Looking at female pastors in the Anglican Church of Rwanda

Rwanda’s propaganda organ The New Times recently featured a profile of a female Anglican pastor at this link. It provides a look at the unique theological profile of that Province. For example:

I didn’t get married because reverends aren’t supposed to; they are actually allowed, but I didn’t get that calling from God.

Where does this idea come from?

According to Rev. Mukandoli, the number of female pastors in the Anglican Church of Rwanda is increasing:

What do you think about the number of women clergy in Rwanda?

Women are indeed increasing in number, which is good because it is an indication that women are involving themselves in various fields. For example, with in the Anglican Church, we have many female pastors.

Archbishop Rwaje on the East African Revival and the 1994 Genocide

Archbishop Rwaje at GAFCON in 2013
Archbishop Rwaje at GAFCON in 2013

In the course of responding to questions about the East African Revival at GAFCON’s 2013 meeting in Nairobi, the Archbishop of Rwanda, Onesphore Rwaje talked about the relationship of the revival to the 1994 genocide. 1)His remarks begin here. He says:

…and I don’t know whether it is one of the questions you would like to ask me, let me respond to it before asking this question.  You may hear there is a contradiction and there is in fact, a country where revival movement was born, 1930’s—a second revival and the same time the country where has been a genocide against the Tutsis. 2)He is using the official government term for the genocide. Deviation from using “against the Tutsi” is a signal inside Rwanda that you question the regime’s narrative of events. That’s a contradiction, that’s a contradiction, and we are requesting ourselves what’s happened; 1960’s onward mainly within the church, mainly within the revival.

But after analyzing there {were a} few remnants among the revivalists in fact who stood against {the genocide} and we have testimony, some of them were killed and others are testifying for that. So that’s a contradiction and we have to bear that and this is a challenge we have to bear that not only for revival even for the church itself.

Archbishop Rwaje seems to be saying that the Anglican Church in Rwanda is trying to figure out what happened after the 1960’s that caused a nation of 85% Christians to slaughter one another. This is a good question, and you can see that for all the talk of revival and reconciliation before the genocide, it did nothing to stop the killing:

Moreover, by 1990, the Anglican church was deeply involved in internal wrangling and divisions. They were focused on jealousies and bitterness between Adoniya Sebununguri, bishop of Kigali, and John Ndandali, bishop of the second diocese of Butare, created in 1978. The conflict was focused on who would become the first Archbishop of the new Anglican province of Rwanda created in 1992. Although personal factors were paramount in this conflict, it did strangely parallel political divisions between the ‘north,’ where the deeply unpopular president came from, and a ‘south,’ which felt excluded. A series of other conflicts among the leadership of the churches began to disfigure the Anglican church: based on personal and family rivalries, regional differences, political disputes (as a multi-party system was introduced). Hutu-Tutsi divisions were only one of many factors fueling and sustaining these disputes.  Often the rhetoric of the Revival was introduced into the disputes. At high-profile meetings of reconciliation, church leaders confessed and sang Tukutenderza in the old spirit of the Balokole [Balokole means ‘saved’ – editor] fellowship, but these occasions did not seem to have the power to transform the faction-riven nature of the church. The form of Revival had replaced its genuine spirit. 3) “Christianity, Revival and the Rwandan Genocide,” Kevin Ward.

Bishop Laurent Mbanda tells us that some participants in the revival meetings were active killers in 1994:

Christian survivors of the genocide who participated in these evangelical meetings tell stories of church members and testifying Christians who, having attended the same meetings, were later seen in the uniforms and activities of Interahamwe (militia). During the killings, many were also seen at roadblocks with machetes. It is hard to believe, but reported by trustworthy individuals.

Unfortunately, the pattern of acquiescence with evil has continued as clergy support many evil actions of the Kagame regime. For example, bishops Rucyahana and Kolini supported and raised funds for M23, a group that kidnapped child soldiers, raped and murdered in the DRC. Before we rush to embrace the East African Revival, it is wise to ask what its legacy is in the world outside of church meetings, in the nitty gritty of political life and society.

Some related posts on the Revival are here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

References   [ + ]

1. His remarks begin here.
2. He is using the official government term for the genocide. Deviation from using “against the Tutsi” is a signal inside Rwanda that you question the regime’s narrative of events.
3. “Christianity, Revival and the Rwandan Genocide,” Kevin Ward.

Reviewing Laurent Mbanda’s Book, “Committed to Conflict”

Even in the 1994 genocide, I believe that there were people who followed whatever their leaders decided to do, without ever exercising their own minds. – Laurent Mbanda (Page 133)

I’ve previously written about some snippets of Laurent Mbanda’s book “Committed to Conflict, the destruction of the church in Rwanda,” 1)These posts: one, two, three, four and five. now I will take a look at the rest of the book. The book was written in 1997, long before Mbanda became a bishop in the Anglican Church of Rwanda and I suspect that it had something to do with the powers that be selecting him as a bishop, along with his work for Compassion International and Western connections.

Bishop Mbanda is well connected in the West. He currently sits on the board of Compassion International, the International Justice Mission, Food for the Hungry, the Mustard Seed Project, and the Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda. He succeeded Bishop John Rucyahana in 2010, as the Bishop of the Shyira Diocese. Bishop Mbanda was at the center of the split between the Anglican Mission in America and the Rwandan Church with AMiA leaders making accusations against him of leaking communications to George Conger – charges which he denied at the “Sacred Assembly” in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The book was “assisted” by Steve Wamberg, who functioned as a Communications Specialist for Compassion International from 1992-97.

I have not seen any analysis of Mbanda’s book, and I doubt that many, if any, clergy of PEARUSA have taken the time to read it and think through its implications.

Mbanda correctly points out that the early Protestant missionaries and thus the Protestant communities in Rwanda avoided overt political connections:

The colonial administrators and the mission leaders had different views regarding the people of Rwanda, especially Hutu and Tutsi. The traditional structure used to accomplish colonial objectives was not favoured by the Catholic missionaries, who termed it ‘oppressive’, while the Protestants tried to remain apolitical. (Page 7)

This was partly due to the origins of Anglicanism in Rwanda, which was brought by missionaries who were steeped in Keswick theology and dispensationalism, both of which are often apolitical. Keswick’s emphasis in this regard is profoundly un-Biblical. Mbanda returns to the apolitical nature of Rwandan Protestants over and over:

The Protestant Christian missions were largely apolitical in their approach to the Rwandan sociopolitical structure. The first Protestant missionaries to enter the country supported the indirect German colonial approach and in so doing, raised no sociopolitical issues. A small minority in the country, they were not highly visible and had limited personal influence; their interest was in evangelism, leaving the social issues alone. (Page 49)

Note that in this case Mbanda suggests that “leaving the social issues alone” was a good thing when compared to the Catholic Church. He he launches repeated diatribes against the Catholic Church, such as this:

This favouritism, and its closeness and involvement with the colonial administrators, virtually married the Catholic Church to the state, such that under the leadership of Bishop Classe, it became a state church with a strong influence in matters of civil government. (Page 20)

Mbanda’s position on the Catholic Church is accurate, but as I cannot emphasize enough, this is the same situation that the Anglican Church finds itself in today! It is tied at the hip to Paul Kagame.

