Dr. K.M.GEORGE'S REFLECTIONS
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Church of South India, 60 years: A Review
(A summary of the Key Note Address given at the Diocesan Conference of Clergy in July 2008)
Historians have a weakness. In writing history they tend to be biased taking a partisan view rather than taking an objective one. This is more so in the case of Church historians. However, the present writer tries to be as objective as possible to do justice to the subject
In Christendom, many miracles have taken place. Some of them include, (i) Pentecostal experience when Peter spoke to the multitude who gathered in Jerusalem on that unique day, (ii) In AD 312, the night before Great Roman Emperor Constantine embarked on the war on Milan Bridge he saw a vision of a burning cross on which it was inscribed ‘with this cross you will win this war’. As he won the war, the course of church history changed; he became a Christian and the church grew, (iii) the great Reformation in the 16th century when Martin Luther and others led the Reformation, and (iv) ‘the unique event, short of miracle’ and an ‘adventure of faith’, ‘the greatest forward step in church unity in modern times’ happened on September 27, 1947 at the St. George Cathedral Madras.
Today as we have gathered at this Clergy Conference to celebrate the 128th anniversary of the formation of our diocese we discuss the theme: “Church of South India, 60 years, A Review”. Although the CSI has only been in existence for 60 years, in order to review the subject it is necessary to study the course of church history for the last one hundred years. As this covers such a long period, I propose to deal with this topic in five sections, namely (i) what happened on September 27, 1947 in the St. George’s Cathedral in Madras, (ii) Negotiations (1919-1947) leading up to the great event, (iii) Life in Union (1947-2007), (iv) achievements and failures of CSI, and (v) what is the future vision for the CSI during the next four decades
The unique event on September 27, 1947
Four main things took place on that day when more than 4500 Christians gathered for the great event.
The Presiding Celebrant was the Rt. Rev. C.K. Jacob, the Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Travancore and Cochin. While the congregation remained kneeling, a representative of each of the uniting Churches read a resolution of the governing body of his Church accepting the Scheme of Union and placed a signed copy of the Basis of Union, the Constitution of the CSI and a signed statement of the bishops, ministers and deacons and probationers of the Church declaring their assent to the Basis of Union and acceptance of the Constitution of the CSI on the Communion Table. Then came the great moment when all stood and the Presiding Bishop made the following solemn declaration. “I do hereby declare that these Churches, namely: The Madras, Travancore and Cochin, Tinnevely and Dornakal dioceses of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon; and The Madras, Madura, Malabar, Jaffna, Kanada, Telugu and Travancore Church Councils of the South India United Church; and the Methodist Church in South India, comprising the Madras, Trichinopoly, Hyderabad and Mysore districts: are become One Church of South India”. The next part was the commissioning of the six bishops (Anglican Church); this was performed by the two accredited commissioning presbyters which were followed by the commissioning of the presbyters. The third part of this ceremony was the consecration of nine new bishops for the 14 new dioceses of the CSI (7 ex-Anglican, 3 ex-Congregationalists, 3 ex-Methodists and 1 ex-Presbyterian; 6 Indians and 8 Europeans) led by the Presiding Bishop and two Anglican bishops, three presbyters (one form each of the uniting Churches). The fourth part of the ceremony was the celebration of Holy Communion which took forty minutes to complete the Communion to enable about 4500 people to participate. .
Negotiations towards Union (1919-1947)
Which are the three main churches in the Union?
They are the Anglicans, the Methodists and the Congregationalists. In 1593, John Perry, the great pioneer of Congregationalism, was hanged for being implicated in an attack of the Anglican bishops. In the years which followed, the Pilgrim Fathers had no alternative but to emigrate. The Presbyterians of Scotland opposed the imposition of episcopacy in that country and promised themselves never to accept it. Archbishop Laud had to pay a heavy price -his head – for his High Churchmanship. Later many an Anglican parson considered the hunting of Methodist as almost as a sport of hunting foxes. Such were the facts of history. However, on September 27, 1947, something of an unbelievable phenomenon took place. In St. George’s Cathedral, Madras, Methodists became bishops, the spiritual children of the Pilgrim Fathers and heirs of Archbishop Laud left the Cathedral as fellow-members of the Great Untied Church – THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA.
Where did the union negotiations start and how did they achieve the goal?
Tranquebar, a village of wavelet, on the east coast of South India was the first Protestant Mission Station. This was started as early as 1706, by the Royal Danish Mission of German missionaries – Ziegenbalg and Plutschau – and financed by the Church of England through the SPG. Later various mission bodies have started sending missionaries beginning with LMS to various places in the South. Tranquebar seemed to have a magnetic attraction and it became the base for early Christian missionaries as they were not allowed to work in East India Company territory.
It is a strange coincidence that there was a special significance to the room where the first meeting was held. During the early days of missionary work of Ziegenbalg and Plutschau in Tranquebar, they became unpopular with the Danish authorities; the result was that they were imprisoned in a cell for forty days. It was in that cell; Bishop Azariah had led the 1919 pioneers of the CSI Union Movement, and pledged not to leave the room till clear sign was shown to them. As they waited upon the Lord the words of John 17:21”May they all be one” came to them.
There was many an undercurrent that encouraged the early pioneers to take this adventure. By mid 19th century, missionaries in various parts of India found it necessary to meet together in conferences in the interest of their work. Some of them included Local or Provincial Conferences were held in 1855 in Calcutta for Bengal, in 1857 in Benares for North West India, in 1858 in Ootacamund for South, and in 1882 in Lahore for the Punjab. A wider conference was organised for the whole India – the first General Missionary Conference – in Allahabad in 1872; 138 missionaries participated. The emergence of Indian Nationalism paved the way for Indian Christians to clamour for more scope of Indian leadership. Bengal was the birthplace of Indian nationalism, and the Indian National Congress formed in 1885 received its support from Calcutta. The enthusiasm spread to other areas as well.
The year 1900 was an important year for the churches in the South. It was that year when South India Missionary Conference in Madras brought together some 150 members representing some 45 different missionary organisations, with a membership of about 350,000. Some of them had a large number of followers (CMS with 95,000, SPG 51,000, LMS 51000, American Baptist Mission 50,000, American Lutherans 20,000, Wesleyans 12,000) .and so on.
The Union committee set up Joint Committees representing the three churches to discuss and find solutions for various vexed problem. From 1920 to 1947 twenty Joint Council meetings were held to sort out various theological and administrative problems such as episcopacy, equal ministries and inter communion and so on. Although they passed through some critical periods especially (1933 -1935), by 1943 all diocesan and church councils separately agreed to join the newly formed Church of South India.
Life in Union (1947-2007)
CSI has formulated a sound Constitution and established proper administrative machinery to start their Life in Union. CSI established 14 dioceses and during the early days some of the dioceses faced some problems. One of the provisions made before the effective union was granting permission for sections of dioceses or councils for allowing them to stay away from the Union if they desired to do so. Some of the problems faced were the following: In Madhya Kerala Diocese, the Parish of Christ Church, Thiruvanathapuram and the Parish in Kollam stayed away for some time and joined the fellowship later. North Kerala Diocese with its polychrome tradition (Basel and CMS) took a few years to sort out their problem between the two. The Coimbatore Diocee which was formed in 1950 had certain reservations. Part of the North Tamil Christian Council of the SIUC felt that the time was not ripe in 1947 to join the Union; but they joined the Union in 1950. In Nandyal Diocese, some of the members had reservations in joining the CSI and wanted to remain as Anglicans. This problem was sorted out in 1975. Starting with 14 dioceses in 1947, CSI has at present 22 dioceses.
Achievements of CSI
Church of South India is proud of a number of achievements. Some of the main ones are
- Union itself: The very union of churches with different traditions of episcopacy, spiritual equality and church government was certainly an achievement.
- CSI Union provided impetus for other churches in India and overseas to plan for union, such as Church of North India, Nigerian Church, and Uniting Church in Australia and so on.
- CSI has taken initiative to discuss union negotiations with other Protestant churches in India such as Federation of Evangelical Lutherans in India, Mar Thoma, Church of North India. CSI, CNI and Mar Thoma have formed Communion of Churches of India (CCI).
- The CSI Liturgy is unique in ways more than one. The Lord’s Supper was designed to give expression in worship to the unity of the uniting Church. The CSI Liturgy drew much from the eastern liturgy as well as from the western liturgy. Much of the sources date back to as early as the first and second centuries. It has also drawn much from various other liturgies and it is a more comprehensive and all inclusive liturgy (no imitation of Anglican liturgy). The historicity of the West with the traditions of the East has been used in the liturgy. It is an expression of learning and is very much a people’s liturgy.
Although CSI can be proud of achieving a number of things it is only fair that we must admit that CSI had some failures too. Some of the leaders of the church may not be very happy to hear such comments. It is hoped that they would look at the positive side of criticism and try and rectify the failures so that CSI can restore the qualities it had in the 1940s and 1950s
Leadership:The success of any institution rests primarily with its leadership. Although the leadership of CSI rests jointly with the bishops, clergy and the laity, the primary responsibility lies with the bishop. The Bishop is the central figure of the diocese. He is considered to be the ‘Father in God’, and laity expects his spiritual life to be a source of inspiration for all, look to him for guidance in all matters of faith based on the authority of the Bible. Bishop is expected to be good in the administration of the diocese. If one makes an objective comparison of the leadership given by the bishops of the Church during the first three decades it is clear that the Church had outstanding leadership from them. Some of the outstanding early bishops were Bishops V S Azariah, C K Jacob, A M Hollis, H Sumitra, G T Selvyn, R D Chellappa,. J E L Newbigin, A J Appaswamy, N D Ananda Rao Samuel, T B Benjamin, and I Jesudason. How do we compare the present situation?
