Who will be the next Archbishop of Rwanda’s Anglican Church?

Rwandan Anglicans will soon have a new Archbishop, and because of historic ties to North American Anglicans, this individual should be of concern to us. On November 18 an article by Godfrey Ntagungira appeared on KT Press about the election of the next Anglican Archbishop in Rwanda. The article said:

The Rwanda Anglican Council of Bishops is scheduled to vote for a new leader in January 2018 as the incumbent Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje retires.

Corridors of speculation are buzzing over who will replace the 64 years old Archbishop Rwaje.

According to church leaders, in the Anglican Church, no bishop is allowed to serve beyond 65 years of age. Thus, many archbishops hold that title for less than ten years.

Born on June 6, 1953, Bishop Rwaje took over from Archbishop Emmanuel Korini on December 2010.

But who is the potential successor?

Four bishops have been subject to suggestions. The current favourite is Louis Muvunyi, Anglican Bishop of Kigali Diocese, followed by Dr. Jered Kalimba, Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese, Nathan Gasatura, Bishop of Butare and Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini.

Muvunyi 56, apparently the youngest of all was ordained as a pastor in 1997 and later that year was appointed youth pastor in the Diocese of Kigali.

He holds a bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Uganda Christian University – Uganda and a Master’s Degree from the International Christian College in Scotland.

Bishop Muvunyi served as the principal of Kigali Anglican Theological College. He was consecrated as a Bishop of Kigali in December 2010 succeeding Archbishop Emmanuel Korini who retired at age 65.

Unfortunately Muvunyi might not be on the list to choose from. An informed source told KT Press that when church elders approached him he said he had personal issues which can’t allow him to take up the position.

KT Press established that when Muvunyi declined, eyes turned to Dr. Jered Kalimba, Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese who is a respected theologian in the Anglican church of Rwanda.

Rt. Rev. Dr. Jered Kalimba 60, Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese holds a PhD in theology. He is a respected theologian with a voice of authority.

An inside source says Bishop Kalimba is trusted and many believe he can provide the inspirational leadership or the intellectual agility and self-confidence that the Anglican Church needs.

The public opinion says the bishop is highly educated and has an outstanding character of humility and likes to have peace with everyone. Other sources say he takes wise decisions.

For Gasatura 61, Bishop of Butare Anglican Diocese, he is known for his record as an African activist for human rights.

He is a strong advocate of unity and reconciliation.  He has served in different capacities –first as a missionary and later as an Anglican vicar in Burundi.

In Rwanda he first served as board chairman of the National Aids Control Commission (CNLS).

He also worked as a resident representative of the World Health Organisation in Rwanda, and marketing and international relations director of World Vision international.

Bilindabagabo 63 is the current bishop of Gahini, Eastern Rwanda.

He directs much of his energy into ministries focused on orphans, education, reconciliation, and economic development.

He is the founder of a foster care organisation called Barakabaho (‘Let them live’) Foundation.

He is also known as the founder of a Christian Movement for Evangelisation, Counselling and Reconciliation (MOUCECOR) that he started in 1992. Sources say Bilindabagabo has shown interest to run as archbishop.

According to Archbishop Rwaje the time frame for the election is not yet out.

“I can feel a lot of speculation and rumours going around leading up to the day when the next Archbishop of Rwanda will be revealed but the truth of the matter I can’t comment on that issue,” Bishop Rwaje told KT Press.

The Archbishop confirmed that the decision is expected early January 2018.

This article seems to have provoked something of a firestorm within the House of Bishops, because on December 6th a follow up article appeared, with a new candidate:

On November 18th, KT Press published a story listing four candidates the Rwanda Anglican church had lined up from which the next Archbishop may be selected.

However, senior leaders of the church were immediately summoned to a crisis meeting because the story had seemingly pre-empted the list of candidates yet it was meant to remain a top secret until a formal announcement.

A source privy with internal dynamics of the Anglican Church told KT Press that during the crisis meeting the Bishops did not hold views about the story.

“Some were very angry with the story and wanted an investigation conducted on the leakage while others were flexible saying the church cannot keep reacting to every story because there are many media outlets that report repeatedly about the church,” the source said on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the matter.

The source further revealed that during this crisis meeting, it was unanimously agreed that all four candidates mentioned in the earlier story would not be part of the selection list. Instead they decided to front a new candidate Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda, Bishop of Shyira Diocese.

In the past months, incumbent Archbishop of Rwanda Onesphore Rwaje has been hinting on the fact that an announcement on who would replace him was imminent and could come January 2018.

“The final decision is yet to be announced but the process normally involves extensive consultation, analysis of the role and challenges the new archbishop is likely to face, every candidate has to be vetted first” the source said.

