The Doctrinal Foundations of ACNA

house of bishops acna procession

Although the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) released a catechism, the catechism itself carries no doctrinal weight on its own (as far as I know). It is only useful as an explication of the doctrinal standards that are enshrined in ACNA’s Constitution. In the future, when there are doctrinal conflicts in ACNA, I envision appeals being made to what the Constitution says about doctrinal standards.

Before I look at what the Constitution says, it may be helpful to recall how it came into being. The Constitution imports language from the Common Cause Partners Theological Statement.1 A “Governance Task Force” drafted the Constitution, and that Task Force consisted of: Hugo Blankingship, Chair – CANA, Philip Ashey+, Esq. AAC, Larry Bausch+ FIFNA, Travis Boline+ Kenya, Jerry Cimijotti+ Southern Cone, Kevin Donlon+ AMiA, +Robert Duncan Southern Cone, Cheryl Chang, Esq. ANIC, Bill Gandenberger+ Southern Cone, +Royal Grote REC, +John Guernsey Uganda, Matt Kennedy+ AAC, +Martyn Minns CANA, +Bill Murdoch Kenya, +Chuck Murphy AMiA, Jim McCaslin+ Kenya, Ron Speers, Esq. Uganda, Scott Ward, Esq. CANA, Barclay Mayo+ ACiC, Wick Stephens, Esq. Southern Cone, Scott Ward, Esq.CANA and Robert Weaver, Esq. Southern Cone.

I am told that Kevin Donlon was front and center during the process. A participant told me that he “…had a lot of objections and suggestions and effectively vetoed some of the Reformed stuff people argued for.” We have a brief overview of the process in this press conference, but as with all such events, it did not in any way delve into the actual nitty gritty of what happened. Organizations necessarily put on a “sunshine and roses” take on their own deliberations, and the way to the truth is usually found when talking to participants off the record. I doubt we will see such an accounting of this process given the participants.

I tried to conceptualize what the Constitution says in the following chart:

Taken from the ACNA Constitution
Taken from the ACNA Constitution

The Constitution uses three words regarding the doctrinal standards: confessaffirm and receive. If the words imply weight to the different sources of doctrine, then I take confess to be the strongest, affirm the second strongest, and receive the weakest word. Even if they are weighted in such a way, the Constitution does say, “we identify the following seven elements as characteristic of the Anglican Way, and essential for membership.”

The GAFCON Statement and Jerusalem Declaration are affirmed in the Preamble, probably because they were issued very late in the process of drafting the Constitution, and so were presumably included at the last minute and not as one of the “essential elements” for membership.

Early on, Dr. Ephraim Radner pointed out the different weight that the Constitution’s words carry, and noted a move towards “indefiniteness” on the part of the writers:

The identification of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal, and the Thirty-Nine Articles as “standards” and “principles” has struck some as overly and perhaps impossibly precise. After all, have not Anglicans, through the Lambeth Conference now over 100 years ago, made formal the lack of explicitness with which these formularies are to be held as standards for all Anglicans. at least as it determines Communion-related “Anglican” identity? Yet we note the care with which the Constitution has cloaked these standards with a certain indefiniteness: “We receive the Book of Common Prayer…as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline” and as “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship”; “we receive the Thirty-Nine Articles…, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles…”.

The clear implication is that there may be other legitimate “standards”, and that the BCP of 1662 is rather one among many, although obviously an acceptable one. Clearly, that the early BCP’s represent the standard for “the tradition” of Anglican worship is incontestable as a historical claim. Furthermore, a “tradition of worship” is itself a loose referent and already indicates an acceptance that the BCP’s of the Reformation and post-Reformation are no longer in explicit use among many Anglicans. Finally, it is hardly constrictive, let alone historically odd, that the Thirty-Nine Articles would be received as holding doctrine appropriate to its time of composition, that continues to express certain “principles” that cohere with “authentic Anglicanism”. For the Constitution does not claim that the Articles articulate necessarily all such principles, exhaustively, or straightforwardly (since “principles” can only be gleaned from historical records aimed at local moments and controversies), nor that all “authentic Anglicanism” is bound by them in any exhaustive way. None of this should surprise us, however, given that the proposed new province contains both Anglo-Catholic and evangelical churches and bishops, who, vis a vis the Thirty-Nine Articles, for instance, hold very different views, and for whom there are, therefore, perforce several “standards” and “principles” at work.

On this score, we must note the difference in the Constitution’s language from the GAFCON “Jerusalem Declaration” (no. 3) regarding the Thirty-Nine Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today”. Even this statement is open to some latitude in doctrinal reference however – does “authoritative for Anglicans today” mean for “all” Anglicans, necessarily? Can one be an “Anglican” and hold to some different (though perhaps not conflicting) standard? That the doctrine in the Articles is “true” does not clearly imply “exhaustively” true. And what exactly does “authoritative” mean in this context? Is it similar to the claims to salvation-status granted to certain beliefs by the Athanasian Creed? Probably not; indeed by their own standards, they are authoritative only to the degree that they are clearly supported by Scripture’s own teaching. Still, while the Jerusalem Declaration is itself hardly explicit in many ways, there is a definite move towards indefiniteness in the Constitution, one that is clearly by design, and most likely involves the reality of catholic and protestant sensibilities and commitments seeking incorporation in the same church. The Constitution “affirms” the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration (1.10), but such “affirmation” is itself general and necessarily loose in its meaning.

The “taken in their literal and grammatical sense” line about the Articles of Religion is the famous Anglo-Catholic evasion from Newman’s Tract 90, which reads: “For its enjoining the “literal and grammatical sense,” relieves us from the necessity of making the known opinions of their framers, a comment upon their text;”.2 This same kind of move away from the Reformed tenets of Anglicanism occurred during the second GAFCON meeting in Nairobi, as you can read here.

These moves to placate the famous “three streams” are understandable if you think of the Anglican realignment in America as stitching together a diverse group of Anglicans who do not agree doctrinally. Archbishop Duncan said that the Constitution provided, “flexibility, recognizing the diversity of Godly approaches common among the partners coming into union.” I believe that the Formularies, Prayer Book and Ordinal (alongside the Bible of course) provide us with enough tools of persuasion to make the case for Augustinian orthodoxy even in the current confused doctrinal environment of ACNA, but we should not be deceived about the fact that there are many camps under the banner of ACNA.

The reality for those of us who hoped for a Reformed rebirth in the realignment is that ACNA is a “here comes everybody” church. What we might hope for in the long run is a decade or two of Reformed church planters, Reformed clergy moving into the role of bishop, and an eventual change of the Constitution to read that “the Articles of Religion are confessed as the doctrinal standard of ACNA as proved by Holy Scripture.”

  1. Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause PartnersWe, the representatives of the Common Cause Partners, do declare we believe the following affirmations and commentary to contain the chief elements of Anglican Reformed Catholicism, and to be essential for membership.1) We receive the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Scripture as the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation, and as the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.2) We confess the historic faith of the Undivided Church as declared in the Catholic Creeds.3) We believe the teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and have been held by all, everywhere, at all times.4) We hold the two sacraments of the Gospel to be ordained by Christ Himself, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, and to be administered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.5) We accept the 1549 through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its ordinal as the foundation for Anglican worship and the standard for doctrine and discipline.6) We believe the godly Historic Episcopate to be necessary for the full being of the Church.7) We affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as foundational for authentic Anglican belief and practice and as correctives to doctrinal abuses.  
  2. See this post for another take on the issues.

New AMiA Bishops

If there is something that Anglicans are good at, it is making bishops. The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) has two new bishops: Gerry Schnackenberg and Carl Buffington. Schnackenberg was one of the first wave of AMiA priests way back in 2,000, as you can see in this article. According to the website of his church:

Fr. Gerry Schnackenberg, Rector of Epiphany has his license for ordained ministry with the first Bishop of the Diocese of Kibondo, the Rt. Rev. Sospeter T. Ndenza. Fr. Gerry is also Bishop Ndenza’s Commissary or representative in the U.S.A. and serves as his Canon to St. Hilary’s Cathedral Kibondo.

AMiA publicized Schnackenberg’s April 2013 visit to Tanzania:

During the services, Gerry participated in the Holy Spirit falling on many in attendance and delivering others from demonic influence.

