Mbanda on Politics

Bishop Mbanda provides several examples of negative church involvement in Rwandan politics, stoking ethnic tensions. He then says:

To this day I believe that for the sake of the unity of believers, direct and vocal political involvement should be avoided. Emphasis should rather be given to practical Christian living that models change. 

Mbanda’s view is (a) not possible because the Church is inherently political by virtue of the Lordship of Jesus and (b) could not come at a worse time when his nation simply replaced one dictator (Habyarimana) with another (Kagame).
Revealingly, Mbanda cites Romans 13 as an admonishment to the Church to simply respect authority:

As a Christian, I feel that the Catholic church leaders were not aware of Romans 13. Submission to governing authorities was of no consideration…The rebellion against the Rwandan king’s authority was unbiblical: to settle Rwandan political matters, it probably would have been better to pay attention to what was being done wrong by both the White Fathers and the colonial administrators themselves.

I do not have the time to get into the exegesis of Romans 13 in this post, but I must point out that Christians have a rich history of thought that shows that we are not required to bow to tyrants due to Romans 13.
Frequently, when Mbanda refers to “politics” he means the wicked racial politics that were engaged in by successive Rwandan governments in concert with the churches of Rwanda, and taken in this sense his opposition to “politics” is understandable. However, he just as frequently chastises the churches for their silence in the face of racial injustice – in essence advocating that the churches should have taken a political stance. For example:

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 second Rwandan governments (the Kayibanda and Habyarimana regimes); these caused church leaders to compromise their prophetic and pastoral roles in exchange for being power-brokers of national politics. 

Mbanda’s stance on church involvement with politics does not match up with his (correct) position that the Church should have spoken up prophetically against injustice (Biblically defined). This sort of quietist retreat from the affairs of state leads the Church into a ditch – one that the Rwandan Anglican Church now finds itself in.

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