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Archbishop Welby is accorded a multi-layered tight security in Bangalore, India

Archbishop Welby is accorded a multi-layered tight security in Bangalore, India

By Dr. Joseph Muthuraj
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
August 31, 2019

The coverage of the Archbishop Welby's previous visit to the Church of South India was so meagre that the official journal of the CSI, which only has a 4000 subscribing members among the four million church members, had the following report (dated 2 June 2014) about the visit after presenting some biographical details of the Archbishop culled from his CV.

Archbishop Justin's Priorities as on 2014

On taking office in March 2013, Archbishop Justin announced three priority areas for his ministry over the coming years.

1. The Renewal of Prayer and the Religious Life
2. Reconciliation
3. Evangelism and Witness

See more at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org

To learn more about the visit of The Archbishop of Canterbury please contact The General Secretary, CSI, CSI Centre, #5, Whites Road, Royapettah, Chennai 600 014. Ph:+91-44-2852 1566/4166, Fax: +91-44-2852 3528, Email synodcsi@gmail.com and csi@vsnl.com

The General Secretary, CSI &
The Hon. Secretary, CSITA
The Press Release for the 2019 Visit

The present visit has kindled widespread reservations about Archbishop's coming to India. Now on the eve of his second visit starting from 31 August 2019 a message has been released through press and the text of which probably comes from the desk of the General Secretary of the CSI who is in-charge of planning and organising the programmes for the Lambeth team. This press release, as it were, the preamble to the visit of the Archbishop and his team.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Most Rev Justin Welby to Visit South India at the invitation of the Church of South India

The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, the Most Reverend Justin Welby will be visiting the Church of South India from 31st August to 5th September 2019 along with his spouse Mrs. Caroline Welby, on the invitation of the Moderator of Church of South India, Most Rev. Thomas K. Oommen. The Archbishop of Canterbury will visit the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana. He will be hosted in Kerala by the Madhya Kerala Diocese, in Karnataka by the Karnataka Central Diocese and in Telangana by the Medak Diocese.

The Church of South India is a United and Uniting Church representing the Indian cultural and national ethos formed soon after Indian independence in 1947. The Anglican, Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian Churches came together in an organic unity in CSI. As a United and Uniting Church, CSI has membership in three World Communions, namely, the Anglican Communion, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council as well as in the World Forum of United and Uniting Churches. The Archbishop of Canterbury is visiting the Church of South India as head of one of the Communions to which CSI belongs.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby was installed as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury on 21st March 2013 at Canterbury Cathedral. In 2017, Archbishop Welby was invited to join the UN Secretary-General António Guterres' High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation -- the only faith leader to be on the panel. The Archbishop, as a most respected World Ecumenical leader visits Church of South India, especially to encourage and inspire the faithful to commit themselves to the ministry of peace and reconciliation.

Being leader of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop believes that there is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world. He reiterates that the present environmental and economic challenges, and those of human development and global poverty can only be faced with extraordinary Christ-liberated courage. He is firm in his vision that the Church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation. The Archbishop's visit is encapsulated as 'pastoral prayer and pilgrimage'.

In the state of Kerala, the CSI will accord a warm welcome to the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury at an ecumenical gathering in Kottayam on 31st August 2019 at the CSI Convention Centre. Bishops and leaders of various churches, people's representatives from different dioceses of CSI in Kerala and thousands of believers from various congregations will attend the ecumenical gathering.

On 1st September, the Archbishop will be preacher and celebrant at the Holy Communion Service at the CSI Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chalukunnu in Kottayam. On 2nd September, the Archbishop will have an interaction with Presbyters of the Madhya Kerala Diocese and will grace the valedictory function of the Bi-centenary celebrations of CMS College. Mrs. Caroline Welby will visit the CSI Madhya Kerala Diocesan Women's fellowship projects.

