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Archbishop Justin Welby will Visit India: Can he confess Christ when he gets Media Attention in India?

Archbishop Justin Welby will Visit India: Can he confess Christ when he gets Media Attention in India?

By Dr. Joseph Muthuraj
August 5, 2019

The following is a news report on Archbishop Welby's upcoming visit to India.


It is indeed great news that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby with his wife Mrs. Welby will be visiting the united churches in India; the Church of South India and the Church of North India in early September. My first reaction is that the ten-day visit is packed with programmes held throughout the length and breadth of the country which will prove physically demanding in the September weather. The organisers must consider extending the trip to at least 15 days inclusive of travels than just 10. Justin Welby is the only Archbishop who is visiting India for a second time during his tenure in office. The second trip will be different from the first in 2014 when he focused almost exclusively on visiting the Indian government rather than to the churches.

Archbishop's Prayer at Amritsar

The communique says, 'Archbishop Justin will visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and will be the first Archbishop to visit the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He will join in commemorations for this tragedy, when thousands of unarmed Indians of many different faiths were shot by British troops in 1919.'

'Speaking about the event, the Archbishop's inter-religious affairs adviser, Dr Richard Sudworth, said Justin Welby would be giving a statement including a "transparent account" of what happened. "We regard this with real soberness," he said, "as a moment for recognising some of the sins of our history, in order to move forward with good will and mutual flourishing."'

[See my 'Time to wear a "Black Armband" of mourning over the Amritsar massacre and for the Christians whose religion is being suppressed in India' (published on 7 April 2019) https://virtueonline.org/time-wear-black-armband-mourning-over-amritsar-massacre-and-christians-whose-religion-being]

A Request to Dr. Richard Sudworth and Dr. William Adam

I request the Archbishop's inter-religious affairs advisers not to press the Archbishop to say anything even close to making an apology over the tragic incident in Amritsar which, historically speaking, set the fire of independence at the heart of every Indian. The British-Indian relationship since then has gone a long way to yielding positive results for both. Lambeth Palace does not have to struggle to produce any diplomatic statement in the name of transparency and soberness which the Indians have heard enough from others. I do not think any compensation sort of thing is in the mind of the Indians. Nor are we interested in using the occasion to convey our anger to the British. The time silently spent in the park can add to our milk of human kindness and the church can take it and use it elsewhere where justice and equality are denied and are the hardest to find.

In Amritsar, I hope that the Archbishop walks on the narrow street called the Kucha Kurrichhan (the name probably is changed now) where Marcella Sherwood an English woman missionary, a school teacher was beaten up and left half-dead just few days before the massacre. She was saved and given medical treatment by a Hindu family whose children the missionary had taught. Colonel Dyer, the one who ordered the massacre, issued instructions that all Indians traversing the street of 150 yards long where the woman missionary had been attacked were to crawl on it like a snake on their hands and knees watched by the soldiers. Two of the attackers were punished with 30 lashes by Dyer on the spot where Sherwood had fallen. Walking on that street could also serve as a memory of 311 British women missionaries who served in India, who by1920 outnumbered male missionaries, according to the statistics of Andrea Pass from Oxford.

The Purpose Outlined

Archbishop Justin has said: "My prayer is that this visit will first and foremost provide opportunities for me to pray with local Christians; secondly, I want to listen to the stories of local people, to hear the joys and challenges they face in their daily life; and, finally, I am looking forward to visiting key places of worship and significance. India has a long and distinguished Christian history, going back as early as the first century when Saint Thomas is said to have travelled to Kerala. I am looking forward to learning from the Church in India and sharing in their worship."

I am sure that the activities of the Archbishop will be closely watched by the Hindu groups and I hope and pray that the Archbishop does not become too circumspect and feel restrained when critical comments about his visit as a leader of the Christian Church appears in the newspapers. No statement is needed to curry the favour of the anti-Christian Hindu nationalists or to please the politicians so that they do not make critical remarks about Britain's past. If there is an interview to a newspaper, we Christians want to see that the Archbishop not mince words about Christ and Christian Scripture. Diplomacy must be kept to the lowest level possible.

