My Sermon at Mannamangalam

This video is made of my sermon at St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Chapel, Mannamangalam after the favorable verdict from the Hon. High Court of Kerala was pronounced for us to end the 18 long year stand off in pursuit of peace and unity in the Church. I delivered this on October 27th Sunday during the Holy Qurbana at the chapel. I was at Nagpur Seminary fulfilling my annual teaching assignment two previous weeks and was supposed to leave Nagpur only on Saturday to arrive Thrissur early morning of Sunday. But when I heard the news about the favorable verdict, I decided to fly to Thrissur on Friday itself and visit the chapel on Sunday, though I had planned to make my regular parish visit to Mannamangalam on the following Sunday. The handing over of the key of the Church had to be done on October 31st. I had to prepare the parish for the blessed day. The pictures in the video are from our struggle for peace in the parish as prescribed by the highest court of law in the country.

My Speech at Kolenchery Protest Meet

This is a video of my speech at Kolenchery Protest Meet on Nov. 17, 2019 (Video courtesy:

Keynote Address at STOTS

This is the text of my Keynote Address at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur on 12/11/2019 at its Alumni Meeting in connection with the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the seminary


Theological Education and Ministerial Formation: Present Realities and Future Directions

I Introduction

“Man is immortal; therefore, he must die endlessly. For life is a creative idea; it can only find itself in changing forms”– Tagore [1]

Your Eminences my brothers in the episcopacy, the very Rev. Corepiscope, Ramban’s, Rev. Priests, The Principal Rev. Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip, rev. Fr. Dr. Josey Jacob, the Faculty, Students, Alumni, Administrative and serving staff, my dear sisters and brothers

I thank Rev Fr. Dr Bijesh Philip for entrusting me with this task of addressing you through this key note presentation at this august body of the Alumni meeting of St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary of our Church. I consider this a great honour given to me. I present this particularly in the context of our theological education that prepares candidates for Mission both Clerical and of social involvement.

Dreams are supposed to be sweet for most, most of the time. To me, they are terrifying many a time for two reasons. One, I carry a cross on me as part of my Episcopal attire. Cross gives out the message of one dying for the sake of others. But in the fourth century the cross was used by the Emperor Constantine as carrying the message that ‘for me to have power I may have to kill many’. My question to myself is which cross I am carrying? The other reason for my bad dreams is what happens in my country with growing religious fundamentalists on the loose and people particularly the Dalits being persecuted for what they eat, wear and what faith they profess. This paper carries a reflection on my bad dreams.

We humans and our purpose

A globe, which turns around all by itself in bit of a twisted and funny way and at the same time goes around a star, is the place where God, the creator, wanted us to live in, and that too with a definite purpose. That purpose was very well presented before the human beings in the Garden of Eden itself, which was to keep this universe and toil in it. As I said in the beginning, we live in a world that is constantly turning and moving. There shall be nothing that stays as it is in this giant globe and hence in our environment except the purpose placed before us. Even though we call Tuesday of every week Tuesday, it will not be the same Tuesday of the previous week in every respect. Every day is a new day and every new day places new challenges before us to face.  We can work on the purpose set before us only by taking this reality before us seriously. It is a constantly evolving world that we live in and this calls for constantly reviewing and renewing patterns of ministry. We are, today, considering the theological education ministry that prepares priests, deacons and deaconesses for their ways of ministry.

II Present reality: An overview

I visit US at least once every year ever since I did my graduate study at LSTC in 1989-97. I was there when the past election campaign to the presidency was in full swing. Two major candidates were there in the fray, Mr. Donald J. Trump and Ms. Hillary Clinton. Lot of people said both were not that great candidates. However, many people among the Muslim and Hispanic community believed that their life will be hard if Mr. Trump wins. Tension between Blacks and Whites which results in Black people being killed for no better reason by White policemen and White policemen being killed by Black shooters in retaliation took place at various places. This created socio-economic-religious impact in the life of people there. On the other hand, if Ms. Clinton had won, there would have been a lot of dissatisfied White people, particularly in the mid-west region. Bomb blasts and shooting terrorized Germany and France.

