid of saying, “keep your money,” of saying, “keep your buildings,” of saying, “keep what you have, we have Jesus and will proclaim him faithfully in our nations.”

This story was greeted by applause, as the GAFCON delegates presumably knew little to nothing about the actual circumstances mentioned. Let’s look at the facts behind this glowing story from Abp. Mbanda:

The Rwandan government established the Agaciro (Dignity) Fund after donors froze an estimated US$75m in aid, following the publication of a UN report in mid-2012 that claimed to provide evidence of Rwanda’s support for the M23, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Rwandan government denied the charges.1)The Economist

As a refresher, Rwanda supported M23, a military group that was essentially an extension of the Rwandan military attempting to detach the Congo’s Kivu provinces from the DRC. M23 buried people alive, raped, tortured, slaughtered and kidnapped children to be soldiers. All of this was supported by previous Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini as well as retired Bishop John Rucyahana.

As a result of this, Western nations decided to slap Rwanda’s wrist and froze some aid, which is vital to Rwanda’s poor economy. This of course infuriated Paul Kagame who then trumpeted the Dignity Fund as a defiant jab at the Western powers he relies on.

Bringing this back to Archbishop Mbanda: he is telling a story to GAFCON about the loss of money due to very real war crimes and using it as an example of how to stand up to the man. He can rely on Western ignorance to get away with storytelling like this. In fact, GAFCON’s media arm subsequently linked to his presentation on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Indeed, GAFCON has made Mbanda a leader of the movement, something which should trouble Anglicans.

References   [ + ]

1. The Economist

Why wasn’t there a vote at the ACNA College of Bishops meeting?

Reading through documents from the 2018 Provincial Council meeting, I came across this report about ecumenical relations, which includes some news of interest in the section on dialog with the Polish National Church (PNCC). It says:

The second meeting was largely overshadowed by the College of Bishops Statement on Ordination of Women released by the ACNA on September 7, 2017. The Prime Bishop of the PNCC attended this meeting and related his surprise and regret that the ACNA bishops decided to continue to ordain women given the statements that it is a “recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition” and that there “is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination.” The PNCC co-chair told the ACNA co-chair that the PNCC was seriously considering terminating this dialogue. The ACNA co-chair reassured the Prime Bishop and the PNCC co-chair that this statement is not a final decision and that a call for a full vote regarding women’s ordination would be requested at the next ACNA College of Bishops meeting in January, 2018. The Ecumenical Dialogue Commission will meet via telecom on February 7, 2018 at 2:00 PM to discuss the outcome of this vote. If the outcome is anything other than a full repudiation on women’s ordination, the PNCC plans to terminate ecumenical discussions with the ACNA and look for another Anglican Church with which to seek intercommunion.

No such vote was called, so was the bishop who said there would be a vote mistaken in his assumption, or did things start in that direction and get diverted?

A REC recollection on holy orders

After reading my last post, a clergyman with the REC wrote about what REC bishops told their people regarding what to expect from the task force on holy orders. He writes:

At an REC Diocese of Mid-America synod that occurred shortly after the ACNA holy orders committee was established, Bishop Roy Grote (diocesan bishop and REC presiding bishop at the time) stated that we all (in the REC) know what the correct answer to the issue is, and with Bishop Hicks (REC bishop) as the committee’s head, we could be pretty certain what the end result would be.

A year or two later, Bishop Grote again addressed this at a diocesan synod. He again stated that we all know what the end result will be. In 2016, at the REC Diocese of the Central States synod (just a few weeks before Bishop Grote died), he said again that we knew what the result of the committee’s work would be, but that the committee was only going to provide a report to the bishops, who would then have to make decisions.

From the beginning of this process, Bishop Grote indicated the purpose of the committee was to work through the issue and provide a recommendation to the bishops. He was very clear that a recommendation would be forthcoming, not a simple jumbled report that surveyed the spectrum of positions. This was also affirmed by Bishop Hicks, who was in attendance at one of the DMA synods when Bp. Grote spoke about it.