No letting down the Indian Christians

Amit Roy reports (The Telegraph, 31 July 2019) from London, challenges whether Archbishop Welby will be 'the turbulent priest' to Modi, the Indian PM like Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170 to Henry II of England.

It is further reported; 'On Tuesday, Sudworth and Adam were at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's historic residence overlooking the Thames. They briefed a group of journalists, mainly religious affairs correspondents.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Martin Bashir, who is a Pakistani Christian -- he made a name by securing an exclusive interview with Princess Diana -- he bluntly asked if the Archbishop would challenge Modi about the persecution of Christians in India.

Another journalist wondered whether Indian Christians would feel let down if the Archbishop failed to do so.'

I hope that the Archbishop meets some of the missionaries serving in the Indian mission societies and also those who are involved in evangelistic activities to hear their stories. The women, children and the youth in the CSI are those who are witnessing to Christ in a country which is systematically taught to be hostile to the minority Christians. The people of India are being taken back to the dark days of Brahmanicalism that enslaved people in superstitions and idolatry which were criticised and abandoned by the philosophical Hinduism propagated by the Upanishads and the Vedantha prophets like Sankara, Ramanuja and the like.

The challenges for religious dialogue are faced in day-to-day public life and are not taking place in institutional buildings like the Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad. Can the Archbishop tell the media that he is a Christian in the face of such accusations or adverse publicity? This would be a fitting expression of solidarity with Indian Christians.

LC 2020 makes history in Lobbying for attendance

'Primates in push to encourage all bishops to attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference'. We have not read such titles before. The next sentence says that more than 1000 bishops and their wives and partners have sent registrations to attend which means that the strategy is working. Archbishop Justin is going all out for an audience attendance drive to increase numbers so that attendance to GAFCON conference is put in check. Invitations need not be extended to all twenty odd bishops of the CSI as a good number of them are corrupt. They include the bishops of Medak, Madurai, Madras, South Kerala, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Nadyal dioceses. They should not be invited to Lambeth to make up the numbers.

Address the bishops to maintain purity and simplicity of an episcopate

Prayer is the most diplomatic word that religious leaders use these days. 'Prayer' can be abused to cover real motives, including a multitude of other self-serving business activities to be performed in the name of God. The Archbishop is coming to India to pray with Christians which indirectly means that he will not necessarily raise questions about a former Moderator spending time in prison on charges of corruption, fraud and forgery. The Archbishop will be presented with false information about the crisis the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) is facing through the courts of law and the Indian Government.

The Government has ordered the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the counterpart of Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to probe into the financial mismanagement, illegal sale of properties and other unlawful activities. But the CSI hierarchy has been blocking the investigation for the last three years (three times obtaining 'stay' from courts) with the help of money and influence to protect the corrupt bishops from persecution and imprisonment. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs recently disqualified the Moderator from operating as the director of the CSITA. To cover up this, he immediately resigned from the directorship and chairmanship of the CSITA.

The news received today says that the Madras High Court has appointed two retired Judges to manage the educational and the medical institutions belonging to the ex-Anglican diocese Tirunelveli diocese where the CMS and SPG worked for two centuries. The Hindu Judge (I am told, he reads Thompson Chain Reference Bible) in his verdict writes, "While penning this order, with great pain, I observe, "Nobel object with which the educational and health care institutions of the diocese of Thirunelveli and Thirunelveli Trust Association were created, is being defeated..."' The final order from another court, National Company Law Tribunal, is awaited for over three months now which will decide the fate of the management committee of the Church of South India Trust Association which was once already dismissed on 11 November 2016 by the same Tribunal. 'The Anglican Communion must decide what to do with this corrupt church which knows all manner of evil and devious ways to protect leaders from punishment for looting God's Church.

The corruption and fraud found in the management of the church properties and finances are uppermost in the minds of CSI Christians. The CSI leadership will try to prevent them from approaching the Archbishop. Some courageous ones will be keen to share those concerns at any odd opportunity or even express them in an out of the context manner. Some may barge in to make a complaint. I hope that the Lambeth team will pay attentive ears even if you are not inclined to discuss those concerns with the bishops. Do not ignore them as they are saying something very important to the witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One sincerely hopes that the Archbishop and his team at least will reflect and pray over these complaints by sharing them with the bishops. Many bishops thrive on luxurious lifestyles and devils are lurking in their account books. They are writing false reports, manufacturing financial statements and stealing money are the marks of a degraded episcopacy in the CSI.

