OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA (C.S.I.)
THE MOST REVERED G. DEVAKADASHAM
THE MODERATOR OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA (C.S.I.)
AT NAGERCOIL, KANYAKUMARI
MARCH 23, 2012; TIME: 10 a.m.-1 P.M
THE MOVEMENT FOR THE RENEWAL AND REFORMATION OF
DIOCESAN CONFERENCE HALL
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him;
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
- Bible Readings:
- Presentation of the Memorandum: The Rt. Revd. Dr.
I. Jesudhasan, Former
- Greetings in Brief:
- Rt.Revd.Dr. C.L.Furtado, Former Bishop, S.Karnataka
- Rt.Revd. J.A.D. Jebachandran, Bishop, Tutucorin Diocese
- Prof. George Koshy, Former General Secretary of the Synod
- Prof. Chritian Babu, General Secretary of Kanyakumari Diocese (On behalf of the Host Diocese)
- Revd. Dr. Badem Sunder Raju, Vice President, (On behalf of Telugu Speaking Dioceses)
- Adv. R. Sathiamoorthy (Representing all Lay Leaders)
- Vote of Thanks: Dr. C. Joslin Thamby
- Closing Prayer and Benediction: The Rt. Rev .Dr. I. Jesudhasan
MOVEMENT FOR THE RENEWAL AND REFORMATION OF CHURCHES
The Most Revd G. Devakadasham
Most revered and dear Moderator,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
At the outset we want to record our appreciation to you for the initiative that you are taking as the new Moderator to listen to the voices of concern that have been raised regarding the existing state of affairs in the CSI and the need to bring about a reformation of the Church of South India. This concern and call have been expressed from many quarters and it is encouraging that as soon as you have taken up the important position of the Moderator you are positively responding to this call. We hope and pray ssthat the initiative that you are taking will be blessed by the Holy Spirit and bear fruits. Our prayerful support goes with you.
In this Memorandum we prayerfully put before you our thoughts on the above issue. We want to assure you that the views expressed and suggestions made here reflect the opinions of many thoughtful and committed members of the CSI from different walks of life who have a great burden for our great Church.
At the recently concluded XXXIII Session of the CSI Synod, the then Moderator, in his Address has made elaborate reference to the challenges and problems faced by the CSI. It is an acknowledgement that the CSI is in a state of crisis. It is to be welcomed. Of course, as the Moderator has pointed out, this perception should not prevent us from ignoring the vibrant life that can be seen at the local congregations of the CSI. However, as we are considering the life of the Church as a larger body, we cannot fail to acknowledge with sadness that the credibility of the CSI is perhaps at its lowest point in its history of 64 years in the eyes of the public, the international partners and its own members. This is not the place and time to attempt a detailed analysis of why is it so and to apportion blame. We believe that the time has come for us to humbly accept our collective failure and turn to God to lead us in the path of reformation.
- Accusations of arbitrary decisions in administrations
- Charges relating to mishandling of property transactions
- A Multidimensional Approach
- Long term Goals and Immediate Proactive Measures
We therefore suggest that changes which we agree as our long term goals be brought about through the process that is prescribed under Rule 2, while immediate proactive measures which are needed urgently be brought about using Rule 3.
- Long term Goals requiring Constitutional Changes
(i) Rethinking Episcopacy in terms of functions and powers
There is definitely a need for rethinking the role and functions of episcopacy in the light of the experience of the past six decades. Unlike, the Church of England, which is episcopally led and synodically governed, the CSI has adopted historic episcopacy in a constitutional form. Moreover, the framers of the Constitution, at the time of Union have deliberately not committed the CSI to any particular interpretation of the CSI. They have also included a clause, as already mentioned , which speaks about the balance among the Episcopal, Presbyteral and Congregational elements in the life of the Church.. The Constitution also speaks about the prohibition for bishops in directly involving in financial management. In spite of these provisions, it is unfortunate that many Diocesan Constitutions have been amended seeking to give enormous powers to the Bishops and this is the root cause for many difficulties. The biblical concept of the Bishop being an Overseer is being sought to be replaced by that of Bishop being a Chief Executive Officer. That this is what people expect or the public believe should not be an argument to support this view of episcopacy.
