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.”

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.

Bishop Nathan Gasatura: “Kagame honors the Lord”

On February 23, 2011 Rwandan Anglican Bishop Nathan Gasatura spoke during the chapel message at Wheaton College. During his message, he mentioned that he went to high school with Rwanda’s dictator, Paul Kagame:

I have been in the presence of the Presidents, about four, in our region, and every time I ask the Lord, “Lord give me the strength to just raise your flag, just in a small humble way.” And recently when, you know, we met, the President Kagame with many delegates we talked business and after were done we were to go and in my heart I said, “Oh Lord, I’m failing you help me!” And I put up my hand and asked, I said, “Your excellency, would you allow me to kindly pray in this place?” He said, “Of course Nathan” because we bumped into each other in some high school, so we knew each other a little bit.

And he was right there, it’s a big, big, you know, Presidential hall. And I just felt I need to move and pray with him there, something crazy, some of these things happen. So, I, I said, “if I move the security will think I’m in, you know, I’m up to something.” But I said anyway, “don’t worry” so I walked right across and as I stood behind him, near him, we were almost the same height, so I said, “yeah, I think it’s fitting to put my hand on him.” I prayed, and we all got out so I said, “who knows when I will ever have the opportunity like this?” Praise be to God.

Bishop Gasatura discusses the much-touted reconciliation process in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsi. He goes on to make the astounding claim that “Kagame honors the Lord”:

In Rwanda the story of forgiveness, healing, peacebuilding and reconciliation has been a very painful journey, has been a heartbreaking journey, has been a painful, excruciating journey, has been a very, very, hostile journey, but it has been a worthwhile journey. We thank God for the leadership whom we believe God has used in some way because Kagame honors the Lord. He doesn’t proclaim Christianity openly, many of his ministers, members of Parliament and Senators they honor the Lord. When you come in the Presidential Prayer Breakfast that’s when you see it, it’s, it’s just moving. And we have no doubt that God has used that government to be used as his instrument like he used King Darius. And, Rwanda is changing partly because of the work of the church and government and other forces.

Bishop Gasatura then claims that Kagame was used by God to stop revenge after the genocide of 1994:

When the genocide was beaten and stopped, the very first policy that was put in place was a policy of no revenge, Kagame, somehow was used by God to say, “If we never stop this bloodletting and revenge this vicious cycle will never stop.” So he put in place like a general an order, which had not gone into policy and law, that nobody was allowed whatsoever to shed blood of someone who had killed even 200 of your family members, the government will handle that, nobody (should) take the law in his hands. And today that policy has gone into practice, into law, and a Commission of Unity and Reconciliation has been put in place to re-educate and help the Rwandans unlearn the wrong and poisonous history that they were taught. And if that was not supported by the Church, praying and interceding and teaching, and you know, repenting, it would never go far.

Fact checking the Bishop

Does Kagame honor the Lord?

One of his former cabinet ministers told me, “Like all of us, he grew up Catholic. He has never seriously practiced any faith.Before those he trusts, he ridicules faith in God, and those who believe.”

Furthermore, Kagame is a murderer who crushes all dissent in the open prison that is Rwanda, not quite the qualities of a leader who honors the Lord.

Did Kagame stop the bloodletting?

To the contrary, the entire reign of Kagame is covered in blood. Look at just a couple of the thousands of examples; first, former Kagame bodyguard Aloys Ruyezni wrote:

The Murder of Religious Leaders in Rwanda

The 157th Battalion, led by (then) Col. Fred Ibingira, killed many innocent people in Mutara, Kibungo, Bugesera, Gitarama and elsewhere during the final attack to take control of the country. This includes the bishops who were murdered in Kabgayi. The 157th Battalion’s I.O., Wilson Gumisiriza, organized a section of his staff to kill the bishops. It was led by (then) Sgt. Kwitegetse (alias Burakari), who was briefed on the mission by Gumisiriza. Gen. Kagame gave the final order to kill the bishops to Col. Ibingira. He gave him the order in these words: “Remove those rubbishes,” or “Fagia,” in Swahili.

Ruyenzi again:

Maj. Silas Udahemuka was appointed by President Kagame to supervise the killing of civilians during 1994 and afterwards. He would complete his assigned operation and then report back directly to Gen. Kagame.

The example of Festo Kivengere

Bishop Gasatura rightly praises the example of Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere, and says he wants to be like him. However, Kivengere spoke up against his dictator, Idi Amin, and had to flee Uganda because of it. Bishop Festo wrote:

A suffering Church can bless a nation and provide a refuge to which the suffering society may turn for healing, for liberation and hope. This was proved in Uganda as the Church came under more systematic attack, and hundreds of martyrs’ deaths were added to that of the archbishop’s.

Bishop Gasatura is knowingly or unknowingly spreading falsehoods about Rwanda and the nature of Paul Kagame.

http://alivingtext.com/blog/2013/05/06/rwandan-bishop-nathan-gasatura-hosted-awards-event-for-kagame/

 

Bishop Rucyahana calls Kagame’s dictatorship a source of joy

ruc 2015 jan

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame recently shredded the Constitution and can now be President of Rwanda for the rest of his life. Kagame has blood on his hands and rules over a Police State, which is a highly documented fact.