Election of Bishops: During the early days of the CSI, election of a bishop was conducted in reverence and awe. We are told that for one of bishopric elections in Tinnevely, the people of the diocese fasted and prayed the night before the election. But the ‘smooth sail’ of selection or election of the bishop did not last long. Devoid of any Christian principle, power politics crept into church life; hectic activity, canvassing, cajoling, promise of favours became the order of the day. They are all well known to all incumbents of this distinguished office.
Relationship between the Synod and the dioceses:
One of the unwritten conventions emerged at the first Synod was complete recognition in practice of the autonomy of the dioceses which meant that for all practical purposes the Synod would not discuss or indulge in any discussion, unless, it was also of common interest of the whole Church, or it should affect its relation to other Churches. During the last few years relationship has strained between a number of dioceses and the Synod, which needs reconciliation. The latest story is that a new Church of the American Ceylon Mission was born from out of the distraught majority of the Jaffna Diocese of the C S I.
Future of CSI
(This section deals mainly with the concern of the future of Madhya Kerala Diocese)
- Synod/Diocese relationship:No one can hide the truth that CSI Synod and Madhya Kerala Diocese has a very strained relationship. By looking through the pages of CSI history one does not find any name of our bishops, priests and laity who have played a significant role on the whole CSI level. Is it because MKD has not produced any outstanding persons to play that role? Is it because our leaders are not interested or is it because MKD leadership has been wilfully neglected by the Synod hierarchy? That anomaly should be rectified.
- Academic excellence: It is gratifying to note that in recent years MKD has produced a number of highly academically qualified priests, such as those who have obtained Ph Ds, D Mins, M Th and so on. That is not enough. The diocese should encourage and even persuade all our priests to acquire higher academic degrees which they are certainly capable of. Priests should be encouraged to write articles and challenging discussion materials so that the critical attitude of our members could be enlightened. May be Professional Fellowship magazine should take lead in that direction.
- Questions relating the continuation of the Malayalee congregations established by MKD in overseas countries: During the last five decades MKD has been serving the CSI members working overseas. With the latest Synod decision that all such parishes should come under the direct control of the Synod, it certainly creates tension and misunderstanding between the two. Although both sides may have their legitimate claims over this matter, it certainly would leave lasting tension between the two bodies. Not only there is tension between the Synod and MKD there also exists intra-diocesan tensions; eg Bangalore, Madras, Bombay and so on. This issue needs to be addressed objectively and come to an amicable solution; otherwise further deterioration would be the end result.
- Prior to the formation of the CSI, there was an administrative practice in the Travancore and Cochin Diocese. There was the system of archdeaconry where the most of responsibility was delegated to two archdeacons. It was the practice for the three (bishop and archdeacons) to meet once during the week and assess the progress and make programme for the subsequent weeks. It seems that it worked well. Although CSI does not have the archdeaconry system, CSI could follow a similar system with two or four District Miniters and the bishop need not have to spend so much time for administration but he could devote more time to visit parishes and provide more pastoral care.
- When we look at the membership of the parishes especially from the rural churches we find a number of our young people leaving the local church (ex: after passing Pass Two examination) for higher education even outside Kerala. There are a number of our young people in cities like Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madras and so. It may be necessary for the Church to explore the possibility of sending young priests (need not be as parish priests) and help with their spiritual needs.
- Syrian churches follow a system of ‘kai muthu’ for the bishops. In their churches it has been the practice to give ‘kai muthu’ whenever a bishop visited the parish. It was for their maintenance and living.. Some how it seems that this system has crept in the CSI as well although CSI bishops are salaried people and all their travel expenses etc are met by the diocese. We should be proud of the way in which first MKD bishop, Bishop C K Jacob showed. When he visited England, while travelling in a Tube Train he helped an elderly ladyto carry her luggage. She asked his name and address; this he gave. She was surprised that the ‘coolie’ who helped her was no one other than a bishop of CSI. Later she sent a cheque for fifty pounds to him. On receipt of the amount without any hesitation he gave the cheque to the diocesan treasurer to be credited as ‘Fifty pounds for coolie charges’ in the discretionary fund. This also reminds us of a remark recently made by the former President of India that he entered Rashrapathi Bhaan with two suitcases and he would leave that place with the same two suitcases and nothing more.
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EPISCOPACY IN THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA
A Paper presented at the Missionary Fellowship Meeting at Manganam on February 25, 1998:
this was subsequently sent to the Moderator and all Bishops of CSI for necessary action; later published in New Vision Magazine)
The formation of the Church of South India in 1947 was hailed as ‘the greatest forward step in church unity in modern times’, ‘a venture of faith’, a momentous achievement in unity’, ‘a beacon of light in our Christian World’. The famous Tranquebar Manifesto (1919) incorporates ‘Historic Episcopate’ as a main ‘ingredient’ in the Basis of union. The CSI accepts historic episcopacy in a Constitutional form. The Constitution declares that ‘as episcopacy has been accepted from early times, it may in this sense fitly called historic’. The Constitution is quite positive that it does not in any way accept additional interpretation or implication of the historic episcopate. Therefore the CSI episcopacy has no claim to antiquity or apostolic succession except for the use of expression such as bishopric or episcopate. No doubt, CSI episcopacy has created history; in this sense it is certainly historic.
It is a known fact that the non-Episcopal Churches came into the Union with great reservation in their minds about episcopacy. They had not had any experience of episcopacy as a main form of church government nor had they any close contact with the working of that system of government. They came with the understanding that the relationship of the Bishop and his people should be that of Chief pastor and Father-in-God, and that he is called to feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof as Shepherd, not as Lord either in act or in title but as an exsample to the flock. They accepted episcopacy as being necessary for the shepherding and extension of the Church in South India and convinced that bishops were necessary both as chief shepherds and as leaders in Evangelism. To facilitate function of episcopacy constitutionally, it was laid down in the Basis of Union that
‘The bishops shall perform their functions in accordance with the customs of the Church those customs...... being named and defined in the written constitution of the Church.’ This means that the CSI is to set up a new tradition with regard to episcopacy and follow it consistently whatever might be the traditions of other churches. It means it will not accept theories or theological concepts of any other Church but return to the New Testament pattern presented in apostolic times. The CSI found it necessary to include the following as primary duties of Bishops:
‘Teaching, supervision of public worship, pastoral oversight, ordination of ministers, administering ....the discipline of the Church, and assisting (when required) other bishops in the consecration of ....persons duly elected and appointed to be bishops.’
Looking at the working of episcopacy at the end of the first decade, it is fair to state that the new Church was able to evolve a pattern of episcopacy envisaged at the time of union. In fulfilling the function prescribed for them in the Constitution, the Bishops have learnt the meaning of their call as shepherds to the flock of Christ in South India. The primary function of a bishop is his teaching and pastoral office. He is also a Father-in-God to the people; it is his duty to take the lead in the evangelistic work of the diocese. He is also a liturgical figure, responsible for making and keeping the people in his diocese a worshipping community.
A layman at the end of the Ten-year period wrote: ‘Nothing has justified the union in the sight of the half-hearted and hesitant so much as the fact that our bishops are so different from Bishops we have in our country.’
One wonders whether the present layman or clergy can make such a claim; or has he New Concept of Episcopacy envisaged by the founding Fathers been changed to yet another form of episcopacy as seen in other Episcopal Churches.
ELECTION OF BISHOPS
The Constitution of the Church makes practical provision on the question of election of bishops. Our bishops are to be, in the first place, elected by the diocese concerned, and then appointed by the Synod. The dioceses submit the names of two or three persons each must get two-third majority in the election. Out of this panel, the Executive Committee of the Synod (through an adhoc Board) selects one, and makes the appointment.
Looking at the selection of the new bishops of the CSI in 1947, the onerous task of the selection was entrusted to a ‘Central Body’ consisting of a dozen leading men - both ordained and lay - in the three Uniting Churches. The appointments made by the Central Body were reported to the Joint Committee (which met for the twentieth and last time, June 10-13th in Bangalore); they unanimously approved the selection, and when made public met with universal acceptance. Of the fourteen diocesan bishops, there were six Indians, and eight British - seven of the Bishops were ex-Anglicans, three ex-Congregationalists, three ex-Methodists and one ex-Presbyterian.
The very first election of a bishop after the formation of the CSI was the election of a bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Coimbatore. The North Tamil Christian Council (Which had stayed out of the union in 1947) decided to join the CSI in 1950. The Executive Committee of the NTCC proposed two names for consideration for the bishopric. The Executive Committee of the Synod also proposed four more names to be considered, and a Selection Committee was appointed under Rule17 Chapter-1V of the Constitution. The new bishop was appointed (out of the panel elected) by the interim Diocesan Council set up for the purpose.
During the early days of the CSI election of a bishop was conducted in reverence and awe. We are told that for one of the bishopric elections in Tinnevelly, the people of the diocese fasted and prayed the night before the election.