This is consistent with what several clergy have said over the years.

Bishop Iker on holy orders in 2014

One bone of contention among those in the ACNA who are opposed to women receiving holy orders is that many believe that their bishops promised them when ACNA was founded that the issue would be dealt with, presumably favorably, in time. In contrast, the pro-WO folks point to ACNA’s Constitution and Canons and say, “this was the deal from the beginning.” The pro-WO folks also ask where the evidence is that Archbishop Duncan or others ever intimated that WO was only a temporary measure? While I have heard second-hand accounts from the beginnings of ACNA that claim such assurances were floating around, I have not seen any written confirmation of this claim.

I recently came across this sermon from Bishop Jack Iker. He preached it on February 21, 2014, several years after the formation of ACNA, but it does indicate what his thinking was at that time, which was that when the task force reported back to the bishops, it would be decision time:

But on a more serious note, there are some serious tensions and differences that we must address in our future life together in ACNA. I will comment on them very briefly. The biggest one, of course, is the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood. It is not sufficient to simply say: “Well, some bishops do it and some don’t.” I am pleased that Archbishop Duncan has appointed a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, which is now addressing this issue that some have called “the elephant in the room.” A final report is expected in January 2016, and then it will be decision time. I would simply observe that anglo-catholics and the REC stand together here. Those who do not ordain women make up a majority of the College of Bishops, and we see the ordination of women presbyters as a departure from the witness of Holy Scripture and the apostolic practice of the ancient Church. Pray for God’s guidance as we seek to resolve this deeply divisive issue, in the interest of deepening our unity in Christ. (emphasis mine)

We can parse his words and say that “decision time” just meant the ball would be in the bishop’s court, but I think the thrust of his thought was that things would move in a certain direction. The frustration of Bishop Iker recently is understandable given that this was his understanding.

Crackdown on churches in Rwanda

If I told you about a government that recently shut down 714 churches and asked you what country you thought it was, you might say China or Iran, but you would be wrong. That government was in fact Rwanda, where these churches were closed for “operating below the minimum required standards.” Not only did the Kagame regime shutter these churches, it arrested the following church leaders for ”assembling without permission”: Bishop Innocent Rugagi, Pastor Charles Rwandamura, Pastor Fred Nyamurangwa, Reverand Emmuel Ntambara, Pastor James Dura, and Pastor Emmanuel Kalisa Shyaka.

David Himbara wrote about this latest madness here, and the New Times has a story on it here. Curiously, the East African story cites rising cases of fraud as the reason for the crackdown.

Kagame mouthpiece and retired Anglican bishop John Rucyahana is of course all in favor of these shutdowns, saying:

“The work of the Lord is not inferior that it can be done in sub-standard places. It has to be safe for occupants,” he said.

Bishop Rucyahana pointed out that Rwandans ought to confront and castigate religious leaders they find to be manipulative or operating below required standards.

“Why should we wait for the government to close down these churches? The government has a lot to do in other aspects of development. As Christians we should know what is the standard and acceptable for a place of worship and confront and avoid religious leaders who do not. We should also do the same for those we consider to be manipulative religious leaders,” he said.

David Himbara refutes this nonsense, saying:

The hygiene justification for closing churches is bogus. The entire Kigali City is unhygienic — with open sewers running through homes and neighborhoods. A city of over one million, Kigali does not have a sewage system. There is no treatment plant — raw sewage is dumped into the national and regional water systems.

In a police state like Rwanda, things like this usually have another reason, but we may never know it in the West.

 

Reviewing Laurent Mbanda’s Book, “Committed to Conflict”

Even in the 1994 genocide, I believe that there were people who followed whatever their leaders decided to do, without ever exercising their own minds. – Laurent Mbanda (Page 133)

I’ve previously written about some snippets of Laurent Mbanda’s book “Committed to Conflict, the destruction of the church in Rwanda,” 1)These posts: one, two, three, four and five. now I will take a look at the rest of the book. The book was written in 1997, long before Mbanda became a bishop in the Anglican Church of Rwanda and I suspect that it had something to do with the powers that be selecting him as a bishop, along with his work for Compassion International and Western connections.

