Dr. Phillip Cantrell on Anglicans and Rwanda

In my previous post on “Playing an Away Game”, I referred to a document written by Dr. Phillip Cantrell called “The Anglican Church of Rwanda : domestic agendas and international linkages.” Dr. Cantrell was kind enough to comment on that post, and his insights are important. He has expanded on that comment a bit and given me permission to post it here. He welcomes dialog on the subject, so please give this a read. His concluding sentence should give PEAR USA, ACNA and GAFCON pause: “I have never been more fearful for Rwanda and the region.” Let’s hope that Anglicans can fulfill the role of Jeremiah in relationship to the government of Rwanda. Dr. Cantrell’s comments follow:

I’m Phil Cantrell, author of the above mentioned article “The Anglican Church of Rwanda: domestic agendas and international linkages.” I came across this blog and mention of myself from following Nkunda Rwanda on Twitter. I decided to write in order to clarify my own position, explain some issues raised here and invite further discussion. I’m a professor of African history at Longwood University in Virginia and I specialize in East Central Africa. I’m also a believer in Christ and was a member of an AMIA church for five years, and would be still if there was such an option where I now live.

In 2004 I undertook a mission trip with AMIA to Rwanda and knowing it was a Franco-phone country I brushed up on my French, only to find that the Anglican pastors and bishops I met with spoke better English than I. Finding this intriguing, I undertook my own research as a professional historian of Africa; research that resulted in the article. Let me state that like Joel, I have found the rank-and-file Anglican pastors and parishioners in Rwanda to be utterly sincere in their faith and desire for a better Rwanda. I have never questioned their faith in my writing and presentations on Rwanda. But I stand by my conclusions regarding the church’s relationship to the ruling RPF of Kagame. In a larger context, this should not be surprising in that mission-minded Americans fail to realize that the concept of separation of church and state as its understood in the West does not exist in Africa. I do not say that disparagingly of Africa; it’s a cultural difference. But it does mean that Rwanda’s Anglican hierarchy supports the RPF’s public face in Rwanda, perhaps unknowingly themselves but they do nevertheless. And their hierarchy certainly does knowingly.

As far as RPF members “infiltrating” the church, I think that is a complicated and arguable proposition. The RPF and the present Anglican hierarchy were born of the same Tutsi refugee diaspora in the camps of Uganda prior to the genocide and the RPF takeover of the country. They were a tight-knit diaspora and so some crossover is to be expected. I do contend however that the Anglican Church has failed to distance itself from the regime, with may contribute to a disastrous future for the country. I harbor no animus towards AMIA and its former relationship to the Anglican Church. As I said, I speak as a grieving member for the broken relationship and Rwanda’s plight.

In 2007, I made another research trip to Rwanda as an advisor to an ad hoc Rwanda Missions Board with AMIA. On that trip, I challenged my own conclusions before the article went to press. My research only confirmed my findings however and I published the article. I will also say Kolini and Rucyahana and other pastors and bishops I interviewed in 2007 were fully aware that I was a historian researching Rwanda and did not withhold talking to me. I suspect that at the time they were unaware of my knowledge of what was happening in the country. Because, after my return, the Mission Board was dissolved and I was disinvited from coming to Rwanda and will not return until the situation is changed. The full reasons for that are still somewhat unknown but it may have become apparent after my departure that I was asking the “wrong” questions. Some of my more outspoken and accomplished colleagues in the academic profession have been threatened if they return.

My concern always, as I was uniquely positioned as a professional historian and an AMIA parishioner, was that if American churches blindly provided aid to Rwanda vis-à-vis the Anglican Church of Rwanda, they would be de facto supporting an increasingly despotic regime which failed to enact the Arusha Accords of 1994, which promised a multi-ethnic and inclusive democracy, which the RPF itself signed in Arusha. Incidentally, the pre-genocide Anglican hierarchy in Rwanda did in fact support the genocidal actions of the previous Habyarimana regime. They were removed after the genocide and replaced with new leadership (i.e. Kolini, Rucyahana, etc) when the RPF took over, hence the close and troubling relationship presently. My fear, as someone who loves Rwanda and the region, is that the church is making the same mistakes the pre-genocide leadership did. And American missionaries must be wary of tacitly endorsing it too.