“This sort of ‘Power Ministry’ has been largely unknown to the people which means they are really, really open to it under the godly leadership of their Bishop whom they trust,” Gerry says. “Bishop Sospeter told me last February after experiencing the evening of healing prayer at Winter Conference that this is what he very much wanted for his Diocese. I believe he is setting a pattern for healthy and powerful ministry of releasing the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a gentle, but moving way.”

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Gerry Schnackenberg

Carl Buffington joined AMiA in 2004. Last year, Buffington went to Rwanda to attend the funeral of retired Archbishop Kolini’s son, John. Buffington’s article relating this experience mentions Pierre Habumuremyi and Rwigamba Balinda, both prominent Rwandan regime insiders, as being at the funeral. Habumuremyi was Prime Minister until 2014 when Kamage sacked him, see here. Balinda was part of a triumvurate of M23 supporters that included Bishops Kolini and Rucyahana, as the U.N. pointed out:

RPF members have been recruiting sympathizers and raising funds for M23 from within Rwanda. Politicians, former Rwandan armed forces and CNDP officers told the Group that Rwigamba Balinda, a Rwandan senator and Rector of the Free University of Kigali, and John Rucyahana, a bishop (see S/2012/348/Add.1, para. 29), both RPF members, had overseen those activities in Rwanda and abroad.

It is fascinating that these regime insiders attended the Kolini funeral, and is more evidence that both PEARUSA and AMiA are tied to the Rwandan regime, although they may not even realize it.

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Carl Buffington

H. Miller has left AMiA for Holy Trinity Brompton, to serve a dual role as Associate Pastor at St. Barnabas Kensington and as the Church Planting Network Developer for the HTB Network (Holy Trinity Brompton). This leaves a very top heavy structure as follows:

College of Consultors

RectorThe Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini
Vice RectorThe Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung
SecretaryThe Most Rev. Moses Tay
Consultors:The Rt. Rev. Charles H Murphy, IIIThe Rt. Rev. Sospeter T NdenzaThe Rt. Rev. William B MugenyiGeneral SecretaryThe Very Rev. Mike Murphy

Conference Of Missionary Bishops

The Rt. Rev. Alexander Maury (Sandy) Greene
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Silas Tak Yin Ng
The Rt. Rev. Charles H Murphy, III
The Rt. Rev. Gerry Schnackenberg
The Rt. Rev. Carl Buffington
The Rt. Rev. Thomas William (TJ) Johnston, Jr.
The Rt. Rev. John Hewitt Rodgers, Jr.

The communication from AMiA follows:

Last week the Anglican Mission was pleased to announce that at a recent College of Consultors meeting Gerry Schnackenberg+ and Carl Buffington+ were elected Bishop Emissaries for the Diocese of Kibondo and Boga, respectively. A bishop emissary, in Anglican custom, represents the respective mission partner diocese in matters that might assist or affect them outside of their dioceses. As both men are members of the Society, they will be given responsibilities in the Society as delegated from my office for confirmations, ordinations, etc, which our Concordats provide for. As one of our main values is spiritual oversight for clergy, the addition of Gerry+ and Carl+ will help greatly in that area. I will be meeting in Dallas with both bishops-elect soon to work on their portfolios for their ministry in The Mission. They will continue to serve as senior pastors of their respective churches. Their consecrations will be scheduled during Eastertide as plans are being finalized mindful of the schedules of the partners who will be attending, the available venues, etc.

We in the Society are excited about the election and grateful to our partners for sharing the emissaries, Bishop-elect Schnackenberg and Bishop-elect Buffington. Please keep them in your prayers as they go forward to serve your missionary interests.

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 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 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

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: 1234.

The Next Pope?

Cardinal Robert Sarah
Cardinal Robert Sarah

Sandro Magister writes about Cardinal Robert Sarah, who has a chance at being the next Pope. I have also kept my eye on Cardinal Sarah for the last couple years. Magister provides a brief biography of the Cardinal, who is from Guinea. An excerpt:

He was born in a remote village in the savanna, into a freshly converted family. At the age of 12 he was circumcised and initiated into manhood in the forest. He studied to be a priest and became one, while his Guinea was under the bloody regime of the Marxist Sekou Touré, with the bishop of Conakry, the capital, imprisoned and tortured.

