Dr. Cantrell Again

Dr. Phillip Cantrell commented on my post on RPF massacres below, and I thought it was worth elevating his comment to a post of its own given the seriousness of these issues for ACNA and GAFCON, so here is what he said:

Hello again Joel, and any readers. This is in response to this and your two previous posts from/abt Ryentjens. As a historian of Rwanda and the region, I would say Ryentjens is a major voice in Rwandan studies. For the record, he is more of a political scientist than a historian. He is also, or at least last time I checked, a jurist in Belgium; that is, our equivalent of a Belgian senator. As such, he used to have high-level, credible access to information in Rwanda. He still does, but he has been banned from Rwanda now b/c of his criticisms of Kagame and the RPF (obvious enough perhaps from your posts). He knows he would probably be detained and deported if he tried to enter the country now, which is true of other prominent historians, critics and observers of the country. I have read many of his writings and used them in my own publications. He is regarded by the community of Rwanda scholars as spot-on, accurate and fair; fair that is in his approach to the Hutu/Tutsi question and the issue of culpability in regards to the genocide and RPF attrocities since.

Tying into his comments abt Kagame and the allegations about RPF atrocities and killings since the genocide, these are really no longer in question, however much it may disturb some of the readers of this blog who, like many, including myself once, desperately wanted to believe in the “new Rwanda.” Kagame and the RPF, whatever their intentions may have been when they invaded from Uganda in 1991, did in fact play a role in bringing on the genocide, even as they fought to end it when no one else in the international community, including the U.S./U.N., did not. And they have run an increasingly despotic regime since.

It’s tragically ironic that I write these comments on the very day that the activist politician Victorie Ingabire was sentenced to 8 years in prison in Rwanda for alleged crimes of “speech” after a decidedly unfair trial by any Western standards, and even that assumes that its fair and just to imprison someone for non-violent political opposition. To the readers of this post: what would we say if George W. Bush had imprisoned Al Gore for 8 years for “vocal opposition” or if President Obama had imprisoned Newt Gingrich? Get the picture?

The only remaining, valid question it seems for the readers of this post, and the former AMiA, is to what extent is the Anglican Church in Rwanda complicit in all this, either thru its support or willing silence in Kagame and the RPF’s actions? Does it not behoove us and the Christian community to find out? Is it a just use of our “aid dollars” to inadvertently support such a state in Rwanda? At a time when the evidence is mounting of Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebels? The chickens are coming home to roost for Rwanda and the RPF. The “you owe us your silence b/c of your genocidal guilt” mantra is wearing out. The truth will come out. But even worse, the retribution will flow one day, and retribution in Africa usually, sadly, flows red.

Its not an easy position to be in and I do not envy the decision-makers in the former AMiA. Its not natural for us. As Ryentjens said once its hard for Americans to comprehend African conflicts b/c everything in American history is cast as the “good guys versus the bad guys” so find the bad guys and call the rangers. But, Ryentjans said, in African conflicts its always the “bad guys versus the bad guys” and that makes decision-making difficult. Lastly, I will say this, Ryentjens is a Belgian politician and the Belgians carry alot of guilt. I note that he suggested, from your posts, the problems began in 1959/60. Not really. The problems began even earlier when the country became racialized into Hutus and Tutsis. And the Belgians bear much responsibility for that, but not all of it. Some of it lies at the foot of the Rwandans. But they are not as willing as the Belgians, Ryentjens not withstanding, to admit it. I’m Phil Cantrell (cantrellpa@longwood.edu) and, unlike the RPF, I welcome comments, criticisms and dialogue.

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.

Against Theological Laziness

I was encouraged to read Archbishop Eliud Wabukala’s address to GAFCON today, particularly this section:

We must resist the temptation to be theologically lazy. Our aim of a renewed, reformed Anglican Communion will not be sustained if we are unwilling to support and encourage those who are gifted to do the training and the theological heavy lifting so essential to give depth and penetration to our vision both within the Church and beyond it. We need to recover the vision of the Anglican Reformers, of ordinary believers knowing scriptures and being nourished by biblical teaching. Equally we need leaders, lay and ordained, able to give a robust defense of apostolic faith in the global public square. If we do not, secular ideologies which have so powerfully shaped liberal and revisionist Christianity in the Communion will tighten the grip. The Lord our God cannot allow it. He calls us to move on.