All that being said, I do not believe the rank-and-file of the church is behaving in an intentionally sinister way. The theological origins of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, born as it was from the English Church Missionary Society of the 1920s, gives it a tendency to avoid political engagement and critique, even as they collude with the false narrative of Rwanda’s history. As for the recent information concerning Kolini and Rucyahana and Rwanda’s actions in Congo, I think we must warily wait and see. I have met both men on several occasions and found them to be entirely sincere in their faith and intentions. I will need more evidence to convince me otherwise, but a connection to M23 is possible. Kolini after all is Congolese Rwanda. Other information was unwittingly provided to me in 2007, which raised my concerns about Rwanda’s intentions in Congo. For example, an Anglican pastor, whose name I will never reveal so as not to endanger him, tried to inform me that Eastern Congo had once been part of Rwanda. This is false but I felt it must have been coming from somewhere higher than him and its implications troubled me. I’m not sure of this clarifies or confuses but I felt like adding it to the debate here. I am happy to continue the dialogue. The things I have written about Rwanda and the AMiA relationship have caused angst and soul-searching for me but I have counseled with pastoral friends and I believe God has called me professionally to seek and speak truth, especially to power. I have never been more fearful for Rwanda and the region.

The Dude Abides

As I mentioned last month, Bishop Todd Hunter is slated to be a speaker at the ACNA assembly. That was before AMiA removed itself to the Congo, a Province that has been more in communion with Rowan Williams than Robert Duncan. You might think that Hunter’s participation in disobedience to Rwanda and flight from GAFCON would make him an unlikely speaker at the Assembly, but ACNA now has a story up that very much confirms that he will be there.

Bishop Hunter has hopped from place to place, having worked as National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches from 1998 until 2001, then from 01-04 he was the Director of Allelon, an emergent movement that seems to have vanished, from 04 to 08 he was the National Director of Alpha USA, from 08 to 10 he headed a non-profit called Society for Kingdom Living. He was then brought in from being a non-Anglican to being ordained and consecrated as a bishop by Chuck Murphy in 2010.

Hunter brings an unorthodox view of women’s ordination to the AMiA (and thus fits right in):

It’s not about ordaining a particular gender or an issue of social justice for me – ordination is not a ‘right’ for anyone. While I recognize and celebrate the differences between genders, I want to raise up human beings gifted and called to Kingdom ministry…I guess you can say I’m an egalitarian of the complementary sort.

I am excited about the potential for women to be part of our church planting movement on the west coast and am already seeing fruit of such ministry in C4SO. This is all about facilitating a missional commitment.

A close eye is going to have to be kept on ACNA to see where it goes on women’s ordination and a host of other issues. Is it going to be TEC without the gay stuff, or is it going to be something better? That story remains to be written.

A Retraction

Last week I speculated that GAFCON was dropping the ball on church discipline based on the communique from Johannesburg. I was wrong. The Anglican Church of Rwanda is indeed setting out some clear parameters for the rebellious bishops of AMiA. It still offers the bishops the option of moving on gracefully, when I think there should have already been penalties, but nevertheless, it is a good step for the health of the Church.

The options facing these bishops are to resign their orders, find another Anglican jurisdiction to take them in or to face discipline and ‘get out’ that way. Clearly, if they can find another Anglican Province to take them, that would be their preference. Now, I think they already attempted this with a bishop in the Congo (not the Archbishop), but it came to light and nothing more was heard of it. I am not sure under what authority recent AMiA ordinations have occurred. So maybe their is a possibility that some other Province takes them in.