West Asia has not been a place for peaceful living for quite some time due to religious fundamentalists’ ethnic cleansing acts and due to sudden fall in oil price. Saudi government is going ahead with social reforms and it has its toll on lot of expatriates who work there particularly nurses, drivers, small scale business men and other professions from India to leave their job and retturn. Similar situation is reported from Other West Asian countries too. Life in the families and communities of those who lost job will not be the same as before.  South and North Korea have been enemies ever since the Korean divison. The future of European Union has become a matter of concern with the voting on BREXIT.  The coming in of a new prime minister in 10 Downing Street has not solved the problem. The very question of United Kingdom continuing as united any more is yet another matter of concern for them.

Coming down to our backyard, in India things are far from normal. The congress party that claims the prestigious role in the Independence movement has lost its acceptance among the majority voters of the country. Bharathiya Jan Sangh that was formed in 1951 had its mutation through Jantha Party in 1977 to become Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) in 1980 which has now won majority mandate for a fifth time after three ministries of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr. Narendra Modi getting a clear second term. The BJP got a boost with the demolition of Babri Masjid in Dec. 6th 1992 after the Rat Yatra of Mr LK Advani in September 1990 and later the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) sponsored mob march with about a hundred thousand people. Everyone knows that RSS is the godfather of BJP and the part of the prime minister is only a cover up to implement its programs in the country.  The Gujrat riot of Feb. 27 of 2002 along with Stains killing of 2007 and Kandhamal violence of 2008 are also to be noted here in the context. Again the widespread incidents in Various parts of the country like attacks on Dalits for no better reason than that they are outcasts is  a matter of serious concern. This set a new arena of religious fundamentalists on the lose under the present political atmosphere in the country. I am sure some of you may have dissident note on this which I am ready to listen to.

The Era of Neo-Liberalism

Starting with the Rajiv Gandhi regime, we were introduced to a new economic policy of neo-liberalism and privatization. Multi-national and trans-national corporates entered the country with their resources. Market economy became the appreciated model for better living with freedom. People’s lives were auctioned in stock exchanges and its ups and downs controls their heart beat and pulse rate. Development is measured by how tall, how wide, how big, how colourful things are and in which packet it is presented. IT sector became the lifeline of young people and call centres burned lot of oil at night. Those who kept their eyes opened in front of the computer monitors are confused how to burn the hefty salary they made during day time. Cities grew wide and tall with imported luxury cars but with just four wheels finding it hard to reach anywhere in the traffic jam, which also made the air thick and black. Our capital city has become health hazard air capital. The villages are bitten with draught and famine and people found themselves in utter poverty due to fall in price of agriculture products to find farmers in suicide spree. Indian corporates borrowed money from banks in crores and swindled it all to declare bankruptcy and went abroad to lead a comfortable life or started new companies with new profile. Price of commodities went rocket high that middle class people found it hard to make both ends meet with the available resource. These days Onion makes the eyes of people wet more and more. Police beat up lawyers and they in turn beat up police. Both join hands to beat up civilians. In the middle of all these priests, pastors and preachers continue to preach that God is a benevolent and merciful God who cares for His creation and the ‘Kingdom of God is at hand’. People finds it too hard, even after reciting the Lord’s Prayer with the verse “Thy Kingdom Come” repeatedly believe it and went hysterical with independent prosperity gospel preachers for the main line Christian communities lose their number.

