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

PEARUSA Ending Formal Ties with Rwanda

Quigg_Lawrence_Ordination_2

According to recent information, PEARUSA churches will end their formal ecclesiastical ties with PEAR in Rwanda and will become full members of ACNA.

This should result in approximately three new ACNA dioceses, each will be one of the former regions of PEARUSA. The PEARUSA churches will still have close relations with Rwanda, but not formal ecclesiastical ties.

I am told that this will happen sometime in 2016, probably in late Summer or early Fall.

This explains the presence of Archbishop Beach and Bishop Guernsey with the PEAR bishops on their trip to Rwanda in March, 2015 (see here). It also explains the silence on the PEARUSA website.

While this is a long overdue and welcome development, it is not enough, because PEARUSA will continue to praise Rwanda, not acknowledging the evil that the church is silent in the face of. Having said that, I’m sure it will be a relief to some clergy who do know what is going on in Rwanda and are uncomfortable with it.

{I’ve updated the post title to clarify that PEARUSA was always part of ACNA, but will end formal ties with Rwanda}.

UPDATE: the news is now official: see this link.