Bishop Mbanda is well connected in the West. He currently sits on the board of Compassion International, the International Justice Mission, Food for the Hungry, the Mustard Seed Project, and the Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda. He succeeded Bishop John Rucyahana in 2010, as the Bishop of the Shyira Diocese. Bishop Mbanda was at the center of the split between the Anglican Mission in America and the Rwandan Church with AMiA leaders making accusations against him of leaking communications to George Conger – charges which he denied at the “Sacred Assembly” in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The book was “assisted” by Steve Wamberg, who functioned as a Communications Specialist for Compassion International from 1992-97.

I have not seen any analysis of Mbanda’s book, and I doubt that many, if any, clergy of PEARUSA have taken the time to read it and think through its implications.

Mbanda correctly points out that the early Protestant missionaries and thus the Protestant communities in Rwanda avoided overt political connections:

The colonial administrators and the mission leaders had different views regarding the people of Rwanda, especially Hutu and Tutsi. The traditional structure used to accomplish colonial objectives was not favoured by the Catholic missionaries, who termed it ‘oppressive’, while the Protestants tried to remain apolitical. (Page 7)

This was partly due to the origins of Anglicanism in Rwanda, which was brought by missionaries who were steeped in Keswick theology and dispensationalism, both of which are often apolitical. Keswick’s emphasis in this regard is profoundly un-Biblical. Mbanda returns to the apolitical nature of Rwandan Protestants over and over:

The Protestant Christian missions were largely apolitical in their approach to the Rwandan sociopolitical structure. The first Protestant missionaries to enter the country supported the indirect German colonial approach and in so doing, raised no sociopolitical issues. A small minority in the country, they were not highly visible and had limited personal influence; their interest was in evangelism, leaving the social issues alone. (Page 49)

Note that in this case Mbanda suggests that “leaving the social issues alone” was a good thing when compared to the Catholic Church. He he launches repeated diatribes against the Catholic Church, such as this:

This favouritism, and its closeness and involvement with the colonial administrators, virtually married the Catholic Church to the state, such that under the leadership of Bishop Classe, it became a state church with a strong influence in matters of civil government. (Page 20)

Mbanda’s position on the Catholic Church is accurate, but as I cannot emphasize enough, this is the same situation that the Anglican Church finds itself in today! It is tied at the hip to Paul Kagame.

I am told by a former advisor of Kagame’s that he is an atheist who uses witch doctors and mocks Christians behind closed doors. He uses the churches as tools to propagandize the West with genocide guilt and a false narrative of reconciliation.

Mbanda says that the former colonial powers and the churches share a large part of the blame for the 1994 genocide:

The most recent genocide in Rwanda derives in part from the deep historic divisions in Rwandan society created by the colonial rulers and the churches. (Page 25) 2)Mbanda’s take on the colonial past meshes with the RPF “victor’s narrative.” Jennifer Melvin describes this narrative in her article, “Correcting history: Mandatory education in Rwanda.” She says: “In its most general form, this remit seeks to create a single set of conclusions about Rwanda’s past, present, and future. his interpretation is informed by a singular narrative of Rwandan history referred to in this article as the ‘victor’s narrative’. The term ‘victor’ refers to the RPF’s role in creating and disseminating this particular version of events. Like the term ‘victor’s justice’ used by authors including Tiemessen (2004), Sarkin (2001), and Waldorf (2010) to describe RPF impunity at gacaca, the ‘victor’s narrative’ denies RPF involvement in human rights abuses and violations in Rwanda and DRC. These allegations include: limiting the freedom of speech, press, and association; silencing journalists and political opponents through politically motivated accusations of ‘divisionism’ and ‘genocide ideology’; and contributing to conlict in DRC, such as the M23 rebellion. The ‘victor’s narrative’ emphasises pre-colonial unity, the detriments of ethnic identities, and the beneits of RPF-led programming. In the context of education camps and school classrooms, this narrative functions to limit critical analysis, bolster political support, and denounce criticism of the RPF regime.”

