One thing I respect about people of faith is their moral clarity. Take, for example, Reverend Sam Pascoe and the Grace Church in Orange Park, Florida. Formerly members of the American Episcopal Church, Rev. Pascoe and his flock have left the American church and joined the Episcopal Church of Rwanda. Why? Because the Rwandan diocese is clearly homophobic, a value that the good people of Grace Church really cherish.
Since the 2003 approval of opening gay Episcopal priest Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, more than three-dozen American Episcopal churches have jumped dioceses to align themselves with their anti-homosexual coreligionists in Rwanda, Uganda, Brazil, and Bolivia.
I have no problem with people preferring a church that reflects their values to one that does not, but I can’t help but wonder, Why Rwanda? Bishop Robinson’s homosexuality may present Orange Park Episcopalians with a moral challenge, but is a church that welcomes homosexuals actually less moral than one that is implicated in genocide?
The 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis by Hutus killed an estimated 800,000 men, women, and children. One man on trial for genocide is Episcopal Bishop Samuel Musabyimana. As stated in the Indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against Bishop Musabyimana, “On 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites. On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed."
Of course Musabyimana was not the only person of faith willing to slaughter Tutsis. Catholic nuns, Gertrude Mukangango and Julienne Kisito, were implicated in the slaughter of at least 5,000 civilians that had sought refuge in their monastery at Sovu. Survivors of the genocide say that Bishop Aaron Ruhumuliza, head of the Free Methodist Church in Gikondo, Kigali, helped the militia carry out a massacre in his own church on 9 April 1994. According to an African Rights report Michel Twagirayesu, the President of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda and a former vice-president of the World Council of Churches, is alleged to have worked closely with the killers in the Presbyterian stronghold of Kirinda, Kibuye, betraying both parishioners and fellow-clergy. It is heartening to see such ecumenism in Rwanda.
What troubles me is that the good Episcopalians of Orange Park are leaving the American church because it refuses to condemn homosexuals and sides with the Rwandan church that is tinted by the genocide. We can draw only one conclusion from this: being gay is a greater moral offence that being a genocidal murderer.
And that is why I love people of faith. They are unafraid to tell it like it is. I don’t envy Bishop Robinson’s position as the first openly gay bishop in Anglicandom, but it could be worse. He could be Tutsi.