EPISCOPAL ELECTION-MANIA IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF MALANKARA
Indian Orthodox Herald (http://www.orthodoxherald.com/current/editorial.html)
EPISCOPAL ELECTION-MANIA IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF MALANKARA
(Chief Editor- Kuriakose Thottupuram, Ph.D., D. D.)
STOP THIS MADNESS
Two weeks ago I was out of state to participate in a marriage ceremony. After the Holy Liturgy, the parish priest of the Church approached me and informed: I am going to submit my nomination petition to get elected a bishop of our Church, and I need your support. I asked him: How old are you? He told me his age. I told him: You are a kind of young to become a bishop. You could wait for another chance. If you attempt now and lose now, you may never get a chance again He did not expect my response to be that naïve, and he reluctantly agreed with me.
However I inquired if he was monastically prepared to become a bishop of the Church (as it is a convention now to ordain monks to the holy episcopate). I told him that he should become a professed monk (Rabban) immediately, and thus should get trained in all the basic areas of virtues to be acquired by a monk, particularly in the virtue of chastity. I do not think that he liked my idea of becoming a professed monk with a schema on his head if he was not guaranteed the Episcopal consecration thereafter.
This encounter with an EPISCOPABILIS made me think the direction we are heading in this election season.
When I returned home the Malankara Sabha Deepam was waiting for me on my dining table. The pages of this periodical got me even more confused about the direction of our Church. That biweekly magazine seemed to be an organ just to politicize the Episcopal election of our Church. It certified that our Episcopal election was more politically heated than the upcoming parliamentary election in India.
I felt very sorry for the Church of Christ. I pitied upon the poor fishermen who never showed any kind of erudition or competition, other than fishing skills, to follow Christ and become His apostles. Every bishop is a successor of apostles. Apostleship primarily consists of following Christ and a call from Christ. I wonder if any of His disciples would have ever become an apostle if he were to be engaged in active campaigning and political competition. The language that was expressly used in the Malankara Sabha Deepam by the writers of many short articles clearly presents that all the candidates mentioned therein are engaged in direct campaigning to seize the episcopate for them. Are these men priests of God, or skillful politicians? I also observed that there are many writers that support their candidacy indirectly through their writings. It is really a shame to see that our Episcopal election campaigns excel even the political machines set up by the various parties to conquer their parliamentary constituencies in the upcoming elections.
To make you surprised, according to the latest count there are more than 40 active candidates in the arena showing their muscles to win the episcopate. Some show their monastic connections although not yet tonsured monks. Some show their tonsured heads with schemas that carry thirteen embroidered crosses on each of them, but have very little monastic training whatsoever (because their was master ascetic to train them like those trained in Egypt). These priests have very little knowledge the basic monastic virtues. They did not get trained in OBEDIENCE, because there were no direct superiors over them. They did not acquire the virtue of POVERTY, because they always had sumptuous tables as they traveled often to receive a higher level of hospitality as a result of their projected monkhood. Some of them consider their singleness as evidence of acquiring the virtue of CHASTITY. Does chastity simply consist of inaccessibility to women? Does the state of being unmarried or untouched by women ipso facto substantiate ones virtue of chastity? Sorry, from our experience most of these monks are freaks in this area.
Some of them showed their so-called Doctorates, which is strictly an ornament around Ministry and has nothing to do with a genuine doctorate that entitles its holder to teach in a school of higher education and place the title of Doctor before his name. These so-called DOCTORS mesmerize the Church by creating a flaky and deceptive aura around them and by confusing the innocent. These innocent people really do not understand what a genuine doctorate is. Because these doctors (?) never use the nomenclature of their degrees after their names; the title of Fr. Dr. before their names does not convey much anyway. For the rank and file the distinction is not very clear. The truth is that only a holder of a teaching doctorate can legitimately use Dr. as a title before his name, because the word, doctor, literally and etymologically means a teacher. Among the candidates to the episcopate, there are a couple of them with genuine doctorates. Are they all qualified in other areas? Is the doctorate one of the criteria for selection of bishops? Do we really need doctorate holders to become bishops?
Some of the candidates possess no distinctive qualifications; the only muscle for them is to show their unmarried status. When this writer visited a Greek Orthodox institution of higher learning he met a seminarian, whose father was his close friend. After the priestly studies, this young seminarian wasted more than five years looking for a future presbytera, but was unsuccessful in finding a compatible bride. He chose to stay single because of his inability to find a girl within his economic circles and psychological framework. His father later told me that his son had accepted the priesthood with a lot of frustration on his failure to get married. It is reported that he now wants to become a bishop too. We do not know if any of our candidates share such a history!
This writer asks these men the following qualifications?
What are the genuine qualifications required for the episcopate? Do you have them?
What makes you think that you are qualified for this holy office in the Church of God?
What are your distinctive qualifications for advancement to the highest rank in the priesthood?
Is the episcopate an office that you compete for?
Is this by campaigning and competition that the Holy Spirit calls you for the office of the episcopate?
Are political campaigns justifiable for a spiritual office?
If you influence the voters by political action, is that election a genuine call of God?
Are you really worthy of a call for the episcopate?
Why do you aspire for the episcopate when your simple priesthood is sufficient to serve God and His people?
Why do you want to become a bishop?
Is it not the pomp and high honor that motivate you to aspire for the episcopate? Think about this many times. (If your answer is negative withdraw your name immediately and glorify God with your simple priesthood in the presbyterate).
Can you all honestly answer these questions without scruple? There are many such questions we want to ask you.
Sadly, none of the campaign articles have highlighted the depth of spirituality in any of the candidates!
Readers: Do you want to be a member this Church? Do you want to be shepherded by these men who have become bishops by their despicable political skills? Yes, when GRACE CEASES TO QUICKEN A CHURCH, THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE IS POLITICAL ACTION. It is like moving a heavy truck by filling the tubes of its wheels with straw when they cannot hold air inside anymore. Can you imagine that ride? The spiritual condition of our Church is much worse than that. Yes, we need this political action to reach our destination. But can this heavy truck reach its destination? Can the straw-filled wheels carry a heavy truck? For how long? My analogy may be imperfect; but my message is clear. Our Church is moving with flat tires. Unless the tubes of our tires are properly vulcanized and filled with air in proper pressure, we may have to utilize this crude and rustic form of transportation! I wonder if this is the Church of God, or an immature childish democracy in some dark corners of South America or in some recently liberated jungles of Africa!
This is indeed madness, and for Gods sake stop this madness! But this writer doubts if this is going to end soon. Because most of the members of the Managing Committee of our Church are a bunch of political activists who have little knowledge of our traditions and possess very little religious discipline. They consider that the Church is an absolute democracy where numbers determine truth and reality, and course of action. The Church of Christ is a theocracy; it also has some privileges of democracy for its members, but this democracy is ruled by the Word of God and by the sacred traditions of the Church. Unfortunately, the priests who badly want to become bishops use the newly emerging political culture to achieve their goals. They may become bishops at the end of this process; the Holy Spirit would come upon them VERY RELUCTANTLY to make them bishops (because the ordination is a rite of the Church), and but when they walk their sheep they would definitely stumble in their path as the Spirit of God disfavors them, and the future of our Church under them will be in a more miserable condition.
Let us pray: Lord, deliver us from these evil ones!