Retired Anglican bishop John Rucyahana thinks that this move to formalize his dictatorship is a source of joy for Rwanda. According to Rwandan propaganda organ The New Times:

Bishop Rucyahana also added President Paul Kagame’s acceptance to stand again for presidency after his second term ends in 2017 was yet another source of joy as people celebrate the New Year.

“It’s a joy for President Kagame to be able to respond to the request of the nation,” Rucyahana said.

ACNA is attaching itself at the hip to Rwanda. If you are part of ACNA, specifically the future Rwanda Ministry Partners, you should start asking your clergy why praising a dictator is just fine in 2016.

ql ord 1

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.

Is there outside pressure on PEARUSA, AMiA, and CANA to end formal African ties?

The story we are being told about PEARUSA being released by the Rwandan Anglican Church is that this action originated from Rwanda, where the bishops decided it was suddenly time to do this. Some said this decision was made solely by the Rwandan House of Bishops because the PEAR bishops believe that ACNA is a legitimate Anglican Province, so the need for a PEAR missionary district in the United States is no longer necessary and constitutes bad ecclesiology. But why now? Why not three years ago or ten years in the future? 

I am told that this is not the whole story, but rather that both PEARUSA and the AMiA were essentially given an ultimatum (or were pressured) by ACNA to either get fully in or out, and to make the decision now. If true, this makes much more sense of the awkward timing that took place around these events. We can surmise that when Archbishop Beach and Bishop John Guernsey travelled to Rwanda in March to meet all the PEARUSA bishops along with the Rwandan bishops and went on retreat in Musanze, the timing of these events was agreed on.

Archbishop Beach with Bishop Breedlove shortly after the announcement that PEARUSA would come to an end.
Archbishop Beach with Bishop Breedlove shortly after the announcement that PEARUSA would come to an end.

But this is not all, I am also hearing that a great deal of pressure is being applied to CANA to cut ties with Nigeria. Apparently ACNA officials and other bishops are applying this pressure to CANA. The speculation is that non-GAFCON conservative Global South primates are behind this effort to remove the ties to African provinces. What is the reason for this push? One person familiar with these events suggested that an end to formal African oversight would give Global South primates more freedom to compromise with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the upcoming Lambeth meeting, because an end to border crossing would make ACNA more acceptable to Canterbury.

Archbishop Okoh speaking to CANA.
Archbishop Okoh speaking to CANA.

What a Difference Three Years Makes: PEARUSA Assemblies Now and Then

Bishop Steve Breedlove addresses the "Bear Much Fruit" Assembly
Bishop Steve Breedlove addresses the “Bear Much Fruit” Assembly

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.

Bishop Laurent Mbanda teaching at the Moving Forward Together Assembly.
Bishop Laurent Mbanda teaching at the Moving Forward Together Assembly.

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.

Moving Forward Together, PEARUSA 2012
Moving Forward Together, PEARUSA 2012

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.

Gitarama Prison

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.

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The decline of a false narrative.

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.

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

References   [ + ]

1. I posted from that Assembly: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
2. Kolini and Rucyahana.

Thoughts on the PEARUSA and ACNA Developments

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An earlier meeting of the Rwandan House of Bishops

PEARUSA is ending its formal ties to the Anglican Church of Rwanda. By June 2016, PEARUSA as such will cease to exist, its networks will transition to dioceses within ACNA, and a new entity, called “Rwanda Ministry Partners” will be created as a “ministry association” within the ACNA. As for clergy:

American clergy ordained in the Province of Rwanda prior to June 2016 may remain canonically resident in Rwanda or apply for canonical transfer to the ACNA. Those who remain resident in Rwanda will be licensed by the ACNA and under its singular authority.

The first thought that springs to mind on reading this announcement is: why not dissolve the PEARUSA networks into their local ACNA diocese? My guess is that PEAR still distrusts where the rest of ACNA is theologically and therefore does not want to be totally absorbed just yet. This distrust relates to women’s ordination and Reformed theology. For example, in the parishes that I attended in D.C. and Northern Virginia (sometimes called “RenewDC“) there was some distrust of the leadership of Bishop Guernsey, the Bishop of ACNA’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (DOMA). Bishop Guernsey is for women’s ordination, and the clergy of RenewDC are against it. For these clergy to have to report in to Bishop Guernsey is probably a bridge too far, so they will be able to remain in a “Rwanda Ministry Partners” diocese, and they overlapping jurisdictions will continue in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region with CANA, REC, ACNA and RMP (?) dioceses.

Rwanda’s Finances

In 2011, AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy was reportedly:

…concerned about Rwanda’s dependence upon AMiA support. He mentioned that AMiA money given to Rwanda is now 2/3 of the provincial budget. He also said that the Kigali seminary is compromised due to its dependence upon AMiA aid.