(ii) Limiting the Term of Episcopacy
At present, the Constitution provides that a Bishop once elected holds the Office till he/she retires after attaining the age of 65. During the term of Office, there is no occasion where his performance is reviewed either by the Synod or by the people of the Diocese. This results in the lack of accountability throughout his/her tenure, which theoretically can be as long as 15 years.
(iii) Mode of Election of Bishops
The Governing Principles clearly say that the bishopric is an elected office ( See Rule 11 (b) of Chapter II, page 13, CSI Constitution ) and in that election both the diocese concerned and the authorities of the Synod as whole should have an effective voice. The present Rules for election, appointment and consecration of Bishops , as given in Chapter VI is supposed to incorporate this provision. However, in practice, the election to the panel at the Diocesan level and the final selection of the one out of three or four in the panel at the Synod level gives enough and more room for all kinds of evils entering into the Church.
Defenders of the status-quo in the Church often talk of the Democratic Process we have to follow. The true democratic process is there where every citizen, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the Dalit and the non-Dalit, is able to exercise his/her franchise with absolute freedom under no threat of victimization and luring with inducement of reward and gain. But, what we see practiced in churches today is not such a democracy. What we have is a “mutilated democracy”. We may call it “Majoritarianism”, where the contesters of different groups turn heaven and earth to get the majority votes by hook or by crook by getting votes by inducements and threats, and by making unethical and unchristian compromises. It was such a Majoritarianism devoid of truth and justice that sent Jesus to the cross.
So, we plead for scrapping the present system of election and look for alternative ways of choosing God-fearing shepherds who will lead the sheep and not rule over them.
(iv) Alternate method of electing Bishop.
Considering the importance of the Office of the Bishop, alternate methods of electing a Bishop in a diocese may be considered. The procedure of short listing of candidates by well defined criteria and the diocesan council making a decision on the panel as proposed ( by Dr. Gnana Robinson—see Appendix I, p.19) may be given serious thought to avoid unwelcome canvassing and use of money power. The aim of such changes should eventually enable really Christ-centered capable and dedicated persons to be elected without having to spend time and money on canvassing.
(v) Relationship of the Synod with the Dioceses
According to the CSI Constitution, the Synod is the highest representative body of the CSI, its supreme governing and legislative body and the visible symbol of its unity. It is also the final authority on all matters pertaining to the Church. The Diocesan Councils have the power to frame their Constitution within the framework of the Synod Constitution. The supervisory power of the Synod over the dioceses is not explicitly given. It is implied in Rules 15 and 16 of Chapter IX where a distinction is sought to be made between matters of common interest to the whole Church and the internal affairs of the dioceses. Rules 15 and 16 only provide for calling for information relating to administration and financial management, that too from the Bishop, or from the Officers. Further, the Synod’s intervention in the diocese is limited by providing “assistance” and that too in consultation with the Executive Committee concerned. These Rules are not applied uniformly and fairly; there is also the question of deciding what issues come under internal affairs. These Rules require a thorough revision taking into consideration the recent experience in dealing with Diocese where massive maladministration with regard to finance and properties has been reported. One of the actions frequently taken by the Synod is the appointment of administrative committees. Since there is no specific provision for appointing administrative committee, such an action has been questioned in the Court of law. At the same time, Bishops should not be allowed to run the diocese for a long time with administrative committees bypassing democratically elected Committees.
A perusal of the sub Rules 15(a), 15(b) and 15(c) shows that 15(c) was made by the Synod of 1950 and after 30 years later, the other two sub Rules have been added. However, it is not clear why the following Rule which was passed by the Synod Working Committee as early as 31-12-1983 (WC 83-142), under the power given in Rule 14 of Chapter IX, has not been made a part of the Constitution:
We recommend that this provision be taken up seriously.