I don’t say that all is bad in here. The Medha Patkar resistance movements, fifteen long years of hunger strike of Irom Sharmila, the mass movements in Delhi and elsewhere on the gang rape of Jyothi Singh on 16th Dec. 2012, Nurses’ strike for better salary starting in Delhi that spread to various parts of the country, the student protests in Hyderabad, that the whole country took over, on Rohit Vemula’s death, Pune Film Institute Students strike on the appointment of Mr. Gajendra Chauhan, a TV Serial actor, who has political godfathers, as their chairman, Student protests at JNU, women’s agitation on poor wages and filthy living condition of tea estate workers in the hilly regions of Kerala, Dalit agitation in Gujrat, farmers repeated protests in North India, resistance movements in Kerala against police brutality and slaughtering including the recent one in Malappuram and many other resistance movements are all marks of silver ray in the horizon. However, certainly there is reason to be vigilant and work even harder in the filed as “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37).

Our presence as Christians in India

We Christians make 2. 3% of Indian population with a total number to about 28 million out of 1.33 billion out of total Indian population (2016 data). We have numerous denominations and countless independent groups that try to tell the world that we were called to witness “Abundant Life”. Then again we have thousands of clergymen (including bishops and supervisors. Someone called Kerala “the land of coconut and bishops) and preachers who lead these witnessing community. Some of them are trained by institutions and individuals and some are self-trained. With the contradiction people see between the what is in Acts 4:14 (But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition), and in actual life of present day Christians, Dr Radhakrishnan, former President of India said, “Christians are ordinary people who make extra ordinary claims.[2]. With this statement hanging in front of us, we need to see how should our theological education system be that we may have relevant ministerial formation under present socio-political and religious realities.

III Ministering God’s Creation in a Complex World

Edinburgh Report on Theological Education would define Theological Education as, that which “… aims at developing reflective Christian identity and practice, an informed and spiritually enriched access to biblical tradition and empowering people for participating in the mission of God in this world. It enables people to reflect critically on the relation between their own Christian identity, their church tradition and other Christian traditions, their relation to the world, and the tasks of God’s mission today”[3] . Further it talks about ministerial formation as, “… degree programmes (often at graduate level) and other formal courses which provide for the preparation of women and men for different kinds of ordained or non-ordained church ministries in congregations, in mission, in community and parish life, in diaconical services, or in education”.[4]  In short, it is presenting God as we understand in the given context that people will be renewed. We all know that Late Lamented thirumeni H. E. Dr. Stefanos Mar Theodosios had a close to heart dream about this seminary as a Clergy Training Centre to serve mission field of Outside Kerala region of our Church. As I look at it, our style today when it comes to socio-political-economic  issues that controls life of people around us, is mostly to stay back like an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand or like those Gandhian monkeys in a different way.

I wish to see theologically educated person’s presence in the community as a catalyst for change in our world. To this goal, based on the testimony received by the Church, theological curriculum should be prepared so as to educate in a systematic way the ministers both ordained and non-ordained to critically analyse the given situation in a constantly evolving world so that people shall be empowered through their ministry to face, on a daily basis, the challenges placed on the road to liberation experience in its fullness. I am afraid, instead we are training them just to be poojaris. The above said goal can be achieved only through involvement in the life of the community. The miracle of incarnation tells us that there is no other way of liberating the creation than coming down and being one with the creation sharing its moments of joy, suffering, dreams, humiliation, alienation, deprivation, desperation and what not. God said to Moses, “I have come down having seen the suffering of my people”. The point is, ministerial training has to be contextual in all sense and both faculty and students have to be open to socio-political and religious realities in the world they live in. Incarnation of Immanuel can not be a past event but an everyday reality through us.