This does throw a wrench into the meetings of the "Design Group" of ACNA and AMiA bishops. Would ACNA accept AMiA in immediately per Rwanda’s demand? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I think it is more likely for AMiA to say that they tried to work with ACNA and it just didn’t pan out.

AMiA has already laid a foundation to say that Rwanda has no authority over it. They claimed that their submission to the canons of Rwanda was ‘voluntary’ and that they would not renew it. They claimed that due process was not followed in threatening to remove Chuck Murphy. So the likely scenario in my mind is to see a Kevin Donlon letter about canon law saying that Rwanda has no authority to do X, Y and Z. Perhaps the bishops could renounce their orders (or have them removed) and then be re-instated by the former Primates to the new Missionary Society that we saw put forward in December. This would be entirely outside of Anglicanism formally, but would retain a veneer of Anglicanism due to the historic connections of the ex-Primates.

Whatever happens, AMiA will be left with a small number of parishes and members, sustained by the donations of a few millionaires. The model looks more and more like many of the Anglican micro-denominations that we have seen over the past thirty years.

The Status of AMiA Bishops

Archbishop Rwaje has addressed the status of the AMiA bishops:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Greetings in the precious Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The House of Bishops met together on March 29, 2012, during which time we seriously and prayerfully considered how to respond to the desire of those in the Anglican Mission in the Americas who wish to disaffiliate from the Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR). Those AMiA missionary bishops who resigned on December 5, 2011 have maintained their credentials in the Province of Rwanda up until now. However, in a meeting of delegates from PEAR and AMiA in Johannesburg earlier this month, they asked to be “released” from the PEAR.

According to our Provincial Canons, there are only three ways that we may “release” clergy affiliated with us:

    1. By transferring them to another jurisdiction within the Anglican Communion;
    2. By their voluntary renunciation of orders;
    3. By formal ecclesiastical discipline.

Today we wrote to those AMiA missionary bishops who resigned and asked that if they wish to continue in episcopal ministry within another Anglican jurisdiction, that they please inform us of that jurisdiction immediately so that we may translate them appropriately.

For the time being, all remaining AMiA clergy continue to have canonical residence within the PEAR. Any clergy who wish to withdraw their credentials are free to do so in writing. We encourage all North American clergy credentialed in the PEAR to join PEARUSA, which is our missionary district in North America, unanimously erected by our House of Bishops in our today’s meeting.

We pray that you will not be distracted from the higher calling of Jesus’ Great Commission. Preach the good news, love the poor, plant healthy churches, and disciple Christ’s flock.

The grace and peace of God be with you all. Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje

Todd Hunter at the ACNA Assembly

Bishop Todd Hunter of the AMiA is a featured speaker at ACNA’s Assembly 2012. Why? Although canonically resident in Rwanda, he left PEAR along with Chuck Murphy. Archbishop Duncan said of these folks, “They are now former Anglicans, that’s what they have to grapple with.” [1]

So why would Archbishop Duncan turn around and invite Todd Hunter to teach at the high point of ACNA’s life together? Possibly, it signals that AMiA is on the way to being folded into ACNA. Or, perhaps it means that Todd is a candidate for the Vicar (Provincial Director) for Anglican 1000? Either way, it sends a confusing message when paired with what Archbishop Duncan has previously said.

 

From Nairobi to Johannesburg

The new communique from GAFCON on reconciliation between AMiA and PEAR is probably the end of the road for this chapter of the saga. This latest communique does not seem to agree with many points from the earlier Nairobi communique, for instance:

  • AMiA agreed that they remain canonically under the Church of Rwanda and accept the doctrine of forgiveness.
  • AMiA agreed to continue to work with the Church of Rwanda and that other plans for restructuring will be put on hold for six [6] months to allow time for healing and for other fruitful discussions.

The latest communique says instead that “we have done the best within our human efforts to fulfill the recommendations of the Nairobi Meeting”. I haven’t seen AMiA putting their plans on hold for six months, so I interpret this to mean that Rwanda is graciously allowing them to go their way.

