Three and a half years ago PEARUSA came into existence and held its first “Sacred Assembly” called “Moving Forward Together.” I was there as part of the delegation from my parish in Virginia. There was a sense of excitement and also an air of confusion given the explosion that ended AMiA and the uncertainty of what would happen next. 1)I posted from that Assembly: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I attended a breakout session with Bishop Laurent Mbanda, a central figure in the back and forth with Chuck Murphy, and someone who was very close with our D.C. clergy. The man seemed like a gentle giant, and of course my opinion of Rwandans was based on eight years of imbibing stories about the amazing reconciliation of these folks who were compared to the first-century Church. We had books like Thad Barnum’s Never Silent and movies like Laura Waters’ As We Forgive, both of which are narratives that completely ignore the velvet-fisted tyranny of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Although I had heard some rumblings that all was not well in Rwanda, I believed that these men were close to God and we were on the right path. There were high hopes of revising Rwanda’s canons to undo Kevin Donlon’s damage, establishing a college ministry, and making PEARUSA into a beachhead of Reformed theology.
I left Raleigh with lots of optimism for the future of PEARUSA and the ACNA, but the dam was about to burst. On July 23, 2012, Anglican journalist George Conger published an article about the involvement of two of the most famous Rwandan bishops 2)Kolini and Rucyahana. in supporting M23, a Rwandan insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Archbishop Rwaje responded to the report by denying all knowledge of the events and saying that PEAR in Rwanda eschewed politics. The story would have died right there had I not pursued it, and I’m not saying that to be arrogant. There was simply no interest or follow up on the part of the Anglican world outside of little old me.
I started writing about the Rwandan/M23/Anglican nexus and was quickly asked by my pastor to remove posts. I was told that bishops in PEARUSA wanted to pursue these questions with the Rwandan House of Bishops without the pressure of an internet firestorm. I complied with this (a mistake). I was told by my pastor that, “Obviously, no one is excited about torture or ruthless dictatorships. It will be good for Mbanda to provide answers. I will put this back on Steve’s (Breedlove) radar” (email 10/8/12).
Bishop Breedlove wanted me to assemble a report for him on the subjects I was learning about. I did just that as I have recounted in this post. Bishop Breedlove’s response to all the heinous information on Rwanda was sanguine and lacking understanding of the facts. He essentially parroted what Bishop Mbanda had told him, even when it was patently absurd.
Later that year, I was stunned to see ACNA bishops Minns and Duncan at the installation of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali standing next to Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana, named by the United Nations as a minion of Paul Kagame and supporter of M23! When I wrote a post about this (see here), all hell broke loose for me. Bishop Breedlove wanted this post taken down too, in concert with other unnamed ACNA bishops (see this post). This lead to an attempt at church discipline from my pastor at the behest of Bishop Breedlove. The particularly offensive thing about the post to Steve Breedlove and my pastor was that I “issued a prescription to the leadership of ACNA.” Heavens!
This situation was resolved and the rest of what happened would require a long-form piece of epic proportions to recall the half of it. Suffice it to say that I learned by lots of study and interviews that the Rwandan Anglican Church isn’t the shining city on a hill that our American press release narrative makes it out to be. Most of the clergy I knew were so heavily invested in this Rwandan fairy tale that they could not afford to walk it back and probably didn’t believe me anyway. They asked questions of Bishops Mbanda and Rucyahana, and what do you know, these fellows re-assured them that all was well! The Rwandan reality shown in pictures such as the following one of Gitarama prison is not the reality that our clergy and missionaries experience.
And so we arrive at November, 2015 and the “Bear Much Fruit” Assembly back in North Carolina. I have moved on from believing in fairy tales about Rwanda, but I am not clergy and I am not invested in a story that is false, so it’s easier for me to move along and adapt my thinking to truth, as opposed to make believe. Not so for the assembled folks in North Carolina.
Much has changed in PEARUSA, Bishop Glenn is gone, Bishop Thad is quasi-retired, and the whole story of “Rwandan missionaries” who will re-evangelize the United States has been quietly put on the shelf. In its place we have “Walk with Rwanda” a campaign to get more Anglicans in the USA to support a church that functions within a one party State and makes no waves. Bishop Barnum’s book Never Silent with all its talk of resisting evil wherever you see it is a sad joke when you see the total lack of application when it comes to evil in Rwanda.
Rwandan bishops regularly appear with the dictator of their nation in a spirit totally opposite that of a martyr like Janani Luwum. But the sad fact is that religious journalism is almost non-existent in late 2015 so this isn’t covered, and Anglican journalism consists of press releases and occasional interviews with a bishop. If bad news comes from ACNA, it isn’t covered, if it comes from TEC, it makes headlines. This is a hypocritical state of affairs.
More chapters will unfold in the history of Rwanda and the Anglican world. Sadly, the chapter that is beginning to close on PEARUSA is one of silence, compromise, ignorance and failure.
References [ + ]