It is rather unfortunate that bishop K. P. Kuruvilla, obsessed with his own self-importance, has been repeatedly exercising his ‘ecclesiastical authority’ to disrupt church services. On Sunday, 3 October 2010, without any prior notice to or invitation of the pastorate committee, the bishop, accompanied by Rev. Jacob John, Rev. Daniel John, Rev. Kurien Peter, Rev. Jacob Daniel and Rev. P. G. Denny (his five loyal henchmen who had been skipping their responsibilities towards their own “sheep” for the last few Sundays to accompany the bishop) laid siege on the CSI Christ Church, Elamkulam, and conducted a worship service against the wishes of the congregation. Anguished by the complete disregard shown by the bishop, the choir, the pastorate committee and large sections of the congregation boycotted the worship service.
As the congregation refused to enter the church in protest, the Bishop ensured that some of his loyalists from other churches in Ernakulam such as Jayan Samuel, Sawmini Jayan and Jacob Mathew filled the pew. In the ensuing melee and supposed “reconciliation talks”, the bishop declared the existing pastorate committee dissolved and a new officiating pastorate committee appointed. This was done when a newly elected pastorate committee has been awaiting confirmation and the whole matter regarding the rights of the pastorate remaining a subject matter before the court (sub judice). It is a matter of immense shame that the bishop and his loyalists left the Elamkulam church that day with the offertory.
While this apparently seems to be a matter of conflict between a bishop and a parish, both in the case of Kalamassery and Elamkulam, Save CSI has learnt that the conflict raises fundamental questions regarding the rights of parishes envisaged in the CSI constitution, which states: “every pastorate shall have general administrative authority within its area, shall have certain responsibilities in Church discipline, and shall have an opportunity of expressing its judgment both as to the appointment of its pastor and the selection of candidates for ordination from that pastorate. (CSI Constitution Chapter. 2-11)
The conflict arose in the context of the bishop’s disinclination to listen to the pleas of the congregations of Elamkulam and Kalamassery not to prematurely transfer their pastors without adequate reasons. Every delegation of both the congregations was met with abuses and threats. The case of Elamkulam parish was such that it was deprived of proper pastoral care for many years. In the context of the existing pastor retiring from service, a pastor with serious flaws in character was imposed on the parish. The parish objected to this and requested that they be given a better pastor, and until such a time, the existing assistant pastor be retained. However, for the bishop, transfers have been a means of showing his largesse to those pastors who remain loyal to him than meeting the unique needs and spiritual nurture of parishes. Hence, he did not feel the need to respond to the unanimous representations of the congregation, thereby forcing them to take recourse to legal remedies.
The officiating committee that has been constituted in Elamkulam church is in flagrant violation of the North Kerala Diocesan Constitution. The NKD constitution stipulates the conditions for dissolving a pastorate committee and then concludes: “the bishop after conducting the enquiry by a panel constituted of the Executive Committee members (not exceeding three) and if satisfied shall dissolve the Pastorate Committee and shall appoint an Officiating Pastorate Committee in consultation with the Executive Committee”. (NKD Constitution, Chapter 2/10) Certainly, members of the congregation feel that the bishop is capable of fabricating an enquiry commission report, but even that cannot be done without showing cause to the existing pastorate committee and the newly elected pastorate committee, who are awaiting confirmation. Moreover, this action has been initiated when various related matters are pending before the honorable courts, including the High Court of Kerala.
A Repeat of Ecclesiastical Arrogance
|Worship inside an empty church|
|Worship outside the church|
It is sad to note that under the leadership of bishops like Kuruvilla, the shepherding in the CSI is fast degenerating into the one that is described in Ezekiel, Ch. 34.
“The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”