Any One Listening?


Any one in our world listen to what the world is talking about us Christians? See this by clicking on the link below (SF MC):

SF MC

Advertisements

My Dubai Visit


I was in Dubai from July 6th to 9th on a personal visit. I conducted  Evening prayer and convention on Thursday, Holy Qurbana on Friday morning and addressed a OCYM gathering on Friday after H. Qurbana. Few pictures (Thanks to Rinu Thomas).

Self Financing Christian Medical Colleges and the Church


This note was originally posted in Icon Digest No. 4260

I have been following discussion in our forum regarding the recent developments in the field of self financing medical education institutions in Kerala run by Christians. There were questions and clarifications. I am sorry to note that much of the reasoning in this matter was done from an economic point of view.

The Christian management has no right to talk about profit and loss just on economic terms. No one ever forced Christian communities or individuals to start and run a medical college. If some interested people had to start that, let them do it and let them deal with the government according to their wisdom and ability. But when Christian community starts and runs a medical college, any institution for that matter, it has to be on Christian principles alone and not on economic principles.  Christian principle is quite known to everyone.

Jesus Christ was in our midst at a time when there existed a social system where religious leader of Jerusalem used religion to cater to the interests of the wealthy and powerful, priests and Levites included. Jesus organized the fishermen, the sinners, the outcasts and marginalized and gave them education. The Sermon on the Mount was a free educative process. There on the one hand, he demolished the centuries old misinterpretation of God’s purpose and on the other hand gave value and meaning to the lives of neglected people. He used every other occasions He had at hand too to educate them. He asked his disciples to give freely what they got fee. Of course he had few wealthy friends too like Simon and Zaccheus. But he either rebuked their arrogance because of wealth and or he got them converted. He did not miss an opportunity to condone the attitude of the profit making powerful people. The message of the Gospel of Christ was “good news to the poor”.

The constitution of India gave special provision for the minorities to become equal in status with the majority through education. So minority educational institutions are meant to cater to the specific needs of the minorities. When Christian principle is applied on such privilege, the poor candidates in minorities should get preference in admission in those institutions. Those wealthy members of minority community can get admission any where else paying regular fee. When the ministry of Mr. A. K. Antony gave permission for private medical colleges the understanding was that these institutions will work with a two is to one ratio giving 50% of the seats to those candidates from the merit list prepared by the government. 50% can be used by the management. We are no one to say how individual non-Christian management would admit students to that 50% seats. But for Christian management the above said Christian principle should guide them.

Now there are two possible questions: One is where does the money come from, to run these institutions? The second question is, how can you admit poor students if they did not find a place in the merit list since they will not be able to perform well in their studies?

Let me try to answer these questions one by one.

The resource of the Church has always been the faithful believers. May be rich will contribute more and poor less. But the money comes from the people. Those rich people who contribute to the Christian institutions should not see their investment like their investment in business (following the model of St. Thomas, these investments should be for the benefit in the Kingdom of God). What they invest in Christian institutions should be seen as a missionary work on their part for the sake of their faith in Christ. We may be reminded of Jesus’ comment about the poor widow who offered the least coin in the temple offertory. If a particular Christian community wants to run an institution, then they should ask the people for money to establish that (MMM hospital, Kolenchery was established in 1960s with the money from common people). Of course I am not saying that undeserved beneficiaries of these institutions should not pay for what they get from these institutions. What I am saying is, a poor candidate should not be denied service in these institutions because they cannot take huge financial commitment for their education. Liberation of the least accounted is the goal of any Christian institution.

The answer to the second question can be given from my experience in the ministry. Most of the time those who get high grade in exams are those in cities and those from financially well to do families. Those who do not come in these categories do not usually get enough resources and atmosphere to get their children quality education. So they cannot do well in exams. Of course, there are exception like the one who got first rank in B.Tech exam this year. But that is only a small percentage. Most of those students who come from financially poor families, because of their family and otherwise environment, will not be able to do well in exams. Here again our Christian responsibility need to be shown. Why people are poor? We may have all kinds of reasons. But our Lord had only one reason Jesus, “those in upper strata put heavy burdens on their shoulders, and never cared to make it less”. If the Church had tried to show a better Christian attitude, I am sure many of these would not have been so backward (I here do recognize that lot of work has been done by Christian community in helping the poor. But our work will not find end till there are no poor any more. I am not talking about just financial help alone). In professional education field also we have to help people liberate themselves in their life. We must consider how Christians in Kerala became such an upper strata people? It was solely because of those kings who gave special consideration and privileges to Christians. We, of course used it. But what about those less fortunate ones who were always subject to stratification, enslavement, humiliation and sidelining.