The contradiction at the heart of Mbanda’s book is that he condemns the church for its involvement in politics, but turns around to blast the church for silence in the face of injustice! He is correct about the problem of silence, but speaking up about injustice is an inherently political activity. In the following quote Mbanda condemns Christian silence:

The policy of Iringaniza (total exclusion of one ethnic group) in most cases was not different from the colonial discriminatory school system executed at the expense of Rwandan children of the time. And the silence of many Christian missions in the face of such injustices was deafening. (Page 43)

Yes, this silence was deafening, as is the silence of Anglicans today when their government tortures and kills its own citizens!

Calvin teaches Christians that resisting evil authorities is salutary: “For earthly princes lay aside all their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy of being reckoned in the number of mankind. We ought rather utterly to defy than to obey them whenever they are so restive and wish to spoil God of his rights, and, as it were, to seize upon his throne and draw him down from heaven.”

Bishop Mbanda seems to agree with Calvin’s sentiments in this book, and yet, in authority as a bishop he has only praised the wicked rule of Kagame and has maintained silence in the face of evil. He has in fact gone beyond silence and has openly praised Rwanda’s leadership as “visionary.”

This is in clear contrast to his past self, who decried silence in the face of injustice:

It is important to protect people and strive for unity in the nation, but without true justice there can’t be sincere unity. Under the previous government, killings and other social injustices went unchallenged. (Page 105)

And again, Mbanda says the role of the Church:

Hopefully, the new Kigali government will keep its hands clean in the matters of the Church, just as they have so far. My prayer is that the Church can divorce itself from the kind of church-state relationships that seek favours from politicians in exchange for the Church’s prophetic voice. The former Vice President of Kenya, Mr Mwai Kibaki, put it well while addressing members of the National Council of Churches of Kenya : “The church leaders should not spend their time praising politicians; we have enough people to praise us. Your task is to correct us when we go wrong and need to be reminded of the justice of God, and to pray for us.” Respect for church leaders does not come from their association with political leaders, but from their relationship with God, a relationship proven in non-conformity to ungodly things. Christian leaders are often caught in the political trap of their countries; this has been the case for Rwandan church leaders. David Gitari in his book Let the Bishop Speak wrote:
A position of active and positive support for the state is obviously the easiest position for the Church to adopt; however, it is also the most unfortunate posture in which the Church can be found. Churches which are favored by the state find it very tempting to respond by giving full support to their patron; but they tend to suffer most when the regime they support is removed and replace by a new government.
It is likely that Bishop Gitari was well aware of the Rwandan situation; at least his insight describes exactly where the Rwandan church leadership has been. (Page 116)

Mbanda says:

Remembering the Kinyarwanda saying, ‘Wibuba uhetse ukabawigish uwo mu umugongo’, meaning if you steal when carrying a youngster on your back, you are teaching the youngster to steal, could this be what happened as a result of Catholic involvement in power politics while they were simultaneously preaching good news and its message of unity, love and peace? (Page 48)

Some say that the Anglican Church today is not involved in “power politics” like the Catholic Church was before, but the role of her bishops on government bodies such as NURC and the praise they speak for Kagame’s leadership shows a dangerous degree of affinity for the current regime. As American Bishop Steve Breedlove pointed out, “In Rwanda, the church’s program IS the community program, and in many places the government yields the platform of developing and transforming communities to the church.” According to Mbanda’s own reasoning, being aligned with a police state that oppresses Hutus and Tutsis who speak up against it is a terrible witness to the Rwandan population.