But the ‘smooth sail’ of selection or election of bishop did not last long. Devoid of any Christian principle, power politics crept in church life; hectic activity, canvassing, cajoling, promise of favours became the order of the day. They are all well known to all the incumbents of this distinguished office. We are not sure how many of the present distinguished Fathers-in-God could absolve them of this unfortunate predicament. May we plead with each of you, to use all in your power and authority to put an end to this ignominious state of affairs?
EPISCOPACY: A PASTORAL OFFICE
The Ministry of the Church is a gift of God to his people. To the people of Israel the Ministry of God had a special significance as they experienced the deliverance from Pharaoh and subsequent entry into the Promised Land. To them, basically, the ministry of God to a large extend is a pastoral ministry. The great God healed them, protected them from their enemies, lead them to the goal with utmost care. Psalm 23 depicts the direct relationship of the sheep with the shepherd. To them, they were the people of God and the flock of his pasture (Psalm 79:13, 95:7, 100:3).
At the time of Union (1947), all the Uniting Churches felt that the function of the Bishop is primarily that of a Chief Pastor or Chief Shepherd of all the people of the diocese. As Father-in-God, he has a multitude of children; he is to live a simple life among his people, try and enter into meaningful relationship with them, lead and shepherd them, the Bishop is in no way ‘Lord’, but only a Chief Pastor.
What is the view of an ordinary person about the bishops? Bishop is essentially a priest, chosen from priests as first among equals. But somehow or other the present state of affairs is that most of the bishops assume an entirely new position when once they rise to this high office. They are addressed as ‘thirumenis’, the house they stay is called ‘palace’; they find it almost impossible to travel in ordinary compartments in trains, hesitant to eat with common man at weddings and parties, and so on. It is only fair to state the ordinary man is equally at fault on putting the bishops on this so-called high pedestal.
Pastoral care is of prime importance in the life and witness of a bishop. The Church, in order to rediscover its real mission, should go back to the Bible, for which the bishops should rededicate themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word, as apostles giving the necessary lead to the Church, so that ‘everyone may be presented perfect in Christ’.
Disciplining the congregation so that the members of the Church in their turn discipline others and fulfilling the Great commission of the Lord should form another important aspect of the pastoral care of the ministers or the church; only this would justify the existence of the Church. The Bishops should in the power of the Holy Spirit rise to the need of the hour and lead the ministers in their charge, provide themselves as servants of the Church, and not lords or rulers.
BISHOP AND ADMINISTRATION
In theory, a CSI bishop has very little authority. The constitution mentions only his function about his authority. The Bishop is the president of the Diocesan Council; he has the ‘right to take part in the proceeding of any Standing Committee, Board or Council of the diocese’ but does not stipulate that he should be the President of Boards and organisations such a Lay People’s Movement, Sunday School, Manager of schools, colleges, teaching institutions, and so on. However, the diocesan bishop has a right of suspending the operation of decision or resolutions concerning faith and doctrine of the Church until the matter is disposed off at a subsequent meeting of the diocesan council or by the Synod.. But, during the last couple of decades, they seemed to have taken more or less total control of all diocesan boards and associations. Another feature seemed to have crept up in the Church. Many a rich person invites bishops to celebrate weddings, consecrate houses. Of course, the execution of such duties may increase financial gain. Do not these engagements deprive the bishop the time he should be ministering to the people as Father-in-God? Once the ‘servant role’ is taken as the motto of a bishop, he would exhibit in himself the great characteristic of our Lord and Master.
It is worthwhile examining a feature of the type of work bishops of some of the dioceses performed in the Anglican Church. (The example is from the former diocese of Travancore and Cochin). The practice has been introduced by Bishop Speechly, and carried on by the subsequent bishops - Hodges, Moore, Gill, Corfield and Jacob. It has been the practice that the Bishop spent only three or four days at the office headquarters, but spent three or four days a week visiting parishes- both rural and urban- visiting homes of parishioners thus getting to know their needs- both spiritual and material. Only a driver and a butler accompanied him; no chaplain accompanied him to carry the Staff (which was mainly used for confirmation or ordination). To facilitate the smooth running of the church, the Bishop used to appoint two full-time archdeacons, and the three used to meet at least twice a week to discuss the work carried out during the week. In this way, the Bishop could still maintain his overall authority of the dioceses properly.
May we raise some of the questions that come to the minds of a number of peoples in the church?
(1).Is it true that the ‘soul’ of the Church of South India is found to be corrupt? (2). has the parliamentary system of the CSI and the dioceses failed miserably? (3). is it true that Church politics of parties and electioneering corruption is worse than those of the national secular democracy. (4). in financial integrity have the church leaders unashamedly embezzled ‘God’s money never being worthy examples to the nation in moral characters.
Having made the above statements, we would like to request each of the bishops of the bishops to consider how best they could perform their spiritual duties more effectively, and to lead the Church in the new millennium. To this end, we would request you to
(1). Spend more time with people in parishes, visit their homes, study their problems counsel the needy and spend at least fifty percent of time as Father-in-God.
(2).Give up many of the unnecessary functions- conducting weddings, house warming ceremonies and so on.
(3). Hand over the position a President/Chairman of a Boards, Church organisations, and so on. Pass it on to responsible and competent clerical or lay people.
(4). As the Church of South India has abolished post of Archdeacon, to run the dioceses efficiently, appoint full-time district chairman or area presidents and delegate more powers to them and meet them regularly to see that the bishop is briefed of the work throughout the diocese.
We send this letter to all of them would read this letter with sympathy and not consider it as a criticism against any of them. Our sole intention in sending this letter is to see a unique Church of South India in the new millennium.
(NOTE: This was published subsequently in ‘New Vision’ Vol. No. 1998)
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EPISCOPAL LEADERSHIP AND ELECTION
(An Article published in the Professional Fellowship of Madhya Kerala Diocese in its July 2001 issue)
The Madhya Kerala Diocese is on the threshold of election of a new Bishop. The term of office of the present incumbent expires in a few months time and the Diocese has to elect the new Bishop fairly soon. The Constitution of the Church of South India has clearly mentioned in the Basis of Union that “the bishops shall perform their functions in accordance with the written constitution of the Church--- those customs… being named and defined in the written constitution of the Church”. The CSI found it necessary to include the following as primary duties of the Bishop: “Teaching, supervision of public worship, pastoral oversight, ordination of ministers, administering…the discipline of the Church, and assisting (when required) other bishops in the consecration of persons duly elected and appointed to be bishops”.
Episcopacy: Leadership Role.
St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy 3: 1-7 is a key passage stating the qualifications of leaders; it is an important passage from the point of view of Church Government. It deals with the person, whom different versions of the Bible call the bishop, overseer, elder, presbyter. There are two terms (presbuteros and bishop episkopos), that describe the principal office-bearers of the Church, and on whose conduct and administration the welfare of the Church depend. The term elders (presbyteros) describes the leaders as they personally were the older, more respected men while Episkopos – the bishop – the overseer, describes the function and duty to superintend the Church.
One of the important lessons we notice in the NT is that these leaders were formally set apart for their office. They were ordained (Titus 1:5) (“appoint elders in every town”) so that they were given recognition and honour. They had to undergo a time of testingto prove their worth (I Tim 3:10) “And let them also be tested first, then if proved themselves blameless let them serve as deacons”). They were paid for their work (I Tim 5:18) “the labourer deserves his wages”. They were liable to censure (I Tim 5:19-22). The above passages show that these leaders are not novices, but respected and experienced men.
In the early Church, the office bearers had a double function – leader as well as servant.
He was answerable both to God as well as to the people whom he leads. He had a double duty of administration and instruction. Paul speaks of two other areas of responsibility: his home and the world. He must have a “good reputation from outsiders” (I Tim 3:7) Paul points out key qualifications of a Christian leader in (I Tim 3:1-7). Peter who had a special role in the formation of the first Church in Jerusalem speaks about Christian leadership in (I Peter 5:1-7).
Having looked into the biblical teaching of Paul and Peter regarding the choice, election or appointment of bishops, presbyters, elders or fathers-in-God, it would be helpful to find out some of the essential characteristics the present Indian Church should look for in such an important office. Such an election is the responsibility of both clergy and the laity. It is not an exaggeration to state that many a layman is not quite clear of the biblical teaching on the subject.
Among the number of salient characteristics which laymen expect of the bishop, four points need special attention.
1. His Spiritual life. The spiritual life of the bishop should be a source of inspiration for all. Although the Bishop has lot of administrative responsibility, the most important characteristic should be his spiritual life; his devotion to the word of God, his personal prayer life and his submission to the will of God.
2. Authority of the Bible. Ordinary people look up to the bishop for guidance in all matters of faith and order based on the authority of the Bible. During the last quarter of last century the question of authority of Bible (including the Confession of Faith proposed by the Churches) has been seriously doubted, questions or even rejected by some theologians including the occupants of the high office of the Bishop. Very closely related to the idea is the question of the ‘uniqueness of Christ’. The Indian Church faces a serious problem in this regard because of the pantheistic and polytheistic religious teaching in Indian philosophy and thought.
3. Prophetic vision. The Church leaders in the past have played a vital role in prophetic vision of the Church and Nation, the Society and the Individual. Names of Bishop Azariah and Bishop Abraham Mar Thoma come uppermost in ones mind. A time has come for the Church leadership to think seriously their role in this regard.
