Beyond Victory and Defeat

The sweeping victory against the incumbent administration in the elections to the positions of officers, the Executive Committee and other committees in the North Kerala Diocesan Council, has brought to us much relief in the struggle against a bishop who, like an elephant in musth, had been running amok and creating so much havoc in the life of our church. Like a raving maniac, he razed to the ground indiscriminately any person and institution that happened to be on his way and appeared to undermine his inflated ego. He was a source of torment to so many gentle and humble ‘sheep’; he summarily removed devoted church members from their primary membership in the church; he put to suffering many who served in church related institutions by vindictive and arbitrary transfers; he cowed down the clergy and made them toe his line by threats of punishments; he put congregations that refused to toe his dictates to immense suffering by denying them pastors and sacraments; he used a coterie of infamous henchmen for his clandestine land deals, starting of higher secondary schools, and other lucrative financial deals associated with the developmental activities of the diocese. The bishop had become a law unto himself. The sweeping majority that could be established against the bishop has delivered a blow to his designs and it has become certain that he cannot continue in his arbitrary ways and that he should act as per the constitution of the CSI and the diocese.
This victory is a warning to all erred bishops in the CSI that people have started to rise up and they will no longer tolerate their unholy and arbitrary ways, and that they will be made accountable for all their wrong doings. It also comes as a morale booster to many who are fighting the entrenched evils of bishoprics all throughout the CSI, convincing them what a sustained, prayerful and devoted campaign could accomplish. If what had begun with the first expose on the clandestine land deal in Thalikulam on January 14, 2010 by a frail and humble old man, Mr. George Kurien, has achieved so much within a period of one and a half years, it can only be the Lord’s doing.

What we have seen is the resurgence of the laity in the North Kerala Diocese and their coming of age. It has been proved to us what a devoted and resurgent laity could accomplish in transforming the church. Only a revival of the laity throughout the length and breadth of CSI can save it from its present degeneration and disintegration. So, it has become imperative on us to expand this model of campaign and networking to the other dioceses in CSI. We have also realized the price that had to be paid for the lack of vigilance by God’s people: “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. We need to continually remind ourselves and our fellow believers that a Bishop is only an Achen with a larger constituency and that they are not Thirumenis but Bishop Achens. Moreover, Achens are not any superior beings to laity, whose position is derived from the “pattom” (ordination) generously and reverently given to them by the community of believers, and therefore, they cannot ride roughshod over the laity with impunity. CSI does not subscribe to any theory of Episcopacy, but accepts “the historical episcopate in a constitutional form.” Within a feudal and patriarchal milieu, as that of ours, the bishopric can easily lent itself to become monarchical and dictatorial. In the hands of such power mongers as Bishop Kuruvilla, it can only be an instrument of self-glorification and domineering.

It is important that we should not glory in the apparent victory that we were able to win in the present election, but turn this occasion for glorifying God and with greater commitment work towards making God’s church what it ought to be. We cannot acquiesce in a change of leadership as it could well be a mere transfer of power without changing the way we think and act or run our institutions. We need to be continually vigilant and strengthen our laity fellowship across the diocese and beyond. Second, we should leave retribution to God; we should not keep any vengeance to the bishop. We should give all cooperation to the bishop to the extent that he would amend his ways and confine his role to that of a “father in God” and “chief shepherd”, instead of trying to interfere in the administration, particularly financial administration of the church. It is doubtful whether the bishop would be able to confine himself to such a spiritual role knowing his proclivities. But we should hold him in our prayers and expect the best from him. We should also leave to God’s judgment all those who have conspired and abetted in all his wrong doings.

