Indian Theologian Blasts Duplicity of CSI Moderator's Easter Message
Thomas Oommen Presents False Image of Church of South India to Anglican Communion via ACNS
By David W. Virtue, DD
April 18, 2017
An Easter message by the newly elected Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI) Thomas K Oommen, was branded an "empty speech" devoid of any truth about the true state of the CSI, which an activist orthodox Anglican theologian says is embroiled in political as well as financial corruption and fraud.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph G. Muthuraj, resident of Bangalore, responded to the Moderator's message and argues that the Easter Message published by the Anglican Communion News Service (http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2017/04/easter-message-from-the-moderator-of-the-church-of-south-india.aspx) comes as a "total surprise" to members of the CSI, "You have never spoken in this manner to a CSI audience when all the bishops were present," Muthuraj expostulated.
The theologian criticised the Anglican leader, accusing him of speaking with a "double-tongue"; giving one message to the international community to earn a good name, and another message to his own national community," for public consumption.
He added, "This projects a false image of ourselves to the Anglican Communion when the Anglican Communion is fully aware of the crisis situation of the CSI which is embroiled in corruption and fraud."
Dr Muthuraj squared off against Oommen in the following exchange.
Moderator TK Oommen: "...today sociologists and theologians understand voice not only as a physiological phenomenon but also as an integral part of a sociological self of an individual or community. In a world where many voices are silenced and suppressed within various power structures."
Muthuraj: Your message is basically calling the churches to liberate the silenced voices and listen to them, rings false. ARE YOU DOING IT IN THE CSI? ARE THE BISHOPS WITH YOU IN THIS ACT OF LISTENING? If all of you are not, then it is a bogus message designed for a foreign website of a distant country.
Moderator: 'I believe Easter... have a unique message for us: "Easter: Celebrating Risen Voices."'
Muthuraj:This is not the case with the CSI. In some dioceses, speakers and protesters against the corruption and maladministration of the Church were punished severely without mercy by the bishops of those dioceses. Some of them were expelled from committees and even dismissed from pastoral ministry/episcopal ministry. Excommunication and threats of excommunication are the weapons used against the laity who hold opinion and share those opinions with others. This has happened in an alarming manner in the following dioceses: Krishna-Godavari, Medak, Vellore, Kannyakumari, Coimbatore, South Kerala, etc.
In one case a senior presbyter was kicked out from his job in Krishna-Godavari diocese by a former Moderator, when the presbyter's wife along with her daughter went to meet and plead with the Moderator for reinstating him. A most unpleasant treatment of the woman took place by the Moderator. When she raised her voice in public about the indecent treatment she received from the man, the Moderator branded her mentally deranged. This woman's voice has been suppressed until today.
If you truly believe in justice and "liberating the silenced voices", please bring all of them back and ask those bishops to withdraw their termination letters. I appeal to you that you give the job back to the terminated pastor in Krishna-Godavari diocese and pay his salary-- he has not been paid for the last three years. Retaliatory actions (at times as cruel as Roman persecution) against those who speak publicly on the misdeeds of bishops are taken immediately with irreparable damages done! Never undo the sublime voices!
Moderator: "In Palestine, during Jesus' time, there were mainly two categories of people: the dominant and the dominated. While the dominant few included the politically, religiously and economically powerful, the rest of the population, who were the majority in number, comprised of the poor craftsmen, rural priests, farmers, fishermen, day-laborers and socially marginalised groups. The voices of the latter group were suppressed and silenced by the former, the dominant few, which included the high-priestly clan (controlling the Temple in Jerusalem), the Herodians (ruling Palestine at Rome's order and owning more than half of the land) and a small number of other land-owning Jewish aristocrats. It is important to note that Jesus was born into a community, whose voice was silenced by the powerful, and that He had a definite politics against those oppressive structures that had silenced them."
Muthuraj: You identify those dominating classes during the time of Jesus which overpowered the voices of the poor, farmers, artists, rural priests and fishermen. You rightly say that the dominating classes of people are the dominant few, which included the high-priestly clan (controlling the Temple in Jerusalem), the Herodians (ruling Palestine at Rome's order owning more than half of the land) and a small number of other land-owning Jewish aristocrats. The truth is, this illustrates what is happening in the CSI today!
