By Thomas Jacob
It is felt that, our church members around the world are not aware of the true picture of the situation prevailing in
with regard to the Dissolution of Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish. Different versions are circulated. An effort is being made for a just appraisal. Kuwait
Around 95% of the Kuwait Parish members are against the dissolution of the parish whereas, the creation of new parishes is not objected, if anybody ( Church leadership or members), felt it apt.
It is also a reminder to all Foreign and local Parishes, that tomorrow it may happen to you too. So please react for the justice.
Let us work together to find an amicable solution to the situation in the love of Jesus Christ. Let us pray that our leadership shall re-think the matter in the broader sense of Christian love.
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
1. Current Kalpana
On 6th of December 2010, a Kalpana from the supreme leader of Mar Thoma Church , Rt Rev, Dr.Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan, was read in the Kuwait Mar Thoma Prish after the worship service informing the believers that EFFECTIVE 1ST JANUARY 2011, THE KUWAIT MARTHOMA PARISH HAS BEEN DISSOLVED and IN ITS PLACE THREE NEW PARISHES will come into existence. This was surprise to the common members. There is reference of a Kalpana dated 14/01/2010 as the notice of the Metropolitan to this effect..
The latest Kalpana is directing the Parish members that three NEW PARISHES will be formed by allocating EXISTING PRAYER GROUPS of KUWAIT MAR THOMA PARISH under the independent control of current Achens, who shall be the Vicars of respective independent Parishes. A summary of which as follows :
VICAR PARISH PR.GRPS UNITS
Rev. Thomas Varghese St. Peters 16 Nos. 882
Rev. A.Y.Varghese St. Johns 12 Nos. 654
All other Church organizations will be split into three and attached to each Parishes.
2. In the above Kalpana, there is mention of a previous Kalpana dated 14th January 2010 as the basis of the latest Kalpana to dissolve Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish (which was not brought to light till the time of the current Kalpana)
If the said old Kalpana is analyzed, it is clearly mentioned that
MAR THOMA PARISH shall be divided into THREE SEPARATE ZONES in the administration of the Existing Prayer Groups: - KUWAIT
VICAR PR.GRPS UNITS
Rev. Thomas Varghese 16 Nos. 882
Rev. Raju Thomas 12 Nos. 654
Rev. Genil Abraham 12 Nos. 654
And the Church Organizations Administered as follows :
1. Rev,. Thomas Varghese Voluntary
Yuva Jana Sakhyam
2. Rev. Raju Thomas Edvaka
3. Rev. Genil Abraham Sunday School
Teen Age Fellowship
Senior Youth Forum
The understanding given to Parish members is that, the above arrangement was only an Administrative DIVISON of the Parish and not a DISSOLUTION. It is quite imperative that since the organizations are NOT divided and only allocated among the PARISH PRIESTS, the decision was only administrative adjustments.
- PROTEST OF PARISH MEMBERS
The Parish members, by receiving the LATEST KALPANA, felt that the earlier arrangement was a deliberate plan to Dissolve the Parish by MISINFORMING ALL THE MEMBERS. All were kept in darkness regarding the plan. With a short notice of around 20 days, the Parish, which existed for 47 long years was dissolved without giving any chance to protest or to express the feelings of the majority and without any consultation with the existing Kaisthana Samithi.
Believing and trusting on the words of Diocesan Bishop, all the Parish Members agreed to the Zonal Division of Administration of the Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish which was approved in the Synod decision on 3rd June 2009. All were assured that the intention was to ensure the administration of Prayer Groups and each Parish Organizations by each Achens without affecting the entity of the Parish. This was NOT an agreement to DISSOLVE the Parish completely but to DIVIDE Administration to Various Zones. The Diocesan Bishop has specifically explained at the time that the Zonal Distribution was purely for Administrative efficiency. He has never mentioned of any intention to DISSOLVE the Parish.
