Révérend Père. Steven Ayule-Milenge (B.A, B.Th, MTh-Candidate
Bukavu, le 25 January 2010
There are always serious reasons which provoke changes such as those made recently by the Église Anglicane Catholique du Congo. I want to show you some of these reasons so that you may better understand that which has led us to the ACC-OP.
Evaluation of the work done during the 5 years since the establishment of the TAC in the Congo.
When I returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I had been the Curate of the parish of St. Francis of Assisi, we started our church without any help or infrastructure, but with 250 members who had left the Canterbury communion following the ordination of women, and who waited for me to establish a new church, member of the TAC.
- We registered the church with the Minister of Justice, and obtained government recognition on the 30th December 2004. This approval is very difficult to obtain for a new church which lacks any infrastructure: most of the churches function with provincial approval and permission.
- We are actively engaged in evangelisation in both villages and urban centres, and now have 78 chapels divided into 13 parishes with 3,250 members, adults and children. The Vicar General is assisted by three ordained priests, 12 candidates for ordination, and 78 preaching catechists. Thanks to the support of our partners in the IAF, the ACA Diocese of the North-East, ACC Canada, and others, we have been able to purchase land for each parish and chapel in the church, with the exception of the parish of Holy Trinity in Bukavu where land prices are very high.
- We have sent 6 men to follow a 4 year programme of theology and bible training, leading to a Certificate in Theology, which ended in June 2009.
- We have also sent a further three men for advanced study: they are now in the third year of a programme leading to a Diploma in Theology, which ended in July 2009.
- We have also sent a further three men for advanced study: they have finished the second year of a programme leading to a Diploma in Theology but they were expulsed by lack of fees because father David Marriott who sponsored them was also stopped to raising money for the ACC-Congo by the Primate of TAC
- Also, last year, with the help from Milano’s family, we have been able to receive a scholarship for a student to follow a Nursing Sciences programme for a three year Diploma in Nursing. Two others are working in a secondary programme leading to a Certificate in Nursing, a four year programme: one is in the third year, and the other is in the first year of studies.
- We have opened 5 Community Health centres in both villages and urban centres. These are aimed at treatment and education especially concerning AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. Counselling is provided for women and girls who have been the victims of rape and sexual assault.
- We are providing assistance to widows and orphans from the war.
- We are working on a programme of evangelisation and on the organization of church administration: this from administrative, social and religious aspects.
- We have brought knowledge of the TAC to several thousands of people who were ignorant of this international Communion. This is a summary of the activity undertaken since I left Johannesburg, South Africa, and named as Vicar General to establish the TAC in Congo: a work which would have proved impossible to achieve without the support of Our Lord, partners in the endeavour, and personal and professional pastoral experience in ministry.
The serious reasons provoke changes made recently by the ACC-Congo to leave TAC for joining the ACC-OP.
In the past 5 years, we have worked to develop a church which would respond to the spiritual needs of the people in this country: the faithful whose lives have been poisoned by the warrior mentality established by the militias, and by the armed forces of various countries. This work has depended on the support received from the IAF and our friend Mr. Walter Kilian, and from certain individuals, notably the family of Fr. Alan Koller, the Milano family, and Fr. David Marriott: we are and will always be thankful for this supportive effort, financial and moral, without which our work would have failed.
Nevertheless, it was essential that we might have an Episcopal visit, or a series of such visits, to better manage the functioning of the church, and to assure us that quality of the work done reflected the pathway laid down by Our Lord. During the 5 years life of the church, with the exception of the visit by Fr. David Marriott, we have been distressed by the refusal of the Archbishop to come and see us, or to send another bishop who might offer us guidance and good counsel, and who might offer the sacraments of confirmation and the ordination of the deacons to the Lord’s work. In October 2009, Archbishop Hepworth refused to permit a visit to Congo and Cameroon, at their own expense, by Bishop Marsh, Frs. Alan Koller and David Marriott, when confirmations and diaconal ordination might have been made, aiding in the development of the church in Africa.
It is true that Archbishop Primate of the TAC has strongly discouraged Bishops, priests and the lay faithful in Canada to financially help the Francophone church in Africa: in removing Fr. David Marriott from the position of Primate’s chaplain to French speaking churches in Africa, because he sought to gain financial support for us at a time when the office of the primate lacked funding.
The diocesan synod of the ECAC expressed its displeasure with the Primate of the TAC with regards to the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the TAC in the RD Congo, which took place in November 2009, at which time the Christian faithful in Congo beseeched the Archbishop to be with us, or at least, to send another bishop to show his communion with us, so that the other dignitaries invited to the ceremonies might come to respect the presence of the TAC in Congo. It is as if the requests fell on deaf ears, or were never read. In the meanwhile, the Archbishop has been several times to Africa, but has limited himself to visits to Zambia and Kenya, ordaining deacons in these two Anglophone countries.
We have expressed concern several times about the decision taken by the local bishop of the Anglican Church (Canterbury) to ordain deacons who lacked theological training, with a view to the destabilization and disruption of our efforts in the parishes: we have had to find a reply to the allegations that our church is but a fiction, with no link to the TAC: if we were true members of the TAC, an Episcopal visit would have confirmed the validity of the ECAC. Due to the serious nature of this situation, the diocesan council has asked for the presence of a French speaking resident assistant or Suffragan bishop, able to visit parishes in the forest, where there are no roads, and also able to communicate in two of the 4 national languages of the country. He would thus be well equipped to perform hi Episcopal and sacramental duties: an urgent need expressed to the Primate of the TAC. We would have liked to have had our 16 candidates for ordination ordained tom the diaconate at the time of the 5th anniversary of the TAC in Congo.