What is apparently a moment of victory can be just the opposite. We all know the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. (I King 18:20-40) God gave him a spectacular victory over the prophet of Baal. The fire of the Lord fell from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings in response to his prayer. But a little later we find Elijah, despite his spectacular victory, under a broom tree, fearing Jezebel, depressed and saying to God, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.” (1King 19:1-8) Subsequently God asks him to refresh himself and run to Mount Horeb and stand before the Lord. Elijah did as God had told him and stood upon the mount before the Lord. Then we read, “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” The Lord appears to Elijah in a “gentle whisper” and in the sound of the gentle whisper God said to him to carry out certain tasks in history, in the context of the social and political realities of his time: “You shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimishi you shall anoint to be king of Isreal; and Elisha—you shall anoint to prophet in your place.” (1 King 19:15-16)

We may not be aware of the implications of these tasks demanded of Elijah; but it surely indicates to us that God’s presence need not be in our mountain top experiences; we may have to go and meet him in the demands of the valley. History belongs to those who are prepared to listen to the “gentle whisper” and in obedience take on the powers that be and work in ways that will undermine their evil designs. That is to bear ones cross and follow him. We cannot bask in an electoral victory; but, we have a prophetic ministry to complete and miles to travel before we sleep.

We should propose the following agenda to the new dispensation of the diocese:

1. The bishop should work within the framework of the constitution and a democratic polity. It is a mistake to understand authority as “power to rule over”, rather it is a privilege to serve and care for the sheep. It is sad that the bishop strays from the path of love and service shown by Jesus Christ, “the great shepherd of the sheep”. He should be at all cost restrained from interfering in financial and property matters. The bishop should not be allowed to undermine the democratic institutions of the diocesan structure.

2. Unfortunately, both in the CSI constitution and the constitution of our diocese, there is a centralization of power in the hands of the bishop in the diocese and the clergy in the pastorate. This must be carefully reviewed. However, it must be realized that these offices in the church derive their power from the people and all power comes from God; we are only its stewards. Any exercise of it for self-aggrandizement or destroying the other, rather than for ennobling and building up, is unchristian and must be controlled. The justice delivery mechanism in the diocese must be made effective, so that ordinary people in the pew, rather than the ecclesiastical leadership, can be at the center of the church’s life.

3. This is by no means to undermine the status and dignity of the specialized ministries in the church, particularly the ordained ministry. We do not want the role of the presbyters to be demeaned to that of a servant of the bishop. Their dignity and honor comes from their moral stature and we would like to see them uphold it and provide the kind of moral leadership we badly need in our church and society. In a situation where the bishop arbitrarily exercises his power to punish and transfer pastors at his whims and fancies, we cannot expect any clergy to be upright. It is important that there should be clearly laid out norms that are transparent and objective for the transfer of the clergy. In deciding the transfer, the pastoral board should exercise these norms in such a manner that the interests of the Clergy, the congregation and the diocese are considered. In the absence of such norms, there will be much sycophancy around the bishop and very little of earnest work to “tend the flock” under their care. New dignity, courage and fervor must be restored to the clergy.

4. We should not allow the properties bequeathed to us by our ancestors and the missionaries to be alienated either as outright sale or long term lease deed. They are also not to be used for any so called developmental purposes, but to serve the evangelistic cause for which they have been given to us. Development has become a misnomer for misappropriation of valuable assets and resources of the church. The properties of the CSITA belong to each and every member of the CSI. It is only in consultation with the local parish and only after seeking their consensus that the properties under their care can be sold or leased out. The advice of the property committee and the executive committee must also be sought. The trust laws should be strictly followed in effecting such land transactions.

5. The Church should earnestly search for and identify new areas of need to which we can respond in the compassion of Christ. The existing missions should be reviewed and revitalized, instead of carrying them forward as an adornment. Our evangelists must be well utilized and well paid.

