Bishop Nathan Amooti Rusengo is the new Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kigali. For the last eight years, he served as the Bishop for the Diocese of Cyangugu. His involvement in the church started when he was still a young man he uncovered his calling in evangelism while he was still a high school student and since then Rusengo has immersed himself in the work of God profoundly.
He spoke to The New Times’ Donah Mbabazi about his new position and the cause of the unending controversies held against the church today.
How prepared are you to assume your new role as the newly ordained Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kigali?
It’s quite challenging, it’s complex because you are the senior pastor and also an overseer of the entire diocese which involves administration. This involves a whole scope including development, evangelism, and the social aspects. But I am prepared for this because that’s what I do, it is my lifestyle.
You highlighted the need to streamline the gospel through various digital platforms to be able to reach different urban audiences. How do you plan on implementing this?
Life is dynamic, things change and the way people view things change too. We are now in a digital era and the way we present the gospel must be relevant to the communities. For example, we must project (PowerPoint project) our services. In the past times, everybody used to come with a hymn book, prayer book, and the Bible but we now have to project the services. So I am going to make sure that these services are projected, we are going to make sure that part of this work goes on platforms like YouTube for the young generation to be part of that. We are also going to make sure that we work with TV’s and Radios so that we disseminate information for those who even have to work on Sundays. You know gone are the days when everybody would close business on Sunday. We have to reach them (the audiences) wherever they are.
How do you plan on improving existing systems in terms of further growth for the diocese?
There is an improvement in our city; homes have improved, roads have improved, shops have improved our systems in government and governance have improved, definitely, the church has to improve too. So we are going to improve the places of worship they must be cleaned, rebuilt, and must be up to the standard for people must at least feel comfortable in the church environment.
For the time you have been in ministry, has there been a time when standing for what you believed in contradicted with what society expects?
Because I started believing when I was young, from earlier on I knew who I was and what I stood for. My belief and lifestyle are not separate, my faith and the way I live are married, so there hasn’t been much contradiction but I have had moments of doubt, doubting what I believe, doubt if I am really doing the right things, if I am moving in the right direction especially when I was still a youth.
How do you stay firm in emotionally indicted situations?
The Bible is very clear about issues. One is applying patience, and then there are some strong bible examples of other young people who went through such stages in life. For example, Joseph used to run away. So if you find yourself in such situations maybe you need to run away for that time so that you can sober up and think properly.
Many Christians hold unanswered questions about their conviction. Does this have an impact on the Christian faith?
Life is messy and complex. It is not a straight line as some may think so I don’t see a problem when a Christian doubts, it is not bad to have these uncertainties, what is bad is to live in doubt. Doubting is a result of inquisition; you want to know, so when you doubt you need explanations and guidance, it doesn’t have an impact because you want to know and the right way to approach this is seeking information and looking for it in the right places.
What is your earliest memory from being in a church?
My parents were not religious, so I wasn’t brought up in a religious home. I think I was around 7 years old when I went to church for the first time and I absolutely loved it and I kept coming. It touched me, it blessed my heart, the songs sank deeper and the lifestyle is the type I wanted. I wanted to be closer to God, I didn’t know who He was, I didn’t know where He was but my heart longed for Him. When I got into the church, they sang these songs and when they preached, I knew that that was the kind of place for me and that was the lifestyle I wanted and since then I have never looked back.
How do you decide which aspects of church tradition to keep and those which need to change?
Like I told you, life is dynamic so you have to see what is relevant to today and what needs to be revised. We have what we call church history, you go back up in the books and see how things have evolved. The trend itself shows you how it needs to be revised.
The church today is subject to a number of controversies. Why do you think this is happening?
Life is controversial, some people think they can think of one thing and treat it as important in comparison to the whole community but it could be that they need more information, for they can be controversial simply because they are not informed. Some people are controversial because they are taught that way while others are that way because of their past, and they hold onto that.
I was told a story where people went to see an elephant, they were blind, so one goes and touches the leg, and another one touches the ear, and another one touches the ivory, so when they came back they were asked to describe how the elephant was. One who touched the leg said it was as big as a tree, and then the one who touched the ear said it was just like a leaf, each one had a description and that’s how the church is. Some people don’t come closer to us and they can make a definition of us from a distance, some come to church and meet the wrong people and they end up making wrong decisions hence end up defining church their way. People need to understand that a church is a community which is in Rwanda like any other community, it is made by Rwandans and the past of Rwanda is the past of our church, the present of Rwanda is the presence of our church and so is the future. We are not heavenly beings but Rwandans who made a decision to be Christians, with our past and geography.
Most of these controversies are there because of lack of information, people who want to be religious should go down to schools and study, let the holy spirit teach what God teaches and let men teach what men teach.
With today’s ever-evolving society, how does the church remain firm in what it stands for?
The church will always be firm, it is an unshaken institution because the bible is standard it is our constitution and it is a standard word that has not changed over centuries. Reasons for these are simple, it is an inspired word for it was written by men who were inspired by God, so things they wrote can transpire through generations and centuries and they will not fail. But at the same time, there are people who will live like the way they want to live their lives because people have different motivations, they will do different things depending on who they are with and where they are but that doesn’t change the church, the church will have an answer to every generation.