The Vision For The Orthodox Church Of India

Written By: on Oct 6th, 2009 and filed under Columns.

They are

(i) the independence of our church from the control of any foreign ecclesiastical authority;

(ii) the validity of the re- establishment of the Catholicate in India in 1912

(iii) the legality of the constitution of 1934 and (iv) the validity of the elections of the Malankara Metropolitan including the present Metropolitan. We have achieved all these four objectives. Should we now carry on a vendetta against our own brothers who believe that they have made a correct choice of separating from the Malankara Church? Should we bother at all about giving up our claims for a few parishes, even if their number may be about 100 or so, if that is the price we have to pay for lasting peace? I wish to remind you that if we have to lose a 100 churches in the interest of establishing peace with our brothers, we will have no difficulty whatsoever in constructing even 250 new churches in their place in less than six months’ time. The Indian Orthodox church has the will and the financial capacity to construct 250 new churches to replace the churches we may have to give up as the price for peace. Our choice has not to be based on the number of churches we gain or lose but on the vindication of the principles for which our forefathers and we fought. For me the choice is clear and I place this proposition before you to ponder over. If you find this approach acceptable we should be able to get appropriate orders from the Supreme Court itself incorporating the conditions agreed to by both parties. The details can be worked out with the assistance of legal experts, once we accept the principles and policies I am recommending for the consideration of the church.

I would like to make two other points as well. My vision for our church is that it should develop into a cent percent national church. I wish to remind you that almost all the Orthodox churches in the world take pride in their national identities. In the larger family of Orthodox churches there are five churches known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches and they are all national churches. They are the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, the Armenian Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox church. We will have our honoured place among the five Oriental Orthodox churches which respect each other’s independence and where no church is subordinate to another. This is the right time to take a firm decision about severing the Antiochean connection in its present form and establishing friendly relations with the newly established Jacobite church recognizing it as a unit of our sister church, namely, the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Our new relationship with the Syrian Orthodox Church should be on the principle of complete equality similar to the relationship we have maintained with other Oriental Orthodox Churches. Terminating the over lordship of one Church over another is nothing new in the history of Christian churches. The Ethiopian church was once under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Coptic church of Egypt. The Armenian church was once under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople and later under the Patriarch of Russia. But in due course all these churches became completely independent of each other, without having to go through the horrifying and demeaning experiences which we had to for over a century. But let us not quarrel any more about what happened in the past. Let us draw the right lessons from the past and try to preserve our independence as the other Oriental Orthodox churches have succeeded to do.

In this connection I would like to remind my fellow members of the Indian Orthodox church that we should take pride in our identity as the national church of India. We have to remind ourselves and keep constantly informing others also that we were not converted to Christianity by colonial rulers like the Portugese or the English. Our ancestors have been Christians long before Portugal or England or Holland heard of the message of Jesus of Nazerth. We should also remember with pride that we are the inheritors of 5000 years of a glorious civilizational heritage.

Our ancestors wrote the Vedas and the Gita, and proclaimed the great truths of the Upanishads at a time when most of today’s Christian world was steeped in the darkness of ignorance. Therefore, we should be proud of our Indian identity and to be known as the Indian Orthodox church and not by its historic name of the Malankara church. What we propose to do with our church or our constitution is our concern and we are not bound by the opinions and views of those who have voluntarily severed their connections with the church. Simultaneously we should not also bother about what those who left the church do with their future. One more point for your kind consideration and with that I will conclude.

It is time that we have a close look at our forms of worship and see to what extent they can acquire greater Indian content. It is time that we have a good look at the ‘Thubaden’ we follow in our worship. We remember in the ‘Thubaden’ the names of several holy men about whom we know little. But surprisingly we have forgotten to include the names of even the five holy fathers who had held the eminent position of Catholicos of the East from 1912 through the process of election and democratic recognition.

In conclusion, I would plead with you that the time has arrived for taking some firm decisions about the future of our 2000 years old church. As I have already said, our vision is peace and friendship with the Jacobite group and absolute equality with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches including the Syrian Orthodox Church at Damascus. It is this vision that now beckons us for serious consideration and early action.

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1 Response for “The Vision For The Orthodox Church Of India”

  1. John Mathew, Toronto says:

    “The Malankara church found itself for the first time in its 2000 years history in danger of altogether losing its autonomy and having been reduced to the level of a unit under the Church of Antioch.”

    Has the author even bothered to study our history? For most of our history we never even had native bishops — we were previously *under* the Church of the East (Nestorian), and there’s no evidence they ever raised Indians to the episcopate. Yet the Jacobites and the Romans did — they were the first in recorded history to ordain Indian bishops. But the author has the gaul to claim we were under the yoke of Antioch.

    Yet more junk history, from pseudo-scholars. We were always a *unit* under others. We have nothing in our Church that was natively developed, no liturgy, no prayers, no nothing.

    The Armenians, the Copts, the Syriacs, and the Ethiopians all have their own traditions and liturgies, which attest to their antiquity. We have none of this, but we continuously harp on being an apostolic Church with a Catholicos equal to the Patriarchs of the other Churches. As the saying goes: “show me the money” — the evidence!

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