Working with Others for the Sake of Secular Fabric of the Nation

As I said in the introduction, it becomes all the more important that we recognize the nature of this globe. It is constantly revolving and hence the situation is always evolving. Yesterday took us to today and today shall lead us to tomorrow and these three shall be for us to decide how we shall live in this world as “Fishers of People”. Considering the situation that was presented to us in the beginning, I must say, there is a tremendous shift in the socio-political, religious world we live in. This is where we are called to make the lives meaningful through our ministry. One of the greatest gifts of God to us in the independent Indian world is the basic secular fabric. To me, this is what Jesus wanted his disciples to have too. He was born and lived all His life as a Jew. But did not share much of the non-Israelite tendencies among the Jews. He, a learned Jew whom people called a Rabbi, was able to go and speak to a Samaritan woman without any inhibition. He then went and stayed with her community which was a witness in itself. The whole question of conversion is to be reviewed in this context. We need to be trained theologically to safeguard this culture of India and should be able to stand for it by resisting all tendencies to jeopardize it. Jesus educated the Samaritan woman and said, “there shall come a time God is not worshipped in this mountain or in Jerusalem” (John4:21). I would add, ‘where two or three are assembled in “His” name (Matt. 18:20). Struggle against sectarianism and stratification of the society on the basis of caste, colour, gender, religion and creed need to be part of our ministry. We also should be able to work with communities and organizations that work in the same line irrespective of their political or religious affiliations. The Uniting Church of Australia New South Wales Synod (NSW) documents of 2003 names this “public theology” and it calls for conversation with the whole creation (C 19.13).

India is a nation of religious plurality. Any kind of education to equip a person to be a minister in this world needs to understand the pluralistic nature of the society. A better knowledge of the faith, practices and outlook of the people of other communities is a must. A theologically trained person needs to know how to educate his or her own people to interact with people of other faiths to create a community where peace and harmony prevails. A Christian attitude to the others’ needs is to be propagated. Of course theological education in India has focused on interfaith dialogue and the study of other religions. However, still there are strong feelings among certain Christian communities that the other needs to be won over through whatever means it may take. This will, I am afraid, make the situation hostile and fundamentalist tendencies in other communities will get a boost. Communities around us are becoming increasingly concerned of their culture and identity. If they feel threatened, it will ignite disaster.

We the Orthodox Christians in India (I am afraid, it is still a Malayalee Orthodox, and to an extent Kottayam Orthodox – Please forgive me, no offence intended) has inherited the West Syriac liturgical tradition and it has brought us it’s Semitic cultural elements too. This culture has its own exclusivity and tribal tendencies. We have not succeeded in going beyond many of those traits that made that community in the early centuries in terms of liturgical and worship patterns for us to become at leat in our practical modes a truly Malankara Church. Under this obsessive Syriac style I wonder how effective we can incarnate as a Christian community in the given context.

IV Church and its Mission

Theological education and ministerial formation need to be part of the mission of the Church and hence should be able to express the faith of the Church through its education and equipping of the workers. NSW Synod document of 2003 report further states, “The task of theological education of ministry (sic ministerial) formation has been called the vocation to ‘renew our hearts and minds’ and to create  ‘makers of Christian meaning’ in a complex, post-Christian world.” (C 19.12). In our Church’s context, the Wider Mission is carried out through it’s priests alone than any other medium not to talk about lay missionaries.

The Church believes in a God who renews the creation steadily (it is said “when the Spirit of Truth comes, it shall lead you to all Truth” John 16:13). Dogmas and doctrines are important, but only as far as they help the soteriological goal to be achieved under the given situation. Hence the task of the clerical education of the Church is to make the basic proclamation of the Church work among the masses in a meaningful and relevant manner. Those old definitions of various aspects of theology may not be meaningful and relevant under the given evolved situation. We will be talking not to the people of the fourth, thirteenth or sixteenth century, rather of the twenty first century, even more the twenty second century in which our young people live and interact through Artificial Intelligence. We still try to bless the newly wedded couple with mildew from high and we send out our departed ones with oil poured on them to engage and be victorious in the wrestling with the mid region evil spirits. We have not learned to put matters in positive and realistic manner and in context.

