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.

Moby Dick as an anti-Leviticus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crackdown on churches in Rwanda

If I told you about a government that recently shut down 714 churches and asked you what country you thought it was, you might say China or Iran, but you would be wrong. That government was in fact Rwanda, where these churches were closed for “operating below the minimum required standards.” Not only did the Kagame regime shutter these churches, it arrested the following church leaders for ”assembling without permission”: Bishop Innocent Rugagi, Pastor Charles Rwandamura, Pastor Fred Nyamurangwa, Reverand Emmuel Ntambara, Pastor James Dura, and Pastor Emmanuel Kalisa Shyaka.

David Himbara wrote about this latest madness here, and the New Times has a story on it here. Curiously, the East African story cites rising cases of fraud as the reason for the crackdown.

Kagame mouthpiece and retired Anglican bishop John Rucyahana is of course all in favor of these shutdowns, saying:

“The work of the Lord is not inferior that it can be done in sub-standard places. It has to be safe for occupants,” he said.

Bishop Rucyahana pointed out that Rwandans ought to confront and castigate religious leaders they find to be manipulative or operating below required standards.

“Why should we wait for the government to close down these churches? The government has a lot to do in other aspects of development. As Christians we should know what is the standard and acceptable for a place of worship and confront and avoid religious leaders who do not. We should also do the same for those we consider to be manipulative religious leaders,” he said.

David Himbara refutes this nonsense, saying:

The hygiene justification for closing churches is bogus. The entire Kigali City is unhygienic — with open sewers running through homes and neighborhoods. A city of over one million, Kigali does not have a sewage system. There is no treatment plant — raw sewage is dumped into the national and regional water systems.

In a police state like Rwanda, things like this usually have another reason, but we may never know it in the West.

Bishop Iker on holy orders in 2014

One bone of contention among those in the ACNA who are opposed to women receiving holy orders is that many believe that their bishops promised them when ACNA was founded that the issue would be dealt with, presumably favorably, in time. In contrast, the pro-WO folks point to ACNA’s Constitution and Canons and say, “this was the deal from the beginning.” The pro-WO folks also ask where the evidence is that Archbishop Duncan or others ever intimated that WO was only a temporary measure? While I have heard second-hand accounts from the beginnings of ACNA that claim such assurances were floating around, I have not seen any written confirmation of this claim.

I recently came across this sermon from Bishop Jack Iker. He preached it on February 21, 2014, several years after the formation of ACNA, but it does indicate what his thinking was at that time, which was that when the task force reported back to the bishops, it would be decision time:

But on a more serious note, there are some serious tensions and differences that we must address in our future life together in ACNA. I will comment on them very briefly. The biggest one, of course, is the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood. It is not sufficient to simply say: “Well, some bishops do it and some don’t.” I am pleased that Archbishop Duncan has appointed a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, which is now addressing this issue that some have called “the elephant in the room.” A final report is expected in January 2016, and then it will be decision time. I would simply observe that anglo-catholics and the REC stand together here. Those who do not ordain women make up a majority of the College of Bishops, and we see the ordination of women presbyters as a departure from the witness of Holy Scripture and the apostolic practice of the ancient Church. Pray for God’s guidance as we seek to resolve this deeply divisive issue, in the interest of deepening our unity in Christ. (emphasis mine)

We can parse his words and say that “decision time” just meant the ball would be in the bishop’s court, but I think the thrust of his thought was that things would move in a certain direction. The frustration of Bishop Iker recently is understandable given that this was his understanding.

A REC recollection on holy orders

After reading my last post, a clergyman with the REC wrote about what REC bishops told their people regarding what to expect from the task force on holy orders. He writes:

At an REC Diocese of Mid-America synod that occurred shortly after the ACNA holy orders committee was established, Bishop Roy Grote (diocesan bishop and REC presiding bishop at the time) stated that we all (in the REC) know what the correct answer to the issue is, and with Bishop Hicks (REC bishop) as the committee’s head, we could be pretty certain what the end result would be.

A year or two later, Bishop Grote again addressed this at a diocesan synod. He again stated that we all know what the end result will be. In 2016, at the REC Diocese of the Central States synod (just a few weeks before Bishop Grote died), he said again that we knew what the result of the committee’s work would be, but that the committee was only going to provide a report to the bishops, who would then have to make decisions.

From the beginning of this process, Bishop Grote indicated the purpose of the committee was to work through the issue and provide a recommendation to the bishops. He was very clear that a recommendation would be forthcoming, not a simple jumbled report that surveyed the spectrum of positions. This was also affirmed by Bishop Hicks, who was in attendance at one of the DMA synods when Bp. Grote spoke about it.

This is consistent with what several clergy have said over the years.

Laurent Mbanda praises Paul Kagame at GAFCON

Archbishop Mbanda speaks to GAFCON

GAFCON’s latest conference in Jerusalem (2018) won nearly universal praise from orthodox circles within the Anglican Communion, and rightfully so. However, the perennial problem of Westerners not having any idea what goes on in Africa reared its head when Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda delivered a talk called “God’s World.”