5. Immediate Proactive Measures
We suggest several practical and concrete measures for immediate actions, which we believe will go a long way in improving our pattern of Governance.
a. Measures to improve transparency and accountability in Governance
Transparency and Accountability have come to occupy centre stage in all reforms in Governance worldwide. It has also been recognized that working towards greater Transparency and Accountability is also a major step towards combating corruption, because corruption thrives only in an opaque and non transparent administration. Further, it has also been recognized that the hall mark of a transparent and accountable administration is the extent to which the administrative bodies confer the right to information to the stakeholders about the way decisions are made on issues which affect them.
We therefore suggest the following, with reference to administration at the Synod Level:
(i). Specific Rules may be framed regarding preparation, dissemination and accessibility regarding the proceedings of the bodies involved in Synod administration.
The Synod is described in Chapter IX (page 75) as the “highest representative body of the Church of South India, its supreme and Governing and legislative body and the visible symbol of its unity”. Therefore, what happens at each Session of the Session and at the subsequent meetings of the Executive/ Working Committee are of immense significance to every member of the CSI and the decisions taken must be disseminated to all members through a reasonable process. The current situation is that, the Proceedings of a Session of the Synod is given in printed form, two years later at the time of the next session, to members, many of whom have not attended the earlier Session, for consideration! While there are rules regarding the time limit for preparation and circulation of Minutes of even a pastorate committee, there are no such rules in the Constitution for any meeting of the Synod or the Executive Committee or the Working Committee.
We therefore recommend:
(ii) Right to information
It has been widely recognized that the right to information is a fundamental right of all stakeholders and an informed membership is the key to fight corruption in any organization. Government of India has recognized this right by enacting the Right to information Act of 2005 which has brought in tremendous change in the way governance takes place. The Synod administration may voluntarily come forward to declare that information on key issues will be made available for those who seek it. At the same time the Executive Committee can also begin, in consultation with legal experts, to formulate our own form of Right to Education Act. Of course, there will be resistance to such a bold step and all sorts of objections may be raised.
However, only through such a step we can raise the level of credibility of the administration in the eyes of the members and the general public.
b. Measures to combat corruption
(i) Independent and credible mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption
The former Moderator, Bp. Vasanthakumar, in his address mentioned about the allegations that are being made against the administration at different levels and bemoaned the fact that persons are preferring complaints to outside statutory bodies and investigations arising out of such complaints have given sleepless nights to the Officers of the Synod. There are two reasons for this state of affairs:
- One is the lack of responsiveness on the part of the administration when complaints are made before church authorities. Mostly they are ignored because many of the allegations are made against the authorities themselves. This forces the complainants to approach Courts and other statutory bodies.
- The second reason is that we have voluntarily put ourselves under statutory bodies like the Income Tax Department by registering CSITA under the Companies Act of 1956 as a Section 25 Company and claiming Tax Exemption as Public Religious Charitable Trust under Section 10 ( 23) ( c ) (v) of the Income Tax Act of 1961.
- That apart we also come under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act since we do receive funds from our ecumenical partners. This being so, if we want to avoid intervention by statutory bodies we must strengthen the existing mechanisms for dealing with charges of corruption and also create new mechanisms.
(ii) Appointment of Election Commissions
There is a general feeling among many members that the fellowship of bishops, which was originally meant for theological refreshment, has turned out to be a extra-constitutional power centre which tries to protect the interests of the bishops and to maintain the status-quo preventing changes towards renewal and reformation. This explains why some of the very important recommendations for changes made by committees constituted by the Synod, such as the Abel Commission, have never been even opened for discussion. Propositions for changes are first referred to the bishops and only if they approve it, they are presented to the Synod (IX: 22)
It is recommended that the supremacy of the Synod is upheld and the status of the Bishops Council as an extra-constitutional power centre be abolished. It can continue as a fellowship for spiritual unity and theological enrichment.
