Anglican a better descriptor than Episcopal? Rwanda thinks so.

Some time ago it seemed that various Provinces or Churches in the Anglican Communion really found the word "Anglican" problematic, given that it derived from a word referring to the Angles of Anglo-Saxon fame. To the right is an Angle parade helmet from about 625 AD. Nicely fierce, no?

Some, like the Scots thought "Episcopal" might be a better sort of descriptor. It was an Episcopal Church, but of Scotland. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America thought, among other things, the same. There are a variety of Provinces that carry the descriptor: Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Philippines, the Sudan and as a joint name with Anglican, Brazil. Until last month Rwanda was "L'Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda," but not any more.

From the Living Church online

"Delegates to the General Synod also voted to broaden and increase the curriculum of the church’s theological college in Kabunga. The changes are intended to transform the theological college into an academic university offering new degrees in a variety of secular subjects. Synod also voted to change the legal name of the church from the Episcopal Church of Rwanda to the Anglican Church of Rwanda."

So it appears that Rwanda would rather identify with a descriptor that identifies the church with a particular group of people, namely the English, or with the Church that grew from that, than with the word that indicates how they are governed - episcopal. The missionary work from which the Anglican Church of Rwanda grew was developed by the Rwanda Mission from England, so the name honors that fact. But of course England was a major colonial power in Africa and that must dangle there as a bit of an identity issue. (I know...Rwanda was not an English colony.)

Still, I would have thought that a Church that has distanced itself from Canterbury, and several of whose bishops are not welcome at Lameth, might think twice about introducing Anglican in to the name.

Perhaps too the descriptor "Episcopal" reeks too much of the Episcopal Church which TECR has decided is too decadent to associate with.

Better a name that evokes African colonialism than one that evokes those awful people in America.

The NewTimes of Rwanda had this to say about Archbishop Kolini's take on homosexuals: (I am not impressed with the NewTimes, but it thinks Archbishop Kolini is really quite wonderful.)

"Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini has called on churches in the East African region to fight against homosexuality for the good of the society during a crusade organised by the Anglican Church of Rwanda to bring together Christians from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

The leader of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda has insisted that Anglican churches in East Africa will not mingle with the homosexuals in the affairs of the church for the good of the community.

He says that they are reformed Anglicans who want to adhere to the original creeds of the Bible, and that’s why church has decided to ignore the 2008 Lambeth Conference because it has not done much to fight homosexuality in the communion.

If the Anglican Church of Rwanda has been at the forefront in evangelisation and peace building in the world, why not fight homosexuality?

He urged Christians to embrace the EAC with a united fight against this ungodly deed for it better free movements and interactions of the people of God across borders."

Kind of makes one feel better, doesn't it. It's OK, change the name so we don't have to be identified with this stuff.


  1. Canon Harris:

    Perhaps the FedCon crowd also hope the Episcopal church is too decedent. Though, I'm not sure how one gets too dead. What for instance is just dead enough? :-)
    I trust though, you meant to say too decadent.

    Grace & peace,
    -miserable sinner

  2. dear miserable sinner...oops. Thanks for the correction. How indeed does one get too dead? I'll work on that.

  3. Do people notice that anytime the word homosexual is used coming out of an African statement by the church or the press, it is always in the context of behaviour? Have we not tried to make our African (not to mention our American) conservative brothers and sisters understand that sexual orientation is something we perceive as more of an ontological component of our identity? In other words, they see being homosexual as "something you do." We understand it as "something we are."

    There is definitely a disconnect in understanding.

  4. the more important question is why does TEC bend over backwards and compromise its own principles in order to stay in "communion" with the Rwandan Priamte in the AC??

    Why let down so many in TEC (eg BO33) in order to try and appease certain GS primates.

    They do not want to identify with TEC.....why does TEC so easily get pushed into dropping its conscience in order to stay identified with the AC??

  5. Perhaps, Mark, you might ponder the implications to other Anglican churches of our own recent name-change, from "The Episcopal Church of the United States of America," to "The Episcopal Church". The name "Episcopal Church of Rwanda" sounds like a branch of the church named "The Episcopal Church", doesn't it? And if a church wanted to make clear that it is not a branch of this particular church, a name change in these circumstances would be necessary; wouldn't you agree? Fortunately (as far as I know), no one yet has taken the name, "The Anglican Church".

    Perhaps, if The Episcopal Church had not asserted in its name change that it is not The Episcopal Church but one of many episcopal churches, such name changes would not be necessary.

  6. I think you are reading a little too much into the runes Mark. It is a long, long time since "Anglican" meant "identity with the native peoples of the kingdoms of the English" if it ever did mean that. You know, of course, that the first and only pre-Reformation use of "Anglican" is in Magna Carta ("Quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit"). The word wasn't used to describe the characteristics of those churches in communion with Canterbury until the 1850s (so it would never have been an option for the American church, no?). Even when it became current, it wasn't universally accepted by Church of England people, in that it made the established church sound as if it were no more than one sect among others (the Church Times preferred, up until post-WW2, to refer to "Dissenters" versus "Churchmen"! - ah! the good old days!)

    So, in short, is it really possible to say that this is a distancing from PECUSA/ECUSA/TEC and alignment with the colonial, imperial power of England? ;)

  7. threeminutetheologian...

    the word 'anglican' has been around a long time. The phrase 'the Anglican Communion' has only been around as you point out since about 1850 (more or less). I thought the word Anglican (or its Latin equivalent) was used by Bede, as a reference to the church of England...(I'm not at my books to check).

    There might well have been the possibility of calling ourselves something other than The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America... the word Anglican was around then, I believe, and of course we might have beat our heads against the wall and called ourselves The Church of England in the United States of America, thereby dwindling to nothing almost overnight.