In Bangalore, Most Rev. Justin Welby will meet and interact with an invited audience comprising of young leaders from the Information Technology and Business Technology (IT & BT) sectors on 3rd September. The Archbishop will also deliver an academic lecture to an invited audience at the United Theological College, Miller's Road, Bangalore. Mrs. Welby will visit the Vishranthi Nilayam, the headquarters of the CSI Women's Fellowship and the Order of Sisters. The Karnataka Central Diocese will host a Reception in honour of visiting Archbishop. The Archbishop will be preacher and celebrant at the Holy Communion Service on 4th September at St. Mark's Cathedral, Bangalore.

In Medak in Telangana, Archbishop Justin Welby will be celebrant and preacher at the Holy Communion Service at CSI Cathedral, one of the biggest churches in South India on 5th September. In the evening, the Archbishop will participate in an interfaith round table at the Henry Martyn Institute at Shivarampally, in Hyderabad. He will then leave to Jabalpur on a visit to the Church of North India (CNI).

The Programmes

31st August 5:00 p.m. - Welcome & Ecumenical Gathering in Kottayam at CSI Convention Grounds
1st September 8:00 a.m. - Holy Eucharist Service at Kottayam Cathedral
2nd September 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. - CMS College Bi-centenary Valedictory
3rd September 10:00 a.m. - Meeting with IT BT young leaders (invited guests)
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. - Academic Lecture at UTC (invited guests)
6:30 p.m. - Reception at Bishop Cotton's Auditorium with cultural evening (invited guests)
4th September 8:00 a.m. - Holy Eucharist Service at St. Mark's Cathedral
5th September 11:30 - 1:30 p.m. - Holy Eucharist Service at Medak Cathedral, Telangana
6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Interfaith round table - Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad (invited guests)

Comments

The Press Release breaks all the hypes about the visit! The Archbishop's visit was termed as 'Pastoral and not Political Visit'. We understand now that the 'pastoral visit' means that he will be celebrating Holy Eucharist in as many cathedrals as he can. The readers should not think that there are separate programmes in which the Archbishop prays earnestly with the people as he originally intended to do. All meetings where there will be discussions of some kind will be meant only for the invited guests. Those who might ask awkward questions on the corruption and other issues relating to the CSI and Anglicanism will be screened off. There is no programme listed for the Archbishop meeting with the press in South India for answering questions about the purpose of his visit etc. It is possible that there will be a press meet in Amritsar where he will be visiting the Jallianwala Bagh where hundreds of Indian civilians were massacred on 13 April 1919.

The events in Bangalore on 4 September are of major importance as the 24 CSI bishops with their spouses have been invited to be present at the Holy Eucharist observed at St. Mark's Cathedral. This will be followed by breakfast and then an exclusive meeting of Welby with the bishops' council will take place during which time the spouses will meet separately with Mrs. Welby. The agenda for these meetings is not known and it will sure give a foretaste of the Lambeth 2020.

It is informed that all these programmes are conducted amidst very tight security set up in and around the Cathedral area. No cars should be parked within the Cathedral campus. The Archbishop will have breakfast after the Eucharist Service with a select group of bishops and other dignitaries in a well-guarded place while the congregation members will be having breakfast standing outside in the lawn area around the church.
'It is no tale': An anti-climax

An anti-climax is being promised by the Press Release which not only disappoints the public expectation, it's also a breakdown of the trust between the Lambeth Palace and the Indian Christians. Before the visit, they were given to understand that the Archbishop will make a courageous statement stressing to the Indian Government, in the wake of persecution of Christians, the protection of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which upholds the freedom of religion, giving right to citizens to profess and to propagate religion. When the reader is expecting something big to happen from Welby, it turns out to be trivial and can even become humorous. It is said: 'There is creepy music playing and the protagonist inches towards a cellar door where he hears strange noises. When he opens it, a cat walks out. Nothing else is there.'
In his poem "Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman", William Wordsworth disappoints his readers by saying that those expecting a tale to transpire in this poem will not find one. Wordsworth avers that, "What more I have to say is short, / And you must kindly take it:/ It is no tale" This was upsetting and unsatisfying for those readers who were expecting a story. I was expecting a story, in my earlier essay in the VOL, that the Archbishop will show at least 10% of the spirit found in the Truro's Report in support of persecuted Christians. I was also expecting him to confess Christ in the media when questions regarding religious conversions will be thrown at him. He seems to be retreating from that position now and will probably end up in a minus 10% position from Truro's main concern of condemning the violence committed against Christians.