4. Election Propaganda and Canvassing. When Paul says, “if any one sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” he does not for a moment think that the aspirant should go or send his supporters from door to door or parish to parish for canvassing as a vote catching process as one sees in politics. It is the desire that those who hold the key to the election of such a high office would prayerfully consider their Christian responsibility when the occasion arises.
The Constitution of CSI has made practical provisions in relation to its Bishops. It may be summarised as follows:
(i)The Bishop is to be elected by the diocese concerned and then appointed by the Synod.
(ii)The Bishop is the Chief Shepherd under Christ of his flock and he is responsible for doing all that he can to foster the true spiritual unity of the diocese
(iii)The Bishop is to take the lead in the evangelistic work of the diocese
(iv)The Bishop essentially is a teacher and he should do all that is in the power for edification of the ministers and congregations, over whom he has oversight.
(v)The Bishop alone has ‘authority in the disciplinary cases to pronounce sentences of suspension from Holy Communion or of ex-communication and to restore those that are penitent to the fellowship of the Church.
Episcopacy: A Pastoral Office.
At the time of Union (1947) all the Uniting Churches felt that the primary function of the Bishop is primarily a Chief Pastor or Chief Shepherd of all the people of the diocese. As Father-in-God, he has a multitude of children; he is to live a simple life among the people; try and enter into meaningful relationship with them, lead and shepherd. The Bishop is no way ‘Lord’ but only Chief Pastor.
Pastoral Care is of prime importance in the life and witness of a bishop. The Church, in order to rediscover its real mission, should go back to the Bible, for which the Bishops should rededicate themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word, as apostles giving the necessary lead to the Church, so that ‘everyone may be presented perfect in Christ’.
Disciplining the congregation so that the members of the Church in their turn discipline others, fulfilling the Great Commission of the Lord, should form another important aspect
of the pastoral care of the ministers of the Church; only this would justify the existence of the Church. The bishops should, in the power of the Holy Spirit, rise to the need of the hour and lead the ministers in their charge, providing themselves as servants of the Church, and not lords or rulers.
Bishop and Administration:
In theory, a CSI bishop has very little authority. The constitution mentions only his function and nothing about his authority. The bishop is the president of the Diocesan Council; he has the ‘right to take part in the proceedings of any Standing Committee, Board or Council of the diocese’. But it does not stipulate that he should be Presidents of Boards and organisations such as Lay People’s Movement, Sunday School, Schools, Colleges, Teaching Institutions, and so on. However, in matters concerning faith and doctrine of the Church, the conditions of membership, the functions of the ordained ministry, the diocesan bishop has a right to suspend the operation of the decision or resolutions until the matter is disposed of at a subsequent meeting of the diocesan council or by the Synod.
Election of Bishops:
Looking at the selection of the new bishops of the CSI in 1947, the onerous task of selection was entrusted to a ‘Central Body’ consisting of a dozen leading men – both ordained and lay – in the three Uniting Churches. When the selection of the 14 Bishops was reported to the Joint Committee, they unanimously accepted the selection, and when made public, met with universal acceptance.
During the early days of the CSI, election of a bishop was conducted in reverence and awe. We are told that for one of the bishopric election in Tinnevelly, the people of the diocese fasted and prayed the night before the election.
But the ‘smooth sail’ of selection or election of Bishop did not last long. Devoid of any Christian principle, power politics crept into Church life; hectic activity, canvassing, cajoling, promise of favours became the order of the day. The mandate for election of a new bishop of the diocese is already published. Soon nomination papers have to be submitted. This will be followed by scrutiny of papers, the selection of a panel of candidates by the members of the diocesan council to be forwarded to the Synod and the final selection by the Synod will form part of the ‘feverish, activity in the diocese. It goes without saying that the main actors in the first scene are the members of the Diocesan Council. Each member of the Diocesan Council has to pray constantly to receive wisdom from above not to be bowed down to canvassing, cajoling, promise of favours and other benefits either from candidates or their ‘secret agents’ It would be proper and appropriate to encourage all members of the diocese to include the election of bishop as a subject of prayer in their daily prayers. It would be highly commendable if a special day of prayer is set apart prior to the Election Day (preferably the Saturday before the election) in all parishes for this purpose. May the good Lord guide our diocese to select the right person as bishop of our diocese as worthy Father-in-God?
(A paper presented at the Missionary Fellowship Meeting at Manganam on September 21, 1998;
this was published in the ‘New Vision’ October 1998)
Looking at History, one can see that the process by which the Churches in India came into existence was through establishment of village schools (usually by some Christian missionaries; elementary school was the launching pad for evangelistic work, and the school was the first pillar for the parish ministry. When a congregation came into being, through the efforts of a teacher, he also took charge of its pastoral care. The ordained ministers (very few in number, and usually found only in big town centres) occasionally visited the congregations (at infrequent intervals) primarily to administer the Sacraments. So the basis of pastoral ministration in village has been the duty of unordained and in most cases (theoretically) untrained teacher. Usually the salary of the teacher (which in fact was very meagre) did not come from the local people, but from the Mission. The result was that the local congregation was being (unconsciously) trained to receive spiritual ministration as well as material benefits without contributing anything in return. Mission embarked on bigger schemes - built middle schools, high schools, boarding schools, colleges, dispensaries, hospitals and orphanages - hoping that there would be free flow of funds from the West. When the Government introduced grant-in-aid system, the village schools were entitled to receive teaching grant from public funds. The mission adopted the easy method of accepting grant-in-aid system for teachers, at the same time giving a nominal salary from their own mission funds to make sure that the teacher continued himself as an employee of the Mission. One wonders whether the acceptance of Government grant was a wise move. With Government grant came tight restrictions and controls - so many reports and periodical returns, compulsory attendance at teachers meetings and other social gatherings. These Government requirements necessarily limited teacher’s time to Christian and evangelistic work. Those who were willing to do such Christian activities were even frowned upon. For the last half a century at least the Christian Mission schools have ceased to be an evangelistic agency. Probably, the Mission could have continued to be such if they were willing to continue educational work without Government Grant. But no Mission was ‘game enough’ for that bold and drastic step. Hence the Christians schools (these days) are ‘Christian’ only in name.
The second pillar in the structure of Parish Ministry is the highly trained ordained minister. The Church insisted that the ordained minister should have undergone a long and rigorous training in a theological college or seminary, modelled on the theological colleges in the West and following practically the same course of studies and using the same theological text books. For (at least) two decades after the formation of the CSI, a large number of congregations were unable to maintain an ordained minister, even though emoluments were meagre. For a number of years, there were some dioceses, which did not have any standard salary structure. However, the situation seemed to have changed for better as the salary structure of the ordained minister is comparable to similar profession.
Many years ago, it was the practice of presbyters or bishops to look out for possible candidates for ordination. In order to facilitate this process, young people showing Christians conviction and leadership qualities were chosen; they were encouraged to show their leadership qualities in various activities in the local parish and even on the diocesan level. At the appropriate time, the presbyter or bishop used to meet with parents of those young people and discuss the matter with them; this process eventually led to a final selection of candidates. The selected candidates were sent to theological colleges for study where they received proper teaching and training from qualified teachers.
As years passed by, this method was not practised. The present trend seems to be that a number of those who wished to pursue theological education for ordination apply direct to theological colleges just as anyone would apply to any secular college through normal application pattern. There are instances where a number of people apply for theological education when all other avenues fail. Application to a theological college does not seem to be any different from that of any secular job - army, navy, police force, government jobs and so on.
Training for ordained ministry is crucial; from among them come the Very Reverends, Bishops, Moderator and Church leadership in all levels. Scope of theological training includes three things:
(1) Personal formation (growth in Christian commitment)
(2) Ministerial formation (development of professional skills), and
(3) Theological formation (ability to reflect on issues in the light of Christian faith.)
The perspective of pastoral ministry is increasing; it is understood as a ministry for justice, a ministry for the liberation of all people. Therefore his role is that he serves as an enabler or catalyst so that the Church becomes an agent of change. He is to sensitise the members to the inequalities in society based upon the Word of God. The pastor’s training emphasise his role as a teacher, then as a preacher, as a servant than a master. The model for the minister is the Servant Lord and so his involvement becomes the style of his ministry. The training therefore should include analysis of the forces in the society so that he should be the model of servant-hood, not dictatorship.
The Pastoral Ministry in the CSI
In the CSI the role of the presbyters is generally considered as having triple functions, viz Priest, Prophet and Pastor. But the Governing Principles of the CSI Constitution have recognised the presbyter as one among the three fold ministry in the CSI, viz, that of Deacon, Presbyter and Bishop. These concepts are drawn and held together from the particular dominant emphasis from each of the uniting denominations (Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyters and Anglicans) based on precepts of the New Testament. (Acts 16:4, 20:17-35, 21:18, Phil 1:1, Titus 1:7-9, Rom 16:1 and 2Cor 11:28). It is notable and significant that this threefold form of ministry in the Church as accepted as by the CSI is commended and recommended to be developed in all its potential for ministry, both in the Church and the world by the Lima Document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) of the WCC, Geneva (published in 1982). Pastor is considered to be close to the people from and for whom he is called to serve and care for; he or she is chosen, trained and appointed to a specific ministry by the Church. So it is clear that the role of the presbyter, first and foremost is to be pastor of his flock, the congregation of faithful people of God, the body of believers in Christ and members of the Church. It was the intention of the CSI, at time of its formation, that each congregation is not to be identified with any denomination but as part of one body of believers in Christ located and living in a specified geographical area, very much like the Church in Ephesus or Church in Corinth of the New Testament period. This seems to be the meaning and spirit of the definition of the primary role of the presbyter or deacon or bishop in the CSI Constitution as well as in the liturgy of the Book of Worship. Therefore the ministry of the presbyter, deacon and the bishop is essentially Pastoral Ministry.