I am told by a former advisor of Kagame’s that he is an atheist who uses witch doctors and mocks Christians behind closed doors. He uses the churches as tools to propagandize the West with genocide guilt and a false narrative of reconciliation.

Mbanda says that the former colonial powers and the churches share a large part of the blame for the 1994 genocide:

The most recent genocide in Rwanda derives in part from the deep historic divisions in Rwandan society created by the colonial rulers and the churches. (Page 25) 2)Mbanda’s take on the colonial past meshes with the RPF “victor’s narrative.” Jennifer Melvin describes this narrative in her article, “Correcting history: Mandatory education in Rwanda.” She says: “In its most general form, this remit seeks to create a single set of conclusions about Rwanda’s past, present, and future. his interpretation is informed by a singular narrative of Rwandan history referred to in this article as the ‘victor’s narrative’. The term ‘victor’ refers to the RPF’s role in creating and disseminating this particular version of events. Like the term ‘victor’s justice’ used by authors including Tiemessen (2004), Sarkin (2001), and Waldorf (2010) to describe RPF impunity at gacaca, the ‘victor’s narrative’ denies RPF involvement in human rights abuses and violations in Rwanda and DRC. These allegations include: limiting the freedom of speech, press, and association; silencing journalists and political opponents through politically motivated accusations of ‘divisionism’ and ‘genocide ideology’; and contributing to conlict in DRC, such as the M23 rebellion. The ‘victor’s narrative’ emphasises pre-colonial unity, the detriments of ethnic identities, and the beneits of RPF-led programming. In the context of education camps and school classrooms, this narrative functions to limit critical analysis, bolster political support, and denounce criticism of the RPF regime.”

The contradiction at the heart of Mbanda’s book is that he condemns the church for its involvement in politics, but turns around to blast the church for silence in the face of injustice! He is correct about the problem of silence, but speaking up about injustice is an inherently political activity. In the following quote Mbanda condemns Christian silence:

The policy of Iringaniza (total exclusion of one ethnic group) in most cases was not different from the colonial discriminatory school system executed at the expense of Rwandan children of the time. And the silence of many Christian missions in the face of such injustices was deafening. (Page 43)

Yes, this silence was deafening, as is the silence of Anglicans today when their government tortures and kills its own citizens!

Calvin teaches Christians that resisting evil authorities is salutary: “For earthly princes lay aside all their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy of being reckoned in the number of mankind. We ought rather utterly to defy than to obey them whenever they are so restive and wish to spoil God of his rights, and, as it were, to seize upon his throne and draw him down from heaven.”

Bishop Mbanda seems to agree with Calvin’s sentiments in this book, and yet, in authority as a bishop he has only praised the wicked rule of Kagame and has maintained silence in the face of evil. He has in fact gone beyond silence and has openly praised Rwanda’s leadership as “visionary.”

This is in clear contrast to his past self, who decried silence in the face of injustice:

It is important to protect people and strive for unity in the nation, but without true justice there can’t be sincere unity. Under the previous government, killings and other social injustices went unchallenged. (Page 105)

And again, Mbanda says the role of the Church:

Hopefully, the new Kigali government will keep its hands clean in the matters of the Church, just as they have so far. My prayer is that the Church can divorce itself from the kind of church-state relationships that seek favours from politicians in exchange for the Church’s prophetic voice. The former Vice President of Kenya, Mr Mwai Kibaki, put it well while addressing members of the National Council of Churches of Kenya : “The church leaders should not spend their time praising politicians; we have enough people to praise us. Your task is to correct us when we go wrong and need to be reminded of the justice of God, and to pray for us.” Respect for church leaders does not come from their association with political leaders, but from their relationship with God, a relationship proven in non-conformity to ungodly things. Christian leaders are often caught in the political trap of their countries; this has been the case for Rwandan church leaders. David Gitari in his book Let the Bishop Speak wrote:
A position of active and positive support for the state is obviously the easiest position for the Church to adopt; however, it is also the most unfortunate posture in which the Church can be found. Churches which are favored by the state find it very tempting to respond by giving full support to their patron; but they tend to suffer most when the regime they support is removed and replace by a new government.
It is likely that Bishop Gitari was well aware of the Rwandan situation; at least his insight describes exactly where the Rwandan church leadership has been. (Page 116)

Mbanda says:

Remembering the Kinyarwanda saying, ‘Wibuba uhetse ukabawigish uwo mu umugongo’, meaning if you steal when carrying a youngster on your back, you are teaching the youngster to steal, could this be what happened as a result of Catholic involvement in power politics while they were simultaneously preaching good news and its message of unity, love and peace? (Page 48)

Some say that the Anglican Church today is not involved in “power politics” like the Catholic Church was before, but the role of her bishops on government bodies such as NURC and the praise they speak for Kagame’s leadership shows a dangerous degree of affinity for the current regime. As American Bishop Steve Breedlove pointed out, “In Rwanda, the church’s program IS the community program, and in many places the government yields the platform of developing and transforming communities to the church.” According to Mbanda’s own reasoning, being aligned with a police state that oppresses Hutus and Tutsis who speak up against it is a terrible witness to the Rwandan population.

Mbanda goes on to blasts the Church for not defending the rights of all, but again, the current Anglican Church is silent about oppression:

Somewhere in the process, the Church lost its prophetic role. It could have been an instrument of positive change as a witnessing, worshipping and serving community – by acting as salt and light. But the Church in Rwanda failed to give warning, or even advice, concerning the actions of its own people, while playing political power games. The Church failed to defend the rights of all, whether the attack came through abuse of power or through dehumanizing propaganda. (Page 52)

Today there is a diaspora of Rwandans — Hutu and Tutsi — who have fled to the DRC, other African nations and the West to escape imprisonment or death at the hands of Paul Kagame. The Anglican Province of Rwanda has said nothing about this that I am aware of. But Mbanda critiques the Church of the past for not speaking up for Tutsi refugees:

Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Church wanted the Tutsis back, and if it did, there were no clear steps taken by the church leadership to address the refugee problem, or even condemn the evil acts that led to thousands of deaths and sent hundreds of thousands into exile. Was the Church in Rwanda in a position to plead for the return of the Rwandan refugees in exile? Given its status at that time, and the role it played in the bloody massacres, I believe it could have contributed significantly. Even if there had been no government response, if the Church had done its part, the international community would probably have echoed the message. But the Church’s silence contributed to the perception of its previous political involvement, thus indicating its support of ethnic distinction and separation. And if the Catholic Church’s militant spirit regarding social issues during the German colonial rule and politics of the 1950s was a sincere response to social injustice and oppression, surely the Church would have spoken up for the gross human rights abuses of the period from the 1960s to 1994. What do we say of the Rwandan church’s theology regarding God’s creation of humankind? Is this an issue for Hutu and Tutsi alone, or an issue that Christians around the world need to address? (Page 58)