Whether our story will change the earlier arrangement and selection of the new Archbishop or not, remains to be seen when the final announcement is made.

But who is Bishop Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda?

His name popped up after those earlier proposed were critically assessed but were found to have shortcomings yet the KT Press story had also pre-empted the secret list.

Our source conversant with the church said that although the formal appointments process has not yet been launched, Bishop Mbanda’s name increasingly has been coming up in Church corridors of power as someone with experience and charisma to lead the Church.

Bishop Mbanda is one of the most experienced and educated bishops in the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Although he has impressed a number of bishops who participate in the selection process, Some Anglican believers say he is not popular.

Mbanda was born in Rwanda and spent most of his childhood in Burundi. He joined Compassion International in 1993, where he held a number of positions in the ministry, including Vice President of the Africa Region and Vice President of Program Development.

He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Global Board of Directors for Compassion International and he is a Board Chair for Food for the Hungry. Previously, he also served on the Board of International Justice Mission and Chaired the Board of Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda.

He is a graduate of Kenya Highlands Bible College. Mbanda also holds two masters degrees in Arts in Missiology from Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions and a Master of Arts in Christian Education.

How Previous Candidates Were Screened 

In November Louis Muvunyi, the Bishop of Kigali Diocese was told that he was being lined up as candidate for the top job followed by Dr. Jered Kalimba, Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese, Nathan Gasatura, Bishop of Butare and Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini.

According to the constitution of the Anglican Church of Rwanda no bishop is allowed to serve beyond 65 years of age. It has been a tradition that candidates for the Archbishop position are mostly appointed when they are at least 60 years so that they could serve for 5years.

A thorough screening had been conducted before the list of the previous four bishops was made. But the KTPress story has apparently placed the Church in a tight spot as the House of Bishops had to review the earlier suggested list.

A source told KT Press that Bishop Muvunyi excused himself from standing citing personal reasons. Another reason he gave is that there are more senior bishops that he thought deserved this chance.

An inquiry on candidate Dr. Jered Kalimba the current Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese indicates he fits within the required age bracket since he is aged 60 years.

However, the source also said that Bishop Dr. Kalimba’s popularity ratings were very minimal despite being well educated with a PhD in theology. He also enjoys respect among other bishops but may not qualify due to private undertakings that require his regular attention which could affect his commitment to the strenuous responsibilities of the postion.

Among the candidates, the source says that it is only Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini who has shown interest to run for the position. He has the experience but within the church corridors of influence, his views and approach is not convergent with those of his peers and has attracted a number of criticisms.

The source also told KTPress that Bishop Bilindabagabo does not fit well within the age bracket required of candidates. He is aged 63.

Lastly, candidate Bishop Nathan Gasatura of Butare diocese is also remaining with only three years to retire which could impede his candidature.

George Conger must have queried the Church at this point, because he put out a brief post on the subject that same day:

The Rwandan press reports the bishops of the Anglican Church of Rwanda have begun deliberations on electing a new primate for the East African Church. The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, Primate of Rwanda, will turn 65 in 2018 and must step down from office. The Kigali Times has floated the names of five serving bishops as potential candidates to replace Archbishop Rwaje. However, the church will not comment on the deliberations other than to point to the requirements set forth in the canons. Past practice suggests the new archbishop will be a senior member of the House of Bishops at least sixty years of age. Before the election is held the bishops will undergo a consultative process examining the current conditions and needs of the church and wider Rwandan society and put forward a consensus candidate. The election could take place as early as January 2018.

I will write a follow-up post soon that describes what we can know of these men in the West and why we should be concerned about the seeming front-runner, Bishop Mbanda.

Bishop Chuck Murphy dies

After a battle with brain cancer, Bishop Chuck Murphy has died. He was a key figure in the realignment of Anglicanism in North America.

Bishop Mbanda wishes dictator Kagame a Happy Birthday

If there is any doubt about the relationship of the Anglican Church in Rwanda to the odious dictator, Paul Kagame, look no further than the sycophantic tweet sent by Bishop Laurent Mbanda this week on the occasion of Kagame’s birthday:

The only thing about Kagame that is “amazing” is his ability to hoodwink the West while killing, imprisoning and torturing his own people. GAFCON ought to discipline men like Mbanda who praise evil tyrants.

Refuting Tract XC

In his book “Tract XC. Historically Refuted” the Rev. William Goode writes:

The position maintained by Mr. Newman, Mr. Oakley and others respecting the thirty-nine Articles, is to my mind so utterly and manifestly untenable and unreasonable, that an argument for the purpose of opposing it seems almost like on for proving that two and two do not make five. Moreover the arguments, historical deductions, extracts and references given in proof of their position are often so startlingly inaccurate as to leave one at a loss to know how they found their way into the productions of men whom we believe incapable of voluntarily misleading the reader” (page 1).