Even during his visit in November 2010, The Bishop DID NOT mention of any intention to Dissolve the Church. He willingly released the RAFFLE COUPON for the PARISH FESTIVAL of KUWAIT MARTHOMA PARISH which was due in February 2011. Also he inaugurated NAME STICKER OF K.M.P which is supposed to be on the door of each members on the same occasion in front of around 2000 members of the Parish. If there was plan to DISSOLVE the Parish why he has inaugurated these two?? Why he has not declared the plan to dissolve the parish to the members of Parish openly?? Was the Bishop convinced that majority is against a dissolution and was escaping a direct confrontation??
All felt that they were betrayed by Church leadership and imposed the will on poor parishioners. This was the reason for the protest
- APPEAL TO RECONSIDER THE DECISION
An Appeal was signed and sent by around 2000 Parish members requesting for the RECONSIDERATION of the decision. All expressed their sentimental attachments to the Parish. But it was brushed aside by saying that ONLY A MINORITY IS OBJECTING DISSOLUTION and MAJORITY IS FAVOURING IT. If such confidence is there, why allowing a STAND OFF with the members of the PARISH? Let an impartial emissary come to
and see the actual situation. Kuwait
- SHOW CAUSE NOTICE
Around 40 members of those protested are served with Show Cause Notice. There is strict warning to each that; action will be taken against them in both mother parish and the
parish. Also a threat is given that if they go ahead with the protest, action through Kuwait Authority also can be initiated from the side of The Church Authority. This is a pure intrusion to the personal right of an individual with regard to the freedom of opinion, freedom of worship etc., Church authority should know that they have not assisted any members to come to Kuwait and earn their livelihood. Whole entity of MARTHOMITE community is the outcome of the effort of common man and church has no part in it. Kuwait
6. IDENTITY OF
MARTHOMA PARISH KUWAIT
The Bishops, Clergy and Pro – Dissolution Group are asking a question. Why the Protestors are keeping an attachment on the IDENTITY of the
MAR THOMA PARISH ??. KUWAIT
An Answer to them :
Our Church is named as the
. Are we from MALANKARA MARTHOMA SYRIAN CHURCH ? Other than the ‘KNANAYA CHRISTIANS OF KERALA all are pure Indians tracing tradition from ordinary Hindus of Kerala. Our culture is Indian. Our ancestors are not from Syria . We are only following a Syrian Liturgy in our Church. Still we are proud to be called as Syrian Christians. This is giving us an identity linking us to the birth place of Jesus Christ. This identity is the base of our very existence as an individual or a group or Church distinguishing from others. Why are we very particular about this identity ? Identity is very important in the life of a person or a community as a whole. This is what is valued in the case of Syria Mar Thoma Parish too. Kuwait
Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish is the result of our efforts, it nurtured us spiritually, gave our children Christian lessons, we worshiped together as a single community.
Authority has no such sentiment to this system. For them it is only a parish under their administration. They are not concerned of the feelings of its ordinary believers. Central Church
- PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES
a).PARISH MEMBERSHIP DIVIDED & IMPOSED
According to Area of residence, the membership of each new Parish is IMPOSED ON EACH INDIVIDUAL. The members have no SAY in choosing their Parish. It is imposed as per the Prayer Groups. Here, many of the family are divided into different Parishes due to the location of their stay. This is creating a Psychological difficulty to each. For Example the Father in one Parish and the son in another. Since all are living in rented apartments, if any change in location happens, the Parish has to be changed frequently, as per the present concept.
b).UNAUTHORIZED PLACE OF WORSHIP
Under the new the new scheme, Worship has to be conducted outside NECK compound, which is the legitimate place of worship authenticated by Kuwait Authorities. If the believers gather in an unauthorized place, criminal action can be taken against them as per the rule of
, as they ban social and political gatherings in public places. How the Church Authorities are going to protect the believers in such a situation?. Even if prayer can be conducted with difficulty and risk, if HOLY QURBANA is administered in such places, the risk is very high. Kuwait
c). SEVIKA SANGHAM WORSHIP
Sevika Sangham members of newly formed , ST.JAMES PARISH are located at (a) Abbasiya (b) Riggae (c) New Abbasiya. These places are far away from each other. How these women without proper transportation, conduct their weekly worship meetings?