The Old Testament and the New Testament provide the image of God as Shepherd and the believers of God as Sheep of his flock (Psalm 23 and John 10). The perfect example of good Shepherd is the only begotten Son of God. Jesus passes this responsibility by the call and commissioning of Peter (John 21:14-18). The basic qualification Jesus asks of Peter is to tend the lamb and feed the sheep of His flock. It is significant that the early Church (and more profoundly the Roman Catholics) accepts Peter, the Apostle, as the Chief Shepherd of the Church.
When we examine the situation in the CSI, can we, in all honesty, say that this ideal (as envisaged in the Constitution and the Scriptures) is being achieved or this remained, by and large, an ideal on paper, leaving very much to be desired in practice?
It is only fair to say that the CSI has been striving to recover and enrich the role of pastoral in our Church. There are some major initiatives; some of the are: (1) The book ‘Lay Voluntary Workers’ by Wilfred Scopes (LMS Missionary in Rayalaseema) which encouraged several dioceses to open up Lay Training Programmes to enrol the Voluntary Church Workers to assist the presbyters in their expanding pastoral ministry. (2) Bishop Leslie Newbigin’s (Madura-Ramnad Diocese) booklet on ‘Pastors paid and unpaid’ which subsequently led to the acceptance of Honorary Deacons and Honorary Presbyters by the Synod and introduction in several dioceses in the 1950s. (3) R.D. Paul’s report ‘Renewal and Advance’ also made several recommendations to introduce new forms of ministry to strengthen the pastoral ministry: so also the Abel Committee Report ‘CSI after 30 years’ provided new impetus. (4) During the 4th decade, with the establishment of Pastoral Aid Department and Velcom (Vision for Equipping the Local Congregation for Mission), and the Ordination of women and other forms of Ministries of women there was certainly enrichment of pastoral ministry in the Church.
Some related Problems and Concerns:
With the formation of the CSI, there was also a process of evolution from Mission to church, especially in relation to both the ministry and management of the Church from overseas Missionary hands to Indian Church leaders. The implication of such shifting changes certainly presented their own problems in many places. (Refer to book of Bishop N.C. Sargent, ‘From Mission to Church’, CLS Madras)
The struggle for Independence from the so called (Christian) colonial masters had resulted (indirectly) in certain hostility and intolerance on the part of the (majority) Hindus towards (minority) Christian Church and branded (to a certain extent) Christianity as a foreign religion. (Refer to C.W. Ransan, NCC Nagpur; ‘The Christian Minister’).
The strange coincidence that both India became independent and the CSI was formed same year had opened up certain expectations and promises of democratic freedom both in the society and in the Church. The worth and dignity of every individual and this certainly infused desire and hope to participate in the life of the people both in Church and Society. This would raise questions as to relationship between ministry of the Church as ministry of the whole people of God over against the ministry of the specially ordained and appointed threefold Institutional Ministry of the Church. This kind of unhappy division between Clergy and Laity presents problems for the role of the Minister. (See the book ‘Forgotten People’ CLS, Madras)
The emergence of numerous Independent Churches and Sectarian groups during the last few decades under the banner of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity gave rise to phenomenal mushrooming of Bible Schools and Seminaries which offer theological education to all ‘born agains’ (probably minimum dedicated Christians). It is estimated that there are over 500 such Bible Schools and Seminaries which annually turn out over 5000 trained Christian ministers; some of whom would find their way into the main line churches. This would certainly create problems for the role of ministers in the Church.
One of the important ingredients in Pastoral Ministry is PASTORAL CARE, which includes both feeding the sheep and tending the flock. It involves the whole life with all its problems and concern, frustrations, hopes and aspiration of the people. When the depressed, the neglected and the outcast received gospel message, education and health programmes, they experienced a sense of hope and purpose in life. Pastoral care in village congregations was provided primarily by evangelists who worked as teacher-priests. Though many of them were not highly educated, they lived with the people and lent the needed leadership and advice in times of crisis in the community, and provided Christian nurture programme in simple language, which the ordinary folk could understand. The salary the evangelists received was very low; yet many of them continued their ministry to be teachers and evangelists in village communities. Some how or other the cadre of evangelists was done away with. Then the work was passed on to highly theologically trained people who preferred to be stationed not in villages but it urban areas and bigger cities; the result was that many of the outlying village congregations were left without sufficient pastoral care. By the end of two decades (after the formation of the CSI) pastoral oversight was also being withdrawn from many outlying congregations due to paucity of funds as the Church hierarchy could only muster funds sufficient to meet the top-heavy administration of the Church. A new pattern evolved itself in the Church that the pastoral ministry of the church is available to those who have financial ability to support a presbyter and provide funds for administrative structures of the church. The result is that the Church is unable to provide adequate pastoral ministry in villages. It is probably due to its unwillingness and inability to explore new and creative patterns of ministry to provide adequate pastoral care to all people.
One of the problems faced in theological education is that it has for a long time been highly academic without pastoral and practical dimensions. In the 1970s, in a number of theological colleges in India, there has been a great emphasis on the practical aspect in pastoral ministry. However, the over-academic emphasis of the faculties without due appreciation of the pastoral care has alienated a number of seminarians from the actual context. It is seen that a number of best theological student have moved on to theological faculties, and some of them find it difficult to handle critical questions in Biblical and theological studies due to their inexperience in pastoral ministry. So it is worthwhile to explore possibility of their periodical moving away from theological colleges to parish work for all members of theological faculties.
Another area, which needs special attention is to get trained Lay People involved in Pastoral Ministry. There are a number of lay people with nature experience who are accepted as natural leaders within any community. Very often the young priest has to reckon with such leaders. The Senate of Serampore College through its theological extension studies programme imparts degree level training to hundreds of lay people throughout the country. The Church should explore the possibility of how best such people could be utilised in the ministry of the Church. In the book “CSI after Thirty Years” the Abel Committee report made very valuable suggestions for the ‘Training of Personnel’ (Training of Priests, Training of Lay people and Training for Episcopal Ministry). Unfortunately the Church seems to have forgotten the good work done by the Special Committee.
A third area, which has been given very low priority is the Pastoral Care for Pastors. The Bishop has special pastoral responsibility for all pastors. It is necessary that trust and confidence should be developed between the Bishop and the pastors. Similarly the Moderator should act as a Pastor for all Bishops
Some stark realities:
In theory, the CSI over the last fifty years have tried to set a model pattern for Pastoral Ministry of the Church. But there are some major irritants that tended to militate against the emergence of a renewed Pastoral Ministry (5Es); they are:
2. Election in the Church (at all levels)
3. Equitable sharing of Church resources
4. Exercise of Power and Authority in the government of the church (at all levels), and
5. Equipping the Laity for the Ministry and Mission of the Church.
One of the stark realities is that many of the pastors find it extremely difficult to execute their legitimate duties and ministry in the local parishes mainly because of the undue pressures put on them by the local parish council members. Though many of the pastors want to perform their duties impartially, they seem to be helpless because their very existence in the parish would be in jeopardy if they ‘cross the path’ of some of the local bigwigs. Some of the pastors cannot be absolved of the serious error for not being impartial in their judgement and execution of duties. A whole re-thinking of the pastoral ministry is very urgent because the present trend seems to be very discouraging and disappointing.
LAY PEOPLE WITH JESUS
(A summary of a talk given at the One Day seminar of the ‘Professional Fellowship’ at Kottayam on March 14, 1994`;
later published in its magazine, Vol XV, April 1994)
For a very long time in the history of the Church, ‘laity’ were misunderstood, neglected or discarded; they were a non-entity. In 1906, Pope Pius X in one of the Papal Encyclicals (Vehementor Nos) decreed that ‘As for the masses, they have no other right than that of letting themselves be led, and of following their pastors as a docile sheep’. The same trend of thought seemed to have been crept in the Church of England that it did not give a strong impression of being interested in its laity, and it seemed either to ride them or fear them. In the Lambeth Conference of 1958, it was stated that ‘there is a growing recognition today that too sharp a distinction has been made between clergy and laity’, and added that there was need for a better theology of the laity. However, in the past there has been sporadic development of lay movements as in the Middle Ages and at the Reformation, which later led to emergence of great international missionary movements of the 19th century.
For some time now, there has been resurgence of laity. For pragmatic reasons, it could be due to (1) NEED; as a sociological fact of increasing birth and decreasing ordination rate (2) FEAR; if the Church does not use them properly, they might be lost to other service organisations such as Rotary, Lions, Masons and so on. (3) SPIRIT OF THE DAY; political and social revolutions have brought a global thrust on democracy; hence the necessity to extend it to the Church as well.
What is the Church?
Church is a people, a community of people; its uniqueness is that the Church (the People) owes its very existence; solidarity and their corporate distinctness derive solely from the Call of God.
This Call of God began with Abraham; It was God’s desire to make a great people through him. A covenant of Grace was made; it was repeated several times. All nations of earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me (Gen 22:18). The same covenant was confirmed through Isaac and Jacob: Physical deliverance from slavery was affected through God’s call of Moses (Exod. 19; 4-6). Despite their unfaithfulness and disobedience God did not abandon them forever. He called them out of Babylon as He called them out of Egypt; He restored from to their land (Jerem: 16:14, 15).