Mbanda is critical of the pre-genocide Church’s adaptation of the government’s agenda:

Even though the Church tended to be sympathetic to the social status and conditions of the surviving Tutsis in general, both the Catholic and Protestant churches (and more so the leadership) were politicized enough to keep in line with what the Rwandan government wanted. It did not matter about belief, the biblical teaching of love and unity, or one’s view of humankind; the Church chose to listen and move with the political agenda of the country. (Page 59)

Mbanda points out that the pre-genocide Church was silent, that is published the government’s agenda in its journal, that favoritism blinded it, and that prestigious positions manipulated its leaders:

By 1961, the Catholic Church was profoundly connected with the Hutu-dominated republics; Kayibanda’s proclamation of the ‘Country of the Battutu’ received wide support from the Church, which knew that the government’s aim was to promote Hutu solidarity against what it called ‘Tutsi feudalism’. The identity card introduced by the colonial rule was retained and the Church said nothing about it. The newly formed government managed to use the Church for furthering much of what had been started and propagated through Kinyamateka, the White Fathers’ journal. Favouritism and the prestigious position of both the Church and its leaders served to blind the Church. As the Burundi people’s saying goes, ‘Na Umugabo uvugana irya mukanwa’, meaning ‘No man talks with food in his mouth.’ The favours and prestigious positions were used to manipulate the church leaders, who, for fear of losing these, could not address real issues. (65-66)

Is any of this different today? The evidence says no:

Mbanda shows that the Rwandan government imprisoned or disappeared those who stood against it:

In 1973, the Protestant Church was still unprepared to participate in the conflict or take a pastoral role. The missionaries had left by then, and Protestant church leaders were not courageous enough to stand up and speak against the evils of the Rwandan leadership and Hutu extremists’ acts. Nothing had been done to address the Church’s political involvement against the Tutsis in 1959-61, much less the public acts. This would not be the time either. Instead, Tutsi priests suspected by the government (or anyone else who wanted them to be killed) of having contacts with outside Rwandans were imprisoned. Others disappeared. (Page 67)

It is hard to read this and not be struck with the paradox that Mbanda himself is now silent when the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame imprisons, tortures and disappears Rwandans. You can read examples of this here, here, and here.

Mbanda correctly says that clergy serving in the ruling party of Habyarimana signaled to a watching public that the Church agreed with the government.

The seating of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rwanda on the Central Committee of the ruling party of ex-President Habyarimana’s government was like putting a stamp of approval on the politics and policies of a government that discriminated against its own people. The Archbishop’s position and relationship to the government identified the Church with the position of the government on the social and political issues regarding the Tutsi population. […] In later years the goal for many Christian church leaders, as they competed for relationships with Rwandan authorities, became clear. Each not only desire to be a close friend of the president, about which they bragged, but also sought to become a powerful voice of whatever church they were leading. (Page 68-69)

How is this different from bishops such as Rucyahana, Kolini, and Gasatura serving on government bodies? How is it different from Kolini and Rucyahana hosting meetings for the CNDP/M23? How is it different from Pastor Antoine Rutayisire laughing it up with Kagame at annual prayer breakfasts in Kigali? How is it different from the Archbishop penning a letter to the United Nations attacking the Group of Experts on the DRC in line with the government’s position? How is it different from Bishop Mbanda calling Paul Kagame’s leadership “visionary?” The answer is, it is not different. Mbanda is now part of something he condemned in this book.

Mbanda discusses how the government influenced who was picked to lead the churches prior to the genocide:

Among the Protestant bishops, Episcopal Archbishop Nshamihigo and Bishop Sebununguri (even though some say that he had fallen out of grace with Habyarimana) were very close confidants of the president. […] Many sources have indicated that most church leaders had been bought off by the government officials through favours. The government’s patronage of top church leaders had strings attached to it, and church leadership selection was one among many. Within the Rwandan Christian Church, among Protestants as well as Catholics, tensions always arose when there was an election or selection of church leaders. Scandalous situations and acts were observed more in the Episcopal Church of Rwanda. The selection of the very first bishop was a more political than spiritual matter. After dealings that were characterized by corruption and deceitful acts, the church ended up selecting a bishop based on ethnic criteria to satisfy the government’s unwritten policy; the president of the country had to give his approval to the selection. Where ethnic distinction was not an issue for the top government authority, geographical origin could play a key factor, especially in the lay leadership of the Habyarimana regime. (Page 70)

I could also remember hearing stories of the Episcopal Church fights involving the late Bishop Ndandali, Bishop Sebununguri and Archbishop Nshamihigo. There were serious fights were weapons were carried into meetings and special bodyguards hired on suspicion of life-threatening plans. (Page 82)

He shows how the Church gave up its prophetic role to be involved in national politics:

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 the second Rwandan governments (the Kayibanda and Habyiramana regimes); these caused church leaders to compromise their prophetic and pastoral roles in exchange for being power-brokers of national politics. (Page 72)

He shows that when some in the Catholic Church did speak out in 1990, it was a good thing, but far too late:

When the Catholic priests formally spoke out on ethnically sensitive issues in March 1990, it signalled a change in the thinking of the Catholic church leadership. The voices involved may not have been high enough in the hierarchy to be heard immediately as in past political involvements (such as those from 1916 to the 1960s), but they definitely provided a significant, if belated, warning. These priests spoke against the ethnic quotas in education and in civil service that limited Tutsi participation. Whether this was God’s Spirit at work or the result of an intellectual analysis of the political situation (or both), I can’t judge. Still, the warning should have been voiced at least some 30 years before. (Page 73)

The fact today is that Tutsis run every level of government, and are often “twinned” with Hutus who serve as puppets for a Tutsi boss behind the scenes. The United States government knows this, as this leaked State Department cable shows. So why isn’t the Anglican Church speaking out against the ethnic discrimination going on in Rwanda today?

Mbanda shows how the dictator Habyarimana eliminated his opponents, which is exactly what happens with Paul Kagame’s opponents today:

(Habyarimana) had political enemies both inside and outside the country and was basically ruling through a gun in his opponents’ backs and ‘suspicious’ car accidents. The whereabouts of his identified enemies was top secret; human rights abuse had become a way of life, and his own conscience bothered him. (Page 74)

Kagame in fact boasted about an assassination at a prayer breakfast in 2014, with Mbanda in attendance. The Anglican Church was silent about Kagame’s boasting.

Mbanda returns again and again to the silence of the Church:

In Rwanda, certain denominational leaders were close friends and strong supporters of the Habyarimana regime. Among them were all the bishops of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda (except one non-diocesan titular bishop formerly in Kigeme, a Tutsi and survivor of the genocide), […] Some of the church leaders’ reputations became widely blurred as they appeared in political scenes, advancing political agendas, leading political party demonstrations, and making inappropriate political declarations in public support of the corrupt regime – including the justification of both genocide and the mass killing of Hutu moderates. The Anglican leader Augustin Nshamihigo, the former Presbyterian head, and the Catholic Church’s Archbishop Nsengiyumva acted like competitors. The silence and role of the top church officials during the 1994 massacres made them accomplices in the genocide. (Page 75-76)

And yet today, John Rucyahana was a government puppet in the Rose Kabuye matter, Emmanuel Kolini relayed Kagame’s orders to America to cancel a speaking engagement of Paul Rusesabagina.