Mbanda goes on to blasts the Church for not defending the rights of all, but again, the current Anglican Church is silent about oppression:

Somewhere in the process, the Church lost its prophetic role. It could have been an instrument of positive change as a witnessing, worshipping and serving community – by acting as salt and light. But the Church in Rwanda failed to give warning, or even advice, concerning the actions of its own people, while playing political power games. The Church failed to defend the rights of all, whether the attack came through abuse of power or through dehumanizing propaganda. (Page 52)

Today there is a diaspora of Rwandans — Hutu and Tutsi — who have fled to the DRC, other African nations and the West to escape imprisonment or death at the hands of Paul Kagame. The Anglican Province of Rwanda has said nothing about this that I am aware of. But Mbanda critiques the Church of the past for not speaking up for Tutsi refugees:

Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Church wanted the Tutsis back, and if it did, there were no clear steps taken by the church leadership to address the refugee problem, or even condemn the evil acts that led to thousands of deaths and sent hundreds of thousands into exile. Was the Church in Rwanda in a position to plead for the return of the Rwandan refugees in exile? Given its status at that time, and the role it played in the bloody massacres, I believe it could have contributed significantly. Even if there had been no government response, if the Church had done its part, the international community would probably have echoed the message. But the Church’s silence contributed to the perception of its previous political involvement, thus indicating its support of ethnic distinction and separation. And if the Catholic Church’s militant spirit regarding social issues during the German colonial rule and politics of the 1950s was a sincere response to social injustice and oppression, surely the Church would have spoken up for the gross human rights abuses of the period from the 1960s to 1994. What do we say of the Rwandan church’s theology regarding God’s creation of humankind? Is this an issue for Hutu and Tutsi alone, or an issue that Christians around the world need to address? (Page 58)

Mbanda is critical of the pre-genocide Church’s adaptation of the government’s agenda:

Even though the Church tended to be sympathetic to the social status and conditions of the surviving Tutsis in general, both the Catholic and Protestant churches (and more so the leadership) were politicized enough to keep in line with what the Rwandan government wanted. It did not matter about belief, the biblical teaching of love and unity, or one’s view of humankind; the Church chose to listen and move with the political agenda of the country. (Page 59)

Mbanda points out that the pre-genocide Church was silent, that is published the government’s agenda in its journal, that favoritism blinded it, and that prestigious positions manipulated its leaders:

By 1961, the Catholic Church was profoundly connected with the Hutu-dominated republics; Kayibanda’s proclamation of the ‘Country of the Battutu’ received wide support from the Church, which knew that the government’s aim was to promote Hutu solidarity against what it called ‘Tutsi feudalism’. The identity card introduced by the colonial rule was retained and the Church said nothing about it. The newly formed government managed to use the Church for furthering much of what had been started and propagated through Kinyamateka, the White Fathers’ journal. Favouritism and the prestigious position of both the Church and its leaders served to blind the Church. As the Burundi people’s saying goes, ‘Na Umugabo uvugana irya mukanwa’, meaning ‘No man talks with food in his mouth.’ The favours and prestigious positions were used to manipulate the church leaders, who, for fear of losing these, could not address real issues. (65-66)

Is any of this different today? The evidence says no:

Mbanda shows that the Rwandan government imprisoned or disappeared those who stood against it:

In 1973, the Protestant Church was still unprepared to participate in the conflict or take a pastoral role. The missionaries had left by then, and Protestant church leaders were not courageous enough to stand up and speak against the evils of the Rwandan leadership and Hutu extremists’ acts. Nothing had been done to address the Church’s political involvement against the Tutsis in 1959-61, much less the public acts. This would not be the time either. Instead, Tutsi priests suspected by the government (or anyone else who wanted them to be killed) of having contacts with outside Rwandans were imprisoned. Others disappeared. (Page 67)

It is hard to read this and not be struck with the paradox that Mbanda himself is now silent when the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame imprisons, tortures and disappears Rwandans. You can read examples of this here, here, and here.

Mbanda correctly says that clergy serving in the ruling party of Habyarimana signaled to a watching public that the Church agreed with the government.