This promise was finally fulfilled through Christ’s greater redemption, and a richer inheritance - through the death and resurrection of Christ. So, the Church is God’s people, called out of the world to be His, their existence as a separate unity solely rests on the Call of God (Cor. 1:9).
Bishop Leslie Newbigin, in his book ‘Household of God’ states that the church is the pilgrim people of God. It is on the move hastening to the ends of the earth to beseech all men to be reconciled to God, and hastening to the ends of time to meet its Lord who will gather all into one. Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 says ‘you are a chosen people a royal priesthood. a holy nation, a people belonging to God.....’ So God called His people out of the world to Himself- called to holiness, called to mission, called to suffering, called through suffering to glory.
God’s calling of his people is the calling of the Church; all have equal share. There is no distinction or partiality between people. Although in the O.T the call had been to Abraham and his descendants, Paul in Eph 2:13-16 speaks of the ultimate blessing for all the nations, while abolishing that aspect of the law which made Israel a chosen people. Christ called ‘one new man’. In this new humanity which is a comprehensive community, there is no distinction (Gal 3:28). This shows that the days of discrimination are over (Rom 10:2ff) thus making all believers to be ‘fellow citizens, fellow heirs, fellow members and fellow partakers.
Somehow or other a false idea of clericalism has taken root in society. Extreme clericalism believe that power and privilege should be in hands of the clergy, and the laity should have only limited or no powers or responsibility at all. This idea makes one higher and the other lower, one active and the other passive, one important and the other unimportant, one privileged and the other unprivileged. This contradicts the very doctrine of the Church as Christ has made two into one.
The Scripture contains metaphors, which give picturesque images of he Church. (1) Church - God’s people as Bride. God considered Israel as His bride; betrothed her to Himself. A message of covenant was made (Jere 2:2). But she became unfaithful and committed adultery (Hosea 2:2). (2) Church - God’s people as vineyard. A vine was brought from Egypt and planted it in Canaan (Psa 80: 8,9; but boar ravaged it (v 13) (3) Church God’s people as the flock. God led Israel like s sheep (Psa 80:1, Isa. 40:11).
In the N.T these metaphors refer to Jesus Himself. He emphasises the very personal relationship each of these images implies. He was the bridegroom, whose presence with the wedding guests made fasting unnecessary (Mk 2:18,20). Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33 refers to Christ’s loving self-sacrifice for the Church, His leadership over her. His final purpose for the Church is that she should be presented to Him without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless’ (Rev-21:2) ‘prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband’. Jesus claims Himself to be the vine itself, and the branches would not have any existence without the vine (john 15:11). Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, to save even the only one Sheep (Luke 15:3-7)
The Bible has other metaphors to illustrate the strong relationship, which God has established with His people.
(1) God’s people as His Kingdom (Psalm 114:2)
(2) God’s people as family or household (Hosea 1)
(3) God’s people as building (a spiritual temple) (1 Cor 3:16)
(4) God’s people as body of Christ (Effusions 4:15, 16)
In all these metaphors there runs a common theme; each one underline God’s gracious dealing with His people which should result in their responsive duties to Him as well as to each other. These responsibilities are entrusted to ONE PEOPLE - the WHOLE CHURCH (Peter 2:9, 10). The interaction between the people must be twofold. People must be both a WORSHIPPING and WITNESSING community. The responsibility is not delegated to one or the other - the clergy or the laity alone. It is a joint responsibility with equal participation and partnership.
One last question: Does the present day Church fulfil the doctrine as expounded in the Scripture to share in this equal participation and partnership between the clergy and the laity?
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LOTTERY AND CHRISTIAN
(Note: This has also been published in ‘Gospel Messenger’ Vol VII, No. 5 1994)
‘It’s today, today, today: Periyar Bumper lottery. First prize: nine lakhs; Second prize: a Maruthi car, third prize.......”. Such announcement is usually heard at bus stops, market places, street corners, and so on. Thousands of people from all walks of life spend a lot of money to buy lottery tickets. Not many escape the trap.
Lottery is a gambling scheme for distributing prizes by lot or chance to persons who purchase tickets. Although many prizes may be offered to the buyers, money received from ticket sales always far exceeds the value of prizes; promoters withhold considerable amount of money for themselves. The raffle in which numbers are drawn from a box is also a form of lottery. Number game is another form in which ‘wheel of chance’ determines the winner.
Lottery is not a new invention. Some forms of lottery date back from Biblical times. The first recorded lottery in European history was about 1450; it was held in Bruges, Belgium. Government sponsored lotteries were first introduced in France in 1520 to raise revenue. Similar lotteries found inroads in other European countries as well. In England it lasted till 1825. Legalised lotteries still exist in certain European and Latin American countries. Many Asian countries excel in this form of money raising process. Opposition to lotteries took shape in 1830s. The last great lottery in USA was Louisiana lottery, which was chartered by the State in 1862. However it was banned in 1892.
The intention of writing this article is not to pronounce a verdict on the validity of the whole issue, but only to look at the Bible and find out what it has to say on the subject, and leave the judgement to the reader himself.
In dictionary it is stated that gambling is playing games of chance for money, especially for high stakes. When a person buys a lottery ticket for Rupees five and when there is a chance of getting nine lakhs of rupees, he unconsciously prays to God: “O God, give this day my neighbours money”. This is perhaps the simple concept behind lottery. It is a prayer to God, “O God, give me this day, my neighbours money”.
Some people doubt the validity of the moral principles that underlie the Christian disapproval of this popular form of amusement. The first question to be decided is whether gambling is sinful as adultery and murder are. If the answer is yes, then it is wrong for a Christian to engage in gambling and betting as well as taking part in games such as raffles and so on. The opinions of the moralists vary.
Gamble is a bargain that one person will give to another a part of his possession if a particular uncertain event turns out in a particular way. It is viewed as immoral since it breeds the habit of getting something for nothing. But in every game of chance, there is something, which a man gives, whether it is the price of lottery ticket or the ‘dollar on the horse’. Though gambling and insurance are in intention poles apart, the price of the lottery ticket has some similarity with the premium on the insurance policy. The amount insured is paid to the person in the chance event of the building being burnt down; accidental fire is the element of chance in the undertaking. It is not for the insurance company to take the risk, nor for the insured to receive the amount in case of accidental loss to the house: The sinfulness of gambling seems to lie elsewhere.
The motives and methods of gambling are not in keeping with the structure of life. The process of getting something for nothing is not morally and psychologically healthy. The immorality in gambling lies in what it does to the gambler as a person. The real moral question is what does gambling do to our motives, desires and wants? It is like playing with fire; it leads to excess; it encourages covetousness. To call a man a gambler is hardly a complimentary expression. Sometime some questions are asked. Can I afford it? Should I afford it? Am I developing a craving for it? Do I bring scandal to myself, my family, and my community?
Another important question to be asked is this. Should the Church raise funds for its work by resorting to lotteries and other games of chance involving wager of money on uncertain events? We have seen that the impulse to gambling is covetousness. The Church may make itself wealthy or great by boldly entering in the field of gambling; but in doing so, it leaves its people small and avaricious. It was said of Bismarck that he made Germany great but the German people small. We do not esteem people highly when we appeal to their instinct of covetousness. Gambling in our culture thwarts the moral stature of our people; the church should not add to its harm. The malice contained in covetousness, which gambling stimulates denies the Christian doctrine of Man. It is an insult to reason to make the possession of money wholly or partially dependent on pure chances; it is treacherous to civilisation as well.
The Bible teaches clearly about covetousness. The Tenth commandment is ‘you shall not covet your neighbours house; you shall not covet your neighbours wife; or his manservant or maidservant, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbours (Exod 20:17). The last of the Decalogue moves out of the realm of the Old Testament legislation and enters the higher region of New Testament morality. The Tenth Commandment is a prohibition of sin, which by its chain reaction produces all other sins. While some of the previous commandments prohibit certain sinful actions, the Tenth One forbids the motive or the mental disposition which gives rise to them. Covetousness is not in itself a crime, but it is a source of all crimes. “Woe to them who devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds… They covet fields and seize them; and houses, and take them away... (Micah 2:1, 2). Jesus Christ interpreted the whole Decalogue in the light of the Tenth commandment. When the Lord chased out the moneychangers who had defiled the Temple, it was an attack of covetousness, which in its fullest sense means that they would have used extortion of the poor people. So, the Tenth Commandment on covetousness touches the very root of all the prohibitions pronounced in the other Commandments.
Covetousness resembles lust; it may be considered to be self-assertion or ruthless greed. On one occasion, St. Paul equates it with idolatry (Col 3; 5), and on another with impurity (Eph 5:3). It shows itself in more ways than one as mere passion for earthly goods. In human relationship it manifests itself as readiness to use other person simply as means of gratification of self without respect for his rights; it is a form of worship of self. So, it is equivalent to the sin of idolatry.
Covetousness is an insatiable desire, which is common to the whore and the greedy person. Whore monger and the greedy are perfect embodiment of intemperate desire; the former desires to possess another person, while the latter is greedy for goods. Very often the latter is also immoral.
Covetousness seems to be generally a temptation of the middle-aged and of the economically poor; in their self-centred anxiety they try to arm themselves against the contingencies of life by trusting themselves to the security, which riches seem to offer. The Bible gives examples of crime traceable to avarice.
