"...determination is the key to success in politics, in the broadest sense of the word. You don't need many resources to make your voice heard when you are defending a cause you believe to be just..." Padre André Sibomana
An American blogger and a member of the Anglican church has been investigating the eerily links between the Anglican church and the Rwandan government. If you recall, the Catholic church in Rwanda singularly supported the previous regime even as it committed the genocide. The current ruling party emanated from the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel group that is also responsible for mass killings. The Anglican church has replaced the Catholic church and its leaders appear to have very close links with the ruling party. For those who know Rwanda's history, this can't be good news. The report extensive report below explains why.
If you look around the blogosphere for Anglican news you will generally find surface level press-release journalism, particularly when it comes to CANA, the REC, and PEAR USA. No one that I am aware of is offering scrutiny or asking hard questions. If you want an interview, you better be on the good side of bishop so and so. And when it comes to Rwanda, the many experts on the country pay very little attention to the Anglican Church there, despite it’s role as a propaganda arm of the State. This puts me in a unique position at the confluence of Rwanda and PEAR, a spot that no one else is paying attention to (as they ought to be). With that in mind, I want to summarize how PEAR USA is structured for those who know about Rwanda but have little knowledge about the Church.
Before PEAR USA there was the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), which was also part of the Rwandan Anglican Church from 2000 to 2011. The head of the AMiA, Chuck Murphy, defied the Rwandan House of Bishops when they attempted to exercise authority over him. His defiance led to the collapse of the AMiA, with churches either staying in a now puny AMiA, fleeing directly into the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) or remaining under Rwandan oversight as PEAR USA. The glorification of the Rwandan Church was the reason that many of us in PEAR USA remained with Rwanda, setting a premium on the relationship with them, which allowed Americans to maintain theological distinctives1 and do as they please with minimal oversight from the Rwandans.
Part of Two Churches
The bishops of PEAR USA are part of both the Rwandan House of Bishops and the ACNA College of Bishops. How does this work? Who really knows? American clergy in PEAR USA are canonically resident in Rwanda, which place an onus of responsibility on them.
The American Bishops
There are five American bishops as of this writing, including:
Bishop Steven A. Breedlove, Presider of PEARUSA, and Bishop Ordinary of the Atlantic Coast Network
Figure 2. Breedlove and Gasatura
When I asked Breedlove if the Rwandans showed any degree of self critique or criticism for their government, he could not come up with an example or answer of self criticism. He later worked with my parish priest to censor a post I wrote which affirmed the UN reports of John Rucyahana’s fundraising for M23.
Bishop Ken A. Ross, Bishop Ordinary of the West Network
Fig 3. Bishops Rwaje, Ross and Rucyahana
Bishop Thad Barnum, Assisting Bishop of the Atlantic Coast Network-Northeast Region
Figure 4. Bishops Rucyahana and Barnum
Bishop Quigg Lawrence, Assisting Bishop of the Atlantic Coast Network-Mt. Virginia Region
Lawrence is good friends with Kagame sycophant John Rucyahana, and even had him attend his consecration to bishop after Rucyahana had been accused of M23 support.
Figure 5. Bishop Lawrence and Rucyahana
Bishop David Bryan, Bishop Ordinary of the Southeast Network
Figure 6. Bishop David Bryan
Americans Working in Rwanda
There are a couple notable Americans from PEAR USA working back in Rwanda, one is Brandon Walsh and the other is Jay Greener. Bishops Rwaje and Mbanda serve as the public face of PEAR to the West since Kolini and Rucyahana retired and started their work supporting M23. It is logical therefore that they have westerners working directly for them to cultivate relationships with PEAR USA congregations.
Figure 7. Americans in Rwanda
Greener formerly served as Communications Officer for the Anglican Mission in America and as such has experience with public relations.
Figure 8. Bishop Mbanda (second from left) with Jay Greener (right)
Meet the Bishops
The Rwandan bishops include:
Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Bishop of Gasabo.
Figure 9. Archbishop Rwaje with Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame
Archbishop Rwaje was the co-author of a letter to the United Nations protesting a report that the UN issued on Rwanda’s involvement with M23. This letter attacked both the UN Mapping Report and the Group of Expert’s report and said, “Overall, we think that blaming Rwanda for the DRC crisis is a result of manipulation which leaves behind the real issue of governance and the responsibility of the Congolese government to solve this conflict.”
Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo, Bishop of Gahini
Figure 10. Bishop Alexis with the Rwandan First Couple
Quigg Lawrence’s church in Virginia has a church building partnership with Bishop Amooti; this church in Georgia did too. Amooti was formerly an assistant to retired Archbishop Kolini. Like many bishops, Amooti is from outside Rwanda, as he was born in Uganda.
During the 1990′s, it appears that Bishop Mvunabandi actually participated in scrutinizing his government, as this government attack blog lists him as part of an NGO in Rwanda: “A Kenyan section was represented by an Anglican Bishop, Augustin NSHAMIHIGO who lived in Nairobi, and Tanzanian section was represented by another Anglican Bishop Augustin MVUNABANDI, and who was in the refugee camp in Ngara, Tanzania.”
The bishop is a representative of Rwanda Bible Society. This link notes his preaching at a Business Funding Project in his diocese.
Figure 13. Bishop Mvunabandi
Bishop Emmanuel Ntazinda, Kibungo Diocese
Bishop Ntazinda has been developing relationships with Ireland. He praises the Kagame government, particularly NURC, in this interview.
Figure 14. Bishop Ntazinda
Bishop Augustin Ahimana, Kivu Diocese
Bishop Ahimana has been a vocal defender of the Kagame regime in the Western publication Christianity Today. One biography of him says that he is “part of Pastor Rick Warren’s PEACE initiatives, a member of the World Vision Organization, and a contributor to Christianity Today Magazine. Ahimana has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Seminary, a BA in Business Administration, and a diploma in Law.”
Ahimana attributes the actions of Christians during the genocide to superficial faith, despite the massive influence of the East African Revival:
We were nominal Christians without a life changed by the Gospel. It was so-called Christians who rose up and killed other Christians. It was church leaders betraying church members. People were butchered in sanctuaries. How can you explain this in a country that was said to be 90 to 94 percent Christian? Only because of a superficial faith. There was none of God’s love in people’s hearts, no faith in their hearts.”
Figure 15. Bishop Ahimana
Bishop Nathan Gasatura, Butare Diocese
Figure 16. Bishop Gasatura at a prayer breakfast in Rwanda.
Figure 17. Bishop Mbanda (rear) at the recent appalling prayer breakfast
Bishop Mbanda was born in Rwanda but grew up in Burundi and spent many years in the United States. Mbanda recently attended the prayer breakfast at which Kagame boasted about his killing of Patrick Karegeya and made promises to hunt down and kill other critics of the government.
Mbanda praised the Rwandan government, saying, “The country enjoys peace, security throughout and visionary leadership. It is a story of success and model of good governance in the region. Reconciliation is taking hold, the country and people are turning to the Lord.”
In the 90′s, Mbanda wrote:
Hopefully, the new Kigali government will keep its hands clean in the matters of the Church, just as they have so far. My prayer is that the Church can divorce itself from the kind of church-state relationships that seek favours from politicians in exchange for the Church’s prophetic voice.
This has of course not happened, and Mbanda is silent in public about the role of Kagame and the RPF in Rwanda. He claims that the country has healed and is on the rise in this interview.
Bishop Louis Muvunyi, Kigali Diocese
Figure 18. Bishop Muvunyi
Muvunyi was principal of Kigali Anglican Theological College prior to his elevation.
Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo, Byumba Diocese
Figure 19. Bishop Ngendahayo
Bishop Ngendahayo replaced Archbishop Rwaje upon his elevation. RPF Government representative James Musoni spoke at his consecration, saying, “A good Christian leader is one who preaches the word of God while at the same time strives to promote unity of Rwandans, in addition to working closely with government to spearhead development.”
One Important Non-Bishop
One key Anglican figure who is not a bishop is Anglican Pastor and Vice President of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) Antoine Rutayisire.
Figure 20. Rutayisire and Kagame
According to the most recent PEAR USA budget, $77,460 was given to the Rwandan Anglican Church in 2014. I don’t think this counts other money that individual parishes might send directly to Rwanda, although I imagine that most money is consolidated via the top level PEAR USA budget.
Figure 21. 2014 PEAR USA Budget
What Rwandans Think About the Anglican Church of Rwanda
Getting Rwandans inside the country to speak openly about anything political is difficult to impossible. I have the testimony of three Rwandans, two who had been very high ranking and one former journalist, about the Church. Their opinions are anecdotal and may not represent what most Rwandans think, however, I think we can take them as a fair indicator of public opinion.
1. Theogene Rudasingwa. Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa served as the Secretary General of Rwanda’s ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), as Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, and as President Paul Kagame’s Director of Cabinet (Chief of Staff).
I spoke to Dr. Rudasingwa about the Anglican Church in Rwanda and asked him how it relates to the oppressive Kagame regime. He told me that after 1994, the goal of the RPF was to make the international community feel guilty for what happened – the “you did nothing” narrative. He said that Kagame has co-opted evangelical churches, such as the Anglicans, as tools of his own corruption. He specifically mentioned Bishops Rucyahana and Kolini and how they talk to “unsuspecting Americans” with their narrative. He mentioned that Kolini was the head of the National Commission for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS and how Rucyahana is now the head of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), government positions that not just anyone gets.
Rudasingwa told me that Bishop Kolini was “very pro Tutsi” and that we (meaning Kagame’s inner circle) considered him to be “one of us.” He says that the bishops could not operate without the RPFs’ permission and that the RPF likely decides on who is a bishop, where they serve, etc. I asked Rudasingwa how to explain that Archbishop Rwaje, a Hutu, is Archbishop. He said that Kagame allows these kinds of things as PR moves, more or less. He said that some of the bishops are good men who are afraid, but he went on to say that there is no excuse for silence or neutrality in the face of the evil occurring in Rwanda.
2. Gerald Gahima. Gerald Gahima was ”central to the rebuilding of Rwanda’s justice system in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, first as the chief of staff to the Rwandan Minister of Justice from 1996-1999, and subsequently as the country’s Attorney General from 1999-2003.”
He was asked about his opinion of the Anglican Church in Rwanda regarding reconciliation, and this is what he said:
OK I have very strong opinions about the Anglican Church in Rwanda. The Anglican Church in Rwanda, one cannot even say it has been compromised by the State, it has basically made itself an arm of the State. It has…you remember what the, the role that the Catholic Church had during the Colonial period and the time of the monarchy? How the Catholic Church was very close to the State and how this continued even during the post independence period? The Anglican Church has basically taken the role of the Catholic Church as being the chief apologist of the RPF and that has taken away a lot of the credibility that the Church should have and because of this the …I don’t think the Anglican Church would be a viable, a useful contributor to the process of reconciliation in Rwanda because it has taken sides.
3. Godwin Agaba. Agaba is a journalist and was a resident of Rwanda until he was forced to flee in 2010. Agaba is Tutsi and an Anglican, he attended the Remera parish in Rwanda pastored by the Rev. Canon Peter Twahirwa. Agaba said:
Rwanda’s context: The Anglican Church of Rwanda operates within Rwanda’s boundaries. It is subject to the socio-political dispensations obtaining in Rwanda today. Its leaders are Rwandans – pooled from the citizenry who are fed daily on the dangers of dissent. Like other Rwandans, the civil society, the media, silence is a survival instinct. The social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society — outside of state control — have been deliberately weakened, subordinated, and some replaced by new regimented institutions used by the state or ruling party to control the society. The population itself has often been atomized. The result is predictable. Speaking out has a heavy price, and very few can pay such a price. Bishops can’t operate without RPF permissions and indeed they are chosen by RPF strongmen, in other words these are politicians not men of God. I think the Rwandan political culture has been corrupting church leaders. In order to be influential church leaders have to be insiders of the ruling party! The Anglican church of Rwanda can’t address injustice and human rights violations committed by the RPF because they are insiders! It’s not easy to challenge injustice when one is not independent. The same situation happened to the Catholic Church during Habyarimana’s regime, as a result the RPA killed the Catholic Bishops and Priests in Gakurazo and Kabwayi! The Catholic Church in the DRC showed its independence when they spoke against Kabila’s controversial election! The churches are not as powerful as they used to be in Rwanda. The RPF chooses bishops to have some influence similar to how other religions choose a Mufti. Also note that the Catholic Church deliberately chose Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege as their spokesman because they think he can talk to the RPF. It is a calculation that happens in almost all African countries.
Americans who are involved with PEAR USA and ACNA have very little idea of what they are signing up for when they affirm a relationship with the Rwandan Anglican Church – I certainly didn’t. They should educate themselves before the relationship openly blows up in their face.