Mbanda, an outspoken fan of Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, was made Archbishop this year. In his presentation to GAFCON he said, “…forgive me but I also love our President.” Mbanda told a story about Paul Kagame in the context of telling orthodox Anglicans to reject money and buildings from heterodox branches of the church. He said:

I love the country of Rwanda, and forgive me but I also love our President. Some time back there was an embargo on the country of Rwanda where they were saying that they need to freeze all the moneys that were given to the country. And I got that inspiration in me, he said, our President said, “With the little money that we are giving that seems like IV coming in to us, can we sell who we are, can we sell our identity?” And the people of Rwanda said “no.”

The little money that was coming from the countries that were trying to help the country, within a short time, in a time of six months I believe, Rwanda started what they called, the Dignity Fund, and that fund raised more money than those countries were giving us within six months. (applause)

And I know sometimes that we are tempted with that money that comes from those places, that makes us sometimes sell our soul. There is no way we should be afraid of saying, “keep your money,” of saying, “keep your buildings,” of saying, “keep what you have, we have Jesus and will proclaim him faithfully in our nations.”

This story was greeted by applause, as the GAFCON delegates presumably knew little to nothing about the actual circumstances mentioned. Let’s look at the facts behind this glowing story from Abp. Mbanda:

The Rwandan government established the Agaciro (Dignity) Fund after donors froze an estimated US$75m in aid, following the publication of a UN report in mid-2012 that claimed to provide evidence of Rwanda’s support for the M23, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Rwandan government denied the charges.1)

As a refresher, Rwanda supported M23, a military group that was essentially an extension of the Rwandan military attempting to detach the Congo’s Kivu provinces from the DRC. M23 buried people aliveraped, tortured, slaughtered and kidnapped children to be soldiers. All of this was supported by previous Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini as well as retired Bishop John Rucyahana.

As a result of this, Western nations decided to slap Rwanda’s wrist and froze some aid, which is vital to Rwanda’s poor economy. This of course infuriated Paul Kagame who then trumpeted the Dignity Fund as a defiant jab at the Western powers he relies on.

Bringing this back to Archbishop Mbanda: he is telling a story to GAFCON about the loss of money due to very real war crimes and using it as an example of how to stand up to the man. He can rely on Western ignorance to get away with storytelling like this. In fact, GAFCON’s media arm subsequently linked to his presentation on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Indeed, GAFCON has made Mbanda a leader of the movement, something which should trouble Anglicans.

Catholic corruption

The latest ongoing news out of the Roman Catholic Church about systemic sexual abuse have shattered any remaining good-will I had for that institution. On the theological front nothing has changed from the days of the Reformation and the critiques of the Reformers with regard to idolatry, superstition and justification. Sexual immorality amongst the clergy is not a new phenomenon, as Richard Sipe pointed out:

The first recorded church legislation about sex and sexual violations took place in 309 CE at a council of the Spanish churches in Elvira. (Laeuchli, 1972) It produced 81 canons; 38 had to do with sexual behavior. Priests and clerics, even if they were married, had to abstain from sex with their wives. A list of sexual sins of bishops, priests and clerics were enumerated—including sex with minor boys—and severe penalties were imposed.

Beginning with this document and continuing through every century up to our time, there is a continuous and uninterrupted pattern of legislation aimed at containing the scandal of sexual activity of priests—including sex with minors. (Doyle, et al. 2005)

Some of the documents that record the prevalence and scope of celibate violations are worth noting. The Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian, (1051 CE) reported the sexual immorality of the clergy directly to the Pope. Peter strongly condemned the frequency of homosexual activity even with boys. In 1568 Pope Pius V wrote Horrendum in which he updated the legislation against clerical crimes where clerics solicit sex with men, women and young boys. Sacramentum Poenitentiae was an instruction that Pope Benedict XIV wrote in 1741 that addressed the problem of priests soliciting sex from people—including children—who came to them in confession. Between 1723 and 1820 CE, The Roman Tribunal recorded 3775 cases of clerical solicitation. Most prominent are the cases of seduction of young people in the confessional and in seminaries. (Haliczer, 1996)

Secret instructions have been sent regularly from the Vatican to Bishops around the world directing them in the correct procedures to process investigations and disciplinary actions against priests who sexually abuse. (1890, 1922, 1962, etc.) Church officials know and have known for centuries that some (a large proportion) of priests and bishops are sexually active, and some sexually abuse minors.

The historical record is obvious on this issue for those with eyes to see. The current situation makes sense of documents such as the Lollard’s Twelve Conclusions, the third of which says:

The Third Conclusion, sorrowful to hear, is: That the law of continence annexed to priesthood, that in prejudice of women was first ordained, induces sodomy in Holy Church; but we excuse us by the Bible, for the suspect decree that says we should not name it. Reason and experience prove this conclusion. For delicious meats and drinks of men of Holy Church will have needful purgation or worse. Experience for the privy assay of such men is that they like not women.