Frankly, there is a lot of theological, particularly Biblical, laziness in ACNA ranks. Hopefully this changes over time.

I. AMiA Upheaval – Discipline and Resignations

Much has happened since the Rwandan House of Bishops threatened to remove Bishop Murphy as the head of what was the AMiA. It was hard to keep abreast of developments for a time as events were happening on a day to day basis. Let me summarize what I see as the strategy of the Pawleys Island leadership (as named by Archbishop Duncan) to date.

First, to avoid the immediate loss of authority over the former AMiA, the majority of the AMiA bishops resigned en masse at the eleventh hour on December 5th, essentially fleeing church discipline. This resignation was communicated via two letters, one from Bishop Murphy, the other ostensibly from Murphy, but clearly written by Canon Kevin Donlon, with his trademark underlining, bolded, italicized underlining, and references to the canons he foisted upon Rwanda several years ago. The AMiA bishops signed the Donlon/Murphy letter, minus Thad Barnum and the resigned Terrell Glenn.

These letters adopted the stance that the Pawleys Island leadership had the authority to release to Rwandan oversight parishes within AMiA that wanted to remain with Rwanda, rather than the Pawleys Island leadership structure. The letters were part of a broader approach to the media that reversed an earlier reticence to speak. However, the articles that appeared failed to answer several key questions. But I am getting ahead of myself. The PR strategy included an interview with Anglican Ink. Before the resignations were made public, someone (probably Brust)  told Anglican Ink:

A spokesman for Bishop Murphy told Anglican Ink the proposed reorganization has “required the [AMiA] and the Province of Rwanda to engage in substantive dialogues, and we seek to ensure that our unique cultures are in clear communication with each other.”

“It has required that we listen carefully to one another in our attempts to fully understand all of the issues involved from one another’s cultural perspectives,” the spokesman said, noting the 30 Nov letter was “part of that yet unfinished dialogue and it will be addressed as our Archbishop has required.”

The impending discipline was referred to as dialogue and clarification was mentioned, when in fact very clear boundaries had been set and a “cease and desist” order regarding the new Mission Society had been issued.

After the break with Rwanda, Brust chalked up the mass resignation to a difference of opinion, no mention being made of the impending church discipline:

Brust said AMIA has every intention of remaining a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The association will seek a group of retired archbishops to serve as a college of consultors and connect to an undetermined Anglican province.

“It’s just a difference of opinion in the way Rwanda wanted to move forward and what the Anglican Mission felt like God was leading us to do,” Brust said.

The Pawleys Island leadership then released to David Virtue some of the notes from the November 17-18 meeting between Bishop Murphy, Canon Donlon and Bishop Mbanda and Archbishop Rwaje in Washington D.C. It is interesting to note that no one has characterized this meeting publicly except Bishop Murphy and other former AMiA clergy. As far as I can tell, David Virtue did not contact Mbanda or Rwaje to ask what their side of the story of the D.C. meeting was. If he did, there is no evidence of it in his reporting.

Four days after this precipitous resignation, Archbishop Rwaje appointed bishops Glenn and Barnum to oversee the clergy and congregations remaining affiliated with the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR). Archbishop Rwaje further stated that the resigned Pawleys Island leadership had “forfeited their authority over those clergy and congregations that have been affiliated with Rwanda through AMiA.”

After these events, two stories appeared publicly from clergy loyal to the Pawleys Island leadership. The first from Rev. Mark Quay leveled particularly incendiary charges against Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo and was published on Virtue Online. Quay is the President and Dean of the Anglican School of Ministry, an arm of the former AMiA. Quay’s story quickly vanished from Virtue Online, and I have not seen a further statement from him.

Next came a story from Rev. Joe Boysel, a priest at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, reporting up through Bishop Doc Loomis. Boysel’s story on Internet Monk offered further thoughts as to what had just happened. He posited a difference between ACNA and AMiA in terms of mission vs. structure – this has been a common theme, and one that makes little sense as any church on earth is to be engaged in mission per the Great Commission. Boysel’s version of events perpetuated the Murphy angle on the final meeting between Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Murphy. Boysel says that “Everyone smiled and warmly embraced everyone else” at that meeting. He does not say what his source for that angle on the meeting is.