One more thing. When we talk about NRIs we should remember that most of them are not very wealthy people to give the huge capitation required by medical college managements. What is our concern for those low income group among NRIs? Don’t they have dreams about their children? Are they there only to give donations when bishops, priests and politicians visit them? Are they going to be “Neglected Residents of India”? We also should remember that many of the Churches and institutions in Kerala were established with the money of middle class and lower middle class NRIs who work under extreme conditions. Don’t we have any concern for their children?

My personal appeal to all those who are in responsible positions in Inter Church Council is to look at Christ and His mission. Let not financial goals blind your eyes. Run institutions only if you can mobiles finance from the people both for establishing and also for running it after we give consideration to less fortunate ones. Let us not become a laughing stock in public. We Christians are a community gathered together around someone who surrendered all His rights for the sake of the rights of those who did not have any right. This was not for us to have rights of our own, rather we may work to protects the rights of those who were denied their rights. We may die that those who do not have life may live. We may have to lose that some one who was lost may be found.  Look at the world scenario. People do not go to Church any more in the west. Not because there is no Church building or institutions anywhere near by, but because they have lost their faith in the Church due to the way they ran the affairs of the Church. In India people come to Church not because our merit, but because India has a strong religious tradition and we have inherited that tradition. Just remember the words of Dr. Radhakrishnam our former president, “Christians are ordinary people who make extra-ordinary claims”. Let us not forget that the one who grafted us is able to cut us off too. Let us humble ourselves and work for the establishment of the kingdom of God rather than our own kingdoms.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Corruption Chart of India since1947


Here is a chart of major corruptions in India since independence

Article in Souvenir of NE America Diocese


A Church of Christ with Humans

Introduction

Certain leaders of the community of Jews came to Jesus and asked him “Is it lawful for one to divorce his wife”? Jesus’ answer was “In the beginning God created them man and woman… therefore what God has joined let no man separate”. The question before us today is, ‘can we separate women from the stewardship of our Church for any reason’?

Our Church

Christ was preached in our part of the world in AD 52. Since then, lot of changes have happened in our Church and society. One of the main changes that happened was in the field of education. With education, those who were in the periphery of our society and were discriminated against came up to the main stream and became integral and active parts of the community. This is what happened in the case of what is called outcasts and untouchables of India and Native Americans, Afro Americans and Hispanics of Unites States. We also have seen so much progress in the area of science and technology. With this, several of the older inhibitions and misconceptions were removed. Several things and people who were venerated as divine lost their glory. We have a world ‘come of age’

These changes were, to some a matter of threat and to others a challenge. The question is how do we look at them?

Our Church also has seen several changes since the time of its inauguration in Indian soil. Even while Malankara Church adopted spirituality, liturgy and theology of West Syriac tradition, we became an independent and self governing Church in 1912 with the establishment of the Catholicate and later with the adoption of the constitution in 1934. These happened even before India and several countries in the world, that had colonial rule, became independent.  But the question is freedom of the Church means freedom of whom, men alone?

In our Church women participate equally and actively in most of the activities of the community. But when it comes to the question of their participation in the administrative or stewarding bodies we become discriminative. My attempt here is to have a fresh and unbiased look in to the possibility of women getting equal right in the administrative and stewarding affairs of the Church. We shall look in to the issuer from various angles.

Jesus and Woman.

Jesus was born in to and lived in a male dominated community, where Abraham was the father and Sara had no honour (though it was because Sara became not barren they became a community). However, Jesus he did not share that sentiment. Gospel writers give us enough proof to establish Jesus’ positive approach to the dignity of women. His attitude to foreign women (Matt. 15:22 ff.; John 4:7 etc.), to the woman who had excessive bleeding (Mark 5:25) are few among many examples. He did not exclude woman from his audience (Luke 10:38 ff., though disciples did cf. Matt. 14:21). He considered women also as children of Abraham (Luke 13:16 ff.). His approach to the woman caught in adultery is another example (Luke 14:16ff.). Among his followers we can see a large number of women. On the top of it the first Apostle to the resurrection of Jesus was women (Matt. 26:17 ff.). Jesus while answering the question regarding divorce, it is worth noting that he took the first chapter explanation of creation in the book of Genesis and not the second chapter explanation which says woman was created from man.

Further Biblical Testimony.

There are people who use biblical passages to talk about women’s subordination. It is argued on the basis of 1 Tim. 2:8-14 that women cannot be given active role in the affairs of the community of believers. But this would not be accepted by God according to the Biblical testimony. We see God punishing not only woman, but man too in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:16ff.). Again the subordination spoken as part of the punishment was as a result of the estrangement from God (Gen. 3:16). But for a saved community this cannot be the case. Moreover, Paul elsewhere says that ‘there is neither male nor female in Christ’ (Gal. 4:26-28). He also calls Jesus as ‘the second Adam’ who corrected the fault of the first man (1 Cor. 15:22, 45). Paul had several women co-workers in proclaiming the Gospel (Act.18:26; 21:9; Rom. 16:3; 1Cor. 16:19; Philip. 4:3).

Of course there was no woman among the 12 apostles of Christ. It was most probably to make the ministry more effective in a male dominated society. But we cannot forget that Jesus chose women to speak to his disciples about his resurrection (Matthew 28:9, 10). According to St. John 1:12, Jesus gave the right to be children of God to everyone (including women of course), though in Judaism this right was reserved for men only. Holy Spirit was bestowed on all on the day of Pentecost and all of them were “in one accord” without any discrimination what so ever (Acts 2:1 ff.; Joel 2:28 ff.). Acts 9:36 calls Tabitha a disciple of Christ. Romans 16:7 calls Junia a famous apostle. Acts 12:12 talk about the mother of Mark as a faithful steward. Passages like Acts 16:14-15, 40; Col. 4:15 and Philippians 4:2 talk about women like Lydia, Nymphas, Euodia and Syntyche as all co-workers of Paul. It is a historical fact that all Churches did not share this sentiment. But the general trend during the Biblical times was to have women as equal participants in spreading the gospel.

Fathers of the Church

To St. John Chrisostom what Paul said 1 Cor. 14:34 was something to be applied in all churches. St. Thomas Aquinas in support of this says, ‘man is the perfect creation and woman is always the representative of Eve’. This is supported by St. Augustine too. However, he quoting Rom. 16 and 1Cro. 7:16, calls woman ‘the most honourable creation’ as well.

St. Ambrose referring to Elizabeth, says, ‘Jesus is able to make a woman prophetess even while he was in the womb of his mother’ (Book 4 Ch.9 para 115). St. Clement of Alexandria says, “In Christ the qualities of woman and man are the same because God of both is the same (ch.4). St. Gregory of Nazuanzus asks, ‘why there should be two standards for woman and man in marriage?’ (orations 37:6. Ref. 1Cor. 14:34). The only reason he can see is that ‘it was man who made the law’. He categorically says that he does not approve this law. He says, ‘anyone who does not honour woman is cutting off the root of the family’. Similar is the opinion of St. Gregory of Nyssa also. For St. Ignatius of Antioch, ‘if you dishonour a woman, you are dishonouring the mother who gave birth to Jesus’.  However, Martin Luther who initiated Protestantism did not approve any of these. According to him, ‘the only role of woman is to get pregnant and bear children’. I think we need to take the opinion of Nazianzen who laid the foundation of Orthodox theology in this regard. We can also see that most of the fathers of the Church were against any kind of discrimination against women.

Theological Position.

In our baptismal liturgy, after the baptism of children, while the baptized is blessed, the celebrant would say, ‘Lord God, this child who is perfected as a sister/brother to your only begotten Son….’  St. Paul considers the Church as the body of Christ and each member individual organ of the same body (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12; Eph 1:23). We are made so through baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). By this we also become participants in the same bread (1Cor. 10:17). No organ can claim that it does not need the other (1Cor. 12:14 ff.). It is the Holy Spirit that equips the organs (1 Cor. 6:19). In the work of the Church, there is no distinction between spiritual and secular (except in the case of priesthood as though everyone is potential – 1 Pet. 2:9 – criteria may differ). So woman as an active organ in the body of Christ, is able to participate in the administrative mission of the community.

There is no other Church in Christendom that accounts Mary, mother of Christ, so realistically as well as honourably. We do not consider Mary as born without sin. She was like any other woman in this world before she conceived our Lord. If a normal woman can become God bearer (theotokos), we have no right to deny any woman her God given right to be an integral part of the community to lead the creation to its fullness.

God created human in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26, 27). By virtue of this, humans are given the privilege to grow and become one like God.  This is achieved through mutual support and under the guidance of God. In this perfecting mission there is no difference between woman and man.

In Orthodox Church, there is no treasurer, rather only trustee in the community. These two offices are essentially and qualitatively two. We do not have financial dealers, but only those who supervise the affairs of the community with a sense of stewarding. There is no way that we can create a discriminative approach on this.

A Legal Question

The Supreme Court of India in its verdict of 1995 on Church case raised a question, ‘how can women be denied voting right when the constitution of the Church asserts that everyone who received baptism in the Church is a member of the Church?’

Practical Reason

Except in matter with administration, in all other areas of the life of the Church and in its activities, women fully participate with much enthusiasm. They exceed in men number during liturgies and are in front row in most of the other areas of Christian mission.

In social and political life of the community at large we see lot of women on the top doing excellent job in their positions. Even those positions which were earlier reserved for men are held and well managed by women these days. In the administrative and bureaucratic roles in all democratic countires we see very efficient women leaders. When we conducted elections to the Malankara Association Managing Committee in 2007, a woman IAS officer from Tamil Nadu Cadre, served as the presiding officer. (She happens to be a member of our Church. But if she comes to attend the general body meeting in her home parish to express her opinion, she would be asked to leave. What a contradiction!) Ours is a global Church with parishes all over the world. The second generation members of our Church may not tolerate, for good reason, any kind of discrimination against including that on the basis of sex. In many of other Orthodox Churches around the world women get equal participation in the parish administration.