Mbanda says that Western partners of Rwanda from before the genocide were confused and did not know what to believe about Rwanda:

Some Christians around the world were disappointed in the Rwandan church leadership, while others were morally and financially behind them. From my discussions with executives of Western-based Christian non-government organizations and mission agencies, I have come to learn that many were confused and did not know what to believe about the Rwandan situation. So they continued working relationships with church other indigenous Christian organizations in the country, based on the relationships and trust developed over the years prior to the 1990 war situation. (Page 76)

This is identical to today’s situation, with the additional factor that many Westerners aligned with Rwanda are so ignorant that they do not even realize there is a problem.

He relates stories of Evangelical Christians who participated in the genocide or later interahamwe killing:

Honest Christians, godly people, the ‘saved’ (in the Kinyarwanda language, ‘Abarokore’) were holding evening and weekend meetings characterized by groups engaging in prayer, fasting, confessions of sins, predictions of what might come, rich Bible studies, willingness to entertain deep thoughts, singing heavenly songs and concern for one another. Both Hutus and Tutsis participated with no fear of each other, even though there was an atmosphere of suspicion in the country. The meetings developed into large public gatherings where political issues were addressed, and the involvement of church leaders in the political scenes was condemned. There was a call to pray, to love each other and to pursue peace and unity. Christian survivors of the genocide who participated in these evangelical meetings tell stories of church members and testifying Christians who, having attended the same meetings, were later seen in the uniforms and activities of Interahamwe (militia). During the killings, many were also seen at roadblocks with machetes. It is hard to believe, but reported by trustworthy individuals. (Page 77)

Mbanda says that most Christians behaved no differently from the average Rwandan:

The behaviour of most church members, including their leaders, was outwardly no different from the non-Christians’ conduct and therefore lacked the Christian testimony that would have made a significant difference. (Page 112)

Mbanda discusses how returnees from the Tutsi exile took over leadership of many denominations in Rwanda. This was true of the Anglican Church, which has turned heavily to those born outside the country to run it in the years after the genocide:

To the surprise of many people in Rwanda, including some Christians, church services resumed immediately following the RPF’s takeover of the country, certain churches being packed to their maximum capacity. Initially, most people found in the capital city of Rwanda were new faces to Kigali. Faces in most churches were also new, then, with few old church members, and among new faces in the churches were old Rwandan refugees. In some churches, the initial church service organizers were from among the returnees who targeted the denominations they were connected with in countries of exile. The new organizers were either elders and ordained pastors in refugee resettlements where they lived, or church pastors in the national churches of their countries of asylum Returning into the homeland, some had actually been eyeing the takeover of local church leadership situations as they thought that most of the former leaders would not want to return to Rwanda due to accusations of involvement in the genocide and compliance with the whole killing situation. (Page 112)

He ominously refers to innocent Hutus who fled the country, believing that RPF forces would take revenge on them when they took over. Mbanda implies that this was not the case:

As churches resumed their responsibility (in most cases with new service and church activity organizers) the newly established government did not waste time in calling upon recent refugees to return home and participate in the rebuilding of the country. The call to return went hand in hand with an assurance of bringing justice to the murderers and planners of the genocide. Those with no direct involvement in the slaughter had nothing to fear and therefore no reason to live in exile, but were being called home. The government knew that there were many innocent people who followed the killers into exile believing that the RPF would exact revenge for murdered Tutsis immediately after it reclaimed the country. (Page 113)

However, this did happen, as documents like the Gersony Report show. The Report said in part:

Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about “peace,” “security” or “food distribution” issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers by other means. Large-scale killings which did not involve such “meetings” were also reported. House-to-house killings, and attacks on villages and displaced populations.

I have no evidence that Bishop Mbanda has ever spoken about these killings.

Mbanda describes the chaos of the post-genocide environment, where funds were diverted and mis-spent:

Relief and rehabilitation funds have been diverted to hire youth fighters from marketplaces to come and drag pastors from church pulpits, disrupting services and even beating individuals who resist. These thugs have pulled a bishop out of his chair, have cleared sanctuaries filled with worshipers and have overturned tables with communion elements. Pick-up trucks purchased from Christian organizations with church-donated funds have been seen transporting these young fighters to wherever a certain ‘self-imposed’ bishop was to be. (Page 129-130)

Mbanda calls on church leaders to monitor the Church-State relationship, so he should thank me for this blog! See below:

The Hebraic model of theocracy, which would link spiritual leaders with political power, failed to become reality in Rwanda, but made a significant impact on the political leadership. Church leaders in Africa, and elsewhere, have to be careful to avoid combining religious and political functions. Church and mission leaders must watch the relationship between church and state, as these can be dangerous for the Church. In Rwanda they have demonstrated patterns of manipulation within the Church, and the abuse of governmental relationships by the Church. (Page 138)

Mbanda’s summary of the pre-1994 Church rings just as true today when related to massive human rights abuses in Rwanda and the DRC:

The Rwandan church failed to challenge social injustices. It is sin to allow social injustice anywhere, especially in the Church; and yet there are places where Christian missions and churches have actually sought to justify the drawing of lines according to their view of the human race. The Rwandan genocide is a typical example of what can happen when we draw lines and view others as less than people made in God’s image. (Page 139)

To summarize, the Bishop’s book is disappointing. The very things he castigates the old Church for doing, he is now involved in himself. The players have changed, but the song is the same.

References   [ + ]

1. These posts: one, two, three, four and five.
2. Mbanda’s take on the colonial past meshes with the RPF “victor’s narrative.” Jennifer Melvin describes this narrative in her article, “Correcting history: Mandatory education in Rwanda.” She says: “In its most general form, this remit seeks to create a single set of conclusions about Rwanda’s past, present, and future. his interpretation is informed by a singular narrative of Rwandan history referred to in this article as the ‘victor’s narrative’. The term ‘victor’ refers to the RPF’s role in creating and disseminating this particular version of events. Like the term ‘victor’s justice’ used by authors including Tiemessen (2004), Sarkin (2001), and Waldorf (2010) to describe RPF impunity at gacaca, the ‘victor’s narrative’ denies RPF involvement in human rights abuses and violations in Rwanda and DRC. These allegations include: limiting the freedom of speech, press, and association; silencing journalists and political opponents through politically motivated accusations of ‘divisionism’ and ‘genocide ideology’; and contributing to conlict in DRC, such as the M23 rebellion. The ‘victor’s narrative’ emphasises pre-colonial unity, the detriments of ethnic identities, and the beneits of RPF-led programming. In the context of education camps and school classrooms, this narrative functions to limit critical analysis, bolster political support, and denounce criticism of the RPF regime.”

A Reduced Anglican Presence at Rwanda’s 2015 National Prayer Breakfast (or not)

One year ago, Rwandan dictator and atheist Paul Kagame attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Kigali, where he gloated in his assassination of former friend Patrick Karegeya. Karegeya had been murdered just a couple weeks prior to the prayer breakfast, and Kagame was riding high on his death. He shared a table with Anglican Archbishop Rwaje, and other Anglicans were in attendance.

rwaje dictator
Archbishop Rwaje and Kagame in 2014.

I spoke up about this at the time (see this post) and many news outlets around the world took notice since Kagame was boasting about murder to the applause of clergy. Characteristically, PEARUSA, the American branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church, was silent about its Anglican Archbishop staying mute in the face of a modern Idi Amin.

never silent
This book has no meaning in PEARUSA.

Three days ago, Kagame returned to the Prayer Breakfast and as far as we know, he did not boast about killing.

The Anglican presence at this year’s event was far less than at last year’s event, although Anglicans were not absent, as you will see. Why is this? Is it because:

  1. PEAR in Rwanda was stung by the criticism last year?
  2. They were not invited this year?
  3. PEARUSA was embarrassed at last year’s event, and expressed this to their Rwandan oversight?
  4. Rwandan Anglicans are silently protesting Kagame? This is highly unlikely but I add it here as a possibility.
  5. Something else?

If you have insight into the reasons for Rwaje’s absence, let me know.

UPDATE: No sooner did I click publish, then I looked closer at another picture (below) and saw Archbishop Rwaje, near the right of the picture:

16228558556_7eb30e9f3e_h
Rwaje at the right.

 

So it seems that Anglican learned nothing from last year’s debacle.

This year, Archbishop Rwaje was replaced by Bishop Enoch Dusingizimana of the Community of Christian Churches in Africa (C.C.C.A). There was still an Anglican at the dictator’s table however, none other than the notorious Antoine Rutayisire.

16068621797_dc847a8919_o
Bishop Enoch Dusingizimana with Kagame and Rutayisire.

Antoine Rutayisire – Kagame’s Anglican

Pastor Rutayisire has been a shill for Kagame for many years, defending him at every turn, in contradiction to all Christian theology. The Bible says, “It is an abomination to kings to do evil,” (Proverbs 16:12) and yet Christians stand inert before Kagame, dumb and deaf, saying nothing of his wickedness.

Rutayisire_2015
Rutayisire at the 2015 Prayer Breakfast.

Rutayisire has made outlandish statements in favor of this modern day Pharaoh. In the past, he said of Kagame:

“He is not authoritarian to the level I would wish. When you’re ruling a country that’s coming out of chaos … you don’t go for democracy, you go for autocracy.”

This year, he moved from saying that Rwanda is an autocracy to saying it is a theocracy! According to Jean Paul Ibambe on Twitter, Rutayisire said Rwanda is a theocracy, “which is better than democracy [which is] full of noise.” If Rwanda is a theocracy, is Rutayisire implying that Kagame is God’s anointed? What does this say to those whom he has tortured and murdered?

rut

Is Rutayisire a renegade Anglican, outside the normal circles of the Church? Far from it. Here are some pictures of him just recently with Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Muvunyi, and again, teaching in Musanze to Bishop Mbanda’s clergy:

rut rwaje muv
Bishop Muvunyi, Pastor Rutayisire, Archbishop Rwaje
rut rwaje
Rutayisire teaching Anglicans in Musanze

What does it say of the Anglican Church of Rwanda that a man at its heart is attached at the hip to a dictator? It is consistent with the actions of Rucyahana, Kolini, Rwaje, Mbanda, Gasatura, Ahimana and others. It is the action of a compromised man within a compromised church, embracing a dictator instead of rebuking him.

Not only does Rutayisire have an audience in Rwanda, he has one in the United States. Last summer, he spoke at Washington D.C Anglican parishes The Church of the Resurrection and the Church of the Advent. He is the President of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative, where he shares leadership with many Americans. This is shameful.

16067097550_17980328d0_o
Rutayisire with the First Lady.

In the excerpts of Kagame’s speech available to us this year, he refers to Rutayisire, and says:

Even though I said that I am not a pastor like Rutayisire, I actually love many teachings from the Bible. The teachings of life. History; how it happened, its consequences, its goodness, we find it all in the Bible.

If Kagame is reading his Bible, that is a good thing. He can perhaps open to Psalm 52, and read:

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”

Rucyahana Joins the Inquisition

The BBC did the world a service earlier this year when it produced the documentary called Rwanda’s Untold Story. Nothing in the documentary is new, it has all been said before, but in print, and sometimes in academic publications or other out of the way places that most nice Western Christians don’t read. For many people, until they watch something on a screen, it isn’t real (see the Ray Rice situation in the NFL).

A measure of how this documentary struck home is the paranoia with which Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame has been trying to eliminate it. In his own country, someone who produced something like this would disappear, be tortured, killed or never heard from again. But Kagame does not control the entire world, as much as he would like to, so he stirs up all kinds of nonsense, equating history and truth telling with genocide denial. Merely labeling something as denying the genocide is enough to silence it for many Westerners who don’t invest time in researching Rwanda.

In Rwanda, discussion is not allowed. Free speech does not exist. Debate cannot happen. The one party state rules all, and exerts its control down to the lowest level. So it should be no surprise that this week, retired Bishop John Rucyahana showed up as part of the dog and pony show Kagame has put together to condemn the BBC documentary. According to reports on Twitter, Rucyahana “testified” to the Inquisition Inquiry Committee that the documentary “poisons the minds of the people” and all kinds of other bad things.

bbc4

bbc3

bbc2

 

Why Rucyahana has any expertise on this subject is not apparent. As I have shown repeatedly on this blog, he is a stooge for the regime, a man who says “how high?” whenever Kagame says “jump.” He has no credibility and should be publicly disowned by American bishops and clergy, but instead, they embrace this man. He is a Micaiah to Kagame’s Ahab, if you know what I mean.

Figure 4. Bishops Rucyahana and Barnum
Bishops Rucyahana and Barnum
Figure 5. Bishop Lawrence and Rucyahana
Bishop Lawrence and Rucyahana

While Rucyahana’s support starts with PEARUSA, it by no means ends there. He sits on charities and boards all over the place. Take the Shyira Trust for example, it is a UK charity that works with the Shyira Diocese in Rwanda to fund various development projects. In February, members of the Trust from the U.K. met with Rucyahana — long after the United Nations conclusively showed his support in fundraising and recruiting for M23. You can see their meeting below.

Shyira Trust members with their friend, Rucyahana
Shyira Trust members with their friend, Rucyahana

caption

I contacted the Trust in March, after this meeting with the “amazing man.” The responses I received are typical of the shallow thinking, lack of reason, and lack of theological wisdom that are hallmarks of western interaction with Rwandans. I wrote:

Hello,
Are you aware of Bishop Rucyahana’s support for M23? In light of that, are you comfortable continuing to work with him?