Achan’s avarice led to the defeat of the armies of Israel (Joshua 7:21). Ahab’s covetousness was responsible for the murder of Naboth (1 King 21:16). Covetousness is synonymous to avarice; it is an inordinate desire for material things. Both malice and covetousness are unlimited.
Love of money is a form of servitude to material things; it enslaves men to many anxieties. The avaricious man deceives himself into thinking that he will be free from care by piling up riches. But the consequence is just the opposite of this expectation. Money and pleasure are the twin idols of the human heart. The covetous trusts riches instead of God; he devotes himself to amass wealth, sadly neglecting God. “Put no confidence in extortion, set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase set not your heart on them’ (Psalm 62:10). Ruthless greed is he source of many a sin. It supplants God in the human heart; it makes one blind to the needs of others. When a person exchanges the love of God for the security offered by wealth, he slips into sloth and sensualism. When I have money, why should I work? The fool says. When I have money why shouldn’t I enjoy? The Lord gives a solemn warning. “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (LK 12:15).
There are some things, which are helpful in combating covetousness. By repeated acts of faith one should deepen his trust in the providential care of God, teach himself continually that he trusts and loves God because He is his God and his heavenly Father. Take the trouble to cultivate a sense of detachment. In the Lord’s pronouncement “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. He does not mean the poor-spirited but those who realise the poverty of their soul and depend entirely on God’s bounty, just as a beggar depends on what others gives him, cultivate the habit of liberality in respect of our material possessions. Giving is something, which no one can do for others; it is each one’s responsibility. Many people who doubted their wisdom in giving tenth of their income were surprised by joy when they practised this form of giving. The story of the Cocoa-cola Company is a classic example.
Many a time we tend to be discontented. We think that others are better off than we are It results in resentment against those who are more gifted than ourselves. Our aim should be to be better, not better of. We have to accept the circumstances of our life as being the will of God for us and find in them opportunities for conquest and service by checking daydreaming and restarting the desire to be like others. The real task in life is to discover the kind of man God would have us and try to fulfil His plan and purpose for our life; set our life’s course on Godward direction and escape the baneful results of ambition, discontent and covetousness,
It was the prayer of Thomas Ken, in his book “Practice of Divine Love: the Commandments”
If I am perpetually discontented, it is only because I cannot love Thee more”.
Forgive me, O my God,
If I am immeasurably ambitious, it is only Thy favour;
If I am insatiably covetous, it is only Thy fruition;
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Women’s Ordination: Crisis in Church
(XIV, January 1993 No.1; The question of Women’s Ordination has been a subject of ‘hot’ discussion
in different parts of the world; so also was in the CSI).
One of the vexed problems facing churches in many countries today is this: Women’s Ordination. Some denominations in the United States have women priests; a few of the dioceses in the Church of South India and Church of North India too have ordained women as priests. The whole question of women’s ordination has taken a global dimension with the recent decision at the General Synod of the Church of England in the United Kingdom (Bishops 39 in favour and 13 against, clergy 176 to 74 and laity 169 to 82) and the Anglican Church of Australia (almost in identical proportion).
Some critics fear that the Church will see the greatest division in the (Anglican) Church since the Elizabethan settlement of the sixteenth century as they feel that there are over 3000 clergymen poised to leave the Church of England and five dioceses in Australia are ‘out of with the rest’. No doubt, there is rejoicing in some quarters; but in some only dissatisfaction. So the question one has to ask is this. Where is the unity for which Jesus prayed “that al of them may be one, Father, just as you are one in me and I am in you (John 17:21).
One of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England states “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another”. In (Article XX) it is interesting to see that apparently equally godly and scholarly people appeal to the same Scriptures and yet derive different conclusions; probably because all of them go to the Bible wearing their own ‘spectacle’ coloured by particular culture, tradition and personal experiences.
The purpose of this article is to point out to the readers some of the issues involved in this question, and to let each reader make his/her own conclusions and decisions.
Let us look at the Creation Story, the story, which teaches us male/female relationship. We find the story of creation in two aspects Genesis. Ch 1 focuses on God the Creator and the overall picture of His creation, culminating in the creation of human beings; ‘in the image of God He created them, male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27). Don’t we find in this story that from the very beginning of the existence of man and woman they were equal image-bearers of God? Don’t they have equal value and destiny? However, in the second creation story (Ch 2) we find the emphasis is on Adam and his relationship with others- God, plants, animals, all creatures, and especially with the woman. There seems to be difference in emphasis between the two stories. Ch 1 emphasises the features common to both sexes while in Ch 2, emphasis is on the non-sharing process. God’s creation of woman is from a different material, at a different time and for a different purpose. It is Adam who named her thus showing his authority over her. Should any one be unduly get angry or worried when he says that wife should be subordinates to her husband at the time making it very clear that she is not inferior to him at all? Could we take their roles as functional just as we say that the son is subordinate to the Father but equal to God?
Is there any special significance in the repeated analogy of the relationship between God and His people in the form of male/female relationship? Is there any special reason why in the Bible God has revealed Himself as father, never mother, King never queen, husband never wife?
When does one find in the Bible the struggle for supremacy of wills resulting in the male domination? At the time of the Fall of Man (Gen 3) the relationship between the sexes was damaged; the relationship will be rectified only by divine grace. Old Testament abounds in examples of godly and enterprising women - Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Naomi, Ruth, and Esther- to name a few. Prophets predicted that when the Messiah came, God would pour out His Spirit upon all men and women “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days”. (Joel 2:23, 24)
Jesus throughout his ministry demonstrated that in his everyday relationship women would have dignity, equality and justice that were theirs before the fall. Nobody can deny the fact that Jesus is certainly the first person who has advocated liberation of women. However, one does not find Jesus questioning the traditional gender roles of men and women.
St. Paul in his famous Charter of freedom in Galatians 3:28 say: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slaves nor free, male nor female, for you are alone in Christ Jesus”. Though each of these remains as separate and distinct entity, these social and sexual distinctions are irrelevant when one stands before God through faith in Christ without any discrimination at all. One of the greatest teachings of Paul was this teaching of the equality of men and women. Romans 16 and Phil 4:2 are fine examples of his commendation for the work of women. However, he taught that women must not exercise leadership over men. In Peter’s exhortation to wives and husbands, in 1 Peter 3:1-7, he requires a submission of wives to their husbands, while at the same time he affirms that they are ‘heirs with you of’ the gracious gift of life’ so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Paul in Ephesians 5: 21-33 exhorts husband and wife by comparing the husband as the head of his wife only in the same manner as Christ is the head of the Church. No one will doubt that the Church is subordinate to His head. In 1 Cor 11 Paul teaches about propriety in worship, allowing women to pray and even prophesy in church provided it falls within the ordered relationship between husband and wife; his point of view is derived from Genesis Ch 2. Furthermore in his command (1 Cor: 14) when he says that women should keep silence in the church he seems to debar women from holding dialogue with the teachers. However, he does not say, for a moment, that women are less educated or less able, but rather refers to the Genesis example that these questions should be for their husbands in their own homes.
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 1 Tim 2:11-15 has created a great deal of stir among people. Paul here discusses the question of women being teachers in churches: his prohibition relates to appropriate gender roles and not competence or ability’ again based on the Genesis story.
Let us look at the issue from the ‘other side of the coin’. Women are conscious and well aware of the New Testament themes that would silence them in church and subject them to male domination of the Graeco-Roman society, and which is perpetuated today as well. But Jesus speaks of an exodus to freedom, liberation to justice and equality, Jesus the source of all power, broke the cultural taboo that forbade men speaking with women (even to one’s wife in public). He touched the woman with polluting flow of blood; he had women friends and disciples too. Shouldn’t one take this as a yard-stick or plumb line to question and challenge those elements in tradition and practice that reinforce male domination, sexist pattern and practices that exist in culture, society and church.
In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. Is it then possible for the disciples- the Church - to be content with a relationship of inequality and dominance within the very church community that is to witness justice of God’s Kingdom? Is it not the mandate of the church to revision and revitalise the model community (church) created by Jesus Himself?
When one looks at the life of the early church, it is clear that women shared with men a vision of the Kingdom of God, characterised by the fullness of life, equality, freedom and love. Women exercised active role in the ministry of the church. Women were missionaries, apostles, church leaders, and Leaders of house-churches either alone or with their partners. This social model - radically different from the previous ones - created by Jesus flourished for a time in obedience to the Holy Spirit. In some of the Greaco-Roman centres, which were sufficiently distant from Jerusalem (geographically or otherwise), there were less pressure to conform to the norms set by the Jerusalem church.
The story of Lydia (a dealer in purple cloth) from the city of Thyatira (Acts 16:14, 40) gives a picture of how a new church comes into being, and that too called and led by a woman from the beginning. A similar picture is portrayed in Rom 16:1, 2 when Phoebe was sent on an important mission from one church to another. She was not just a ‘deaconess’ to women, but an official teacher and missionary in the church at Cenchreae. Acts 18:2-26, Rom 16:3, 1 Cor 16:19 show us contribution of Priscilla. She puts us in touch with the way the young churches lived. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila tent makers by profession lived in Rome until they were forced to leave.