The seating of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rwanda on the Central Committee of the ruling party of ex-President Habyarimana’s government was like putting a stamp of approval on the politics and policies of a government that discriminated against its own people. The Archbishop’s position and relationship to the government identified the Church with the position of the government on the social and political issues regarding the Tutsi population. […] In later years the goal for many Christian church leaders, as they competed for relationships with Rwandan authorities, became clear. Each not only desire to be a close friend of the president, about which they bragged, but also sought to become a powerful voice of whatever church they were leading. (Page 68-69)

How is this different from bishops such as Rucyahana, Kolini, and Gasatura serving on government bodies? How is it different from Kolini and Rucyahana hosting meetings for the CNDP/M23? How is it different from Pastor Antoine Rutayisire laughing it up with Kagame at annual prayer breakfasts in Kigali? How is it different from the Archbishop penning a letter to the United Nations attacking the Group of Experts on the DRC in line with the government’s position? How is it different from Bishop Mbanda calling Paul Kagame’s leadership “visionary?” The answer is, it is not different. Mbanda is now part of something he condemned in this book.

Mbanda discusses how the government influenced who was picked to lead the churches prior to the genocide:

Among the Protestant bishops, Episcopal Archbishop Nshamihigo and Bishop Sebununguri (even though some say that he had fallen out of grace with Habyarimana) were very close confidants of the president. […] Many sources have indicated that most church leaders had been bought off by the government officials through favours. The government’s patronage of top church leaders had strings attached to it, and church leadership selection was one among many. Within the Rwandan Christian Church, among Protestants as well as Catholics, tensions always arose when there was an election or selection of church leaders. Scandalous situations and acts were observed more in the Episcopal Church of Rwanda. The selection of the very first bishop was a more political than spiritual matter. After dealings that were characterized by corruption and deceitful acts, the church ended up selecting a bishop based on ethnic criteria to satisfy the government’s unwritten policy; the president of the country had to give his approval to the selection. Where ethnic distinction was not an issue for the top government authority, geographical origin could play a key factor, especially in the lay leadership of the Habyarimana regime. (Page 70)

I could also remember hearing stories of the Episcopal Church fights involving the late Bishop Ndandali, Bishop Sebununguri and Archbishop Nshamihigo. There were serious fights were weapons were carried into meetings and special bodyguards hired on suspicion of life-threatening plans. (Page 82)

He shows how the Church gave up its prophetic role to be involved in national politics:

It is no secret that the church leaders in Rwanda responded to two basic and related situations: the possible advantages of having extremely close ties to the colonial interests, and the pursuit of such ties with the first and the second Rwandan governments (the Kayibanda and Habyiramana regimes); these caused church leaders to compromise their prophetic and pastoral roles in exchange for being power-brokers of national politics. (Page 72)

He shows that when some in the Catholic Church did speak out in 1990, it was a good thing, but far too late:

When the Catholic priests formally spoke out on ethnically sensitive issues in March 1990, it signalled a change in the thinking of the Catholic church leadership. The voices involved may not have been high enough in the hierarchy to be heard immediately as in past political involvements (such as those from 1916 to the 1960s), but they definitely provided a significant, if belated, warning. These priests spoke against the ethnic quotas in education and in civil service that limited Tutsi participation. Whether this was God’s Spirit at work or the result of an intellectual analysis of the political situation (or both), I can’t judge. Still, the warning should have been voiced at least some 30 years before. (Page 73)

The fact today is that Tutsis run every level of government, and are often “twinned” with Hutus who serve as puppets for a Tutsi boss behind the scenes. The United States government knows this, as this leaked State Department cable shows. So why isn’t the Anglican Church speaking out against the ethnic discrimination going on in Rwanda today?

Mbanda shows how the dictator Habyarimana eliminated his opponents, which is exactly what happens with Paul Kagame’s opponents today:

(Habyarimana) had political enemies both inside and outside the country and was basically ruling through a gun in his opponents’ backs and ‘suspicious’ car accidents. The whereabouts of his identified enemies was top secret; human rights abuse had become a way of life, and his own conscience bothered him. (Page 74)

Kagame in fact boasted about an assassination at a prayer breakfast in 2014, with Mbanda in attendance. The Anglican Church was silent about Kagame’s boasting.

