How A Bishop Must Be Chosen – A Laymans Perspective

Written By: on Dec 26th, 2009 and filed under Columns, Episcopal Election, Opinions.

Church’s Report

After the Church has examined the responses to the questionnaires, a ‘bishop-electing panel’ should prepare a final list of qualified candidates and write a report extracting and synthesizing the content of the consultation and giving their own judgment. The report must be sent to the Holy Synod, and no bishop sees the report unless he attends the Holy Synod convened.

Holy Synod

When the report arrives at the Holy Synod, the members discuss the appointment under the chairmanship of the Catholicos. The Holy Synod should finalize the best candidates. If there are only five qualified candidates for the five positions, well and good, but if there are more than five able candidates, election should not be our option.

The Catholicos

In the case of more able candidates than positions, the Catholicos should send out a Church wide kalpana to all parishes to observe 3 days of fasting for the need to choose bishops. After three days, let HH the Catholicos request the faithful (men, women and children) and clergy to gather for a Holy Liturgy. During the Holy Qurbana the names of the able candidates should be in a vessel on the altar. In the midst of the liturgy, offer litanies and draw names from the cup. Why have we become a church where we talk about being so liturgical but we do not value the spirituality of our services? This is how at the end, the church, led by the Holy Spirit, makes the appointment. Our way of choosing bishops today is a mockery of democracy and church canons.

We are a liturgical church and we must chose names from the ‘final list of able candidates’ during the Divine Liturgy. Let us see how the former saintly Patriarch of Alexandria, Kyrillos VI, was chosen to become the Patriarch.

There was no patriarch on the See of St. Mark at the time of the election of Kyrillos VI, and therefore Metropolitan Athanasios was the locum tenens as Deputy Patriarch. There were many bishops under him. As a preparation for the election, Metropolitan Athanasios made a nomination list, and all nominations were on behalf of spiritually outstanding monk-priests who never knew they had been in the list of nominations. There were no bishops in the list. Nominations were submitted on behalf of Fr. Demian, Fr. Angelos, Father Timotheos, and Father Mina. Having later known about his nomination, Father Mina declined to be part of this process. Having heard about this the Deputy Patriarch called Fr. Mina and asked him:

“Father Mina, why are you not part of this election?”

“Your Holiness, … may the Lord choose a good shepherd to guide His people with piety and purity of heart.” Father Mina replied.

“You should not have missed this duty.”

“Who am I but a little worm, to even consider this glorious and serious responsibility, and carry its enormous trusteeship, which should be given to a divinely chosen person, and not to whomever wants it.”

“But, I still did not hear your answer as to why you did not allow yourself to be nominated and allow the Lord to choose according to His will.”

“Your Holiness, all my fathers, the monks, who were nominated, are suitable for this critical position. But as for me, I am content with the Lord’s grace that is with me.”

“Father Mina, I am submitting a nomination for you.” “ … but where would the lowly stand among kings?’ “The Lord can lift the poor man from the pits to seat him with the principals of His people.”

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3 Responses for “How A Bishop Must Be Chosen – A Laymans Perspective”

  1. This article is a very good resource for a change in how governance takes place in our church. I completely agree with Tenny with the fact the so-called “Democratic” way of choosing the future leaders of the church lacks the spiritual presence of God. When the leaders of Israel in the Old Testament were chosen by GOD, the divinty of the action was evident. When the first Kings of Israel were chosen by GOd their nature immediately changed and were filled by the Holy Spirit. This will happen only when the leader is GOD’s chosen person and not chosen by mans thinking alone.

    All said, I sincerely pray that whoever is chosen enjoy GOD’s blessings and leads the church the way GOD wants his church to be.

    Mathews Ninan, Dubai

  2. V.Varghese Mathew, Auckland says:

    In the present circumstances, it is very difficult to change the system our church follows. The reason is ‘the rabbit I caught, has got 3 horns’. Look at the enthusiasm of our Bishops after they become one.

    Out of the 26 Bishops we have today, only ten are members of monastery like Bethany Ashramam, Mt.Tabor Dayara, St.Pauls Mission etc. The rest are not attached to any and we can expect some private monasteries in the making!