Goode continues by reasoning that many who bought into Tractarianism were reasoning backwards and “inventing suitable interpretations” which was easy to do.

Music as religion

Ian Brown from the Stone Roses gets the shamanic functions that music, especially concerts, perform for the modern masses. He says:

No, I don’t have a Messiah complex but I think music is the nearest thing to achieving Christian ends. It unifies people and sustains them. It uplifts them and makes them closer to love. You get a great gig at Wembley or somewhere and that is modern Christianity in action.

Moby Dick as an anti-Leviticus

My book club just read through Moby Dick, a fascinating novel that operates on many levels below the surface narrative of the hunt for a whale. James Jordan offers a unique take on the book which I wish someone would expand on and dig into further in an old newsletter. He writes:

Ishmael is the narrator of Melville’s fantasy-romance Moby Dick. Melville takes up the traditional view of Ishmael as a wayward son of Abraham, driven out solely because of the Divine “caprice” of election, an angry man with his hand raised against all other men. He is a fitting “anti-hero,” or at least “anti-character,” in a book full of inversions.

Melville objected to calling Moby Dick a novel. He knew that the persons on board the Pequod are anything but real people — they are symbols much more than characters — and that the situation he describes is fantastic. Moby Dick is a fantasy-narrative like Homer’s Odyssey and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Ahab, carrying the name of Israel’s wicked king, is an anti-Christ. Like Jacob (Israel), Ahab has the messianic foot-wound, but he has no interest in submitting to God. Rather, he wants to kill God, the “vengeful,” “predestinating,” and capitalized White Whale. The whiteness of the whale is both the whiteness of God’s holy throne and the whiteness of leprosy. The long exposition of how to kill a whale in the many chapters on whaling is a kind of anti-Leviticus: Instead of rituals showing us how to kill ourselves and submit to God, Melville gives us a long survey of the rites by which to act titanically and kill “god.” The White Whale wins in the end, but only because He is all-powerful, not because He is good or fair. Ahab, his “Satan”-like ship, and his crew of pagans and estranged New Englanders is drowned in the ancient flood.

Ahab rages against New England’s Calvinistic God, the God of Melville’s rejected Dutch Reformed upbringing. The Antichrist Ahab had lain “like dead for three days and nights” in his great crisis, and now “resurrected” he gathers his anti-church with anti-rituals and leads them in an attempt to kill the “god” who put him through his “crucifixion.” Ishmael is part of this anti-church.

This would be a great project to take on as an investigation: the Levitical themes of the book.

ACNA chooses unity over truth

After years of waiting, the bishops of ACNA met in another “conclave” this week and the result is a totally unsurprising and yet disastrous bunch of nothing:

…we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

I continue to come back to the first post I wrote on this subject several years ago and a comment from the Titus One Nine blog which was 100% correct:

I would suspect that ACNA’s leadership knows exactly how the theological report (if fairly done) will come out.  Indeed, pretty much any minimally informed person will know how this report will come out:  there are good arguments pro and con, and there is no clear resolution.  Therefore, ACNA will continue its current practice as it is the best possible solution to a theologically incoherent problem.  In this way, the non-WO activists can be partially mollified, or at least, they can no longer complain about the lack of any theological study.  And at the same time, ACNA can continue on its current policy but on a stronger footing.

What ACNA is at its core can now be discerned fairly clearly: a set of theologically incompatible tribes that do not agree about a great many things, but value institutional unity over all. It possesses no common liturgy and no common theology.

Rwanda’s fake economy

Most articles about Rwanda tout its economy even if they identify the repressive nature of the State. Increasingly, this economic “miracle” looks more like a sham as this new article describes. It says:

The conclusion of this brief analysis is that if there ever was a Rwandan economic miracle it has probably fizzled out some time ago and is likely to come crashing down very soon. At the very least, the data shows that the development strategy adopted by the Rwandan government is risky in the extreme, bordering on reckless. The closest example we can find in recent history of similar policies is Mobutu’s Zaire that squandered the country’s resources on space projects, nuclear power plants and a Concord airplane. As outlandish as they seem today, these projects also helped to give Mobutu an image of success up until the 1970s (remember the Rumble in the Jungle?) But Rwanda’s PR machine has even surpassed Mobutu’s, having managed to keep the narrative of success going for all these years even as evidence to the contrary has been in plain sight, or just below the surface waiting to be scratched. Even today, there is not a single article in the press (even the critical ones) that does not mention Rwanda’s alleged economic success, and its low levels of corruption – forgetting to mention that close associates of Kagame appeared in the Panama Papers last year and a transparency international coordinator was assassinated.