A U-turn on Religious Freedom

It seems that Welby will be taking a U-turn by admonishing the sufferers to pray for reconciliation with the torturers of those who worship Christ. In such case, he should tell the Indian Christians how they reconcile (the act of bringing people together to be friendly again or coming to an agreement) with the right-wing Hindu nationalists who abuse the Christians as missionaries of conversion making the Hindus through fraudulent means by offering education and medical help to make them follow a foreign and an anti-national religion. They further resort to force to make Christians return back to Hinduism, the undeclared religio licita of India. This is totally against the spirit shown by the Truro's Report which estimates that 80% of religious persecutions in the world target the Christians. Welby's visit will turn sour if he recommends to the Christians to make peace with the extremist Hindu brethren by making a pact with them so that they can protect themselves from being persecuted. What a timid and compromising act it will be!

The Archbishop will rather choose to focus on the environmental and economic challenges, just as predicted, that are facing the church than on persecution of the minorities. He and his colleagues are not going to even turn towards the direction of the place where corruption and fraud have a safe dwelling. Any talk on corruption that is plaguing the CSI leadership will be decently avoided.
Anglicanism is sized up

In the Press release, a reference is made to three world communions that the CSI is part of, namely, the Anglican Communion, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council as well as in the World Forum of United and Uniting Churches. It looks as if the statement was formed by the General Secretary, CSI to cut the importance of Anglicanism into size if not wholly undermining it. We do not determine the importance of the constituent church tradition in the united church by calculating it from the number of memberships the CSI is currently holding in international church councils. We are well advised to go to history and analyse the gifts of input that came from Anglicanism, Methodism, Presbyterianism and Congregationalism not by the number of committees/councils in which the CSI represents as a member.

The World Methodist Council website gives a slightly different yet a better description that "the CSI strives to maintain fellowship with all those branches of the church which the uniting churches enjoyed fellowship before the union. The CSI is a member of the World Methodist Council, the Anglican Consultative Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission, and the Association of Missions and Churches in South West Germany." The CSI is also a member in several other national and international group of churches. This does not give us a clue as to the extent of the heritage each church tradition brought to the united church. Judging by the number of its membership, the Anglican Communion will look one among the many, a small fraction. But Anglicanism laid the foundation for the formation of churches that are now part of the CSI from the year 1706.

Unity of what kind?

The CSI is, as Wainright has noted, according to the Faith and Order 'survey of church union negotiations 1959--1961', some fifty sets of conversations and plans toward unity that were being conducted or drawn up at national and regional levels on every continent." Of all these schemes only the ones in the Indian subcontinent succeeded in uniting with the non-episcopal churches in 1947. It was an organizational unity around a core confessional identity moulding different aspects of ministry of Faith and Order into a single unified form. The different denominational labels have been stripped off but the properties and heritages are preserved in the union. Union does not mean that the church traditions would constantly eliminate each other in competition and that each would neutralise the other from its vibrancy and strength.

Hence, it was Bishop Newbigin's appeal for unity in that "we accept one another as we are". That is surely the only method of Christian reunion which is proper to the order of grace."- a frank and unambiguous acceptance of one another without making comparisons as comparisons should be kept out of place. He adds, "We must accept and forgive one another as Christ has accepted and forgiven us. To lay down pre-conditions for reception is to violate the whole relationship of grace which God has established with us. We are rightly afraid of any easy-going relativism which pretends that one kind of churchmanship is as good as another or better than the other." The new united church needed to be defined in terms of what it was becoming rather than in static formulations. Hence the CSI was called united and uniting church as the unity is not made complete yet and every generation should make the unity stronger and make it work without injecting the spirit of hatred to one another. Let us not pack the CSI by opening all the old wounds and set up traditions pitted one against the other, as Anglicanism vs Methodism etc.

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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