Ephraim Radner is one of the few orthodox Anglicans that is publicly speaking up about the compromised nature of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR). There was an online symposium on Radner’s book A Brutal Unity here, and in the course of the exchanges, Rwanda came up again. Replying to William Cavanaugh, Radner says:
Bill says Rwanda is too “remote” to the realities we have to deal with here. No, it’s not. We all thought it was in 1994; but they needed us and we needed them, because we were, as Christians, part and parcel of what was going on there. As we still are. They needed a liberal democracy, not the church we had offered them; and they still do. So I shouted about that. And we all should. Not to Bill—who doesn’t need to hear this, I am sure—but to the many who have become so worried about the exact shape of our polities—both ecclesial and civil—that they have let our hearts flounder in the pit of discord.
Radner is speaking in the context of the Church prior to the 1994 genocide, but he is also speaking about it today. Note, he says, “They needed a liberal democracy, not the church we had offered them; and they still do” and “So I shouted about that. And we all should.”
Why is it that a reasonable man like Prof. Radner can see what is as plain as day about Rwanda, based on the mountains of scholarship and other reporting on the country, whereas PEAR USA leaders are unable to draw ethical conclusions based on this same evidence? I am convinced that one major reason is loyalty to institutions and people rather than to truth. Rod Dreher put it this way today:
This is always an enemy of good journalism, no matter what the political convictions of the writer. I’ll never forget the Catholic journalism conference I attended in the spring of 2002, at which a priest who was at the time publisher of a conservative Catholic newspaper bragged on his publication for not descending to the gutter by publishing stories about the then-burgeoning sex abuse scandal. What that man was guilty of was not journalism, but propaganda. The Church Could Not Be Wrong. This is not a Catholic thing, or a conservative thing, but a human thing. Journalists, like all storytellers, must fight against this tendency within themselves, and within their professional milieu. Everybody has sacred cows; if you don’t think you do, believe me, others have noticed them, and can probably tell you exactly what they are. The biggest and most menacing sacred cow that lives in newsrooms is the conviction among reporters that they see the world as it really is; they often have no idea how carefully constructed their worldviews are to hide things that they do not want to see. This is the fruit of the lack of ideological diversity. Again, though, you do not combat this by substituting right-wing blinders for left-wing blinders. Within most organizations — political, religious, journalistic — people tell themselves that they prize loyalty to the truth, but what they really prize is loyalty to the institution and its favored dogmas.
A good test of whether or not your church / denomination / company / NGO is more loyal to the truth than to itself is to see how it handles criticism over the long haul. Are critics placed outside the circle of trust, becoming persona non grata? When evidence that contradicts your cherished narratives arises, is it dismissed based on feelings, experiences and the sheer “it cannot be true” factor? This is essentially what has happened with my Anglican friends and Rwanda. They have ignored reports from parishioners who visit Rwanda and return to tell them it is a Police State, and as far back as 2009 I was told by a pastor, “I am hearing more sobering reports from Rwanda all the time,” yet, no action was taken. Dreher gets it, Radner gets it, someday I hope PEAR USA will get it.