He studied theology in Rome, at the Gregorian and especially at the Biblicum, with rector Carlo Maria Martini and professors like Lyonnet, Vanhoye, de la Potterie. He spent a year at the prestigious École Biblique in Jerusalem.

And then he returned as a humble pastor to his Guinea, going on foot into the savanna to reach the very last of the faithful, amid a majority Muslim population. Until Paul VI made him a bishop in 1978, the youngest in the world at the age of 33. And he entrusted him with Conakry, as Sekou Touré became ever more infuriated with this new pastor and undaunted defender of the faith. After the tyrant’s sudden death in 1984, they would discover that Sarah was the first on the list of enemies to be eliminated.

Theologically, Cardinal Sarah aligns with Pope Benedict:

Sarah has boundless admiration for Pope Joseph Ratzinger. He shares his idea that for the Church of today, the absolute priority is to bring God into the heart of civilizations, both those of ancient Christian tradition that has been obfuscated or denied, and those that are still pagan.

Excerpts are quoted from his book, including:

The Church cannot go forward as if reality did not exist: it can no longer content itself with ephemeral enthusiasms, which last for the duration of great gatherings or liturgical assemblies, as beautiful and rich as they may be. It can no longer hold back from a practical reflection on subjectivism as the root of most of the current errors. What use is it that the pope’s Twitter account is followed by hundreds of thousands of persons if men do not concretely change their lives? What use is it to tally up the figures of the crowds that throng before the popes if we are not sure that the conversions are real and profound? […]

Keep your eyes on Cardinal Sarah when the next Conclave rolls around.

Anglican Bishops with Kagame in Huye

Paul Kagame visited with “opinion leaders” in Huye, Rwanda this week. Front and center in the audience were two southern bishops, Augustin Mvunabandi and Nathan Gasatura. Their Dioceses (Kigeme and Butare) are on the border of Burundi, where the town of Huye lies.

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Bishop Nathan Gasatura (left) with Paul Kagame
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Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi in the audience.

Bishop Mvunabandi was (is?) part of the Peace in the Great Lakes campaign. Here, he is sitting in front of the man who foments war in the Great Lakes. I wonder if he had anything to say about it?

When you’ve lost Virtue…

David Virtue addresses the latest actions of the AMiA (which I will write more about later):

Truth be told, the AMIA or ASMAW is now little more than a congregational operation with a creedal overlay. They can no longer be considered Anglican in any sense of the word. They have no existence apart from themselves and recognized by nobody.

Blame for all this truly rests with former Bishop Chuck Murphy whose narcissism has been well documented. Having lost 95% of his bishops and left with just a handful of small parishes, Bishop Jones, his successor, has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since, but with little success. This attempt to backdoor his small flailing group into something more has proven disastrous. If he had any sense or humility, he should go cap in hand to Archbishop Foley Beach and ask to be the 31st diocese of ACNA. We can only hold our breath and hope that repentance is forthcoming. As things now stand ASMAW has no future with anyone in the Anglican Communion. They are history.

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The form of our worship

Does it matter how we worship God? Does anything govern the actions and rituals we perform in gathered worship? Quite often it seems that churches worship with little or no thought about the theological right or wrong of a given practice. Most of us would realize that we cannot erect a golden calf in the sanctuary and offer incense to it, but what about a cross? Are there areas of indifference, where we can do whatever we want, or must we have a command from God for everything we do?

One wing of the Reformation reacted against Roman excesses by enacting the “regulative principle” where anything not expressly stated by God should not be done. Others move in a completely opposite direction and do just about anything, so long as they have a “tradition” to fall back on that justifies the practice. Many others, perhaps the majority, just do whatever they grew up with and add a dollop or two of whatever the cool church in town does.

Peter Leithart offers a convincing, Biblical way forward in his book From Silence to Song. He says:

…a word must be said at this point about the hermeneutical assumptions underlying the Reformed “regulative principle of worship.” In the hands of at least some writers, the regulative principle is, in practice, hermeneutically wooden and theologically Marcionite. It is wooden because an explicit “command” is required for every act of worship, and it is Marcionite because it ignores the abundant Old Testament liturgical instruction in favor of exegeting a few passages of the New.