6. The events of the past one year have brought into sharp focus questions regarding the rights and role of the congregation. Don’t they have a right to be consulted when their property is sold or leased out? Don’t they have a right to be consulted when their pastor is transferred or a new pastor is appointed? Are they only there to support the cultic ministries which are so guardedly preserved as the prerogative of the Clergy and remain in subservience to the ‘ecclesiastical authorities’? Who are they in terms of the mission of the church? After all who is the church? Is the church the hierarchy, the bishops and the clergy and other ecclesiastical structures and paraphernalia? Bishop Kuruvilla treated the congregations and their demands with much disdain and never acknowledged their central role in the ministry of the church. The ecumenical affirmation about the local worshipping community as the very place where the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church exists in its fullness must be affirmed and promoted to further the mission of Christ in the world. They are the vanguard in mission.

We are open to receiving more suggestions from all quarters. When we look back, we realize that God’s grace and guidance has been enormous. That does not mean that we did not have times of trials and difficulties. We are working with our own meager resources and the enormous good will from our friends. Most of them, without looking for fame or profit, have been unstinting in their support to us. We cannot at this time forget the labor of many noble souls, who were so convinced of the rightness of this cause that they were prepared to work day and night without seeking any reward. The bishop put many of them through extreme suffering. But they persisted. Two pastorates and its members in Elamkulam and Kallamassery are holding the fort despite all attempts by the bishop to cow them down by denying them sacraments and other ministries.

We do not underestimate the role played by many of the retired bishops, the moderator of the CSI, the Synod officers, the Synod appointed administrators, a large section of the clergy retired as well as in service, who acted with much understanding, forbearance, and determination in seeing us through this crisis period and making sure that democratic governance is restored to the diocese. The recalcitrance of Bishop Kuruvilla is unmatched and would wear out anybody with normal human sensibilities. We pray that the new officers, the administration and the executive be given the grace to face the daunting tasks ahead.

Victory should not make us arrogant or slothful. Our task only begins. The Laity Fellowship has been formed in response to the call of God to remind us of our Christian calling and election. It does not stop with a transfer of the governance of the church; it must continue to fulfill its prophetic role under all circumstances keeping God’s mission to the world in focus.

T J John,
Secretary, CSI North Kerala Laity Fellowship.


jeevan said...

If you have decided to travel with 'JESUS', no education mafia,land mafia,forest mafia, quotation goondas,police commissioners,criminal cases,illegal suspension from primary membership,vengeance against the innocent wives, assaults or political leaders will never touch even your HAIR or NAILS.I am a living example.
Our beloved bishopachan tried his level best to FINISH ME OFF.Lot of believers and school employees were prevented to talk with me or even look at me.I was considered as a 'TERRORIST'.My co-workers in the CSINKLF and CSIPASS were also abused,isolated.But we were SIMPLY travelling in the boat under the leadership of our commander 'JESUS CHRIST'.
Now my 'JESUS' taught him a lesson.
The whole keralites at home and abroad celebrated the fall of this BIG TREE.
But still WE LOVE HIM AND RESPECT HIM.Prepared to help him as we have done in his earlier days of the regime.
Because our leader is 'JESUS CHRIST'. Jeevanand John,Puthiyara,calicut.

sibin chacko,trichur said...

Who has win and who has lost?we the church members lost everything.our dignity,our peace and our property.
What we have to do further for the resignation of this bishop?
I am prepared to beg in the streets to collect some money for bishop for his future survival.
Can you please leave the office without making much strains to our hands?

jacobreginald said...

My dear brother Jeevan and other brothers and sisters who boldly faced the tyranny of the fake bishop, cheer up. We have suffered a lot under this man who is yet to go out of his office. On moral grounds, he should have quit the most sacred position on the declaring of the results. If he is a person integrity, he should have done that. God never forsake his children who believe Him and rely on Him. Let the entire population of our diocese realize the real issues and they should understand their responsibly. The Laity Fellowships task is not over. Now, all the secret deals made by this man should be brought out before the believers and all his unjustified decisions should be reversed. I take this opportunity to congratulate all the leaders of Laity Fellowship, CSIPASS and brothers and sisters who stood with us in Munnar all those fateful days.

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