The same case with ST.JOHNS PARISH. The members are staying (a). Salmiah (b)
(c) Farwaniah/Khaitan. Very far away place from each. Kuwait City
d) ALL OTHER PARISH ORGANIZATIONS
Church Choir, Young Adults, Senior Forum, Youth League, Edavaka mission, Sunday School, Teen Age Fellowship etc.,
Since all said Parish Organizations are divided into three and located in different areas as mentioned earlier, the difficulty in getting together in one place is much.
e) SUNDAY SCHOOL
We have over 1000 Sunday School Students and over 93 teachers. Each newly formed Parish will have approximately 340 students and 30 or more teachers as per the new division. Where they will conduct a divided Sunday school in the limited space available. Only Friday/Saturday is the free time for Children. Teachers are not free on Saturdays. Friday is the SLOT available for us in NECK. Then we have to find two other locations to conduct Sunday School. Same location problem explained earlier will be applicable here. Can we risk the safety of our children in unauthorized places as Sunday school?
f). FINANCIAL BURDEN
As per present trend, only a limited number of Parish members are accepting the Dissolution of the Church. They number a maximum of 300 only in total for all three new churches. The whole of balance members will not co-operate with the main stream church. The normal contribution from these minority can amount to a maximum of KD 1200/- in a month whereas the expenses will be around KD 5000/- per month. Will it cover the cost of (a) Clergy salary (b) Parsonage Rent (c) Parish Rent (d) other indirect cost of these three parishes? The Church is inviting financial burden in an once smoothly operated environment.
g). DETACHMENT FROM THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE
With intimidation tactics, the Central Authority can suppress a few. But their integrity to the Church will be permanently lost. Disintegration of much society is from these sort of discontent. This attitude of majority will slowly erode the entire Church community.
h). POLITICAL & RELIGIOUS ENVIRONMENT OF
Due to certain political issues prevailing in
Kuwait, there is a close watch on all gatherings in . The Ministry of Interior is empowered to make any sort of raids in case of need. In the near future there is a possibility of banning these sort of gatherings. What will we do in such a case? – This is applicable in the case of all newly created Parishes including Kuwait . Salmiah St. Thomas Church
i) VALIDITY OF CERTIFICATES ISSUED
What is the validity of Certificates / Church records of Kuwait Marthoma Parish in the case of dissolution?. What is the legal validity of certificates from a non-existent parish ? Who can issue such a certificate? These are very important for each individuals with regard to BIRTH, BAPTISM, MARRIAGE etc., which is very critical in a legal point of view.
8. CONSPIRACY THEORY
Even though, the majority of Common members of Kuwait Marthoma Parish members were not aware of the plan to dissolve parish, erstwhile members who formed the St. Thomas Parish, Salmiah were aware of this plan with full details. They have publicized the matter as a triumph for them before hand. On hearing this, the office bearers of Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish asked the Diocesan Bishop, whether it is a rumor or not. His answer was : “You may hear many rumors but don’t listen to any”
If a thorough investigation is conducted, one can find that active intervention from some powerful Synod and Council members is instrumental in this decision. It is a conspiracy to divide and claim the share of FIXED DEPOSIT of Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish, which is a fund for any future possibility of constructing our own church. The
is looking for the economic aspect of the dissolution. Salmiah Church
9. IMPACT OF THE UNILATERAL DECISION
Every loyal Church member is feeling that they have been betrayed by the Church Authority. Whenever, there a request for any fund for the projects of the Church in
, all Parish members contributed with full support to the cause. Now each of them feel that they are being subjected to a “use and throw away” theory. It will affect the future ventures of the Church as the matter will be conveyed to other foreign Parishes, who will be subjected to the same policy once in future. India
All feel now that,
is now becoming THEOCRATIC than DEMOCRATIC. The main ideology of Reformation is lost now. Gradually we are going back to the THEORCARCY of PRE REFORMATION ages. In the day to day functioning and the policy matters, ‘RASPUTINS’ are playing active role in misleading TOP Authorities.. There is nobody to tell the truth. There should be somebody to tell ‘THE KING IS NAKED”. This scenario will endanger the future unless concrete remedial steps are taken in time. Let all concerned have wisdom to make a self evaluation Mar Thoma Church
The new decision has sown discord, discontent and disbelief among the common believers of Episcopacy. We lost the Christian love and unity. Here all are losers. From the level of the Prayer Groups, the believers who lived and worshipped together in Christian love have developed a hostile attitude. The brother against the brother, father against the son, sister against the sister. Clergy turned against believers and vice versa. The spirit of Worship is lost. Each side trying to defeat the other in the name of Christ. Where is Christ in the Church??. We have everything except Jesus Christ. Here Christ is crucified everyday among us.