He says later:

I adhere to the regulative principle in the sense that we are to worship God as He has taught us to worship Him, but He has taught us in myriads of ways, and not merely in explicit commands.

Using syllogisms, Leithart shows how strict regulativists contrast with how David approached worship:

Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.
Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.
Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.

David appears to have reasoned by analogy:
Major premise: The Law governs worship.
Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.
Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.
Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.

In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.

Developments in Rwanda: 2016-17

Despite years of evidence that Rwanda is a repressive dictatorship, the message has not sunk in to cheerfully naive Anglicans. For example, Lisa Puckett writing on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Christ Our Hope (ACNA) says:

We are grateful for this rich heritage. If you would like to learn more about the story of Rwandan leadership, Bishop Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent” is a great resource. If you would like to share the story of radical reconciliation, the movie “As We Forgive” is a great place to start. Additionally, Rwanda Ministry Partners and Walk with Rwanda are ministries of ACNA established to encourage continued journeys along this fruitful path. The best stories are found in your own congregation; ask one another, “How are you influenced by our Rwandan heritage?” “Where do you see an ongoing story filled with miracle, mystery, connection, and blessing?”

This gauzy vision of miracles and blessing bumps into the harsh reality that the Anglican Church of Rwanda is utterly silent in the face of evil and in fact has been part of it (Bishops Kolini and Rucyahana in particular). And yet, Archbishop Rwaje is a key part of GAFCON and was recently at the ACNA Provincial Assembly. Is ACNA interested in the truth, or do we accept pleasant stories about Rwanda at face value?

In order to see behind the curtain a bit, those interested in the truth might look at the following reports from Rwanda from the past couple years:

July 13, 2017

State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Some victims were first arrested by civilian authorities who then took them to nearby military stations. Soldiers then executed the victims at or near the military base, sometimes after ill-treating them in detention. Witnesses who saw the bodies soon after the executions said they saw bullet wounds and injuries that seemed to have been caused by beatings or stabbings. One victim had been stabbed in the heart; another had a cord around his neck.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 11, 2017

I left Rwanda in 2012 when I could no longer justify offering any sort of political cover to the Kagame regime. No matter how many lives I saved in the hospital, an order of magnitude more would be killed or imprisoned that very day. Perhaps as the US turns inward and pulls back from funding activities outside the borders, the conflict of interest will resolve of its own volition. Or perhaps the repression of the strongmen in places such as Rwanda and Burundi will boil over, resulting in yet another series of bloody conflicts. The preservation of poisonous people like Kagame certainly portends the possibility of conflict, but the examples across West Africa provide hope for a democratic and peaceful future.

Source: Why US universities should cut links with Rwanda

July 7, 2017

Rwandans go to the polls on 4 August 2017 to elect their next president, in a climate of fear created by years of repression against opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders. They have been jailed, physically attacked – even killed – and forced into exile or silence. Prior human rights violations and unresolved cases of murders and disappearances continue to have a chilling effect on the current political and human rights context.

Source: Amnesty International

June 10, 2017

“People disappear, others get killed in unexplained circumstances and nobody speaks about this because of fear,” she said. “We must end this silence.”

The U.S.-educated, soft-spoken businesswoman recognizes the dangers of speaking out from inside the country, instead of from exile like others, but she said: “I trust in god.”

Source: Associated Press

March 26, 2017

One year after her sudden and suspicious disappearance, the Rwandan authorities must reveal the fate of nurse and opposition activist Illuminée Iragena, Amnesty International said today.

Illuminée Iragena, a member of the unregistered opposition political party United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), went missing on 26 March 2016 on her way to work as a nurse at the King Faisal Hospital in the country’s capital Kigali.

“Sources close to the case believe that Illuminée was tortured and died in custody, but have no official information on her fate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.

Source: Amnesty International

March 2, 2017

Unity in Rwanda is part of a rehearsed consensus. The government has established a monopoly over the country’s history, to the extent that alternative histories cannot be articulated. Debate about the past is actively policed. The regime’s authoritarian approach has prevented the emergence of potentially more complex identities from below that could form the basis for more inclusive forms of citizenship.

Source: Pambazuka News

March 10, 2017

Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa, except for Burundi. Its per capita income stands at $697.3 versus Kenya’s of $1,376.7; Uganda, $705; and Tanzania at $879. Burundi is poorer than Rwanda with per capita of $277. Rwanda receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is half of its annual budget of $2 billion. This is hardly a spectacular success.

Source: San Francisco Bay View

March 3, 2017

The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms; some reports of trafficking in persons; and government restrictions on labor rights; and child labor.

Source: U.S. State Department

March 2, 2017

But the dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate.

Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets.

Source: The Economist

February 24, 2017

In a new twist to the unsolved mystery of the assassination that triggered the Rwandan genocide, United Nations peacekeepers have found a missile launcher with remarkable similarities to the weapon that killed Rwanda’s president in 1994.

More than two decades after the assassination, new clues are beginning to surface, while a French investigation remains active. The latest discovery could bring the world closer to the truth by shedding light on the murder weapon itself.

A confidential report by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, obtained by The Globe and Mail, documents a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile launcher that was seized by Congolese forces from a Rwandan rebel group last August.

Last October, The Globe obtained a document written by one of Mr. Kagame’s former close aides, alleging that the Rwandan President had been directly involved in organizing the 1994 missile attack.

Source: The Globe and Mail

February, 2017

Opposition figures residing outside of Rwanda have also been threatened, attacked, forcibly disappeared, or killed. Former members of the Rwandan security forces living in exile have gone missing, while others have been targeted for assassination.

Although the constitution calls on the president to ensure “representation of historically marginalized communities” in the Senate through his appointees, asserting one’s ethnic identity in politics is banned, meaning the level of representation is unclear.

In January 2016, writer and editor John Williams Ntwali, whose reporting had been critical of the government, was arrested, accused of rape (later reduced to indecent exposure), and illegally detained for 13 days. In February, the offices of the East African newspaper were raided by police, who seized materials and arrested a journalist, Yvan Mushiga. In August, radio journalist John Ndabarasa—a relative of a former bodyguard of President Kagame who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in 2014—went missing.

Many Rwandan journalists have fled the country and work in exile. Due in part to this phenomenon, the government has increasingly blocked access to news websites based abroad. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Kinyarwanda-language service has been suspended in the country since 2014.

Source: Freedom House

December 10, 2016

There is credible evidence of massacres by Kagame’s forces of tens or hundreds of thousands of people after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and his political opponents are almost all in exile, in prison or dead.

Yet Kagame heads several prestigious UN development initiatives. Harvard and Yale invite him to speak about democracy and human rights. It is even fashionable to celebrate Kagame’s leadership of Rwanda. The extent of this hypocrisy is an indication not of Kagame’s dictatorial achievements or crimes, but rather of the world’s hunger for postcolonial leaders and narratives. Kagame is held up as a counter to western hegemony.

Kagame is expert in crafting postcolonial myths that resonate powerfully in a world still grappling with colonial legacies. He claims he ended Rwanda’s genocide, which killed nearly a million people in just 100 days, while a morally bankrupt west stood idle. There is merit in his argument that the world should be held accountable for not deploying peacekeepers during the genocide. However, genocide survivors are afraid to mention that Kagame had himself opposed the deployment of those UN peacekeepers. He was concerned they would interfere with his military takeover of the country.

Source: The Guardian

October 4, 2016

Eventually African Rights ended up on the RPF payroll, working closely with intelligence operatives and even moving to a building that housed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Reydams reveals. By that time, de Waal had left the organization. Yet even before de Waal and Omaar parted ways, African Rights had become enormously prescriptive and influential; it scolded the international community about who was morally right during the war, who should be arrested and why. It staunchly defended the RPF against reports that its troops had engaged in violence and shamed other human rights investigators and journalists for calling attention to RPF abuses: “Allegations that the RPF was massacring civilians were ‘hysteria’ and journalists who ran such ‘stories’ were not doing their work properly.” Reydams aptly points out that “human rights reports usually do not defend a warring party. Yet, Death, Despair and Defiancedoes exactly that. The RPF’s resumption of the war is presented as humanitarian intervention and, therefore, a ceasefire was out of the question.”

Not surprisingly, African Rights’ work, which provided a one-sided, sanitized version of the Rwandan genocide, did not stand the test of time.