Modern research points out that there was a large number of Christians in Rome before Claudius expelled them. So it was quite possible that Paul would have found a Christian community (church) already existing in the home of Pricilla in Corinth. Both Pricilla and Aquila accompanied Paul to Ephesus and worked in close co-operation with him. Later, they returned to Corinth Both Pricilla and Aquila was a couple with a strong missionary vocation and zeal; they worked to build up new churches. When the churches they built grew, they moved. One wonders whether there is any significance in the order of names given-Pricilla and Aquila and not the other way round.
There were also many evidences in the New Testament to show that women were equal partners in mission and ministry. There is also evidence that women exercised many priestly functions in the early communities, which later came to be part of the priestly ministry. Women founded and nurtured churches (1 Cor 16:19, Rom 16:3-5); women led the churches (Rom 16:1-2, 6: 12; Phil 4:2, 3), women actively participated in worship (1 Cor 11:5), women taught converts (Acts 18:26) women prophesied in the community (Acts 21:9). So one finds the equality of spirit in Acts 2:17 as fulfilment of the words of Joel 3:23, 24 showing evidence of ministerial co-responsibility, a message of equality, mutuality and service.
Looking back to history, one finds that women in roles such as teacher, prophet and founder missionary went against the cultural stream. So, by the second century, the organisation of the church was firmly controlled by male domination - hierarchical model of local bishop, presbyters and deacons - and the formal structure was based on the patriarchal institution of Judaism and Hellenism.
By looking at the various biblical references are we right in saying that the Apostles did not encourage women’s ordination? If so, was it because of inequality or was it because of the revelation of human relationship as seen in Genesis? Is there any inherent fear in men that they may lose their male domination? Are gender distinctions relative or absolute, a product or culture or creation? Should the church seriously consider the teaching of the Bible as a whole and see whether it warrants women’s ordination? Is the objection Biblical or just fear of breaking up with the tradition? Don’t we think, whether there is women’s ordination or not, what the church needs today is a renewed, revisioned and revitalised ministry with equal partnership of men and women in God’s service so as to reclaim our Apostolic Heritage?
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ROLE OF CHURCH LEADERSHIP
(An article published in ‘Professional fellowship’ Magazine of the Madhya Kerala Diocese Vol XIV January 1993,
before the election of the new bishop of the diocese. Subsequently it has been reprinted in some other magazines as well.)
Christ did not reveal a complete ready-made blue print for Church Order when he gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and other Apostles. It is stated in the Acts of Apostles that the Christians of that era turned the whole world upside down. It is not because of haphazard and random preaching of the Gospel by a handful of vigorous men but because of much planning and strategy to effectively to reach that generation. When we study the Epistles of Paul and Peter, who were commissioned by the Holy Spirit to organise local churches, and to tell them of God’s plan and pattern for these churches, we have a better understanding of Church leadership, especially the role of Bishops, Presbyters and Elders.
1Timothy 3: 1-7 is a key passage stating the qualifications of leaders; it is an important passage from the point of view of Church government. It deals with the man whom different versions of the Bible call the bishop, overseer, elder, presbyter. There are two terms elder (presbuteros and bishop episkopos) which describe the principal office-bearers of the Church and on whose conduct and administration the welfare of the Church depended.
The eldership had a long history, even preceding the constituted Church. In Numbers 11:6 we read of the appointment of seventy elders to help Moses in the administration of the people. The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Make them come to the Tent of Meeting that they may stand there with you”.
The Jews had their elders; they were the real leaders of the Jewish community. They presided over the worship of the synagogue, administered discipline, and settled disputes. They were the respected men who exercised spiritual leadership in the congregations; oversight over material affairs as well. The presiding body of the Spartans was called the qerousia (the board of elder man). The Romans used the term senate (which comes from senex meaning an old man) to describe their parliament. In England the man who looked after the affairs of the community was called alderman meaning the elder man.
The term bishop literally means overseer or superintendent and it has a long history. In 2 Chronicles 34:17. “They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.”
The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures used it to describe those who where the taskmasters (who were over the public works and public building schemes). The Greeks used it to describe those who were appointed to look after the affairs of the newly founded colonies. The Romans used it to describe magistrates appointed to oversee the sale of food within the city of Rome, and also those who were appointed by a king to administer the law.
Naturally, a question may arise: what is the difference between the two? The term elders (presbyteros) describe the leaders as they personally were the older, more respected men while Episkopos - the bishop - the overseer describes the function and duty to superintend the Church.
One of the important lessons we notice in the New Testament is that these leaders were formally set apart for their office. They were ordained (Titus 1:5) (“appoint elders in every town”) so that they were given due recognition and honour. They had to undergo a time of testing to prove their worth (1 Tim 3:10). “And let them also be tested first, then if prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons”). They were paid for their work (1 Tim 5:18) “the labourer deserves his wages”. They were liable to censure (1Tim 5:19-22). The above passage shows that these leaders were not novices, but respected and experienced men.
In the early church the office bearers had a double function - leaders as well as a servant. He is answerable both to God as well as to the people over whom he leads. He has a double duty of administration and instruction. Paul speaks of two other areas of responsibility: his home and the world. A man who could not properly instruct his family would not be able to train a church: He must have “a good reputation from outsiders (1 Tim 3:7) He must be a man respected in the day-to-day living beyond the four walls of the Church. Few things have hurt the Church more than the leaders who have failed in the obligations of the society.
Paul points out the key qualifications expected of a Christian leader. “If any one aspires to the office of a bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, and hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectable in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s Church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fail into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7).
When Paul says that he must be a man “against whom no criticism can be made” he means that he must set an extremely high standard, free not only from civil charge but also must be beyond criticism. Though it is a difficult stand to attain, it is an ideal we should strive to achieve. The qualification (“have been married only once”) may bring several interpretations. But the general meaning seems to be that he be a loyal husband preserving the purity of marriage vows, and the sanctity of the Christian home; he must be able to manage his household well.
Some of the other characteristics mentioned are as follows. Temperate literally means “not addicted to intoxicants” but generally it could mean temperate in all things; sensible sober minded, a rational self control’ a sound mind which always keeps its head; hospitable though he may become a prey to the never-do-well type of person, he must not allow himself to become inhospitable. In some of the writings of the early Church it was recorded that ‘the bishops ever ceaselessly sheltered the destitute and the ‘widows by their ministrations and ever behaved with holiness”; an apt teacher a necessary function in addition to that of preaching, he needs to have some training in the technique of teaching.
The underlying idea in all qualities mentioned in v3 is that of moderation and self control Vs 4, 5 deal with the qualities required for bringing up a family, which is very similar to that of superintending the Church. Here the church is thought of as household of God, and doubts whether it is possible for a man difficult to manage his own household would find it possible to administer the church. Vs 6, 7: it is possible that some of these men are liable to get a swelled head; they may be immature. It is necessary that their Christian faith should be suitably matured, and they must have a good reputation generally.
Apostle Peter, one who was very close to Jesus, a prominent figure in the early Church, an honoured and respected man because of his role in the formation of the first church in Jerusalem, one who preached the mighty Pentecost sermon speaks about Christian leadership in 1 Peter 5:1-7.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s suffering and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherd of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away....humble yourselves, there fore, under God’s mighty hand, that he lift you up in due time . Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Peter addresses his words to his fellow elders by setting down the dangers and privileges of leadership. Leaders are to care for the flock, should be properly motivated (willingly and not by coercion), should accept responsibility not as a matter of duty but with real compassion and love for others. Peter points out the high calling of leadership. He should not take any decision unbecoming of his office to obtain any personal gain. He should not be a dictator or a tyrant, should not be driven by the love of power and authority; he should be worthy example for his flock. Humility should be one of his special qualities in life.
Having looked into the biblical teaching of Paul and Peter regarding the choice, election or appointment of bishops, presbyters, elders or fathers-in-God it would be helpful to find out some of the essential characteristics the present day Indian Church should look for in such an important office. It is a known fact that all churches face the need for such situation at frequent intervals. Such a selection is normally vested as a combined responsibility of the clergy and laity. It is equally true to say that many a layman is not quite clear of the biblical teaching on the subject.
The present writer wishes to point out some of the salient requirements which ordinary laymen expect to see in “Father-in-God”. Though there are many, only four points are included (1) His spiritual life should be a source of inspiration for all. Although the office of the Bishop entails a considerable amount of administrative responsibility the most important characteristic should be his spiritual life, his devotion to the word of God, his personal prayer life and his submission to the will of God. (2) Authority of the Bible. The ordinary people look up to the bishop for guidance in all matters of faith and order based on the authority of the Bible. During the last quarter of this century the question of the authority of the Bible (Including the Confession of Faith proposed by the Churches) has been seriously doubted, questioned or even rejected by some theologians including the occupants of the high office of the Bishop. This situation has a lot of misunderstanding and confusion in the minds of many people. Very closely related to this idea is the question of the “uniqueness of Christ”. The Indian Church faces a serious problem in this regard because of the pantheistic and polytheistic religious teaching, in Indian philosophy and thought. (3)Prophetic vision. The Church leaders in the past have played a vital role in prophetic vision of the church the nation, the society and the individual. A time has come for the leadership to think seriously of their role in this regard. (4) Election propaganda and canvassing. When Paul says “If any one sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” he does not for a moment think that the aspirant should go or send his supporters from door to door or parish to parish for canvassing as a vote catching process as one sees in politics.
It is the earnest desire that those who hold the key to the election or selection of such a high office would prayerfully consider their Christian responsibility when the occasion arises.
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