    My point is that it is interesting to speculate on why the name change? There is no particular reason except to distance themselves from us. Anglican is an obvious alternative, but I have found it interesting that Churches that have almost no cultural ties to England and (for some) no missinary ties, find Anglican a reasonable name to use. Rwanda at least had the missionary connection.

  8. RB...the name change was not all that recent and as you know has become a practical change, but at least in the Church Constitution an equivalent name to PECUSA.

    I do agree that The Episcopal Church, with no additional info, makes it hard for other churches - the Sottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, etc - to escape identification with The Episcopal Church.

    The "otherwise known as" intro to the name The Episcopal Church, is not a legal replacement for the first name.

    I believe the request that we begin using "The Episcopal Church" was because about 1 in 10 dioceses of the Church are not in the bounds of The United States of America. So the idea was to take the short name (the Episcopal Church) and use it instead of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It almost immediately became grist for the blog mill.

    "The Episcopal Church" is used in the BCP on occasion and in normal conversation I think it serves well. But it is not an easy solution for all purposes.

    If I had my druthers I suppose I would say we ought to use The Episcopal Church as shorthand and The Protestant Episcopal Church etc as the formal name both at home and in the wider communion.

    BTW the Anglican Communion website mucks it all up by calling us something we are not by either read. The web site calls us The Episcopal Church in the USA. - which of course defeats both the intent of talking about The Episcopal Church (more than just in the USA) or PECUSA (spelled out) which is our legal name.

    I still think that Rwanda changed its name because it did not want to be identified with us.

    As a child I lived in Venezuela and in history class there (taught in Spanish)we were told often to remember that the USA had to be the United States of North America, since there were other United States in the Americas, etc. And in particular the simple phrase The United States was never to be used without qualifiers!

    Names are edgy at best. I am Mark or Marko...but only my daughter can call me Marky.

    Thanks for your comment.

  9. Wait til she learns the word 'snarky'.
    (just jesting)

  10. Can someone point me to "the original creeds of the Bible"?

    I seem to have missed those....

  11. Well, Mark, Rwanda was not an English colony, it was under Germany for a bit, transfered to Belgium from with it gain it's independence. After the genocide, with France and Belgium doing very little the government switched from a Francophonie to Anglosphere (French speaking to English {Kinyarwanda is the offical local language).

    CIA World Fact Book list religious affiliation as Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, none 1.7% (2001) .

    So I think you have several layer of items going on at one time.

    Officially it was "L'Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda," however I'll bet there a twofold negative association in their context. The French name and the Episcopal part with all the association with the American church with the Catholics, Adventist and Muslims.

    So in context it probably better to disassociate with a 2 million and shrinking 700K ASA group that is creating havoc for them.

  12. kevin... I know.. and said that here, "But of course England was a major colonial power in Africa and that must dangle there as a bit of an identity issue. (I know...Rwanda was not an English colony.)"

    The move from Francophone to Anglophone is interesting. When I was there in 1989 both French and English were widely in use in the the Province of the BRZ (Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire) but of course not so much outside that context.

    You are right... several layers.

    Too bad they didn't take the route taken is some former English colonies... and simply call themselves THE Church in the Province of __________, or more simply THE Church of __________.

    As it is they are caught with some sort of identification out there. The day will come when being identified as Anglican won't be very good either. The incumbent Archbishop of Rwanda doesn't particularly like the Church of England's engagement with gay and lesbian persons either.

    We are not creating havoc for them. They have havoc of their own. Their stand re the Episcopal Church gives them cheap virtue points in the internal politics and church life of Rwanda. Or so it seems to me.

  13. RE: We are not creating havoc for them. They have havoc of their own.

    That is a matter of opinion, I guess. You do have a popular American response, from all over the spectrum on a whole variety of issues, but others do seem to think differently. Is it our success that we're blind how our action impact others? Everything from emission to social agenda? Some issues you may see which others on 'other side of the gulf' may downplay and some they see which you may downplay.

    I do think there are many layers which this is only one example of being in the globalized world of modernity.

  14. Mark,
    I'm a member of the Synod of the Province of Canada. At our last synod (Sept. 2006), the most controversial motion was one to send a memorial to General Synod to encourage a change in the name of the church in French from L'Eglise Anglicane du Canada to L'Eglise Episcopale du Canada. Bishop Clarke of Montreal moved it (and Archbishop Stavert had previously endorsed it in his presidential address), citing two grounds:

    1. That it would bring the Canadian church in line with other francophone Provinces (such as Rwanda). This had been requested at a meeting of francophone bishops from around the Communion.

    2. That the name "Anglicane" is too English for Quebec, suggesting that the church has an overwhelmingly English and Anglophone identity, and hindering efforts to evangelize among Quebecois (where nationalism and cultural identity are very important).

    The motion was defeated, largely on the strength of opposition by clerical and lay members from Montreal and Quebec, who felt that "Anglicane" was not an impediment to mission and was a retreat from the heritage of the church.

    The French name of the Canadian church had been "L'Eglise Episcopale du Canada" until the 1970s or 1980s, when it was changed to Anglicane.

  15. From the NewTimes article:

    "If the Anglican Church of Rwanda has been at the forefront in evangelisation and peace building in the world, why not fight homosexuality?"

    Um, since *when* has the *Rwandan* Church, of all provinces, "been at the forefront in evangelisation and peace building in the world"???!!!

    "Evangelisation and peace building in the world," a' la Rwandaise, apparently mean silence and timidity (and in some cases, complicity) in the face of genocide at home.

  16. In reference to Jim Pratt's comment - I recall when we Canadians changed the French name of our church (L'Eglise Episcopale) to be consistent with the English name (L'Eglise Anglicane). I recall thinking, we'd changed the wrong bloody name.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.