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Rucyahana to retire: The Church of England Newspaper, March 19, 2010 p 8. April 1, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Rwanda, Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

One of the point men in the Anglican Communion’s battles over human sexuality, the Rt. Rev. John Rucyahana, Bishop of Shyira in the Province of Rwanda has announced he will step down from office upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

A well known and popular figure among conservative church circles, Bishop Rucyahana instituted the first ‘cross-border’ provincial church plant in the United States and was a key figure in the creation of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).

On April 16, 1998 Bishop Rucyahana licensed as a missionary priest of the Province of Rwanda the Rev. TJ Johnston, an Episcopal priest serving as a pastor of an “unofficial” church plant in Arkansas. The founding of St Andrew’s Little Rock as a Rwandan mission was vigorously opposed by the Rt. Rev. Larry Maze, Bishop of Arkansas, who accused Bishop Rucyahana of “ecclesiastical trespass.”

The matter was taken up at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, where Archbishop George Carey urged Bishop Rucyahana to “disentangle” himself from Little Rock. Private meetings between US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini were unable to resolve the dispute.

Within two years what had begun as an interim arrangement for disenchanted American Anglicans was put on a firmer ecclesiastical foundation with the formation of the AMiA and the consecration of two Americans to serve as its missionary bishops. In January 2000 the Rt. Rev. John Rodgers and the Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy were consecrated for the AMiA by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Archbishop Moses Tay of Southeast Asia, Bishop Rucyahana and three retired American and British bishops.

One of 13 children born to a Tutsi family in northwest Rwanda in 1945, at the age of 14 John Rucyahana and his family fled into exile into Uganda when Rwandan Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and began a persecution of Tutsis.

At the age of 21 he underwent a conversion experience and joined the Church of Uganda and was ordained in 1975. He served as a parish priest, rector of St Paul’s Cathedral in Hoima, and in 1983 was appointed archdeacon of Hoima. In 1988 he and his wife Harriet and five children moved to the United States where he studied at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry near Pittsburgh. Returning to Uganda he was appointed diocesan Missions Coordinator of the Church of Uganda. After leading mission trips into post-genocide Rwanda for three years, he was elected Bishop of Shyira in Northwest Rwanda in 1997—home to 25 per cent of the country and the region hardest hit by the mass murder of Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Starting with little in the aftermath of the genocide, under Bishop Rucyahana’s tenure the diocese has grown to 60 parishes, 355 congregations and numbers approximately 150,000 members. In the international arena, Bishop Rucyahana has been one of the key players among the Global South bishops and leader in the Gafcon movement.

Speaking to the Rwandan press last week, Bishop Rucyahana said he still had the “energy” to serve as bishop, but “every bishop who clocks 65 years should retire.”

“What is important is not finishing what you started but what foundation you laid for others,” he said.

In January the Rwandan House of Bishops unanimously elected the Rev. Dr Laurent Mbanda as bishop-coadjutor of Shyira. Bishop-elect Mbanda will be consecrated on March 28, and will assume responsibility for the diocese on Nov 14.

As a child Dr. Mbanda left Rwanda with his family for Kenya following a pogrom of Tutsis. He is currently the Regional Vice President for Africa of Compassion International and a graduate of Kenya Highlands Bible College. He holds an M.A. in Christian education from Denver Seminary and a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and has served as Country Director in Burundi with Campus Crusade, Director of the African Fellowship Ministry for International Students Inc, and as African Director for Christian Aid Mission.

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