Many intelligent Protestants despair of the condition that they find in their local church and so they read of a splendid Roman institution, a dream-like place full of intellectuals, long history and beauty. I know because I have been down that road myself. Conjuring this fantasy church in their minds, they fly to Rome and make their peace with all kinds of theological errors. What they will find in Rome includes pitiful homilies, a lack of connection with local parishioners, and yes, the fear of sexual abuse for their children.

And yet I feel no sense of triumphalism in the Protestant world. I do not think we have the same size of institutional issues because we are smaller, more divided and do not possess the historical baggage of ingrained networks of perverts. However, there are examples too numerous to mention of predatory clergy, affairs, and abuse. 

In the case of Anglicanism, the continued silence in the face of complicity with wicked regimes in Africa is a grave evil. I see no movement on these issues from our leaders, if they are even aware of the problem. This will be shown to be a moral compromise as history unfolds, even though the church thinks it is fine now.

The effect of moral failures on the part of our institutions is to further isolate and atomize us. If I don’t trust the church, I stay home. Politics is a cesspool so why participate? Corporate environments are often full of cliques, injustice and foolishness, so we tolerate them at best. This leads to us withdrawing into a bubble of home, curated internet feeds and whatever else passes our time. I don’t have an answer for any of this, because it is so endemic, and I am sure nothing new either. In one sense we can thank the internet for shining more light than ever before on corruption in all walks of life, but it also hurts to be aware of it all!

The old “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” discussed our “circle of influence” and while it may seem hokey, I think it is true. All we can do is influence those around us by living an honest life ourselves, following the precepts of a wise life, and attempting to pass that on to the next generation. 

For Protestants who care about the loving God with our minds (which should be all of us) there are deep wells of intellectual material that are mostly untapped. I think most Protestants who convert to Rome are unaware of the historical intellectual resources available to them from the past four centuries. Places like the Davenant Institute and the Calvinist International provide books and articles about historic Protestant theology. Biblical resources abound in our day. Unfortunately, it is on you to do the work and not give up and erect a fantasy church in your mind.

Sir Richard Burton on Mormonism

Richard Burton was an amazing man. He lived a life of adventure and writing, being the paragon of a Victorian. He took a journey to Salt Lake City and wrote about Mormonism in a book called The City of the Saints. He outlines how Mormonism is a combination of various systems of thought before it:

This brief outline of Mormon faith will show its strange, but, I believe, spontaneous agglomeration of tenets which, were its disciples of a more learned and philosophical body, would suggest a remarkable eclecticism. But, as I have already remarked, there is a remarkably narrow limit to religious ideas: the moderns vainly attempt invention when combination is now the only possible process. In the Tessarakai Decalogue above quoted, we find syncretized the Semitic Monotheism, the Persian Dualism, and the Triads and Trinities of the Egyptians and the Hindoos. The Hebrews also have a personal Theos, the Buddhists avataras and incarnations, the Brahmans self-apotheosis of man by prayer and penance, and the East generally holds to quietism, a belief that repose is the only happiness, and to a vast complication of states in the world to be. The Mormons are like the Pythagoreans in their procreation, transmigration, and exaltation of souls; like the followers of Leucippus and Democritus in their atomic materialism; like the Epicureans in their pure atomic theories, their summum bonum, and their sensuous speculations; and like the Platonists and Gnostics in their belief of the Aeon, of ideas, and of moving principles in element. They are fetichists in their ghostly fancies, their evestra, which became souls and spirits. They are Jews in their theocracy, their ideas of angels, their hatred of Gentiles, and their utter segregation from the great brotherhood of mankind. They are Christians inasmuch as they base their faith upon the Bible, and hold to the divinity of Christ, the fall of man, the atonement, and the regeneration. They are Arians inasmuch as they hold Christ to be “the first of God’s creatures,” a “perfect creature, but still a creature.” They are Moslems in their views of the inferior status of womankind, in their polygamy, and in their resurrection of the material body: like the followers of the Arabian Prophet, they hardly fear death, because they have elaborated “continuation.” They take no leap in the dark; they spring from this sublunary stage into a known, not into an unknown world: hence their worship is eminently secular, their sermons are political or commercial, and–religion being with them not a thing apart, but a portion and parcel of every-day life–the intervention of the Lord in their material affairs becomes natural and only to be expected. Their visions, prophecies, and miracles are those of the Illuminati, their mysticism that of the Druses, and their belief in the Millenium is a completion of the dreams of the Apocalyptic sects. Masonry has evidently entered into their scheme; the Demiurgus whom they worship is “as good at mechanical inventions as at any other business.” With their later theories, Methodism, Swedenborgianism–especially in its view of the future state–and Transcendentalism are curiously intermingled. And, finally we can easily discern in their doctrine of affinity of minds and sympathy of souls the leaven of that faith which, beginning with the Mesmer, and progressing through the Rochester Rappers and the Poughkeepsie Seer, threatens to extend wherever the susceptible nervous temperament becomes the characteristic of the race.

-pages 397-98