A Seminar in the LC 2020 for Anti-corruption Measures in the Church

Vibrant evangelism and effective prophetic voice are the marks of spirituality needed in the church today to battle against corruption and fraud. Anti-corruption aspirations need to be sought and they are not mere Christian sentimentalism but have strong biblical roots. Corruption with its subtle nuances has become a matter of course or a comfortable system to work within the CSI. It has become a standard operating procedure in the appointment of bishops and the selection of the Moderator. There are also other forms of corruption in the CSI such as bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, craft, immorality and embezzlement.

The corrupt leaders are idolised in the church by the benefit-seekers, cronies and narrow spiritualists. Opportunistic committee members are content having corrupt men as church leaders since they appear to shower benevolence to their loyalists from time to time at the cost of dedicated men and women.

A seminar to discuss corruption in the churches at the LC 2020 is a must. Anglican Communion leaders should not show any tolerance and gentleness towards tackling issues of corruption, money-swindling and fraud in the churches.

Remembering the most outdated and forgotten subject 'Church Unity'

The year 2019 marks the centenary year for the community that produced a blue-print for union between episcopal and non-episcopal churches. We celebrate 100 years of the Tranquebar Meeting, which attempted to navigate the church to its classic formularies of the Tranquebar Manifesto (1919), the seminal document, the basis of union underlying the CSI Constitution.

Please remember Tranquebar as well as Amritsar! We want the wonder of our past to be recaptured and the ecstasy to be re-experienced. We want the Tranquebar Manifesto of 1919 to speak to us in a way that can make a huge impact on how to evaluate the present. A two-day meeting in Tranquebar (1-2 May 1919), a coastal village in south India where the first Protestant missionaries began their work in 1706, produced nearly the entire scheme for union under the chairmanship of the Rt. Rev. V. S. Azariah, the first Indian bishop of the Anglican church. What a union negotiation might be expected to achieve in fifty years or more, the Tranquebar meeting set it forth in two days. It is known in history that union discussions could go on and on for decades with, finally, nothing or very little being achieved. Many union talks failed after several years of conversation without reaching agreement. There are cases of draft agreements being shelved as generations changed and theological outlook shifted.

The Indian-ness of the meeting is much spoken of in historical writings. The conference was attended by 39 members; the common statement was signed by 33 members, of whom 31 were Indians. The contents were worded and framed with the help of the two non-Indians, Sherwood Eddy (American Congregationalist) and H. A. Popley (Anglican). The Tranquebar Manifesto was a landmark achievement in the history of the ecumenical movement in the twentieth century.

A Call for a visit to Tanquebar

The team from the Lambeth Palace should also consider remembering this centenary event in a special way by making a visit to Tranquebar, a name frequently found in the collection of letters of the Archbishops of Canterbury of the eighteenth century. The Archbishops wrote personally and officially to the missionaries in Tranquebar as the SPCK supported them for over a century. It is both Amritsar and Tranquebar that ought to be remembered!

Likely to lose my Request for an appointment with the Archbishop!

Finally, my request to meet the Archbishop and his wife for 10-15 minutes when they are in Bangalore to share my memories of living in Cranmer Hall, Durham and my family's experience of living in the vicarage of Kelloe, Diocese of Durham which coincided with the time of the Archbishop Justin working in Durham will, in all likelihood be turned down after the publication of this essay and the essay critiquing the theme of LC 2020. Nonetheless I say 'Praise be to God'!

The Rev. Dr. Muthuraj, is a former member of St. John's College, Durham and a graduate of the University of Durham, UK. Through his publications, he has been established as a CSI historian who currently writes on the relationship between the united churches and the Anglican Communion. He has been one of the strongest voices in the global theological communion appealing for a renewal of Episcopacy to bring an end to the corruption in the Church of South India.

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