10. SUMMARY OF DEMAND FROM PROTESTING PARISH MEMBERS
a). Out of the new PARISHES created, ONE should operate as
Mar Thoma Parish with its Seniority Kuwait
b). No objection to the creation of any number of new Parishes in
for those who wish so.. Kuwait
c). Freedom to opt for membership to any Parish without any pre set listing or condition.
A FEW QUESTIONS TO THE CHURCH LEADERSHIP
1. Are we not tending to be Commercial than spiritual?
2. Are we not becoming more ritualistic in our beliefs?
3. Are we slowly deviating from the reformation ideology?
4. Are we slowly becoming Theocratic at the cost of laity?
5. Are we equipped to convince the future generation of the religious theology we are proclaiming and challenges from different religions?
6. Are we not dragging our believers to take a stand of the erstwhile “PATHYOPADESAM” of late 50’s and early 60’s, who eventually were forced to form
ST. THOMAS EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF ?? Leaving all INDIA properties, for which they too worked ?? Consider that each member of Kuwait Mar Thoma Parish is representing 450 parishes of Mar Thoma Church . Any illogical decisions of dissolution has its own impact in the whole church, which should not be taken lightly. Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church
The Church Leadership is threatening the Protestors with Disciplinary Action. Bishops and Clergy are our moral teachers and are supposed to guide us through the right path. Have they ever made self evaluation based on the Bible ????
Few Quotes from The Holy Bible :
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)
"For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (NAS, Matthew 6:14-15)
Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24)
"And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."( Ephesians 4:32)
An appeal to learn from Our Valia Metroloplitan, Rt. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrisostom, who, said in some of the interviews that :-
Today, the Church System is being ruled by Autocratic Bishops and Clergy. By not acquainting with society, such people are refusing to accept and recognize the common man’s maturity and intelligence. Many of our Clergy are interested to continue with traditional style of Parish management. They are like a father refusing to be questioned by the son.. In all walks of life, they want to lead the common man as innocent and unintelligent sheep. They fail to understand that, the time has changed much and the common man has questions to ask and are not ready to be subjected to any imposition of power and ideas.
There was tendency in the past in Eastern Orthodox churches, to mystify the litany and sacraments. The mystery means something beyond the knowledge of one. To the common man it was taught that they cannot understand the mystery and the clergy only can. This gave the priests unlimited power and control. Unlimited power always is self destructive. The priest should always understand that they are servants of God and are to serve God. But the situation made them to feel that only through them one can reach God and are all powerful.
In Marthoma Church, Qurbana cannot be administered in the absence of believers. So to be a priest, the Clergy has to maintain personal relation with the common man. By wearing a CASSOCK one will not become a priest.
The Bishop feels that all the believers are his subjects to be ruled according to set norms. Instead of that, the Bishop should assist them to rule themselves. Then the rule will be voluntary. The system is democratic. The decisions should be of the common believers.
IN THE MARKET PLACE) MISSION