The Suitcase Politics Still Rules the Roost

The 'Suitcase' politics in the appointment of Bishops is reaching a point of absurdity and deviousness. In the Nandyal diocese, the elected panel for Bishopric was set aside by the Synod officers. The Moderator called a meeting of the Bishop’s Selection Committee to select one from among the panel as per the CSI constitution. But the meeting of the Selection Committee was cancelled in the last minute and the matter was referred to the Synod Executive Committee, which met in Bangalore. The Synod Executive, as per a cleverly crafted design, set aside the Bishopric panel to pave way for the appointment of a Bishop of their choice.

The reason for setting aside the panel was also not made known to the Synod Executive which met in Bangalore. Subsequently, certain allegations against the candidates were referred to the Court of the Synod. The term “court” refers to an institution that decides the merit of an allegation through a fair process of trial in which both parties have a chance to defend themselves. But the Court of the Synod, through an ex parte decision enabled the Synod Executive to reject the elected panel.

Sad to say, the candidates still have not been informed as to why their candidature had been rejected; instead the moderator had taken statements from them under duress. This is nothing but a travesty of justice. By this action, the Synod officers have been testing the waters to continue with their nefarious designs. (Read the open letter of Bishop Lawrence and the comments on it by Youth4CSI)

It is learned from reliable sources that the Synod officers are now planning to go the same route in the case of the panel for Bishopric in the North Kerala Diocese also. A lobby working in the Central Kerala Diocese with the tacit support of M. M. Philip and the cronies of Bishop K. P. Kuruvilla, are trying to create a smoke screen, spreading the canard that the election of the panel for Bishopric is invalid as the Diocesan Council that had elected the panel included Deacons, which is against the constitution of the CSI. This is nothing but an effort to fish in troubled waters and to bring in a “money bag” from the Central Kerala Diocese to the bishopric of North Kerala Diocese. In this context, we would like to enlighten the readers and the Christian public of the flowing facts:

1. Since the inception of the diocese, Deacons in active service were always members of the Diocesan Council. The 1984 Constitution of the NKD states (Ch 5/34-c): “Composition of the Diocesan Council: All Presbyters and Deacons in active service according to the Standing Service Rules of the Diocese.” The elections to the panel of the bishoprics of K. C. Seth, P. G. Kuruvilla, and K. P. Kuruvilla were made by Diocesan Councils constituted according to this constitutional clause. Nobody raised any objections regarding the validity of these elections.

2. None other than Mr. M. M. Philip was the observer to the Diocesan Council constituted as per 5/34-c, which elected Bishop Kuruvilla. He had not found any anomaly in this election. How does he now have a different reading of the situation?

3. The new constitution of the North Kerala Diocese, which came into effect on 10 February 2009 once again states that the Diocesan Council is composed of “All Presbyters and Deacons in active service of the diocese.” These re-statements of inclusion of the Deacons in active service are not without any reason. It represents the reformed historical legacy of the Basel Mission which did not have Bishops, but had a specific order of Deacons in addition to Presbyters that rendered active service in the church. This was all the more so in the context of not having enough Presbyters to shepherd all the parishes in the diocese. The Church of South India has always recognized separate constitutions for each diocese so that their distinct histories and traditions are respected and represented.

4. According to the CSI constitution Ch 5/5: “The Diocesan Council that exists at the time of the receipt of the mandate by the Secretary of the Council shall elect the panel.” Regardless of the composition of the Council, the panel for Bishopric was elected by “the Diocesan Council that existed at the time of the receipt of the mandate by the Secretary”. The election was held in the presence of synod observers and none had raised any concern.

5. If this election is null and void, and if the composition of the Diocesan Council is defective, all the elections that it had conducted must also be null and void including the election to the Synod. By the same argument, the Synod officers were elected by a defective Synod. They have no right to hold these offices.

6. The present Diocesan Council, which elected the panel to Bishopric in the North Kerala Diocese was constituted by the Synod appointed Administrative Committee of which the dual posts of Secretary and Treasurer were held by one and the same person, a close confidant of the CSI General Secretary, Mr. M. M. Philip, Com. Mohan Ancherry. Now the Synod cannot call into question the composition of the diocesan council which they themselves had directly constituted and about which they had never raised any question in this long history of association with CSI.

7. The question of composition that has been raised is purely of a technical nature; it does not make incursions into the rights of anybody or cause any inconvenience to anybody. When such is the case, it is to be prima facie rejected as arising from extraneous considerations that have nothing to do with justice or fair play or the life of the church. In cases like this, when the issue is purely that of technical nature, even the secular courts will respect conventions and precedence.

8. The Members of the present Diocesan Council who had not questioned this composition and who went along with the election cannot raise questions regarding the validity of the election at this late stage just because the result of the election was not in their liking. This is nothing but an effort to undermine the smooth running of the institutions of the Church and its democratic traditions.

It is as clear as day light that the present composition of the Diocesan Council does not in any way contravene the basic structure and content of the CSI Constitution and it had been consistently followed all these years without causing inconvenience or loss to anybody. It is our prayer that the Synod will not play second fiddle to these lobbies who are only interested in abuse of power for self-aggrandizement. The people in North Kerala Diocese had suffered enough under the rule of a despotic Bishop whose megalomaniacal ways had scattered ‘the sheep’ and destroyed congregations. If not for the sheep why do we need Bishops and Presbyters?  The Synod remained a silent spectator during these periods of turmoil. Why do we need the Synod? What service do they render to the people in the pew; how significant are they for the people who look for spiritual nourishment or lost in the vagaries of this world? The Synod and the Episcopacy in particular have become institutions that “tie up heavy loads and put them on the men’s shoulders.” People will no longer tolerate this nonsense; people are forced to think even of seceding and remaining independent. It is the future of our church that is at stake. Hope that the Synod officers will uphold the moral rectitude demanded of you and act with reason and probity and above all, as vicars of Jesus Christ.

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