One Holy Church

The unity of various denominations and communities among Christians sure is a better witness to the liberation in Christ. Basic theological education and ministerial formation should transcend denominational and sectarian interests among us. Exchange of students among various denominational theological schools should be encouraged to help the candidates have a better mutual understanding and find positive elements in each other and create readiness to work together for the transformation of the community. We also should strengthen inter-denominational theological schools like UTC, KUTS etc. for the same reason. Unfortunately, many of those who go to other seminaries either become their advocates or brand them as heretics and become even more conservative. It is sad that we see religious communities becoming more and more introvert, self-content with absolute claims and parochial attitudes. We should not fall prey to that system. We need to have a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the biblical testimony and a better understanding of biblical hermeneutics. I am not saying what is particular to a denomination should be diluted or compromised at all. But we need to first find our what makes us unique and should not be carried away by perifferal and outdated skin level claims. WCC document on theological education suggests, “If theological education fails to be guided by an ecumenical vision of the church renewed in mission and service to the whole of humankind (I would say whole of creation), there will be a serious shortage in terms of a new generation of Christian leaders, pastors and theological teachers carrying on the ecumenical vision and commitment into the twenty-first century”.[5]

Educate All for All

The Edinburg document again suggests that diversification of theological education is important in matter of ministerial formation and in meeting the challenges of the time. “It is a matter of access – so that everyone, irrespective of physical or social location or other forms of marginalization will have full access to theological education – as well as the openness of the curricula”. Here I wish to remember some of the mission endeavours STOTS has taken up like Prerana, slum mission on Sundays, farming etc. Further, the online theological teaching is another welcome step from STOTS. Women have been by and large kept away from theological education in many of the Churches. The document continues, “While we can celebrate the significant changes that have occurred in some contexts during the past decades with regard to women in theological studies and teaching, it should be emphasised that continuing efforts are needed. In most regions of the world there is still an overwhelming task to be accomplished in terms of encouraging, equipping, and enabling young women theologians to gain access to degree programs, teaching positions, and leadership in churches and educational institutions. As there is a backlash in many regions regarding the presence of women in church leadership and positions in higher education in general, it is very important that women receive strong support at every stage in theological education”.[6] We are no where near others in matter of women empowerment. Evangelization has to have a renewed format that theologically educated ministers have to involve in the local issues specially in matter of Dalit, women, children, child labour, bonded labour, gender issues and sex and of displaced lot and aged.

Indian Christian Theology

Formation of the curricula of theological education is a crucial element in meeting the need of the time. This calls for the revival or revitalization of the “Indian Christian Theology”. Those great Indian Christian theologians of the past left a foundation for us to work on, but I am afraid not much has been done since then. Now a more enthusiastic work in that area has become all the more important to be part of the community around us. This will also focus on the kind of liturgical life we have in our communities. Unfortunately, we still worship most of the time in Latin, English or Syriac way. The question raised by my beloved teacher, Fr. Dr. V. C. Samuel is not yet addressed even in a small way not to talk about answered. He asked, “Is this an Indian Church”? We Orthodox Syrians insist on doing midnight prayer at 5 in the morning and not close to midnight. On the one hand we do not go to the original source in matter of liturgical practices and meaning those who made it or make our own indigenized system, rather each one according to his or her lack of understanding. This is what we do in seminaries too. So when trained clerics go to their respective parishes and mission fields and when they see things done differently either they get confused or

Big, Tall, Wide and Colourful

While the whole world is running after big, wide, tall and colourful, a good section of the population will go to bed (if they have one) without much to eat. Starting at least from 1991, India has been moving more and more in the direction of privatization. There are claims that privatization will eradicate poverty (Privatization in Africa: What has happened? What is to be done?  John Nellis. Center for Global Development). But UN report on the matter would say, ‘without proper governance on private sector, there cannot be any positive effect (Report on the Wold Social Situation. 2010. UN. p. 108). This cannot be assured in Indian context which is highly under the grip of corruption and commission regime. With the aggressive privatization of all sectors including service sectors like healthcare and education, things are going to be very difficult for less fortunate people to have decent life. Governments are eager to get mobile phones and internet connection to every citizen of India than giving clean drinking water, sanitation facilities health care and education to children. This is where the caring community can intervene. On the one hand it has to join hands with people who are fighting against aggressive privatization and educate people of the need not to be carried away by false propaganda on this. At the same time on the other hand we need to concentrate on providing assistance to those marginalized lot among the population. Unfortunately, the Church joins hands with those who commercialize even the service sectors and also loot the members for its luxury projects. This is another area where the ministerial formation through theological education has to have its focus. We put up colossal structures and call it our pride church buildings. In fact they only show our false pride and affluence. Church is where people meet one another and with God. It’s that simple. But simple are not acceptable to us these days, unfortunately.

