On January 17, 2018, the House of Bishops of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda elected the Bishop of Shyira Diocese, Dr Laurent Mbanda as their next leader. He leads a church that has also been in the news for over a decade for all the wrong reasons.
Six months later on June 10, Dr Mbanda was enthroned, taking over from Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, who had been in the role since December 2010. He also became the Bishop of Gasabo Diocese, Kigali.
This Sunday, Archbishop Dr Mbanda led Anglican followers to celebrate a momentous 18 months in which notable infrastructure has been put up, and more announced.
Construction of the East African Christian University located in Kabuga, Gasabo district is complete and is ready to start next month. There will be various courses on offer including theology, communication, business, public health and education.
The Anglicans also plan to set up social research institute in Kabuga.
Early this year, the Anglican Church also began construction of a commercial complex building at the Anglican headquarters in Gasabo. At a cost of Rwf 600million, the facility is said to provide affordable space for business.
At celebrations held at Gasabo Cathedral attended by senior government officials, the Anglican Church told chief guest Local Government Minister Anastase Shyaka, of various infrastructure completed and in the pipeline.
Within less than two years, the Church has established about 400 Daycare Centers or Early Childhood Development Centers (ECD Centers). Different from kindergartens, these take care of children as young as a few months up to 6 years.
While kindergartens emphasize formal education, government has been promoting ECD centers, which are said to develop children’s abilities across the board – as their parents are busy struggling to earn a living.
In the plan, is also a hospital in Bumbogo, a rural part of Kigali, as well as two other health facilities in yet to be determined locations outside Kigali.
Anglican Church SACCO is also in the works to take care of hundreds of thousands of the rural unbanked.
A touristic center will also be constructed at Gahini in eastern Rwanda. The site has huge historical significance going back as early as 1922 when the British and Belgians had first encounter there. If all had gone according to plan, Gahini would now be a transit route for the decades-old idea of the Cairo-Cape railway.
Dr Mbanda also announced plans to build an international multipurpose sports stadium in Kabuga, outside Kigali, whose construction begins mid next year.
According to the 2012 census, Rwanda’s population is 44 percent Roman Catholic; while 38 percent are Protestant denominations, including Anglicans – making it a major presence in Rwandan society.
Currently, the Anglican Church has 11 diocese, with two more due to be instituted: Kibuye in western Rwanda and Nyaruguru in southern Rwanda.
By opening diocese in Nyaruguru, considered Holly spot for Catholics due to the apparitions of the Holly Marry at Kibeho, the Anglicans intend to be everywhere the Vatican is.
Despite all these social infrastructure developments, the Anglica Church has not been without controversy. Following a global uproar over the consecration of gay priest, Rwanda led a widespread revolt.
The Church of Rwanda started adopting conservative U.S. congregations in 2000 as part of its missionary outreach. Its Anglican Mission to the Americas group says it began with seven churches and now has over 100, all under Rwandan authority.
The 77-million-strong global Anglican church has been divided since 2003 when its 2.4-million-member U.S. branch consecrated Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in its history.
Conservatives say the U.S. church has disobeyed biblical commands and broken with Anglican teaching by backing gay priests, while liberals support a looser interpretation of scripture and say Anglicanism has always embraced diversity.
Before becoming Archbishop of the Church of Rwanda, Dr Mbanda was the President of Campassion International.