Most Respected members of this forum:
I was extremely overjoyed after hearing the responses of many of my dear and respected friends. Although many of the responses were quite typical, there were some that unexpectedly crossed ethical boundaries, for example someone suggested my affiliation with the persecution of thousands of Syrian Orthodox Christians. It is interesting to find certain obscure connections, but in the spirit of constructive debate, such wild comparisons should be avoided for the longevity and health of such discussions.
After submitting my last posting, many of my brothers in the IOC questioned my motives, and many stated that such postings were a waste of time, and would never lead to peace. I am sure that simply writing will not lead us anywhere, but I hope this can at least spark some sort of positive movement towards peace in the Malankara Church. I know that as humans, because each and every one of us is not perfect, we may disagree and agree on certain things. However, as Christians, we are called to strive for perfection, or strive to reflect Christ in our actions. We are faced with a dilemma that has crossed every sea, and has seeped into every home, and in every mind, both young and old. Do we not think that the story of how our two groups came to a peaceful solution can spread that same distance? I think we owe it to ourselves, our families, our future, and simply our mission towards leading a Christ-like life, that we can come together, and at least discuss our differences, and set an example of how peace should be attained. In America, we have been blessed with so many opportunities, and at least the members in this continent can come together for the sake of peace. So, if there is one idea that I can share, it is the hope that at least once a year, the youth of both our churches can come together for a joint, ecumenical conference.
However, I know such dreams cannot be materialized because of many actions that have been taken by my own church leadership. I apologize if our leaders have hurt you in any way. Our leaders have been entrusted with a great, yet complex responsibility. They are human beings, they are Christians. It is our responsibility to treat them in a respectful, Christian manner. I have taken no part in the administrative actions of this Diocese, and of the church at large. I am writing in hopes, not of changing our leaders, but in hopes of finding the few out there, who are willing to stand for peace, and will not accept any agreement unless it will lead to the eventual peace between our churches in Malankara. If we cannot even agree on a middle ground, then unfortunately I cannot openly say that we are making a Christian-like attempt for peace.
Now, for the sake of good debate, I am going to offer a few notes on which we can all ponder:
What about St. Peter's throne? I do not think the IOC has ever questioned the doctrine of Petrine supremacy, because if someone does, they are wrong; furthermore, we acknowledge that the successor of St. Peter has the highest seat when the heads of our two churches meet. Although the IOC believe in it, the ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES do not believe in such. If they did, then the Pope of the Coptic Church, the successor of St. Mark, would not have the highest seat in a meeting of the OO hierarchs (FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW, THE COPTIC POPE HAS THE HIGHEST PLACE WHEN THE ORIENTAL CHURCH HEADS MEET.) So, as far as I am concerned, the IOC is the only church that believes in this among our family of churches. In fact, when the heads of the Orthodox Churches (both EO and OO) meet with the Pope of Rome, it is written that the Pope should be given the highest honor. This was because Rome was the capital of the empire in the past, and not because the Pope of Rome was the successor of St. Peter.
What is wrong with the faith of the IOC?
We believe in the three ecumenical synods, that of Nicea, Constantinople, and Ephesus, and the decisions that were made there. This is what makes both the IOC and SOC, orthodox. In fact, Fr. Dr. V. C. Samuel is the main authority on the Council of Chalcedon in the last few centuries. If anyone wished to even begin to understand Christology, they cannot do it without the works of Fr. Dr. V. C. Samuel. We are grateful for the many gifts that the SOC has given us, especially mentionable by name, Fr. V. C. Samuel and Mar Paulos Gregorios. We are not only grateful, but the rest of Ecumenical Orthodoxy is grateful also. Our heads are held up high, as we enter into esteemed, prestigious, and influential institutions, such as Oxford, Yale, Harvard, and St. Vladimir's, and we hear the words of our dear Indian fathers being uttered in the halls and classrooms of these hallowed places. It only makes me proud to hear people refer to our church as the church of Fr. V. C. Samuel and Mar Paulos Gregorios.
What is wrong with the faith of IOC?
The majority of the IOC priests are educated in Orthodoxy. I can say with all honesty that some of the SOC metropolitans have received their Orthodox ethos at our Old Seminary in Kottayam like: Mar Yuhannon Philexenos, Mar Themothios Thomas, Mar Markos Kurilos, and the Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Adai Jacob (Principal of Udaigiri Seminary). Remember, these are all qualified high priests. The top educated leaders of your church studied under the "heretics." One can certainly appreciate the irony.
Old Seminary is the minimum qualification for our Priests. Furthermore, Ninety percent of our priests in America have studied at Old Seminary in Kottayam. Many go on and continue with their theological education at places such as St. Vladimir's Seminary, known for its Orthodoxy. We have at least twenty graduates from St. Vladimir's, and including six students that are currently studying there. Many of these students have or will graduate with their MDiv's, MTh's, and DMin's. In fact, for any of our deacons to receive the order of Yaufedkono (Sub-deacon), they must have a minimum of a MDiv. Many other SOC leaders have studied in this Seminary including Mar Theethos Yeldho, the current Metropolitan of the Malankara Arch Diocese, and Rabban Fr. Edyp Aydin. Many bishops of the SOC such as Mar Cyril Aprem Karim and Very Rev. Fr. John Meno have affiliations with St. Vladimir's.
What is wrong with the faith of the IOC?
Many say that we should never pray through the intercession of Paurmala Thiurmani because he himself swore that he would never associate with someone who spoke against Antioch. Many of us know that Vattaseril Thirumani and Catholicos Geevarghese II, which our SOC brethren have respectfully called "Vridthan Punnoose", were Parumala Gregorios Thirumani's beloved students. Vattaserril Thirumani was an instrumental figure in establishing the freedom of the Church in India. It is not proper to use Parumala Thiurmani's name in this argument because the split happened ten years after his earthly demise. Although you claim that Parumala Thirumani has cursed our church and our people, we have seen many miracles happen in his name for the IOC people. If you claim that it is the prince of demons that is performing these miracles, how can satan drive out satan? How can good be done in the name of satan?
It was not any Patriarch of Antioch that started the church in India. Although we are grateful for the ardent and dilligent support of the church leaders in Syria, we will continue to pray for them, and accept the Patriarch of Antioch as the supreme spiritual head, subject to the provisions of the constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Church.
In conclusion, let me share with you one hypothetical situation. Let us say that there is someone from the SOC who wishes to marry someone of the IOC, and this ceremony would be solemnized by a priest of the IOC. Because you claim our priests have no priesthood, would this mean that their marriage is illegitimate? Could the illegitimacy carry on to their children as well? Would the family of the SOC member allow for this illegitimacy? In my honest opinion, I think they would, because in the end all that matters is theosis, not petrosis.
And please pray for me, a weak and sinful servant.
With love and prayers,
Dn. Gregory Varghese
St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Yonkers, NY
Member ID: 0178