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Why the Exodus?

by Dr. Babu Thomas, Zambia

It is an undeniable fact that over the past few decades, thousands of youth (possibly tens of thousands) and (mostly) women have left Orthodox Church to embrace newly formed Pentecostal, 'born again' fellowships and ministries; that have been mushrooming everywhere.

Not infrequently, I see people lamenting over this trend, in their postings in Internet Forums like ICON.

If those who "migrate", get into a better disposition in their spiritual life, than when they were with their original faith, to my mind, there is no need for any lamentation. But sadly, that is not the reality. Instead, these 'fellowships' are just the breeding places of 'religious fanatics' in the Christian society; (something similar to the "Madrasas" in Islam) making them feel self-righteous, prompting to proclaim themselves of their "Salvation", " New birth" and "Eternal Life"; all by the so called "faith alone and with 'NO WORK' doctrine".

Since I myself have attended quite a few of these 'fellowships' for years together;- without even a shadow of doubt, I can say that these groups are 'individuals centered' and 'not built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone' (Ephesians 2:20)- the absolutely essential ingredients for a genuine church. That is why, every now and then we see the likes of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Paul Crouch, Ted Haggard, Earl Paulk, Gene Robinson etc. making news in the media, to the utter shame of everyone with any sense of Christian morality.

Then, why does this exodus from Orthodox church, happen so very often?

Maramon Paalakkunnatu Abraham Malpan ( 1796-1845) and Puthuppally Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan (1800-1855) initiated reformation movement in the church which later resulted in the formation of Marthoma Church. Both Malpans, I understand, were Professors at our Theological Seminary in Kottayam.

(Pastors) K.E Abraham and P.M Samuel started 'Viyojitha Prasthanom' in Orthodox church, which in 1924, germinated as 'Indian Pentecostal Church'. As youngsters, both wanted to become 'priests' in our church. Now, Indian Pentecostal Church has more than 4500 'fellowships' in different parts of the world.

In 1930 (Arch) Bishop Mar Ivanios took away a big chunk from the church to the Roman Catholic faith, and formed Malankara Catholic Church, now with their own Catholicos even!

As we all know, most of the Televangelists of Kerala these days, and vast majority of the 'Founder Pastors' of the hundreds of 'fellowships' of Kerala were of the Orthodox church (except for a few like Jose Anathanam).

Why are these phenomena frequently happening? Are they to be ignored? Are we, or are we not failing in our Christian mission?

So, I thought I would express some of my thoughts.

One of the major reasons, to my mind, is; the inability / difficulty, to have a meaningful participation in the Holy Qurbana and other worship services of our church.

In spite of my very sincere desire to involve, full time in our Qurbana, I find it very difficult even though I am not too bad in my Malayalam. I find the Malayalam in our Qurbana, really obsolete especially those of the hymns/songs. I understand that they were written by " Mahakavi Vallathol" nearly a century ago. We sing- " Nidrayil Ninneppetta paavana kanyakayodoppam'. My understanding is that 'Nidra' has only two meanings: ie., either sleep or death. ( Or is there another meaning for the word? ) In that case, what is the meaning of that stanza? Look at " Ninnal sthuthiodu rajamakal '; can it be considered as contemporary understandable Malayalam?

Editor's Note:

We do not sing-"Nidrayil Ninneppetta paavana kanyakayodoppam" but sing as
"Nishtayil Ninneppetta paavana kanyakayodoppam".
The meaning of "Nidrayil" and "Nishtayil" are different. But, the author's point is well taken; we are dealing with hard to understand Malayalam words, that are difficult for a beginner to understand. Some of the later songs composed by Late C. P. Chandy are easier to grasp.

All our prayers, whether they are of the H. Qurbana, or baptism or marriage or funeral services, are so very sweet, meaningful and great except for the complex sentences. But, only very few; if at all; are able to actively participate. Is it not a fact that quite a few of our Achans read those prayers very fast, just for the sake of completing the reading, and in such a way that none can understand or follow. Is it a sin, to make the songs and prayers in understandable simple language? Just think of a hymn like, say " Daiva krupayil nyan aashrayichu, avan vazhikale nyan arinju ". Does it need any explanation?

True, it is refreshing to see our youngsters in the U.S and Europe participating in Malayalam Qurbana using "Manglish". But really, can someone be really happy in that sort of participation, even when we agree that it is better than no participation at all? Is it reasonable to think, that they understand what they say/sing in ' Manglish'?

Recently we had the discussion on the role of the 'choir' in church services. Since I have been in Zambia over 2 decades now, with no chances of attending our Qurbana here in this country, my exposure and experience with the 'Choir' are very limited. But my general impression is that; for the H. Qurbana, it is of acceptable standards in most places. But the "Gaana Mela" style, performed by some hired professional troupes esp. for 'marriage services' is repulsive, to say the least.

The most tragic and depressing thing has been the legal and physical battles going on between the two factions of the church for centuries together! Has it got anything to do with Christianity at all ? Which one do we care; Christ and his teachings or the 'Thrones'? Did Jesus have a 'throne' while on earth? Which of the disciples had the throne? In what way do these fights for the throne and buildings help the spiritual growth of anyone? How much do we care about what is written in the bible?

Fr. Dr. V.C Varghese wrote on Nov 25, 2007, " In order to have effective Bible study, it is necessary to have confidence in God's word. The entire bible must be acknowledged as the inspired word of God, from beginning to end.' If any part of God's word is questioned, all of it is subject to question. If all of God's word is not inspired and infallible, then how can one know that any of it is? How is it possible to know what to believe and what not to believe?"

Jesus says: " Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Mark 13:31)". Do we have trust in that statement? Let us ask our own conscience.

If we do believe; how much do we value the instructions of Jesus, given in Matthew 5: 23-24 which says: " Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." When I read about all the physical fights, police protection, court orders, breaking open the gates, beating up priests etc. for the sake of 'offering'(!) Doopaprardhanas I really wonder what is our concept about God !!  Can someone say, how acceptable our Qurbanas and Dhoopaprardhanas will be, the way they are done; esp. in areas where factional fights have been going on ?!!!!!

Mark 11:25 says, "When you stand praying , if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-18 where Paul talks about The Lord's Supper, he says " In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you."

Don't we have to examine ourselves whether we deserve to be called an 'Apostolic Church'?. Are we really?

In early 70s , a group in Trivandrum Main church (Spencer Junction) decided to have legal battle against the church hierarchy in court, for the income from the buildings of the church. I wonder whether the matter has been solved already or not. The last I heard was that it was under 'receivership,' for years together with the loss of possibly crores of rupees by way of rent alone !!

Whatever twisted arguments and reasons one can give; in reality, aren't all these fights in the church just for a few buildings only? Is it worth fighting for them for this length of time, at the cost of possibly thousands of 'crores' over the years? Is it prudent to think that 'court orders' will ever solve the problems permanently? Is it not a shame that we prefer to go and plead with Atheists, for them to decide how and where and when we should worship; rather than having a sensible discussion in Christian spirit between 'brothers' of the same family? Is it not a shame to see our Priests being beaten up by Police in front of the Secretariat, like third rate politicians and hooligans?

A lot of us sit and watch this pathetic situation helplessly. And a lot decide to leave the church in disgust.

Is it possible at all , that by some court orders, the entire 'faction' consisting of possibly millions, will come back to our 'fold'?

I happened to see the pictures of the crowd at 'Manjanikkara Perunal'. If we think and act as if, those who are not of our thinking are just fools, we, in fact, are proving ourselves to be fools.

On the other hand, if we believe in bible, how can we avoid the wrath of God, when we are responsible for getting churches shut down for years together without any H. Qurbana being celebrated therein? To justify ourselves, we can put the blame on the opposite faction. But, can we justify ourselves on the 'judgment day' in front of God? How can we escape the wrath of God, if and when we are responsible for the exodus of the faithful to various 'cults'?

There is a misconception among most of the youngsters and quite a lot of women that the church practices ( those that are supposed to be practiced ) do not have any biblical basis, instead they are all just 'traditions' and man-made rules. When 'church' originated in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, obviously there was no written new testament bible. On the contrary, it was the church consisting of early church fathers that framed the bible. But when we study Bible, it becomes crystal clear that everything that is essential in our faith has the scriptural foundation although individuals do deviate from the sound doctrines every now and then.

Although we sing " Poulose sleeha dhanyan chollatte nithevom". ( quoting Galatians 1: 8-9 which reads " Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!) in every single Qurbana , are we not totally ignoring what Paul said ; in our practical religious lives? . When we are scheming for fights with our brothers during our Qurbana, what is the sanctity of the service? How can we expect any blessings from God?

What Poulose Sleeha says in 1 Cor.6: 5-6 is " I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another ' and this in front of unbelievers!

Source: ICON (Indian Orthodox) Forum

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