Source: Foreign Policy Journal

July 21, 2016

Rwandan authorities are rounding up poor people and arbitrarily detaining them in “transit centers” across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. New research indicates that the authorities have made few changes in a center in Gikondo, in the capital, Kigali, despite an earlier Human Rights Watch report on abuses there, and that similar degrading treatment prevails in other transit centers.

Contrary to the designations for these centers, none of the people interviewed had “transited” to other facilities after their most recent arrest and most had not been through any “rehabilitation,” such as professional training or education, at the centers.

“They correct us by beating us with sticks,” one man told Human Rights Watch.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 14, 2016

It becomes clear quickly that people are not cleaning because it’s good for the country or for the official line of together and taking personal responsibility for beautification of this land of a thousand hills.

This is a programme that works because it’s enforced by law and penalties.

We need special permission to be on the road during Umuganda and our vehicle is indeed stopped twice and police officers check the paperwork.

Failure to clean up comes with a fine, the equivalent of about $10.

Most unnerving is that it’s neighbours who rat on you to a local cell block leader who issues a fine. Communities who have slacked on cleaning make headlines in a press that is anything but free.

This adherence to a social structure of cells and cell leaders emanates from a time when working the hilly terrain successfully relied on mutualism and reciprocity. Now this structure of cohesion can be leant on to enforce ideals of unity, collectivism and co-operation. But it was also this social structure that allowed the genocide that started on April 7, 1994, to ignite and spread, and for the command to kill from Hutu cell leaders to be obeyed.

Source: IOL

June 3, 2016

Taken together, Guichaoua’s historical analysis and Sundaram’s contemporary analysis raise significant questions about Rwanda today, and whether the facade erected by the RPF in the post-genocide period is sustainable. The parallels between what Guichaoua describes and the current situation are alarming: A small minority of one ethnic group controls almost all of political, economic and social life; there are virtually no avenues for meaningful, peaceful dissent about the country’s direction or its leaders; and, as Sundaram shows, information flows are controlled and manipulated by elites.

Source: The Washington Post

May 10, 2016

“The consistent harassment of journalists has had a chilling effect in Rwanda, where there is no space for dissenting narrative at all, today,” he explains. “A colleague of mine was shot dead on the same day he criticised Paul Kagame. Another was beaten into a coma after bringing up the harassment of journalists at a press conference with the president. Others joined the presidential propaganda team out of fear. In my book I document over 60 cases of journalists who have been killed, disappeared, arrested, imprisoned, tortured or forced to flee the country, fearing for their lives after criticising the Rwandan government.”

Source: Huck

Mbanda interview

On November 1, 2015 Bishop Laurent Mbanda spoke to the Dean’s Class of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Birmingham Alabama. He provides some background on how he became a bishop (according to him):

(In) 2010 the church called me up and said, “can we put your name up for a possible candidate as bishop.” And we said, “Nobody know us, and uh, if God can close a door he will still have room to close the door, so, we let them take the name after prayer and getting God’s peace, and was traveling in the country of Ghana and while there I got a call to say, “yes you have been elected bishop of Shyria” and we were consecrated in 2010, March.”

Bishop Mbanda goes on to praise Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame. Curiously, he does not use his name but refers to him simply as the President:

The country of Rwanda was reduced to ashes in 1994…and no one gave it a chance…but I believe because of good leadership, I believe because of a President who was then a Major in the army, actually he was the head of the army, who stopped the genocide. I think he made two choices that were crucial; one, he made a choice to, not to revenge. He could have led his army to revenge for the number of people who had been killed, over a million people. But he said “we won’t revenge we will instead forgive.” Number two, he was willing to be inclusive in bringing people who were actually fighting him into his government, and so a government of unity. And number three, the churches in Rwanda started talking about evangelism…

Bishop Mbanda does not appeal for help against a dictatorship that disappears people in the night, instead he peddles the false narrative of reconciliation:

And I think those initial decisions then started bringing people together. The reconciliation has taken place, the President, I believe in the leadership that he has, are people who are trying to fight corruption and umm, there are people also who have the country and the people at heart.

Christians in the West should be careful about who they are embracing when they do not realize the historical facts.

Posted in Books ACNA chooses unity over truth

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

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

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

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

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