UCA News

Church of South India in limbo after apex court order

India's Supreme Court has restrained court-appointed administrators from managing affairs of the Protestant denomination
CSI pastors attend a meeting in the southern city Madurai on March 26.

CSI pastors attend a meeting in the southern city Madurai on March 26. (Photo: csi1947.com)

Published: May 29, 2024 11:05 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 11:45 AM GMT

The routine administration of the Church of South India (CSI) has come to a standstill following a top court order that restrained a court-appointed panel from exercising its power.

“We do not know what to do and whom to report as there is no one to manage the daily affairs,” said an official working at the crisis-ridden Church headquarters in the southern city of Chennai.

The official, who did not want to be named, said on May 29 they did not know if they would get their salaries for this month as the Supreme Court had restrained the high court-appointed administrators from managing the finances.

"We are also uncertain about holidays and annual leaves. We do not know how to deal with this situation," added the official with the leading Protestant denomination.

The Madras High Court in Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu, on April 12 appointed retired Justices R Balasubramanian and V Bharathidasan as administrators of the Church.

They were given the administrator's powers to handle the Church's finances and directed to conduct elections to the Synod, the apex decision-making body of the Church.

The high court intervened after a section of the laity alleged corruption charges against former Synod moderator Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam.

However, on May 22 the top court in the country issued the restraining orders and posted the matter for hearing on July 8. 

The CSI was formed in 1947 after India’s independence from Britain as a union of Protestant denominations. Its counterpart in north India is known as the Church of North India (CNI).

The CSI has 24 dioceses including one in neighboring Sri Lanka. Among them, 14 have bishops.

The administrators have appointed bishops in charge of some of the other dioceses. But following the apex court order, they asked the bishops and other officials to refrain from exercising their powers.

Kollam-Kottarakkara diocese in southern Kerala state is headed by a bishop in charge appointed by the administrators.

“The diocese continues with its routine activities with the help of its elected council, but we don’t take any new decision until we get more clarity over the court order,” said Father Jose George, clergy secretary of the diocese.

However, dioceses with bishops do not face many difficulties.

“We practically face no difficulty following the top court order as it is primarily meant for the Synod and its administrators,” Father Nelson Chacko, clergy secretary of Madhya Kerala diocese in Kerala state told UCA News on May 29.

A couple of dioceses do not have a bishop nor authorized councils to run the routine administration, said a Church official.

"They are really in trouble," he noted.

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