6. Some Common Concerns
- The Need for Healthy Spirituality in the CSI:
- Migrant Christians Care in City Churches:
- Uniform Criteria for Ordinations:
7 Joint Action Committee or Steering Committee to Follow up
Members of the Core Group of the Movement for the Renewal and the Reformation of the Church of South India who have affixed their signatures to this Memorandum on March 23, 2012
Rt. Revd. Dr. I Jessudhasan, Former Moderator/Bishop -S.Kerala Diocese
Rt. Revd. Willaim Moses, Former Moderator/Bishop -Coimbatore Diocese
Rt. Revd. Dr. Samuel Amirtham, Former Bishop, -S.Kerala Diocese
Rt. Revd.Dr.C.L.Furtado, Former Bishop, -S.Karnataka Diocese
Rt. Revd. Dr.J.A.D. Jebachandran, Bishop, -Thoothukudi Nazareth Diocese
Prof. George Koshy, Former General Secretary of the Synod, -S. Kerala Diocese D. Charlet Jothimony, Synod Member, -Thoothukudy-Nazareth Diocese
Revd.Margochis David Wesley, Synod Member, ,,
Mr.J.K.M. Johnson David, Synod Member ,,
Mr. S. Ponraj Johnson, Synod Member ,,
Mr. C. Gandhi Rajan, Synod Member
Revd. S. Manickam Pastor
Revd. S.G. Lourdhuraj Pastor
Revd. D.G.A. Thomas Pastor
Revd. J. Koin Pitchai Pastor
Revd.R.L.A. Sundarraj Pastor
Revd. D.K.N. Johnson Pastor
Mr. D. Mohan
Revd.Dr. Dhyanchand Carr, Former Princiapl, TTS, - Madurai Diocese
Adv. R.Sathiamoorthy, Former President,National YMCA, ,,
Prof. D.Samuel Lawrence, Former Professor, American College, ,,
Revd.Dr. S. John Sahayam, Former Professor, American College, ,,
Revd.Dr. M. Gnanavaram, Principal, TTS,
Prof.Dr. Jayakaran Isaac Member of the Synod, -Vellore Diocese
Revd.Dr. Y. James Prakasam, Member of the Synod, ,,
Mr. D. Devaraj,
Mr. David Selvaraj Synod Member, -Central Karnataka Diocese
Revd.Dr. Siga Arles Professor(Theologican)
Dr.Joslin Thamby, Lay Leader
Revd. S.D. Sounderarajan, Pastor,
Revd. Daniel Meshak, Pastor, ,,
Dr. Paul Panneerselvan, Lay Leader
Mr. Edward Thyagarajan, Lay Leader,
Revd.Dr. A.J.George Kodumuti Nadar, Medical Chaplain, ,,
Revd.Dr. Arthur Jeyakumar, Professor (Rtd.),TTS, -Trichy -Tanjore Diocese
Revd. P.Praveen Prabhu Sudheer, Professor, ACTC, - Karim Nagar Diocese
Mr. V. Jayakar Johnson Lay Leader
Mr. J. Devadanam
Revd.Dr. Badem Sunder Raju, Vice President/Synod Member, -Rayalaseema
Mr. S. Raja
Prof. D Christian Babu G.Secretary of the Dio./Synod Member, Kanyakumari
Mr. N. Vethamuth,
Adv. A.J. Livingston, Convener-Prophetic Forum, ,,
Revd. K.G. Mohan Pastor,
Revd. Y. Gnanadhas. Pastor,
Revd. T. Justin Raj,
Revd.Dr. Vijithambi Solomon, Director, CMS, ,,
Mr. Emil Jebasingh,
Mr. Irwin Dhas,
Mr. Srivas Sunder,
Prof. Dr. Winston Somervell Professor (Rtd.) ,,
Prof.Dr. Mrs. Johanna Somervell Professor
Dr. P. Samraj
Mr. S. Renjit Singh Lay Leader
Revd. C. Devadhas
Mr. A. Sam Jayapaul
Revd.Dr. Gnana Robinson, Pastor/Former Principal of TTS &UTC, ,,
- In the absence of a consensus candidate, after the notice period, all those who are responsible for electing the Bishop should come together within closed doors, spend a time of prayer invoking the Sprit of God, and then cast lot, a method practicedss in the New Testament times (see Acts 1:23-26).