One of the presenting causes for the AMiA implosion was that a huge sum of money from America went missing in Rwanda, with the implication being that Archbishop Kolini was the one controlling where the money was allocated. As one insider wrote:

In approximately 2009 it came to the attention of the Rwanda HOB that for several years the annual financial statements of the AMiA showed about $300,000.00 per annum being given to the Province of Rwanda under this 10-10-10 tithing arrangement. Unfortunately, the annual financial reports of the Province of Rwanda showed only $100,000.00 per year coming into the Province of Rwanda (spreadsheets available on request). Above the tithe was an additional $400,000.00 given to ‘the Province’ that never showed up in the Provincial Accounts. The total ‘missing’ monies seem to total at least 1.2 million US dollars.

I say all this because I believe one of PEARUSA’s intentions is to develop an even wider donor base for PEAR in Rwanda. I take some of the statements from ACNA’s press release to mean just that. For example, Bishop Breedlove says, “It’s exciting to think that clergy and churches all across ACNA that were not part of PEARUSA can now be part of Rwanda Ministry Partners.” Archbishop Beach said, “…Rwanda Ministry Partners will allow others in the Province who would like to be connected to Rwanda to do so. I look forward to more partnerships and deeper relationships with Rwanda for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and Bishop Quigg Lawrence said, “Rwanda Ministry Partners will actually enhance and expand what PEARUSA’s ministry and relationship have always been.”

The idea here seems to be of ACNA embracing PEAR at a greater level, providing more money to this financially strapped province. This idea has taken flesh in 2015 as PEARUSA’s “Provincial Sustainability Project” also known as “Walk with Rwanda.” 1)The website is here. According to the PEAR Strategy for Long Term Sustainability: “PEARUSA currently provides $70,000 – $80,000 to PEAR annually.”

Getting the Anglican Church of Rwanda to a place of financial self-sufficiency would be a good thing. Sending money to Rwanda without strict accountability is not. By this, I mean accountability about where the money goes and accountability about the relationship of the Church to the ruling RPF party. If you get on the wrong side of Paul Kagame, even if you are an insider, the consequences to you and your property are severe, as you can see in this recent example.

rwaje dictator

Any move away from formal affiliation with a Church that operates under a Police State and is not opposed to that State is a good thing. The Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR) lives under a dictatorship helmed by Paul Kagame, who rules through a Tutsi elite. There may be a range of opinions with PEAR about how to relate to Paul Kagame, but none of them are expressed publicly. In fact, publicly the Church sides very much with Kagame, which I believe to be sinful. One former missionary to Rwanda told me:

…no person in the Province can take a public stand against the regime without dire (and I mean DIRE) consequences… The only way they could would be to take a unanimous stand… which they won’t because many of them,while aware of the excesses of the Kagame government see it as far better than any alternative on the horizon. They also know that Kagame and crew are very hostile to criticism and only double down…

So, American Anglicans are wise to disconnect from this compromised Church.

Perhaps it is time to work at officially presenting charges of Church-State complicity to the leadership of ACNA. I am not aware of a method to do this, but if ACNA wants to get even closer to Rwanda, it may be the only avenue available of shining light on the situation. ACNA should have a standing body that looks at all of its partner churches and can warn against grave abuses, such as those that led to complicity with the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

A few other thoughts:

  1. I find the option for clergy to remain canonically resident within Rwanda exceedingly odd.
  2. I wonder where this leaves CANA? I suspect that CANA will not make a similar move until the doctrinal direction of ACNA is clear.
  3. I don’t see anything about ministry associations within the Constitution and Canons of ACNA. I will be curious to see how this is fleshed out over time.

References   [ + ]

1. The website is here.

Bishop Thad Barnum back to All Saints Church, Pawleys Island

Bishop Thad Barnum, one of the key figures in the founding of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), is moving to ACNA and back to All Saints Church in South Carolina. Bishop Barnum had a less prominent role in PEARUSA, but was still active and visible at its gatherings. According to the Anglican Diocese in New England:

17 September 2015

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ,

With the blessing of my fellow bishops in PEARUSA, the bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas, and the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, I have received and accepted a call to serve as “Assisting Bishop” under the Rt. Rev. David C. Bryan (Bishop of Southeast PEARUSA) and to serve as “Bishop in Residence” at All Saints Church, Pawleys Island, SC, beginning Sunday, October 4, under the rector, the Rev. Rob Grafe. My primary work under Bishop Bryan will be to serve in “Clergy Care” and encourage discipleship among the churches through our work of “call2disciple” both in PEARUSA and in the Anglican Church of North America.

It has been a profound joy to serve the saints at Church of the Apostles, Fairfield, CT, and as bishop in New England these past eleven years. It is also with joy that we return to our church family at All Saints where we served from 1997-2004. We are deeply indebted to all who have prayed for us in this year of transition. May the Lord be praised for His kindness in sending us back into His service.

In the love and grace of our Savior,

Thaddeus and Erilynne Barnum