How A Bishop Must Be Chosen – A Laymans Perspective

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

8. Good bishops are people of prayer and study of the Word. They are individuals who keep themselves spiritually alert and fresh. They lead from grace that is centered on Jesus Christ, and not out of ego, personal gratification, or in pursuit of any specific political agenda.

9. Good bishops have an inner humility. This is a spiritual grace that tends to get overlooked in our push-and-shove age. This humility allows them to be honest to God and honest with themselves. A terrific place to start when thinking about who might be a bishop for a diocese is Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 3.1ff.

10. A good bishop is someone who knows how to listen to and take good advice and wise counsel from Godly priests and laity.

11. We are a Church that focuses on the worship so much…if a bishop is present he tends to lead the service. This is not the top priority, but we need bishops who know the rubrics of the service and who can lead a service beautifully. I am not saying that they all should be melodious singers and chanters, but it helps.

A lot more can be said, but these are just some of the qualifications that we need to be looking for in those who are called to lead us, and we need to deliberately set the bar high. I expect those who lead to reflect Christ’s grace transparently — this should be so of priests and certainly of bishops. Many of our problems in the past generations have resulted from setting the bar too low. The sort of bishop that a diocese needs today is someone for whom Christ is their all in all, someone who is determined that the Gospel is not about the Church as an institution, but about the Kingdom of God.

May the Holy Spirit guide our Church and move our leaders to discern and chose the best men for the episcopate. Hab moryo l’eeto deelokh qadishto shayno w’shlomo – (Grant, O Lord, Your Holy Church peace and tranquility).


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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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