This again points to a problem for Anglicanism that is at least as old as Bishop Pike and his heresy trial, if not much older, and that is that there is a real failure of church discipline. Renegades can get away with pretty much whatever they want, and that is not in accord with what we see in the Scriptures. Although GAFCON is a new development, it is in for a lot of trouble if it maintains the laissez-faire approach to church discipline that it inherited from Canterbury.

It remains to be seen where theAM ends up, and I’m sure that will take more time to sort itself out.

 

Money Can’t Buy Me Love

Thy silver is become dross – Isaiah 1:22

Yesterday, the Archbishop Murphy Indaba Association (formerly known as the AMiA) released financial records. I confess, I have not had time to dig into them yet, but I intend to when I am not reading old Kevin Donlon statements on Johanine Awakenings.

Someone calling himself “Theophorus” has been commenting here, on TitusOneNine, and Stand Firm, and painting a different picture from the air brushed portrait of the finances coming from the PI (Pawley’s Island for my non AMiA friends). Theophorus knows, or claims to know, a wealth of details. He is either a big fraud, or someone who really knows stuff. So, for your reading pleasure, I am consolidating his version of events in one place. Here it goes. Continue reading “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”

Needy Churches

Father Dan Claire has a good post up at RenewDC on how healthy churches should be needy churches. He says in part:

A healthy church grieves the departure of members not because of the loss of revenue, but because of the loss of gifts. Departures drive the remaining members to their knees to pray for new body parts, so that the body might be complete, and the church might fulfill her vocation as a kingdom outpost. Likewise, when God sends new people to a healthy church, there are legitimate holes to be filled and everyone rejoices in the Lord’s provision.

Anglican Church Planting Done Right

There are a lot of bad church plants and established churches out there in the Anglican world. Theology is thin, sometimes Arminian, sometimes idolatrous. Discipline is lacking, discipleship does not exist. Some churches don’t want to be terribly liturgical despite a 2,000 year liturgical tradition. A focus on digging into the Bible isn’t there, mission mindedness towards the local community is lacking, and the list goes on. At the top level, the AMiA looks corporate and atheological. There are simply a lot of problems.

And yet, there is hope. Here on the East Coast there at least six parishes pastored by men with strong Augustinian convictions, a commitment to the Bible, a desire to see healthy Christian living and a focus on mission. A new article outlines the history and status of the three RenewDC parishes, one of which I attend:

Through AMiA, Claire became a Rwandan missionary to Washington, D.C., and started the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill.

Now Resurrection is about to celebrate its seventh year in the same rented historic church building near the Library of Congress. Two new churches have already been planted out of Resurrection, and a fourth and fifth in the D.C. region are in the works. The three current churches meet inside the Capital Beltway on Sunday evenings, renting historic church buildings in keeping with a mission-minded, streamlined budget where church planting is a priority.

Together, these congregations compose a church-planting movement known as RenewDC.

Consistent with the theology of Anglicanism’s founding documents, Claire is Reformed and paedobaptist. But joining RenewDC churches requires subscribing only to Christian essentials, which are “hopefully the same among all the gospel-centered churches in the city,” Claire says. The churches focus on gospel essentials (worship, discipleship, and community) leading to mission. As a result, the RenewDC churches resemble missionary outposts and could perhaps be compared to military chapels outside the United States.

The diversity of backgrounds among congregants is striking, if not surprising given the urban environment. In the midst of such diversity, one perhaps counter-intuitive strategy for bridging the gap between people is simple, liturgical worship. “It provides a common framework,” Claire says, “a common language for people.” These Anglican worship services follow the same basic outline as most Christian churches since the earliest days of the church: worship, prayers, Scripture reading, sermon, affirmation of belief (creeds), and the Eucharist. They practice these ancient rites using contemporary music and language.

It can be done right, it should be done right, it will be done right! To read more about it, click here.