The Advantage of this Method:-
The Prophetic Forum for the Life and Witness of Churches
Under the changed circumstances when rampant corruption prevalent in the society has entered into the life of the churches, as admitted by the National Council of Churches in 2004, the Prophetic Forum realizes the need for uncorrupt Christians entering in Church administration and therefore encourage really committed members to contest elections following the guidelines prescribed below.
- Candidates who wish to contest elections should Commit themselves whole heartedly to accept and live according to the following Ten
- Total commitment to Christ, which is a commitment to truth,
- This commitment is a self-less commitment. It does not
- This is a fear-less commitment. It is not afraid of the
- This is not a commitment which can be swayed away by
- This is a Commitment which will never give Christ’s place
- This is the commitment which transforms the life of the
- This commitment is not discouraged by unjust sufferings,
- This is the commitment which seeks shelter in Christ even
- This is the commitment which never entertains any evil for
- This commitment leads the person concerned to a
- Programme of Action for the Welfare of the Church
Those who win the elections are called to dedicate themselves to work night and day for the realization of the daily prayer of millions of Christians all over the world,
by working for justice, truth and life and thus transforming the Church, the Community of believers in Christ, a Foretaste of the Kingdom of God in this world. In order to achieve the above ultimate goal, all elected Servant Leaders will jointly work on the following areas of concern:
- Healthy Spirituality:
- Clean Administration:
- Concentrate on the clean administration of all medical, educational and service institutions run by the Church. See that these institutions serve all people equally and justly giving special consideration for the poor, the differently- abled and the marginalized. Give no room for favoritism, nepotism and bribe.
- While recruiting service staff for the institutions strictly follow the guidelines laid down by the Diocese and select the best candidate available having before you only the welfare of the concerned institution in mind. Neither money nor pressure from superiors be allowed to interfere in your right decision.
- See that all Diocesan institutions, the educational institutions in particular, disseminate Christian values such as neighborly love, integrity and sharing in the world.
- Christian Stewardship:
- See that there is Transparency and Accountability in the
- In selling and buying properties, in giving contract works,
- Employment Bureau in the Diocese
- Welfare of Church Workers and Pastors
- Candidates for Ministry should be carefully selected depending on the need of the Diocese concerned. Candidates with genuine call for ministry alone should be selected.
- Those who are selected should be sent for theological education after a definite period of probation. They should not be made to wait for a long period.
- Those who complete their theological education successfully and return to the Diocese should be ordained after one or two years, depending on the traditions followed in the Diocese. Delay in ordination without proper reasons can demoralize the ordinands leading to the loss of initial vision for ministry.
- Ordained ministers with high academic competence should be encouraged to go for higher studies, if they are motivated.
- A centralized salary system should be evolved, where pastor’s salary is not tied with the assessment to be raised from the congregation, so that the pastor may pay his/her attention to the spiritual nurture of the congregation rather than to maximizing the income of the congregation in order to pay the assessment to the Diocese.
- The pension and gratuity schemes for pastors should be laid down satisfactorily and the retired pastors should be treated with dignity.
- Transparent Administration
- Every member of the Congregation should be equipped and encouraged to point out mistakes wherever they find and to bring them to the attention of those in authority for the purpose of those mistakes to be corrected.
- Pastors should abstain from posing themselves before their congregation the super-human image by virtue of their ordination, thus instilling among the members the fear complex that they should not question or criticize any thing that the pastor, “the man of God”, does or speak and that God would punish them if they question the pastor. Remember what St. Paul told to the men of Lystra when they were about to worship him as one of the gods who came from above. Stopping the crowd from worshipping him and Barnabas, Paul said, “We also are men, of like nature with you” (Acts 14:15). Such should be the humility of every man of God. A critical congregation is the sign of transparent administration.
- Victimization of those who raise questions and point out mistakes and thus silencing dissenting voices in churches is the root cause for corruption in churches. To have transparency and accountability in administrations victimization should be totally avoided. Leaders should realize that by listening to the views of constructive dissenters, we will win more co-workers.