Thursday, October 23, 2008

College, Village Work, Theological Studies, and rejection of application for Ordination to Priesthood

I completed my B.Sc. at the P.S.G. Arts and Science College, Coimbatore, having graduated in Physics with a first class. After that my aim was to do evangelization work in N. India. However, I was not able to find a suitable mission work that was working in the villages. Then I came across Mr. P. A. Cyrus, who was working in the High Court at Cochin as a civil lawyer. He had given up his law practice and was working in the villages in Madhya Pradesh. He was basically working for the upliftment of the poor in the villages against big land owners who were exploiting the poor and keeping them poor. Since my aim was somehow to evangelize to the people in North India, I jumped into this work.

Thus, I was in a village called Gatapara, near Raipur, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, amonst a people called Satnamis. They are supposed to one of the lowest castes in the caste system. To my mind , the caste system is one of the most exploitative, oppressive, and evil systems ever created by the human mind. Here I worked for 1-3/4 years. We were actually educating the poor on their rights and trying to organize them to fight against the caste system, which is so prevalent in the villages of India. It was at this time that my eyes were opened to the appalling poverty that exists in the villages of India. Mahatma Gandhi said that India is in her villages and I have found that to be true. If we want to know the real India, we must see her through her villages.

It was here that I was exposed to the teachings of Mr. P. A. Cyrus on the Suffering Servant and this I consider is the greatest mark that his work has made in my life. Having grown and been brought up quite comfortably, this aspect of the christian life never really touched me. But I realized that the real type of christian leadership is through suffering servanthood. This is what St. Paul theologized about Jesus in that though Christ was at the right hand side of the Father, he left his glory and became a man. Being found in the form of a man, he took the form of a servant, and even went to the extent of dying on the cross. The Apostles also followed the same style and the mark of the church right through the ages has been the mark of suffering. This became the basics of my life and understanding of the christian gospel from here on.

I thought of the possibilities that existed in the Church in Kerala. I thought of the amount of talent and resources that were available in the church that could be utilized to evangelize the whole of India. Hence I thought of doing theological studies and use the resources of the church for this evangelization. I gave my application to the Mar Thoma Church, but was told that I would not be a sponsored candidate of the church and so I did my entrace exam at the United Theological College. I passed the entrance exam and was able to study do my studies at the theological college as an independant candidate, having recived the college scholarship.

The four years at the United Theological College, Bangalore, were four years of a thrilling journey in theological pursuit. It was years of intellectual creativity and discovery of the vast subject called theology. It was here that I discovered how little we really discover God and how we can be led astray into an intellectual confusion that plagues the church in India. It is here that I discovered that we can call ourselves the church of christ, but by false practices be the synagogue of satan. It is here I discovered the depths of ungodliness that exists amongst many of those who profess to be servants and priests of christ. Yet, it was here in UTC that my theological foundations were laid. It was a thrill to be amongst faculty and students from all parts of India and also members of different denominations of the church in India and abroad. It was here perhaps, that the foundations of ecumenism in the real sense of the word was formed . It was here that I discovered the power that the church can possess . It was here that I beheld the power that bishops and administrators of the various churches hold and how they can influence the tide of events in the church and also the nation. It was truly a time of discovery!

After my theological studies, I gave my application to the Mar Thoma Church to be ordained as a priest in the Mar Thoma Church. As I have already mentioned, thinking of trying to utilize the resources that exist in the church, I thought that getting into the church would serve that purpose. I must mention here that I have never seen ordination as the end, but only as a means for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Being brought up in Kenya, East Africa, my grasp of malayalam was not great. On giving my application to the church and knowing that my weakness was malayalam, I was asked to try to improve my malayalam before appearing before the Vaidika Selection Board, the board that selects candidates for ordination. So my first assignment was the Mar Thoma Deaf and Dumb School at Cherkala, Kasargod district, where I spent 1-3/4 years. Needless to say, my malayalam did not improve very much, although my understanding of what the deaf and dumb children go through did increase. Then, I was sent to St. Paul's Church at Kozhikode, where I spent another 6 months and then to Chungatara where another 6 months went by. After that I appeared before the Vaidika Selection Board who did not find my malayalam up to the mark and I was sent to Jerusalem Mar Thoma Church, Elamkulam, Cochin for another 6 months or so. After that I spent 6 months at the Kottayam Seminary. After this I appeared for the final session before the Vaidika Selection Board and the matter was passed over to the Synod, the board of all bishops of the Mar Thoma Church, to decide on the final ordination.

After this, a drama unfolded, which to this day is clouded in mystery. There was no official information given to me that I was rejected for ordination and apparently the then Sabha secretary informed us by word of mouth that the Synod had rejected my ordination to be a priest of the Mar Thoma Church. I went to see the then Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church, Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma, to ask for the reason for rejection. To my utter surprise and dismay, he did not give me clear cut reason. After a lengthy discussion, I finally asked to give me officially, in writing, that the Synod had rejected me from being a priest of the Mar Thoma Church, which he did.

Now the reason I asked him to give me this in writing is the following reasons. According to the constitution of the Mar Thoma Church, if the Synod has to reject an application for ordination to the Mar Thoma Church, it means that the Vaidiaka Selection Board has approved of that candidate or there is no way that the matter can be presented before the Synod, which means even in the case of my malayalam the board was pretty satisfied. Therefore, in all aspects the Vaidika Selection Board had found the candidate suitable for ordination. So what transpired in between the Vaidika Seclection Board's decision to approve of my candidature and therefore present my case before the Synod and the Synod's decision to reject that, is a mystery, to say the least!

As I have mentioned earlier all this was shrouded in mystery and everyone was tight lipped about the matter. Needless to say the event was a great shock to me and my family and has led to a great amount of suffering in the ensuing years. May I suggest that this was one event that made what I had said about suffering servanthood become not not a theory but a reality for me. In my ensuing years I wanted justice to be done to know what really was the administrative procedure that went into that decision. In my quest to have justice done I got one comment from a person of high standing in the Mar Thoma Church that I did not conform to "popular opinion." What this "popular opinion" was my search and research in the following 12-13 years or so and what has led me to discover many truths about the history of the church in Kerala, its evolution, the role and influence of certain families in its evolution, and the reason perhaps of its ineffectivess in Kerala and India and this I was to further explore.