Mbanda returns again and again to the silence of the Church:

In Rwanda, certain denominational leaders were close friends and strong supporters of the Habyarimana regime. Among them were all the bishops of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda (except one non-diocesan titular bishop formerly in Kigeme, a Tutsi and survivor of the genocide), […] Some of the church leaders’ reputations became widely blurred as they appeared in political scenes, advancing political agendas, leading political party demonstrations, and making inappropriate political declarations in public support of the corrupt regime – including the justification of both genocide and the mass killing of Hutu moderates. The Anglican leader Augustin Nshamihigo, the former Presbyterian head, and the Catholic Church’s Archbishop Nsengiyumva acted like competitors. The silence and role of the top church officials during the 1994 massacres made them accomplices in the genocide. (Page 75-76)

And yet today, John Rucyahana was a government puppet in the Rose Kabuye matter, Emmanuel Kolini relayed Kagame’s orders to America to cancel a speaking engagement of Paul Rusesabagina.

Mbanda says that Western partners of Rwanda from before the genocide were confused and did not know what to believe about Rwanda:

Some Christians around the world were disappointed in the Rwandan church leadership, while others were morally and financially behind them. From my discussions with executives of Western-based Christian non-government organizations and mission agencies, I have come to learn that many were confused and did not know what to believe about the Rwandan situation. So they continued working relationships with church other indigenous Christian organizations in the country, based on the relationships and trust developed over the years prior to the 1990 war situation. (Page 76)

This is identical to today’s situation, with the additional factor that many Westerners aligned with Rwanda are so ignorant that they do not even realize there is a problem.

He relates stories of Evangelical Christians who participated in the genocide or later interahamwe killing:

Honest Christians, godly people, the ‘saved’ (in the Kinyarwanda language, ‘Abarokore’) were holding evening and weekend meetings characterized by groups engaging in prayer, fasting, confessions of sins, predictions of what might come, rich Bible studies, willingness to entertain deep thoughts, singing heavenly songs and concern for one another. Both Hutus and Tutsis participated with no fear of each other, even though there was an atmosphere of suspicion in the country. The meetings developed into large public gatherings where political issues were addressed, and the involvement of church leaders in the political scenes was condemned. There was a call to pray, to love each other and to pursue peace and unity. Christian survivors of the genocide who participated in these evangelical meetings tell stories of church members and testifying Christians who, having attended the same meetings, were later seen in the uniforms and activities of Interahamwe (militia). During the killings, many were also seen at roadblocks with machetes. It is hard to believe, but reported by trustworthy individuals. (Page 77)

Mbanda says that most Christians behaved no differently from the average Rwandan:

The behaviour of most church members, including their leaders, was outwardly no different from the non-Christians’ conduct and therefore lacked the Christian testimony that would have made a significant difference. (Page 112)

Mbanda discusses how returnees from the Tutsi exile took over leadership of many denominations in Rwanda. This was true of the Anglican Church, which has turned heavily to those born outside the country to run it in the years after the genocide:

To the surprise of many people in Rwanda, including some Christians, church services resumed immediately following the RPF’s takeover of the country, certain churches being packed to their maximum capacity. Initially, most people found in the capital city of Rwanda were new faces to Kigali. Faces in most churches were also new, then, with few old church members, and among new faces in the churches were old Rwandan refugees. In some churches, the initial church service organizers were from among the returnees who targeted the denominations they were connected with in countries of exile. The new organizers were either elders and ordained pastors in refugee resettlements where they lived, or church pastors in the national churches of their countries of asylum Returning into the homeland, some had actually been eyeing the takeover of local church leadership situations as they thought that most of the former leaders would not want to return to Rwanda due to accusations of involvement in the genocide and compliance with the whole killing situation. (Page 112)

He ominously refers to innocent Hutus who fled the country, believing that RPF forces would take revenge on them when they took over. Mbanda implies that this was not the case:

As churches resumed their responsibility (in most cases with new service and church activity organizers) the newly established government did not waste time in calling upon recent refugees to return home and participate in the rebuilding of the country. The call to return went hand in hand with an assurance of bringing justice to the murderers and planners of the genocide. Those with no direct involvement in the slaughter had nothing to fear and therefore no reason to live in exile, but were being called home. The government knew that there were many innocent people who followed the killers into exile believing that the RPF would exact revenge for murdered Tutsis immediately after it reclaimed the country. (Page 113)

However, this did happen, as documents like the Gersony Report show. The Report said in part:

Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about “peace,” “security” or “food distribution” issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers by other means. Large-scale killings which did not involve such “meetings” were also reported. House-to-house killings, and attacks on villages and displaced populations.

I have no evidence that Bishop Mbanda has ever spoken about these killings.

Mbanda describes the chaos of the post-genocide environment, where funds were diverted and mis-spent:

Relief and rehabilitation funds have been diverted to hire youth fighters from marketplaces to come and drag pastors from church pulpits, disrupting services and even beating individuals who resist. These thugs have pulled a bishop out of his chair, have cleared sanctuaries filled with worshipers and have overturned tables with communion elements. Pick-up trucks purchased from Christian organizations with church-donated funds have been seen transporting these young fighters to wherever a certain ‘self-imposed’ bishop was to be. (Page 129-130)

Mbanda calls on church leaders to monitor the Church-State relationship, so he should thank me for this blog! See below:

The Hebraic model of theocracy, which would link spiritual leaders with political power, failed to become reality in Rwanda, but made a significant impact on the political leadership. Church leaders in Africa, and elsewhere, have to be careful to avoid combining religious and political functions. Church and mission leaders must watch the relationship between church and state, as these can be dangerous for the Church. In Rwanda they have demonstrated patterns of manipulation within the Church, and the abuse of governmental relationships by the Church. (Page 138)

Mbanda’s summary of the pre-1994 Church rings just as true today when related to massive human rights abuses in Rwanda and the DRC:

The Rwandan church failed to challenge social injustices. It is sin to allow social injustice anywhere, especially in the Church; and yet there are places where Christian missions and churches have actually sought to justify the drawing of lines according to their view of the human race. The Rwandan genocide is a typical example of what can happen when we draw lines and view others as less than people made in God’s image. (Page 139)

To summarize, the Bishop’s book is disappointing. The very things he castigates the old Church for doing, he is now involved in himself. The players have changed, but the song is the same.

References   [ + ]

1. These posts: one, two, three, four and five.
2. Mbanda’s take on the colonial past meshes with the RPF “victor’s narrative.” Jennifer Melvin describes this narrative in her article, “Correcting history: Mandatory education in Rwanda.” She says: “In its most general form, this remit seeks to create a single set of conclusions about Rwanda’s past, present, and future. his interpretation is informed by a singular narrative of Rwandan history referred to in this article as the ‘victor’s narrative’. The term ‘victor’ refers to the RPF’s role in creating and disseminating this particular version of events. Like the term ‘victor’s justice’ used by authors including Tiemessen (2004), Sarkin (2001), and Waldorf (2010) to describe RPF impunity at gacaca, the ‘victor’s narrative’ denies RPF involvement in human rights abuses and violations in Rwanda and DRC. These allegations include: limiting the freedom of speech, press, and association; silencing journalists and political opponents through politically motivated accusations of ‘divisionism’ and ‘genocide ideology’; and contributing to conlict in DRC, such as the M23 rebellion. The ‘victor’s narrative’ emphasises pre-colonial unity, the detriments of ethnic identities, and the beneits of RPF-led programming. In the context of education camps and school classrooms, this narrative functions to limit critical analysis, bolster political support, and denounce criticism of the RPF regime.”