The answer I received was:




Thank you for your question Joel. We have been working with Bishop John for 14 years now, and have come to respect him as a former diocesan bishop and as a Brother in Christ. Whatever the truth of your statement we see no reason to break our friendship with him – it would not achieve anything.

See what they did there? Who cares what he did? It won’t stop us from being friends. I responded:

Well, Romans 1 says that we should not “approve of those who practice them”, and the group he raised funds for practiced child kidnapping, rape, torture and other atrocities. I think this would reflect poorly on the Trust.

To this, I received the standard “do you know this man?” type of reply. Also, the fact that Rucyahana served on NURC, an Orwellian instrument of oppression in Rwanda, counts as a plus to the Trust:

Joel, I wonder if you have ever met Bishop John and got to know him as a man. I worked with him for the benefit of the people of Shyira parish while he was Bishop of Shyira. Since then I have simply known him as a friend, someone I trust and respect and visit when I am in Rwanda. In Rwanda Bishop John has done outstanding work on reconciliation, including being chairman of the reconciliation Commission. For those and other reasons I completely accept his public letter of 24th July 2012.

So because these nice Westerners have met and “know” Rucyahana, whatever he says must be true, evidence be damned. This is the same response I received from Bishop Breedlove of PEARUSA. As we have seen recently with Bill Cosby, our capacity for self deceit in the face of evidence is a massive weakness in our character.

The Charity Commission might want to investigate the Shyira Trust, to see why they have no problem working with a man who helps send boys off to die for M23, raping and slaughtering all the while. A man who now helps smear the BBC for doing journalism, something that is not allowed in Rwanda.

Atrocities in Rwanda, 2014

The Kagame regime began this year by assassinating Patrick Karegeya in South Africa. It moved on to “disappearing” citizens all over the nation, and then there were strange fires that burned down prisons. Now there are arrests of leading regime generals and other figures as the totalitarian regime eats its own, and there are also bodies turning up on a lake in Burundi. This story, translated from French, says:

In recent days corpses wrapped in plastic bags are found floating on the lake Rweru on the border between Burundi and Rwanda in the province Muyinga.

More than 40 bodies floating in the lake town Rweru Giteranyi were seen and counted from the month of July by the fishermen, as confirmed by the local administration and police. This week, these fishermen accompanied by a unit of the Navy, saw two bodies on the mouth of the Kagera. It was a woman without clothes and a man wrapped in a bag. One of the dead was identified by Rwandan fishermen, they immediately rushed to repatriate the dead body.

The report goes on to says that Burundi had not reported any disappeared, and that Burundians:

…indicate that such carcasses are thrown into the river Akagara the Rwandan side, that comes pouring into the lake Rweru: “In the neighborhood, we deplore any loss, unless they are brought from other regions and thrown in the lake, “they say.

The lake in question borders Rwanda and Burundi, as you can see from this map:

Lake Rugwero
Lake Rugwero with Rwanda on the North

An updated report says:

The case made headlines Burundian newspapers for two days: the fishermen said they saw dozens of bodies floating on the Rweru Lake in northeastern Burundi, on the border with Rwanda. They are bodies of men, women and youth, some tied up.

Fishermen Lake Rweru say they would have seen since early July between six and forty bodies floating in the waters of the lake, located in the northeastern Burundi. Several private radio stations in Bujumbura, the alarm was given it a week ago.

Contacted by RFI yesterday, Sunday, the representative of the fishermen of the town Giteranyi shoreline of the lake, said he went near the mouth of the Kagera River with soldiers from the Burundian Navy. They then discovered there two bodies, one still wrapped in a big burlap bag. ” We unfortunately could not bring them back to the mainland because the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition , “said the representative of the fishermen. They then drifted the body along with the current like other fishermen did with the body they discovered earlier.

… Fishermen are, claim that these bodies would be carried by the Kagera River which originates in neighboring Rwanda. Prudente, the Burundian government would not confirm or deny.

There have been widespread disappearances, such as this:

Rwandan opposition politician Damascene Munyeshyaka, who went missing on June 27, is just one in a growing list of people who have not been heard of over the past few months and who rights activists believe have been forcibly disappeared.

Munyeshyaka, the organisational secretary of the Democratic Green Party, was at a meeting in the eastern district of Bugesera, when he received a phone call.

The caller said he had an urgent message to deliver, according to the party. Munyeshyaka didn’t know the caller but left to meet him. He has not been seen since.

And there are mass arrests of high ranking regime members, in moves reminiscent of purges after the French Revolution. See here, here, here, and here.

Finally, look at this appalling picture from inside a Rwandan prison:

Gitarama Prison
Prisoners tortured in Rwandan prisons.

This article, whose truth I cannot verify, 1)See this story for confirmation. says:

To understand how furious and systematic Hutus extermination is, Tutsis RPF regime has nowadays chosen a plan to blaze prisons and more than thirty thousand (30,000) Hutus perished in this process of prisons blaze where they were abducting prisoners to massacre in name of transfers to other prisons so that other fellow prisoners cannot question what happening and try to claim. The recent prisons set on fire are two prisons of Muhanga central prison in Gitarama and Nyakiriba prison in Rubavu (Gisenyi) respectively on 5 June 2014 and 7 July 2014, i e within one month. This happened following 1 or 2 months more than sixteen thousand (16,000) Hutus massacred in Northern West province in Nyabihu district and the RPF regime said they don’t know their whereabouts, and simply said that they disappeared.

The above picture is Muhanga prison in Gitarama set on fire on 5 June 2014 and this happen alongside the slow systematic massacres of these Hutus prisoners where they are daily beaten, killed abducted, starved and poisoned. More than 80% of Hutus who terminated their sentence when they come out for normal life, consequently they cannot pass 1 or 2 years alive, they die. 2)The 30,000 number comes from stories like this:

Kigali — Some 30.000 Rwandans sentenced to community service for their role in the 1994 genocide have disappeared, according to the Rwandan prison authorities. Community service was introduced under a Rwandan law as an alternative to prison for certain categories of genocide perpetrator who confessed. One of the goals was to reduce overcrowding in the country’s jails.

The semi-traditional village courts or gacaca (pronounced gatchatcha) that tried most genocide suspects had, by the time they closed in June 2012, sentenced 84,896 people to community service, according to the authorities.

A report by the Rwandan prison service says only 53,366 of these turned up in the camps where they were to serve their alternative sentence. The prison service says it does not know where they are. “This is a matter of great concern for us,” prison service director Paul Rwarakabije told Hirondelle.

“It is extremely worrying for the survivors,” says Naphtal Ahishakiye, secretary general of the main survivors’organization Ibuka.

According to the same report, out of the 53,366 who presented themselves for community service, 46,270 have served their sentence, 1,996 escaped during community service and 340 have died natural deaths.

During community service, convicts help with public works such as building roads, bridges, public schools, orphanages and houses for the elderly.