With the new economic policy the world adopted, based on the “Reagan – Thatcher thesis”, the colourful world is attracting the middle class, which constitutes majority of population in any country; adapt the lifestyle of wealthy and powerful. The money lenders will encourage people to borrow for their fancies. The fate of those who took loan for the education of their children from State Bank has been all over the news. They are facing threats from loan default collecting agencies and also facing confiscation or attachment of property. This is what happened in the case of home owners in US (foreclosure) after 2008. We need to educate people about Gandhian philosophy of moderate lifestyle. It is not that people should not be looking for better living conditions, but should not unrealistically race after luxurious life style.

V Conclusion

Theological education, formal or informal need to take in to serious consideration the existing socio-political, economic and religious realities for effective and quality ministerial formation. It should focus on where people are and not where God is. He has shown that He is Immanuel and not a qualitatively transcendent one any more. God is always among people and the rest of the creation as we see in the Biblical testimony. People and rest of creation live in an evolving or constantly changing world. The theologically trained person should be able to move along facing what comes along to critically analyse them and present to the people around them how to respond to ‘shifting realities’ as a liberative message, on the basis of the purpose God has set for them and for the creation which is the content of Christian calling. I see this alone as the direction. This has become all the more important in the world in general. To achieve this goal, a theologian has to come out of safe enclaves and enter into active dialogue with the world around, no matter how risky it could get.

Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Thrissur Diocese

November 12, 2019

“Ecumenical Theological Education, ‘Magna Charta on Ecumenical Formation in Theological Education’, Ministerial Formation 110 “, World Council of Churches

The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore: A Miscellany. Delhi: Rabindranath Tagore Sahitya Acadamy, 1987.

Balia, Daryl & Kirsteen Kim, ed. Witnessing to Christ Today, Vol. II, Edinburgh 2010 Series

Oxford, UK: Ragnum Books International, 2010.

[1] The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore: A Miscellany (Delhi: Rabindranath Tagore Sahitya Acadamy, 1987). P.245

[2] Daryl & Kirsteen Kim Balia, ed. Witnessing to Christ Today

Edinburgh 2010 Series

vol. II (Oxford, UK: Ragnum Books International, 2010). P.151

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. P.152.

[5] “Ecumenical Theological Education, ‘Magna Charta on Ecumenical Formation in Theological Education’, Ministerial Formation 110 “, World Council of Churches PP 82-88.

[6] Edinburgh. P.15


My Article on Economic Crisis

This is my article published in 2014 in the Rajarshi Memorial Higher Secondary School, Vadavucodu published in connection with their Platinum Jubilee. I got a copy last week. I am sharing it with you as we are on the verge of another economic crisis around the corner.

My Reply to HG Mor Gregorios

This video was prepared by the Indian Orthodox Church Media Wing. They posted it in three episodes on YouTube and Facebook. I took them and combined it for easy viewing.

This video is about my thoughts by way of replying to an interview presented by a leading Malayalam print/TV media. I found what H G Joseph Mor Gregorios Metropolitan said in the interview is quite misleading and twisting of facts. So, I obliged to the request of my young friends to reply to that. I intend no offence, but only to make things clear. The unity of the two groups of the same faith community is the need of the time. So, my words are intended to bring people to reality and closer to each other not be misled for some ecclesiastical dignitaries alone benefit.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan