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Archbishop of Canterbury says Churches of North India and South India are the only legitimate Members of the Anglican Communion in India

Archbishop of Canterbury says Churches of North India and South India are the only legitimate Members of the Anglican Communion in India


By The Rev. Dr. Joseph G. Muthuraj,
December 8, 2018

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion met in Canterbury in October 2017 for a week of prayer and reflection. The Archbishop sat with the two Moderators of the Church of South India (CSI) and the Church of North India (CNI) and declared that these two provinces were the rightful and only successors to the Church of England in India.

WELBY: Both churches (CSI & CNI) are central to the life of the Anglican Communion. Both churches are a blessing not only to their own life in their own country, but to the Communion worldwide. I want to say something about the status of these two provinces. Both provinces were formed in the 20th century as the successors to the CE in India and there are no other successors for the CofE in India. Both these churches took on the rights of properties and the obligations of the CofE in India. And no one else can make any claim to them. They are the legitimate successors. As such, they lead the work of the Anglican Communion throughout India in demonstrating the love of Christ and caring for those in need and in the use of the resources that they have for the work of service to God. They are a blessing to the communion and to me. I pray God's blessing on them.

MUTHURAJ: This new declaration given by the Archbishop to the CSI and the CNI did not raise eye-brows, despite recorded widespread corruption, as only 1000 persons have viewed the video, and we do not know how many of the 6 million Christians of the CSI (4.5 million) and the CNI (1.5 million) have viewed it. Comments include 20 likes and 2 dislikes. The video has not proven to be as popular as many leaders had hoped.

WELBY: Both churches (CSI & CNI) are central to the life of the Anglican Communion. Both churches are a blessing not only to their own life in their own country, but to the communion worldwide.

MUTHURAJ: The declaration by Justin Welby was personal, as he was not echoing any stand or decision taken by the Lambeth Conference or the Primates or the ACC. 'Both the churches are central to the AC and each is a blessing to the Communion', the Archbishop believes. This is an exaggeration and not true to reality! The United Churches (UC) are sitting on the periphery of the communion, as all Anglican churches do not accept the United Churches. The United Churches have merged with each other while those constituent churches remain divided in the West. Some purists look at CSI as contaminated for joining the non-conformists. Diverse opinions continue among the dioceses of the CE in terms of their recognition of UC. Both the CSI and the CNI's participation in the Communion's programmes and activities are minimal. The presence of the United Churches is often linked to the Anglican leadership as our Moderators are called Primates and the CSI is a province in the Anglican Communion. This does not necessarily make the CSI/CNI Anglican or a province of the CofE. India is a big and a key member country in South Asia. India is therefore, preferred on the map of the Anglican Communion as part of the wider global Anglican presence. The Archbishop of Canterbury is overstating the status of the CSI and the CNI in order to secure their support among the Primates who are divided on issues of sexuality and authority. Welby needs to have the CSI and the CNI on board as he is constantly being challenged by the GAFCON Primates.

A survey of the CSI's place within the Anglican Communion

We should get a glimpse of how the CofE and the AC considered the United Churches and what treatment was meted out to them. There are still scars in the minds of the UC over the rough treatment suffered at the hands of the Anglicans. The United Churches are now coaxed and flattered by the Archbishop! We can trace the history from 1930.

The Resolution 40a of the Lambeth Conference 1930 states: "The Conference notes with warm sympathy that the project embodied in the Proposed Scheme for Church Union in South India is not the formation of any fresh Church or province of the Anglican Communion under new conditions, but seeks to bring together the distinctive elements of different Christian Communions, on a basis of sound doctrine and episcopal order, in a distinctive province of the Universal Church, in such a way as to give the Indian expression of the spirit, the thought and the life of the Church Universal."

At the same time, it is said of this projected Church in South India, which will not be an [34/35] Anglican Church, that "it will have a very real inter-communion with the Churches of the Anglican Communion, though for a time that intercommunion will be limited in certain directions by their rules."

The Church of South India will not be Anglican and can never be a province of the CofE. It will have a relationship of inter-communion only with limited Anglican dioceses. The dioceses were free to reject the UC in their jurisdiction of their ministry.

The 1948 Lambeth Conference issued the following statement: "We rejoice that one part of the Anglican Communion should be found ready to make this venture for a corporate union with certain non-episcopal churches. We feel that in a sense our brethren in South India are making this experiment on behalf of the whole body of the Anglican churches. They are our pioneers in this direction of the movement for unity...." It was not real praise and appreciation as it appears to be as there are a 'but' and a 'yet'. We see the 'yet' side.

YET the United Church in South India will not itself be an Anglican Church: it will be a distinct Province of the Universal Church.' The words are quite clear.

Now the CSI had to face severance of its relationship with the Anglicans. "The fact that the Church of South India will not be a member of the group of Churches called the Anglican Communion will inevitably impose on our brethren a temporary severance of close and treasured relationships, in council and synod, with their brethren in North India."

Lambeth 1968 (Resolution 48) appealed to all churches saying, "That Churches and Provinces of the Anglican Communion re-examine their relation to the Church of South India with a view to entering into full communion with that Church."

The Resolution 32 pleaded for a reconsideration in accepting the CSI. It said, "The Conference requests that those member churches that have placed limitations on the ministry among them of episcopally ordained clergy from united churches with which they are in communion be asked to reconsider those restrictions so that the same courtesy might be accorded to the clergy of those Churches as to those of other Churches in communion with us."

In the next stage, Moderators of the UC found a way to enter the Primates' Council. In Resolutions (14) of the Lambeth 1978, the Conference requested the Archbishop of Canterbury "in consultation with the primates, to convene a meeting of Anglican bishops with bishops of Churches in which Anglicans have united with other Christians, ... and to discuss with them how bishops from these Churches could best play their part in future Lambeth Conferences". Until then, only few CSI bishops were invited to attend the Lambeth Conference.

The United Churches attained full Communion with the Anglican Church as a result of Resolution (No. 17) made at the ACC, 1987: "That this council (a) resolves that the ACC should now move towards normal membership of the Council for all united churches with which the Churches of the Anglican Communion are in full communion (i.e. the Church of South India, the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan and the Church of Bangladesh); (b) requests the Lambeth Conference of 1988 and the Primates' Meeting of 1989 similarly to consider full membership of those bodies for United Churches in full communion."

This was a follow-up to the Resolution 12 of the Joint meeting of the Primates and ACC in 1983: "Resolved, that this Joint Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council, recognising the mature experience of the Churches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in the development of full communion between Christian of different traditions, recommends that efforts be made to encourage deeper engagement of those Churches in the Ecumenical Advisory Group and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Consultation."

Since 1920, and for about 70 years, the UC found a place in two AC groups which do not meet that often like other committees important to Anglicanism. Now, however, the Archbishop patronizes with words like "legal successor" of the CofE and with statements that are untrue as both the CSI and CNI have never been central to the life of the Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop was given a warm welcome when he visited India in 2014. He reminded listeners of India's colonial period. The Archbishop commented on the achievements of the Indian nation with exaggerated words and condescending remarks. He also met with the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali, who was in no way connected with the Christians of India. CSI matters were discussed privately behind closed doors. On the whole, it was a state visit not a church visit. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office never commented on the crisis the CSI was and is facing, and either nothing was said or Christians warned about the Church's corruption and fraud.

WELBY: Both provinces were formed in the 20th Century as successors to the CofE in India

MUTHURAJ:This is a gross distortion of the history of the United Churches. When the CSI was formed, it organically brought together the United Church, consisting of four ecclesiastical traditions; the Anglican, the Methodist, the Presbyterian and the Congregationalists. It was regarded as a comprehensive church of four biblical understandings of ministry joined into one. Not one single constituent denomination could claim ownership of the CSI. Union did not mean one church absorbing the other three. The CSI was not, at that time, declared a legal successor of the Anglican Church in India. The new United Church died to old denominationalism and was resurrected as a new church.

Then Presiding Bishop C. K. Jacob uttered the solemn Declaration of the Union during a worship service held at the St. George's Cathedral on 27 September 1947. The bishop declared:

"Dearly Beloved brethren...I do hereby declare that these three Churches, namely: the Madras, Travancore and Cochin, Tinnevelly and Dornakal Diocese of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon; the Madras, Madura, Malabar, Jaffna, Kannada, Telugu and Travancore Church Councils of the South India United Church; and the Methodist Church in South India, comprising the Madras, Trichinopoly, Hyderabad and Mysore Districts; are become one CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA..."

There is no reference to 'Anglicans' or 'Church of England' in this declaration. Already in 1929, the Anglican churches in India began to call it by its own name and not as the Church of England in India, but the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon (CIPBC). It received a new name The Church of South India in 1947. The public perception in England was that there were no Anglicans in South India and it was thus stated with a certain amount of superiority, that the CSI was not an Anglican church. The UC never wanted the label 'Anglican church'. Membership in the AC cannot make a United Church either an Anglican or the successor of Anglicans. The CSI is there purely to bear witness to its united character and to remind Anglicans of the unity that is to be sought and achieved by other Anglican churches. Even though the Archbishop of Canterbury is a symbol of worldwide Anglicanism, his words that CSI and CNI are the legal successors of the Church of England cannot be taken as true. He must get the approval for this from the Primates' Council at the Lambeth Conference 2020!

To say that only the CSI and CNI can make any claim to being authentic Anglicans is grossly arrogant and presumptuous. The CSI can also be claimed by the Reformed churches as they also claim to be Anglicans. It is not the CofE which contributed to the status of the CSI, but three other heritages which have influenced and shaped the making of the UC. At the time of the formation of the CSI, non-Anglicans constituted 50% and handed over their properties to the United Church.

The Church of South India cannot change its history to suit the current political and theological struggle in the Anglican Communion. The CSI and the CNI should take a bold stand and identify themselves with Anglican churches of the Global South. It is disheartening to note that the both the CSI and CNI do not attend meetings called by the Anglican dioceses of South (East) Asia. It was a shame to see both Moderators sitting in dumb silence and approving what was said about them.

WELBY: As such, they (CSI & CNI) lead the work of the Anglican Communion throughout India in demonstrating the love of Christ and caring for those in need and in the use of the resources that they have for the work of service to God.

MUTHURAJ: Demonstrating the love of Christ and caring for those in need are not properties specifically belonging to the Anglican Communion. They are the responsibility of every church which is part of the universal Church. To this end, no church needs to become a legal successor to the Church of England.

Honourable Archbishop Welby, do you mean faithfully every word you have said about the CSI & the CNI? If you do, let us truthfully re-write the life and history of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

A YouTube of this event can be seen here: (https://youtu.be/yTmn5m9EUQ8)

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