Conditions in the open-air prison that is Rwanda are horrible,  and yet we continue to only see the sanitized, mission-trip version of reality in PEAR USA publications. Speaking of another appalling situation, that of Christians in Iraq, PEAR Bishop Breedlove says:

The silence of the US and Canadian media and government is unconscionable, and we need to call them to account and ask for a change of behavior. “Never Silent” is part of our story. We need to bring that legacy to this critical issue happening right now. We must never be silent while Christians are slaughtered for nothing more than being Christians.

He is right for once, and yet the hypocrisy is more than a little thick given the outrages in Rwanda that have been happening for two decades now, with the increasing complicity of Westerners, who choose to see no evil and hear no evil.

rwaje dictator
Archbishop Rwaje and Paul Kagame

References   [ + ]

1. See this story for confirmation.
2. The 30,000 number comes from stories like this:

Kigali — Some 30.000 Rwandans sentenced to community service for their role in the 1994 genocide have disappeared, according to the Rwandan prison authorities. Community service was introduced under a Rwandan law as an alternative to prison for certain categories of genocide perpetrator who confessed. One of the goals was to reduce overcrowding in the country’s jails.

The semi-traditional village courts or gacaca (pronounced gatchatcha) that tried most genocide suspects had, by the time they closed in June 2012, sentenced 84,896 people to community service, according to the authorities.

A report by the Rwandan prison service says only 53,366 of these turned up in the camps where they were to serve their alternative sentence. The prison service says it does not know where they are. “This is a matter of great concern for us,” prison service director Paul Rwarakabije told Hirondelle.

“It is extremely worrying for the survivors,” says Naphtal Ahishakiye, secretary general of the main survivors’organization Ibuka.

According to the same report, out of the 53,366 who presented themselves for community service, 46,270 have served their sentence, 1,996 escaped during community service and 340 have died natural deaths.

During community service, convicts help with public works such as building roads, bridges, public schools, orphanages and houses for the elderly.

Recruiting for M23 at Sonrise in Rwanda

sonrise
A Recent Graduation at Sonrise

Sonrise School in Rwanda is an almost obligatory stop on the itinerary of Westerners who take trips to Rwanda and process through the country. An article on the PEAR USA website recently called it “A Light on a Hill.” The school has undoubtedly done good over the years, but a disturbing case of alleged ethnic hatred and recruitment for M23 has recently been brought to my attention.

The school is presented to American Christians, particularly Anglicans, as being for impoverished orphans, whereas a Rwandan told me that it is among the most expensive in Rwanda. This fact is confirmed in this review of Stepehn Kinzer’s book, A Thousand Hills Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, which says, “Originally built for orphans, like ASYV, Sonrise now caters to children of many wealthy Rwandans.” A 2012 story in the propaganda organ The New Times said, “Sonrise High School is an Anglican church-founded school and at least 290 of the students out of its total population of over 500 are sponsored.” This means that in 2012, at least 210 students were paying tuition on their own, confiming the fact that Sonrise caters to wealthy Rwandans, but includes a mix of some sponsored children. 1)See here for example. This anonymous post, translated from Kinyarwanda, says that Sonrise “which was constructed to help the orphans, especially genocide survivors. It became a home and a school for sons and daughter of the government ministers and other senior government officials.”

A Rwandan tells me that Sonrise is used as a figurative nursery to young Tutsis—particularly the Bagogwe—to brainwash them with ideology. The source says, “Those youngsters are then used in the creation of militia groups like M23.”

In June 2012, when the M23 terrorist group was in full swing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I am told that a group of Sonrise students were invited to speak with retired Anglican Bishop and Kagame associate John Rucyahana. Rucyahana allegedly told the students that they should be ready to join the fight in the DRC. Rucyahana also asked them to join the social media propaganda campaign for M23.

ruc sonrise
Rucyahana at the Recent Graduation

The assumption was that all the students Rucyahana was talking to were Tutsi, however, one individual was Hutu. Consequently, it is alleged that the management of Sonrise demanded that the Tutsi students undertake a hate campaign against this Hutu individual. Students started to tear apart his clothes and throw his notebooks in the trash can. The Tutsi students even defecated in the bed of this individual. The Hutu student asked the management of Sonrise to take action to investigate the matter, but his claims were ignored.

I am told that one day, the individual caught a Tutsi student who was defecating on his bed and asked the management of Sonrise to take action since a culprit was caught. Instead, the management accused the individual of causing trouble at Sonrise and they expelled the individual from the school.

I was further told that one of the chief instigators of the ethnic animosities was Rukaka Rwagati, the brother of Fanette Rwagati, a female who was a major in M23 and who worked as an M23 propagandist on social media. This alone shows a vital tie between relatives at Sonrise and the M23 terrorists.

fanette-rwagati
Fanette Rwagati in her M23 days

This story ties in quite well with other existing facts about M23 and John Rucyahana. For example, in 2012, United Nations investigators report that Rucyahana was the President of the Bagogwe community. M23 warlord Bosco Ntaganda is a Bagogwe from Masisi, and Bosco was able to escape to the US embassy in Kigali with the help of a relative of his, a relative who I am told was John Rucyahan’s driver (see my story here).

Second, the United Nations reported on M23 child recruits coming from Musanze (Ruhengeri) where Sonrise is located, see this post.

Third, the U.S. State Department reported on young men from orphanages being pressured into joining M23:

Staff members at a few orphanages reported the RDF pressured some of their young men to join the military during mandatory “ingando” civic and military training camps held after secondary school graduation. (See this post.)

Unfortunately, Americans are clueless about these things taking place. And they will probably choose to believe that they could not or are not happening. But if you are an American supporter of Sonrise, ask yourself, if John Rucyahana and others were doing these things, would you have any way of knowing, or would you be totally ignorant? Do you speak the language enough to ask questions on your tourist visits to Rwanda? Even if you do, would any Rwandans be willing to break silence on something like this, when it could cost them their lives? For these reasons, I don’t expect to see any change in support for Sonrise from Americans.

Dead M23 terrorists, the unfortunate end of some Rucyahana recruits
Dead M23 terrorists, the unfortunate end of some Rucyahana recruits

References   [ + ]

1. See here for example.

First Things: Alignments of Interest with Evil Powers

issue_53c5427d6f5da

The current (August / September) issue of First Things magazine contains a letter to the editor that I wrote related to Ephraim Radner’s article “Anglicanism on its Knees.” 1)I mentioned this article in an earlier post. It also includes a couple letters from fellow Anglicans who defend GAFCON and cannot imagine what Radner is on about.