    In the next batch due for election, six out of the eleven are from established monasteries. So if more numbers who are not from a monastery are elected, we can expect an increase in the number of private monasteries, but not its members. At the rate of the decline in growth of the Christian population especially in Kerala such private monasteries will probably last until the time of its founder. The reason for established monasteries like Bethany Ashramam, Mt.Tabor Dayara, St.Pauls Mission etc. has not become extinct is because, these were founded with the blessing of the Church for its growth.

    Every candidate attended into the seminary is representing a Diocese or an organization. We see a trend of Priests shifting dioceses after they are ordained. Unfortunately our Bishops are responsible for this happening. Fortunately, our Angamally Diocese has not been affected much inspite of its problems. There is nothing wrong in sending a Priest for higher studies or for a short period abroad. But what normally happens is once they are airborne they don’t feel like returning and some resort to unethical things to continue. I understand from my daughter who is in U.S, that there are US born seminary educated deacons hanging around in search of a parish, while there is no stop in import of priest from Kerala.

    In the southern dioceses we see stiff competition to get into the Seminary. I met a boy who is now studying in a College here. He is a Priest aspirant from South and couldn’t get through this time. Unfortunately the Bishop who took him passed away and he is at the mercy of the new Bishop. I asked him why don’t you join the Angamally Diocese. He said No. I wanted to become a Priest of my diocese. Hope he maintains the same enthusiasm for his diocese throughout his life.

    There are more number of Priests from Southern dioceses working abroad as compared to Northern dioceses. As a result Priests, who are basically from south, but got admission through the quota of northern dioceses like Kunnamkulum, Malabar, Sultan Battery etc. return to their original diocese to fill the gap. There are one or two exceptions. Due to this, there are churches without regular service in the Northern dioceses and people go to churches where they find a priest. Atleast I know personally more than a dozen families from the diocese of Malabar and Sultan Battery who have joined other churches because they have regular service. This number is on the increase. There will always be excuses for the clergy. The reason why we see more professionalism and less spiritualism in this career is because, most of the Priests have not come through a monastery.

    With regard to a celibate Priest, as a matter of discipline, the church should ensure to, when he decides to become a celibate Priest, get him enrolled as member of one of the established monasteries. Let him spend atleast a year there and then only ordain him as a Priest. We have atleast a dozen monasteries in our church. The reason why most of them don’t want to become is because of their aspiration to be a future bishop candidate. If you are part of a monastery, then as per the present rule, only one can contest the Bishop election at one time. The senior most gets the nod in most cases unless he is not interested, whereas if you are on your own you can contest any number of times with the help of a few laymen.

    I have noticed in the Diocese of Kandanad East, two young celibate Priests were made Rambans. I find this as an encouraging sign. Atleast one can differentiate them as Celibate Priests. Moreover they will have a feeling as celibates. Otherwise, what is the difference? Today many of our Priests are not particular in wearing their vestments in public outside Kerala. For most of them it is just a duty dress. The beard they have is also trimmed to suit their convenience. I have seen the photos of all the bishop aspirants, out of which a few had well trimmed beards. Recently I met two of them on different occasions. It took a few minutes for me to recognize them because they have stopped trimming their beard.

    Meanwhile, in the Exit polls for Bishop Candidates, the status of a Priest from the most known monastery of our Church is almost at the bottom, inspite of his qualifications, teaching experience at the Seminary, administrative skills and transparency. The reason being, as he was part of the monastery, he has to follow the rules and regulations in it and couldn’t venture into the world to market himself. As a result, people say, we do not know him and in all probability will end up with fewer votes.

    About 4000 people assemble for the election on behalf of 2.5 million members of our church to elect 7 candidates. After the election all the elected will be in seven different ways and will hardly join together for the interest of the Church.

    Whom should we blame for this? If you sit back and analyze the reason for our church still lagging behind in many a field is because of in not identifying and putting to use the available talents. We have heard the screening committee utilizing the latest techniques including mental test for selecting the 14 Bishop Candidates. Infact this sort of tests should be carried to every Seminary aspirant as part of the entrance Exam. Catch them young if you can!

    V. Varghese Mathew, Angamally

  3. SamThomas says:

    The article by Tenny Thomas deserves great appreciation.May Almighty God open the eyes of MOSC hierarchy to conduct Bishop Election in Godlyway rather than boasting democracy in church by imposing new rules and spending lot of money in conducting MSC Association and other formalities every year for Bishop Election .

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