Human Rights Issue.

The question of participation of women in parish administration would be looked at by secular community as a human rights issue. The first article of Human Rights declaration of 1948 states, (December 10), “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.  Article two specifically talks about discrimination on the basis of sex. Constitution of India also approaches the issue in this format. I am sure all democratic communities would look on this the same way. Fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution requires all states to provide equal protection to all its citizens. Though Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has raised doubt about its application in matter of protection of women (Does the Constitution Protect against Sex Discrimination?  By John Yoo), I would say that this amendment in general would provide enough protection to women. Even otherwise, women are given equal rights in all areas of life in the United States of America.

Conclusion.

Irrespective of all that has been said in this note, for us Christians, the primary source of direction to any question that may be asked for our life in this world is Jesus Christ himself. If we look in to the attitude of our Lord towards the dignity of women, it is easy to see that he very well acknowledged the equal status of women in the society. It could even be said that he had a special consideration for women as they were least accounted in his society during his time (the theological position ‘the preferential option of weaker section by Jesus’ is applied here).  It is our Christian responsibility to do everything possible to provide equal rights to every member in our community. If at all we need to call ourselves a saved community, we, both men and women, need to be saved. The fathers of our Church proclaimed, ‘God became human that human shall become one like God’. It is human that should become one like God, not just men. Let us leave aside the discriminative style of the earlier times and become truly a human Church, not men’s Church or women’s Church; but human Church. Let us invite our mothers, sisters and wives to equally participate in the stewarding mission of the community.

Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius, Thrissur Diocese

Who’s Church is it any way?


Today I had a call from a mother of three in Kottayam. She is from one of the Christina denominations that run more than one self-financing medical colleges. She was commenting on my interview with Desabhimani on Inter Church Council for self financing educational institutions. She spoke of an experience she had with the Church. Some time back the Church had asked people to have more than two children and if they had, the Church promised that it will extend all help for the education of those children. This woman applied for concession rate for her third child at a self financing medical college run by the Church in Thrissur. The reply from the authorities was “if we honor that we will have to go bankrupt”. She asked them, ‘then how parents from poor families can send their children for medical education? The reply was, ‘running a medical college involves huge investment so we can accommodate only those who can pay higher fee’. She tried to reason with them on the basis of Christian gospel. They repeatedly said, community quota can be given only to rich people. She asked them, ‘then who does the Church stands for, for the poor or for the rich? There was no reply from the other side. This is one among several stories that reveal the true colour of Christian mission work in the field of education in general and medical education in particular. My question is, what do these people mean by Church, the people or the institution?

Comments on My View on Inter Church Christian Council


1.

Respected Thirumeni,
The opinion Your Grace has expressed through Dehsabhimani and appeared in Malankara Orthodox TV in deed expresses the voice of the true Church, perhaps even more than 90% of the ordinary members of the Church including some of the clergy would agree. The simple fact as I understand is that our Church do not have any say in the running of Kolencherry Medical College. The management and administration is controlled by a body which constitute cut throat businessmen who are interested in establishing their own agenda through this college named after the Church. I do not visualize even our Bava can manage an admission in this college. Of course, I do not mean that to be thing we have to adopt. Even our Bava is so helpless, if I am not wrong. What the church can do is just dissociate from this college. May be church would have invested money in building up the college, but even then, such dissociation would be more Christian. Even otherwise, in a broader sense, the investment has turned out to be moral waste.
Your Grace had remarked that the ‘fathers’ have been taking a stand against social justice and principles of Christianity in this issue. Does this mean that the Church is officially supporting the utterances of George Paul and company or the Church is trapped in a web of no other alternative? Whatever be that I am sure that we have Bishops who do understand things and would be prepared to fight it to see that Christian spirit is maintained in all our social endeavours. May be I cannot name many such Bishops, but Geevaghese Mar Ivanios, Thomas Mar Athanasios (Muvatupuzha), Zacharias Mar Theophilos, Kuriakose Mar Cleemees are all likely to have a true perspective in this matter.
It may not be proper on my part, yet I venture to suggest that this is an issue warranting serious debate in the Holy Synod, Management Committee, Association etc. The fact that there is no point in running business in the name of Christ needs to be firmly established. Running a bar named THE JESUS BAR may be better than the exploitation practiced by ‘our’ Kolencherry Medical College.
Your spiritual son,

2.

Hello

Really good article and it was very much apt in the current situation. If the church too get involved in politics and stand for unethical matters who will lead its followers to Christ. A deep amount of protest was heard from common church followers in these matters.

Previous Older Entries