Radner eloquently replies to the letters, pointing out that (1) moral relativism related to Africa is wrong, (2) Anglicans are all about some moral concerns {sexual ethics} while totally ignoring others {murder, tyranny, torture} and (3) Anglicans, “…have been and remain prone to alignments of interest with, frankly, evil powers.” One prime example of this is the silence and complicity of Rwandan Anglicans with their evil regime. Fortunately, despite the attempts of PEAR USA to whitewash and ignore these concerns, the truth is still on the march. Radner’s response follows:

The purpose of my essay was to highlight some of the moral pressures and dilemmas that Anglicans around the world now face. These have arisen in the wake of the tremendous turmoil brought on by especially Western cultural transformations over how to understand and enact our sexual lives. This turmoil has, in turn, drawn in churches and cultures from outside the West. Anglicans are no different from other Christians in having to make serious choices in the face of these dynamics. My argument was that a failure to take these choices seriously will lead-and has already led-otherwise faithful people into moral commitments and alliances that are simply wrong. My remarks about Anglicanism today, then, represented both a case study for all Christians, as well as a particular plea for prayer on all our behalf.

I am disappointed and surprised that some readers chose to avoid the issues I raised, and thereby gave testimony to my argument about a growing moral obtuseness in our midst. There is absolutely nothing that can justify what happened in Rwanda in 1994-neither events before that time nor events subsequent to them. But there is nothing, morally or theologically, to justify what has happened in the Eastern Congo in the past twenty years, either. Lilice Wickman seems to confuse these matters. The Rwandan army, whatever its virtues past or present, has been and is involved in unconscionable activities, even atrocities. There is no “rock and a hard place” set of choices here for Christians, nor is there any in Nigeria and Uganda on the front of basic human rights that Christians themselves helped define and defend: We are called to speak the truth in love, to oppose what is wrong, and to do so whether or not it is culturally comfortable or politically secure. Period. To start calculating the relative moral weights of political partners and worrying about misperceived moral equivalencies, while inevitable, cannot form the basis of evangelical witness and ecclesial policy.

Surely the Church has learned this clearly over the past centuries, whatever the temptations. It is hard to believe that Christians are willing to claim some great moral victory in having tepidly expressed discomfort with executing homosexuals (Uganda), while doing nothing to publicly oppose their long-term incarceration. However, it is not a matter of tabulating comparative shame: There is more than enough to go around in a world where Christians-in this specific case, Anglicans-have made some moral concerns the basis for ignoring others of comparable evangelical urgency.

Emery Gerhardt imagines, furthermore, that conservative American Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church have some­ how progressed beyond having to debate these moral subtleties, and are now happily engaged in the real business of the Church. I suggest he look at the fine work of Joel Wilhelm, who has been chronicling some troubling immoral complicities that deeply compromise Gerhardt’s version of Anglicanism come of age. Wilhelm’s letter rightly emphasizes how mutual accountability is one of the great casualties of our politicized Church. And this is a loss that injures both conservatives and liberals.

But just because of this, what is at stake also goes beyond Anglicanism, as I tried to suggest. Fr. John Hodgins has nothing to apologize for in joining the Roman Catholic Church, and I for one certainly do not dismiss such a decision on the part of some Anglicans. I will leave aside whether or not this is a particularly helpful Anglican option-personally, I think it has little to do with “preserving what is best” in Anglicanism, nor should it. More important, the choice to be a part of the Roman Catholic Church does nothing to solve the underlying dilemma of corrupting partnerships into which the pressures of, say, secularization often push Christians. I hope I made that clear.

On this score, Christopher Wells is more attuned to my concerns, when he notes that the U.S. Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation’s recent statement on “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment” properly called on each Church to “share” in the moral struggles of the other, rather than to use them as clubs with which to beat the other. One reason for such an exhortation is that Catholics and Anglicans both, each in their own way, have been and remain prone to alignments of interest with, frankly, evil powers. At this time, at least, I believe that we strengthen our resistance in part through common accountabilities to which we can and must hold each other in our imperfect unity and witness. This may prove a better pedagogy for our growth in unity than other paths.

In any case, I am sorry that some have taken my request for prayer on behalf of Anglicans-and indirectly, thus, for all of us-as a recruitment tool, a strategy that a few apologists for the Anglican Ordinariate seem to have adopted on the web. As Wells indicates, this strategy may well miss a divine opportunity.

References   [ + ]

1. I mentioned this article in an earlier post.

Ephraim Rader: We Should All Shout About Rwanda

Dr. Ephraim Radner

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.

Breedlove Reemphasizes that PEAR USA is Deeply Joined to Rwanda

Bishops Breedlove and Rwaje, Archbishop Rwaje and Paul Kagame
Bishops Breedlove and Rwaje, Archbishop Rwaje and Paul Kagame

In a message about the election of Archbishop Beach and PEAR USA‘s relationship with Rwanda, Bishop Steve Breedlove re-emphasized the close relationship with Rwanda as one of the main reasons for PEAR USA’s existence. He writes:

Many ACNA jurisdictions and leaders have been shaped by global partners, from whom we all learn. But no one else has the sustained, personal “life together” that God has given us with the Church of Rwanda. 1)One wonders what those in CANA might say to this. As missionary networks of Rwanda, deeply joined in Gospel partnership with parishes and dioceses in Rwanda, we understand what it means to be shaped by the global Christian community.

Note the claims to being “shaped” by the Rwandan Church, a Church that says nothing in the face of the evil of a one Party State, a State that sanctions things such as this {Warning: graphic}! When you are celebrating Eucharist with Archbishop Rwaje, who is in turn appearing with a tyrant all in smiles, there is an issue.

Breedlove was the mentor to my former parish priest, who is now a Presbyterian, and was called in to resolve relational conflicts between the RenewDC pastors. 2)Listen to 13:47 and following of this sermon. His own son interviewed for the job of assistant pastor at our parish, and Bishop Breedlove worked with my pastor, his mentee, to use church discipline against me after I refused to take down this post, which pointed out the factual United Nations evidence about the nefarious activity of John Rucyahana, and suggested that ACNA think about appearing with Rucyahana in public.

This effort at censorship occurred when, “On one or more occasion, a few ACNA bishops casually brought up the fact of the blogs you were writing to [Breedlove] orally.”  At the time I was unaware of the mentor relationship that he sustained with my pastor, but in retrospect, it makes the entire process even more flawed, because there can be no expectation of impartiality when my pastor’s mentor, who initiated action against me, was also to be the party I appealed to! “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” Indeed.

pear

Breedlove has a close relationship with Rwandan clergy, and as I have pointed out before, in a meeting with me and his mentee, my pastor, he essentially blew off all evidence of torture, killing and totalitarianism in Rwanda, saying that he was comfortable moving forward with Rwanda. At that time I asked the Bishop if the Rwandans showed any degree of self critique or criticism for their government and he could not come up with an example or answer of self criticism.

Back when I was getting excited about the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), PEAR USA’s precursor, we were told to be “never silent.” Times have changed. As Ephraim Radner said, “Concerns about the character of our various churches’ attachments to players in the eastern Congo tragedy are generally suppressed through a desire to maintain ecclesial alliances;  or, conversely, when such concerns are raised, they are dismissed and assigned to the motives of ecclesial politics.”

never silent

 

References   [ + ]

1. One wonders what those in CANA might say to this.
2. Listen to 13:47 and following of this sermon.