In 2007, All Souls Anglican Church, which was an AMiA congregation at the time, scheduled Paul Rusesabagina, the hero portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda, to speak at their church. However, Rusesabagina had dared to criticize Rwanda’s dictatorial President Paul Kagame in a 2006 book.
Word got back to Kagame that Rusesabagina was going to speak here in America, and so Kagame contacted Emmanuel Kolini, who was Archbishop of Rwanda at the time. Kolini then seems to have contacted Pawleys Island, because Ellis Brust, who was at that time a Canon with AMiA, then contacted All Souls and asked that Rusesabagina not be allowed to speak. Christianity Today says that, “The archbishop feared that the event could create a strain in the relationship between the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the government.”
You can imagine that this would have indeed caused a strain in the relationship, but was that any reason for the Church to remain silent? Anyway, this news made it into a story in Christianity Today, found here.
The Anglican world got wind of the story, as this post on Titus One Nine shows. Alan Jacobs, then a part of All Souls Anglican, left this comment at Titus One Nine:
As a member of All Souls’, and a former senior warden of the parish, perhaps I can address plainsparson’s comment, which probably reflects the puzzlement of many others. Archbishop Kolini is of course not our direct episcopal authority—that’s Chuck Murphy—but he’s one of the founding primates of AMiA and we are grateful to him for his leadership. He has helped to make a home for us in the Anglican world. So when he made a request of us—note that he did not issue an order, but rather make a request—it seemed to Father Martin that he owed the Archbishop that courtesy. And for what it’s worth I agree. I don’t like being entangled in Rwandan politics, and insofar as I understand it I don’t agree with the political stance Archbishop Kolini is taking—but I also know that my understanding is limited and am willing to wait and learn and, in the meantime, show what I believe to be proper deference.
Dale Rye added this prescient comment to the thread:
As I mentioned below and have insisted before, those who wish to place themselves under the authority of institutions grounded in another culture with profoundly non-Western values are going to find themselves asked to honor all of those values, not just the ones (such as opposition to homosexuality) that African and American traditionalists hold in common. Unquestioning obedience to authority is one of those values, and it can be seen in both Abp. Kolini’s subservience to the Rwandan state and in the Province of Central Africa’s acquiescence in the Mugabe tyranny.
While the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe is being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, the Anglicans are issuing communiques blaming the nation’s troubles on Western neo-colonialism. Anyone who dares to differ is labeled as anti-African and tarred with the pro-gay brush. As far as racism goes, there is very little to choose between Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, it being just a matter of whose ox was or is being gored. The same goes for the Province of Rwanda; American adherents of the AMiA are obviously expected to support the government in power. Change the government, and church policy will change as fast as the CP-USA Party Line between 1936 and 1941 changed to follow the CP-USSR.
Surely the Republican Free Marketeers who have joined Global South provinces are aware that the Millennium Development Goals are relatively tame compared to the economic policies that their new churches advocate. Do women in these American parishes really want to be treated like the other women in their provinces? How about those who have divorced and remarried?
It is precisely this sort of conflict between national culture and foreign institutions that led the Church of England to declare its autonomy from the Church of Rome. That principle is canonized in the Articles of Religion and in the writings of the Anglican Fathers who insisted that a national church must be the expression not only of the Church, but also of the nation. It is a very bad thing that American reappraisers have become captives to American culture, but why does that make it a good thing to become a captive to some completely alien culture?
Another comment by someone named “Chris B” had this to say on the Christianity Today story:
Chris B. November 05, 2007 This is repulsive. The Anglican church in Rwanda is a tool of the government; the closest comparison is to the German state church of the WWII era. The government is suppressing the gospel reconciliation THROUGH the church by silencing the people who point out the government’s ongoing oppression of Hutu’s; by silencing people who stand up against the government’s rule by an ongoing culture of fear; and by silencing people who point out the government’s continued perpetration of atrocities in Eastern Congo. Reconciliation in Rwanda will never come with church and state being so closely related. The Rwandan church has demonstrated almost no ability to be a prophetic, critically distant voice. Now is the time for the American church to be a bit more American and refuse to blindly submit to authority. They won’t submit to their own archbishop. Why are they submitting to someone else’s?
Six years later, these are still good questions.