The Constitutional changes imposed on the people of CSI last year were done by suppressing the voices of protest from all corners of the CSI. Now, constitutionally, people's voices are subdued by the dominant few and by the Moderator holding pontifical powers through the Constitutional amendments and new by-laws.
The new Constitution says that every presbyter is constitutionally required to obey the bishops. In an inquiry into the allegations brought against a bishop, the bishop concerned is allowed to speak and defend only towards the end of the trial, when almost the charges are decided as established. In almost all dioceses, the voices of the opposition are throttled and undemocratic measures are taken to disenfranchise the opposing individual or group so that they cannot contest in church elections.
Here is an example from a letter of Appeal written by a group of members of the Dornakal diocese on April 13, 2017. They write, "If anybody talks, he will be punished. This is the nature and administrative status of the Bishop." This applies pretty well to all the bishops of the Church of South India.
During the Synod meeting, the new constitution says the following: 'No member without the permission of the Moderator shall speak more than once' 'Debate will be inadmissible', 'No debate or Remark shall be allowed' 'Normally, no member will speak more than five minutes'. This is the CSI of arrogant Moderators who think and act and believe they are infallible and beyond any probe or question. Is it not suffocating the voices of the consciousness of the faithful?
Even the children of the bishops and former Moderators are powerful and it is a sorry situation that Mr. Vimal Raj (son of bishop Sugandhar) is using all possible illegal means to stop the Serious Fraud Investigation Office investigating the account books and the property dealings of the CSI Trust Association. The poor petitioners who had cases against the CSI/CSITA in the past seeking justice were either threatened and forced to withdraw their court cases or they were offered/given heavy bribery sums of money. So far this evil has been victorious in the CSI/TA. Is this not scuttling the official voice?
Moderator: "Ultimately these oppressive structures, through crucifixion, tried to silence Jesus Himself; but He emerged victorious over them. And this remains as a hope for each one of us to continue our struggle against all kinds of unjust and oppressive structures that deny life, suppress identities and silence voices."
Muthuraj: This is what will happen in our fight against the abuse of power by powerful bishops and the fraudulent activities committed by the corrupt financial/property managers. We urge you to fulfil this hope in very practical terms as a bishop and Moderator to redeem the CSI/TA from the current crisis. Take measures to allow the Government appointed Serious Fraud Investigation Office to conduct its investigation in all the dioceses and the educational institutions, free and without intervention so that all those who were involved in illegal financial dealings and dubious sale of church properties will be identified, prosecuted and punished. Listen to the voices of the victimised!
Moderator: "...the mission of the CSI has always been committed to struggles against the forces of death and that struggle will continue."
Muthuraj: The forces of death are at work in our account books, property sales, election/selection of bishops, and the luxurious life-styles of the bishops who are competing among themselves at present as to who can buy the costliest car for themselves, even when the diocese is suffering from lack of funds, unable to pay presbyters' salaries. Why don't you exterminate those forces of death that are active in ruining the fabric of CSI's life and witness? The problem is not just ecological injustice but all forms of ecclesiastical unrighteousness. This is the people's voice!
Moderator: "Let Easter 2017... become an opportunity for the Church of South India to witness the resurrection of many voices, constantly submerged by the dominant forces."
Muthuraj: We urge you to put it into action and show it in and through your episcopal ministry. Start listening to those voices that are crying in the wilderness and are speaking into deaf-ears for many years now. If you are sincere and serious about what you have said in your Easter message to the ACNS website, then let there be reformation in the CSI right now. If not, your message will remain an EMPTY SPEECH!
The Rev. Dr. Muthuraj, is a former member of St. John's College, Durham and a graduate of the University of Durham, UK. Through his publications, he has been established as a CSI historian who currently writes on the relationship between the united churches and the Anglican Communion. He has been one of the strongest voices in the global theological communion appealing for a renewal of Episcopacy to bring an end to the corruption in the Church of South India.
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