It has to be noted with great regret and heartfelt sadness in the hearts of the Christians of the TAC in Congo, that during this time of armed conflict and war in the provinces of eastern Congo, there has been no message of consolation and encouragement from the Archbishop Primate of the TAC: where a simple letter from the communion might play an important part in offering comfort and care to those faithful directly affected by the conflict in which so many women and girls have been the victims of rape and sexual violence. Other churches established in Congo have responded, such as the Old Catholic church, Liberal Catholic church, Episcopal Charismatic church, Canterbury province of the Anglican Church of Congo, Protestant churches: all of whom have sent ministers, bishops and archbishops to offer solace for the pain suffered by the Christians in eastern Congo. Even the Roman Catholic Church has had a delegation of 8 bishops sent by Rome to offer comfort to their Christians in the parishes of eastern Congo. This lack of consolation towards the faithful of the TAC in Congo has led our people to consider carefully the future of the church with regards to the TAC: they have taken note of the silence experienced by the Francophone church as compared to the Anglophone church: so that, despite the work that we have undertaken to establish the TAC in Africa, there has been no written encouragement: it is as if our efforts are reduced to be null and void because we are ‘coloured’ by our language, being Francophone. This reflects the history of the establishment of the Anglican presence in Congo from the year 1896, where the Anglophone origins had no interest in the church in Congo. During the 37 years that Apolo Kivebulaya, a Ugandan missionary to the Congo from the Church Missionary Society, there was no thought about training any Congolese to succeed him. After his death, a priest stayed in Toro (Uganda) and ran his parish from a distance, coming some 120 kms to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and baptism in Congo once a year. One can note that this is similar to the current situation for the faithful in the TAC-Congo: Christians receive the Holy Eucharist 4 times a year, because of the lack of priests. A five year old child who is not known by his father in Christ, who, in turn, has no knowledge of him. How would a neighbour regard this child: orphaned, neglected, abandoned! Or deserted by his parents! Over the 5 years, progress has been achieved thanks to the joint efforts by local people, and the partners: above all, the IAF, the ACA diocese of the North-East, parish of St. Elizabeth, ACC-Canada, (Parish of St. Peter & St. Paul, Vancouver), and other faithful of the ACA. All of these partners deserve the gratitude of the ECAC for the shared sacrifices and the devotion to the cause of Holy Scripture and the development of the TAC-Congo.
We looked for comfort and healing from you our parents: the Christians from French speaking Africa had this right also, as they too are children of God despite the problems of language. Our country, Congo, is the very heart which beats at the centre of Africa: the strategic launch pad for the growth and development of the TAC in the black world, when we take account of the human and economic potential which is here. The massive participation of local people in their desire to hear the Word of the Lord is one encouraging point, because this is the very mission of the church as we read in Matthew 28.19-20. What was needed was an investment in the French speaking countries where the TAC is already established means to provide them with the necessary means for the development of the church in all aspects (economic, social and infrastructure).
In the Congo, the Anglican Catholic Church (TAC) is vibrant and dynamic, despite material poverty and the lack of servants (clergy and a resident Bishop) – although there are men available who are qualified and trained to take up their Ministry who await their authorization from the Archbishop and Primate of the TAC, things were negligent. Our faithful continue to receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist 4 times a year in the 9 parishes of the thirteen which make up our church – which is to say 80% of the Christians in Congo. There has been no Sacrament of Confirmation in the past 5 years due to the lack of a Bishop.
We live in a country where military threat exists still: but when, in July 2009, the militias attacked me and left me grievously wounded, I received no message, no note of encouragement from Archbishop Hepworth: just some messages from my personal friends, and an e-mail message from Archbishop Haverland, of whom I am aware as I have known for many years his vicar in South Africa, Fr. Alan Kenyon, who also brought me in touch with Bishop Rhodes to admit me into the TAC.
It is noted that the ECAC has been removed from the list of churches who are members of then TAC as, since December 2007, we have received not one circular letter from the primate’s office, despite the fact that several reports have been made to him.
You will understand that our choices are limited when confronted by this attitude both negative and dismissive towards the ECAC. There are only two churches of the ‘continuum’ which have offshoots, operations in Africa: these are the TAC and the ACC-OP. We decided that it behoved us to make some research about this original continuum church. And one result of this is that an Episcopal visit is already being planned of shortly after Easter.
This has led the Congolese’ church and I to conclude that, following the words of the Gospel in St. John 10.12-13, that the responsible person of the TAC is a mercenary who is not a shepherd, and to whom the sheep do not belong, as the wolf comes, he abandons his flock and flees, and wolf ravages the flock and scatters them. The mercenary flees because he is an employee, and will not stay and suffer the pain with his flock.
We have listened to the word of God which has inspired Archbishop Haverland with both pity and a deep enthusiasm in his thoughts that there are other sheep which are not of this flock, but those, it is necessary that I lead them, they hear my voice, and there is one flock, one shepherd in the heart of the ‘continuum’, as he was ordained to do with the proclamation of the Affirmation of St. Louis in Missouri in 1977. A good shepherd brings out all his own sheep he walks before them and the sheep follow, because they know his voice.
It grieves us that we must change our way, but I assure you that you are always in our prayers, and the help we have already received from you will be for always recognised in the annals of the church here in Congo. May God be fully recognisant of all the work, of all of your efforts to support us during these formative growing years of the ACC- Congo. We can’t forget Frs Alan Koller, David Marriott’s family and Milano family for the help of the growing of the ACC-Congo.
With grateful thanks,
For the Église Catholique Anglicane du Congo,
+Father Steven AYULE-MILENGE