Drawing on CSI's Past to Chart its Future

One of the great tragedies  of church life in the CSI is that there is little knowledge of, and hence little respect for, the history of the church. This could be as true for the clergy as it is for the laity. Ideally the Sunday Schools should be transmitting some of this history to the older children to at least make the next generation aware of its heritage. But we all know that does not happen. This despite the existence within various Church institutions of brilliant and meticulously-maintained records dating back all the way to  the formation of the CSI and even earlier.

The Bishop Boycott Campaign dug a little into the CSI's historical past and found that the Bishop Cotton Schools, which have been the worst affected by the actions of the current bishop,  were not merely educational institutions but an intrinsic part of church life itself in days gone by. That makes what is happening to these schools now all the more tragic and regrettable.

Here is an extract from the February 1948 issue of The South India Churchman -- the official magazine of the CSI until the name was changed to CSI Life (anyone seen a copy recently!) a few years ago:

"The first council of the newly formed Diocese of Mysore, in the Church of South India, was held in Bishop Cotton School [Bishop Boycott Campaign note: presumably the boy's school], Bangalore from January 6th to 9th, 1948 under the presidency of the Bishop the Rt. Rev Premaka Gurushanta. About 200 representatives of the parishes, pastorates and institutes of the Diocese were present."

What is interesting about this account written by one Marcus Ward is that it provides an insight into the character of the Bishop of the day. Ward writes: "The Bishop who had opened the council by recalling  the members to the true vocation of those who represent the church, established his position as father in God by his simplicity, sincerity and wisdom  [emphasis added] in the leading of the devotion and the business of the Council."

Ward goes on to conclude: "In his closing message [the Bishop] spoke of the privileges and responsibilities of Christian living, recalled the Diocese to a new discipline of Bible reading and dismissed the members, bidding them in St. Peter's words: "Grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Comparing that first Diocesean meeting to what we know goes on today in the Karnataka Central Diocese, we can only hang our heads in shame.

Some of the earlier Bishops were also men of letters. Here's a web posting on Gurushanta's successor as Bishop, Norman Carr Sargant:

"Norman Carr Sargant (b 1909) trained for the Methodist ministry and went to India as a missionary in 1931 where he worked with the Methodist Mission in Mysore. He was chosen to represent the Mysore Methodists at the inauguration of the Church of South India in Madras in 1947. In the Mysore Diocese, Methodists were in the majority in the new Church of South India: of the total Christianity community, 17,000 belonged to former Methodist circuits, 4,500 to Anglican parishes and 9,500 to the South India United Church. After the death of the first bishop of Mysore, Premaka Gurushanta, in 1950, Sargant was appointed the next bishop and was consecrated in 1951. He was Bishop of Mysore until 1972 when he returned to England. During his retirement he wrote his memoirs which include details about the Mysore State and the Methodist Mission and the political and ecclesiastical events which led up to Indian independence and the creation of the Church of South India in 1947 and to the beginnings of the Mysore Diocese."

We wonder how many of today's bishops will write about events in their Diocese after their retirement. On second thought, given the kind of illegal activities many of them are engaged in and how little respect they command, it is perhaps better they don't put pen to paper.

Yours in Christ

The Bishop Boycott Campaign Team (Boycott Bishop Campaign)

P.S. The Bishop Boycott Campaign would like to hear your thoughts on the history of the CSI and its relevance today. Do write to us at time2savecsi@gmail.com

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If you wish to know more about the campaign or get an earlier article/posting in this series email your request to time2savecsi@gmail.com


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