Neither Boysel, Murphy or Quay mention the role of Canon Donlon in writing canon law for Rwanda and then pushing it on the bishops of Rwanda and AMiA. The Pawleys Island leadership are assigning blame on the Washington Statement clergy, Bishop Alexis, perhaps Archbishop Rwaje, and so on. And yet none of them have offered a cogent account of what Donlon has been up to these past several years.

Here is the rub: Donlon’s theology does not represent the founding theology of AMiA itself. See the Solemn Declaration of Principles of the Anglican Mission in America. The Solemn Declaration explicitly says:

This Church subscribes to the teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church  of England. These are to be interpreted, as ordered in the Declaration which  prefaces them in the English Book of Common Prayer, “in the full and plain  meaning thereof” and “in the literal and grammatical sense.” Further, it is  understood that there are places in the Articles (i.e. Art. 37) that assume past  and present political structures in England which do not directly apply to this Church located as it is in North America.

Donlon’s theology does not represent the theology of the Rwandan Anglicans, nor does it represent GAFCON’s theology. The Jerusalem Declaration says:

We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

Further, the GAFCON document titled The Way, the Truth and the Life emphatically embraces the Articles as the norm of Anglican doctrine:

Authentic Anglicanism is a particular expression of Christian corporate life which seeks to honour the Lord Jesus Christ by nurturing faith, and also encouraging obedience to the teaching of God’s written word, meaning the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It embraces the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (published in the year 1571) and the Book of Common Prayer (the two versions of 1552 and 1662), both texts being read according to their plain and historical sense, and being accepted as faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture, which provides the standard for Anglican theology and practice.

Donlon’s theology clearly contradicts the Articles and classical Anglican norms. I hope to outline this at length later, but suffice it to say that his sacramental views alone are a rejection of the Articles and early Anglican norms.

In order to bring about sweeping changes in theology and structure to Rwanda, AMiA and GAFCON, Donlon (and Murphy) should have submitted these changes for public discussion and debate. In fact, clergy who adopt the Romanist position of Donlon on the sacraments should not affirm the Solemn Declaration in good faith – how they have done so until now is a matter for their own consciences to answer. So, did Donlon submit his proposals on the sacraments and other theological issues to the broader denomination for review, interaction, debate or a vote? No, he rather performed an end run around the broader group and essentially subverted Rwandan theology from within (granted, this reflects very poorly on Rwandan leadership at the time and the AMiA bishops from that period). He (abetted by Murphy) then attempted to hustle through a Mission Society proposal, presumably in time for the next Winter Conference, and then when exposed to public scrutiny, did not engage in debate or obedience, but rather fled discipline.

Further, the stories by Quay, Boysel, and Bishop Murphy have not explained or even attempted to explain why both Glenn and Barnum felt the need to resign. Just what was it that pushed them to do this? We may never know, but you would think that an accurate backstory of what happened would at least venture a guess as to why they came to the decisions that they did.

This initial flurry of stories from the Pawleys Island associated clergy was not met with any public response from PEAR or PEAR clergy in the USA. Rather, bishops Glenn and Barnum called for an Advent respite to blogging and news sites, perhaps reflecting the difficulties inherent in the the age of internet communication. Church structures now struggle with how to handle comments from the priesthood of the plebs. This is understandable, but it cannot be changed – there is no going back to the pre web days, as much as communication organs wish that there is.

I will continue my look at events in days ahead, charting the changing reactions, the proposed Society, and the lay of the land currently.

Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference

Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference held at the National Christian Center, Abuja, Nigeria, 7th-11th November 2011

In the name of God: the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

The first Divine Commonwealth Conference was held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, from Monday 7th to Friday 11th November 2011.  It was an international, non-denominational spiritual conference initiated by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) under the leadership of the Most Reverend Nicholas D Okoh, Primate.

We, the participants, numbering over 5,000 Bishops, Clergy and Laity, deeply appreciated words of encouragement and goodwill from notable leaders from Nigeria, other parts of Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, including the retired Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the Primates of West Africa and Kenya, the Methodist Archbishop of Abuja and the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

1    We gathered as the People of God and members of the Divine Commonwealth determined to celebrate our oneness in Christ and reaffirm our unity around the fundamentals of the Christian faith; recognizing that we have been called into ‘One body … one Spirit … one hope … one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.’ 1 We reaffirmed our commitment to uphold our faith, loyalty and obedience to the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth, and to prove ourselves faithful in season and out of season as His worthy disciples in all places and circumstances.  Continue reading “Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference”