Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am overjoyed to be able to send you greetings at this momentous time in the continuing story of God's church in Rwanda. I give thanks to God that through all the pain, suffering, and darkness which you have all been through, this new chapter in your common life is now opening. This indeed is a clear sign that God is blessing his people even in the midst of the darkness. I pray that, as you join together for the consecration and enthronement of the new Bishop of Shyogwe, as you have done in previous weeks for other dioceses, and will do again in the coming days, each one of you will see in these symbolic acts within the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, the signs of God's love for you.
But as I have said, this is the beginning of a new chapter. The appointment of new bishops in itself does not create the answers to all the problems which continue to beset you as a Church or as a nation. What it does is to create a fresh opportunity to create a new vision of the mission and ministry of the Church. I hope and pray that the House of Bishops, together with Provincial and Diocesan Synods will now take up this challenge. It is imperative that the divisions of the past are set aside. By this, I do not mean that you should forget what has happened to your people - of course not. That is now a part of your life which will affect you all the rest of your lives. Rather, you, as disciples of Christ, face a new situation a situation in which your country needs you to be united, to be a lamp set upon a hill for all who seek moral and spiritual guidance at this time. So let me briefly offer you thoughts on three areas of Church life which I hope you will take very seriously as you seek to create your renewed vision.
Firstly, our Anglican tradition is an ordered tradition. By that I mean that it has a clear structure of leadership. Bishops and clergy play a key part in setting and implementing the vision of the Church. That is an enormous privilege, and it is an enormous responsibility. Those of you who are ordained to these positions have a duty to be transparent in every aspect of your life, so that your people may see Christ through you. In prayer, in study, in your working together as one body, in your care for one another, you are called to demonstrate the life of Christ. It is also part of our tradition that those called to leadership are called into service - servants of Christ, certainly, but also servants of the people. Your prime task is to enable all your Sisters and brothers in Christ to be truly the People of God. If your leadership is in this style it will become a great blessing to the Church. If it is not, then the trust which is so vital to human relationships will be destroyed.
Secondly, I hope you will reflect very carefully together on the role of the Church in the nation as a whole. This I know is a sensitive area, and you will want to avoid mistakes of the past. But, as the old First World War poster in England used to say, "Your country needs you". I know that your Government wants the Episcopal Church to play a positive and constructive role in the continuing urgent task of rebuilding Rwanda. They want to hear the united voice of the Church giving a moral and spiritual lead to the people. They want to see the sort of practical, people-based community involvement for which Anglicanism is renowned throughout the world. Your Government has a hard task ahead of it, and it needs to work with you, to collaborate with you. That does not mean that you have to give uncritical support to everything which is done. Part of the role of visionaries, of prophets is to be able to see the wider picture, and to speak out clearly when damage is being done. Governments, however determined they are to do what is right, make mistakes. In the face of so many problems, your government would be superhuman if it made none. Your prophetic words and actions at such times will be better received in the context of constructive engagement with the Government than if you are seen only to stand on the sidelines and shout denunciations.
Thirdly, I believe your country desperately needs to hear a confident, united witness by all the Churches This will demonstrate that reconciliation can be achieved even when there have been centuries of disagreement. I hope you will take the initiative to bring all the Churches together to speak and act as one at every conceivable opportunity. You do not have to agree on every jot of theology in order to present a common face to the world. Some will say it takes too much time and effort to find the common ground. I disagree. Given the will to do it, it can happen, and it will have a powerful effect upon the country. Some of your ecumenical partners may need to be convinced of the need. I hope and pray that the Episcopal Church in Rwanda will be in the lead in insisting that ecumenical collaboration is at the heart of the process of reconciliation in the country.
My brothers and sisters, you are all so much in my heart and in my prayers. May this time be a new beginning for you all; may you all be inspired to an ever-deepening commitment to Christ our Lord; and may God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love, defend you on every side and guide you in truth and peace. God bless you all.
Yours ever in Christ,
+ George Cantur