PEARUSA is ending its formal ties to the Anglican Church of Rwanda. By June 2016, PEARUSA as such will cease to exist, its networks will transition to dioceses within ACNA, and a new entity, called “Rwanda Ministry Partners” will be created as a “ministry association” within the ACNA. As for clergy:
American clergy ordained in the Province of Rwanda prior to June 2016 may remain canonically resident in Rwanda or apply for canonical transfer to the ACNA. Those who remain resident in Rwanda will be licensed by the ACNA and under its singular authority.
The first thought that springs to mind on reading this announcement is: why not dissolve the PEARUSA networks into their local ACNA diocese? My guess is that PEAR still distrusts where the rest of ACNA is theologically and therefore does not want to be totally absorbed just yet. This distrust relates to women’s ordination and Reformed theology. For example, in the parishes that I attended in D.C. and Northern Virginia (sometimes called “RenewDC“) there was some distrust of the leadership of Bishop Guernsey, the Bishop of ACNA’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (DOMA). Bishop Guernsey is for women’s ordination, and the clergy of RenewDC are against it. For these clergy to have to report in to Bishop Guernsey is probably a bridge too far, so they will be able to remain in a “Rwanda Ministry Partners” diocese, and they overlapping jurisdictions will continue in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region with CANA, REC, ACNA and RMP (?) dioceses.
In 2011, AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy was reportedly:
…concerned about Rwanda’s dependence upon AMiA support. He mentioned that AMiA money given to Rwanda is now 2/3 of the provincial budget. He also said that the Kigali seminary is compromised due to its dependence upon AMiA aid.
One of the presenting causes for the AMiA implosion was that a huge sum of money from America went missing in Rwanda, with the implication being that Archbishop Kolini was the one controlling where the money was allocated. As one insider wrote:
In approximately 2009 it came to the attention of the Rwanda HOB that for several years the annual financial statements of the AMiA showed about $300,000.00 per annum being given to the Province of Rwanda under this 10-10-10 tithing arrangement. Unfortunately, the annual financial reports of the Province of Rwanda showed only $100,000.00 per year coming into the Province of Rwanda (spreadsheets available on request). Above the tithe was an additional $400,000.00 given to ‘the Province’ that never showed up in the Provincial Accounts. The total ‘missing’ monies seem to total at least 1.2 million US dollars.
I say all this because I believe one of PEARUSA’s intentions is to develop an even wider donor base for PEAR in Rwanda. I take some of the statements from ACNA’s press release to mean just that. For example, Bishop Breedlove says, “It’s exciting to think that clergy and churches all across ACNA that were not part of PEARUSA can now be part of Rwanda Ministry Partners.” Archbishop Beach said, “…Rwanda Ministry Partners will allow others in the Province who would like to be connected to Rwanda to do so. I look forward to more partnerships and deeper relationships with Rwanda for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and Bishop Quigg Lawrence said, “Rwanda Ministry Partners will actually enhance and expand what PEARUSA’s ministry and relationship have always been.”
The idea here seems to be of ACNA embracing PEAR at a greater level, providing more money to this financially strapped province. This idea has taken flesh in 2015 as PEARUSA’s “Provincial Sustainability Project” also known as “Walk with Rwanda.”1 According to the PEAR Strategy for Long Term Sustainability: “PEARUSA currently provides $70,000 – $80,000 to PEAR annually.”
Getting the Anglican Church of Rwanda to a place of financial self-sufficiency would be a good thing. Sending money to Rwanda without strict accountability is not. By this, I mean accountability about where the money goes and accountability about the relationship of the Church to the ruling RPF party. If you get on the wrong side of Paul Kagame, even if you are an insider, the consequences to you and your property are severe, as you can see in this recent example.
Any move away from formal affiliation with a Church that operates under a Police State and is not opposed to that State is a good thing. The Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR) lives under a dictatorship helmed by Paul Kagame, who rules through a Tutsi elite. There may be a range of opinions with PEAR about how to relate to Paul Kagame, but none of them are expressed publicly. In fact, publicly the Church sides very much with Kagame, which I believe to be sinful. One former missionary to Rwanda told me:
…no person in the Province can take a public stand against the regime without dire (and I mean DIRE) consequences… The only way they could would be to take a unanimous stand… which they won’t because many of them,while aware of the excesses of the Kagame government see it as far better than any alternative on the horizon. They also know that Kagame and crew are very hostile to criticism and only double down…
So, American Anglicans are wise to disconnect from this compromised Church.
Perhaps it is time to work at officially presenting charges of Church-State complicity to the leadership of ACNA. I am not aware of a method to do this, but if ACNA wants to get even closer to Rwanda, it may be the only avenue available of shining light on the situation. ACNA should have a standing body that looks at all of its partner churches and can warn against grave abuses, such as those that led to complicity with the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
A few other thoughts:
- I find the option for clergy to remain canonically resident within Rwanda exceedingly odd.
- I wonder where this leaves CANA? I suspect that CANA will not make a similar move until the doctrinal direction of ACNA is clear.
- I don’t see anything about ministry associations within the Constitution and Canons of ACNA. I will be curious to see how this is fleshed out over time.