News Southwest America

Ordination of Dn. Mathew K. Alexander : SW American Diocese Awaits the Historic Moment

ST. LOUIS: The ordination of Dn. Mathew K. Alexander to the Holy Order of Priesthood, by Metropolitan Alexios Mar Eusebius (Diocesan Bishop) in the presence of Zachariah Mar Nicholovos (Asst. Metropolitan, Diocese of Northeast America) on Saturday morning, January 2, 2010 at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri.

Dn. Mathew will be the first ordained priest for the newly formed Diocese of South-West America.

Dn. Mathew is a member of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, St. Louis. After completing his Bachelors in Computer Science & Computer Engineering from Washington University, he went on to complete the Master of Divinity program at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (New York).

Dn. Mathew was ordained as Sub-Deacon in April of 2006 by Metropolitan Mathews Mar Barnabas and Full-Deacon in April of 2009 by Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Nicholovos.

Dn. Mathew served as the Director for MGOCSM Missions in America since 2005. He also served as the General Secretary of MGOCSM America (2007-2008). He currently is settled in Dallas with his wife, Manju, and is serving as the Youth Minister for the area.

The readers are encouraged to post their prayerful wishes to the Deacon below – Editor

News Obituary

Obituary – Sosamma Abraham, Cherry Hill, NJ

PHILADELPHIA: Sosamma Abraham, wife of late Koshy Abraham, Ottathengil, Melpadom, had passed away on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 in Cherry Hill, NJ. She was 91.

She is survived by her children: Koshy Abraham (wife Daisy), Jacob Abraham (wife Susan), Joseph Abraham (wife Saramma), grandchildren Jasmine Koshy, Ashanth Jacob (wife Asha), Nidhin Jacob, Megha Jacob, Nisha Mathew (husband Jacob Mathew), Naja Joseph, Neena Joseph, and great grandchild Zachary Joseph Mathew.

Viewing will be conducted on Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 4 -7 PM at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, 4136 Hulmeville Rd, Bensalem, PA.

Funeral Service will be on Monday, January 4, 2010 at 9 am at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, 4136 Hulmeville Rd, Bensalem, PA and thereafter Interment will be conducted at Lamb Funeral Home, 101 Byberry Rd, Huntington Valley, PA 19006

The deceased was a member of St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Bensalem. The service will be lead by Cor-Episcopos K. Mathai.

Contact Phone: 609-792-0747 (Joseph Abraham)

Church News Episcopal Election News

Episcopal Election 2010: Screening Committee’s Proposal Published Today

KOTTAYAM: As announced earlier, on December 30, 2009 at 5pm, the list of the eligible candidates selected by the Screening Committee for the Episcopal election 2010 has been officially published at Catholicate office, Kottayam.

This proposal will be submitted before the Sabha Managing Committee to be held on January 22, 2010. The Managing Committee will further shortlist 11 candidates out of 14 who will then be presented to the Association to be held on February 17, 2010. Three of the candidates will get eliminated in the Managing Committee election process.

Official list presented by the Screening Committee

1. Fr. Dr. John Mathews
2. Fr. O. P. Varghese
3. Fr. V. M. James
4. Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Ramban
5. Rev. Thomas Yohannan Elavukattu Ramban
6. Fr. Zacharia O.I.C
7. Rev. Geevarghese Ramban
8. Fr. Mathukkutty Chengamanadu
9. Rev. Yoohanon Ramban
10. Fr. M. K. Kurian
11. Fr. Dr. Sabu Kuriakose
12. Fr. Dr. George Pulikottil
13. Fr. Dr. P. C.Thomas
14. Fr. Dr. V. M. Abraham

Members served on the Screening Committee were Fr. O. Thomas, Adv. Biju Oommen Muringasseril, George Varghese-Delhi (Managing Committee nominees) Metropolitans Thomas Mar Athanasius – Chengannoor Diocese, Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius – Kandanadu Diocese and Dr. Mathews Mar Severios Secretary, Holy Episcopal Synod ( Synod nominees ), Fr. T. J. Joshua – Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam, Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip – Nagpur (Nominees by the Malankara Metropolitan), Fr. Dr. Johns Abraham Konattu – Priests Trustee, M. G. George Muthoot (Lay Trustee) and Dr. George Joseph – Association Secretary (Ex-officio).

An election supplement will be released shortly by IOH with daily updates. Research articles, observations and opinions are invited from the readers. Articles can be send through the -Send Your News And Articles- link on the top of the IOH home page. Senders photo and related photos are also welcome – Editor

World News

How Theology can Help Save the World from Climate Change

photo© WCC/Peter Williams
photo© WCC/Peter Williams

What does the Bible say about climate change? What are the theological insights churches can offer to a world facing an unprecedented ecological crisis?

These questions, addressed at a public seminar on “Creation and the climate crisis” attended by church representatives to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen on 15 December, seem even more urgent after the summit’s failure to reach the fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement that millions around the world had hoped for.

“There is no evident relation between the gospel and climate change”, said Jakob Wolf, head of the Department of Systematic Theology of the University of Copenhagen, which co-hosted the seminar with the National Council of Churches in Denmark.

However, to the extent that climate change is a consequence of human activity, it falls within the imperative of ethical principles, because human beings are responsible for their actions. The ethical demand to love one’s neighbor applies here, as “planet Earth has become our neighbor”, said Wolf, and one that is “vulnerable to human activity”.

According to Wolf, a theological view of the planet and of the life in it as God’s creation confers them an intrinsic value, therefore raising “respect and love”. “The more we love life on Earth the more we are ready to act unselfish”, Wolf said.

Here lies the contribution of Christian faith and theology to fighting climate change: a motivation that is comprehensive, deep and “much more vigorous” than if it were based on “cool calculations and cold-hearted duty”. This is crucial, because humanity has “all the tools at hand” to take action on climate change. “It is only the will that lacks.”

Not apocalypse but hope

Biblical scholar Barbara Rossing, professor at the Lutheran School of Theology of Chicago, United States, agreed with Wolf in that “the Bible does not say anything about climate change”. But she believes Christians can base their response to climate change on the Bible.

Rossing’s point of departure is the question: “Where is God in this crisis?” She rejects the notion that God is punishing humanity and rather sees God “lamenting with the world”.

According to her reading of the Book of Revelation, “God is mourning on behalf of the earth rather than cursing it”. The famous plagues are not predictions, but threats and warnings, wake-up calls, projections in the future of the logical consequences of human actions if their course remains unchanged.

However, for Rossing, the Book of Revelation does not announce the end of the world, but the end of the Empire. So in spite of the current unsustainable patterns of consumption and carbon-based economy, Rossing finds in it a message of hope: “Disaster is not necessarily inevitable; there is still time to change.”

This “vision of hope for today” is an essential contribution that Christian theology and faith can make to global efforts to address climate change.

The ecumenical dimension of climate change

“In a very threatening and very disturbing way, the climate crisis brings us together as one humanity, as one fellowship of believers, as one church”, said Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary-elect of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“We are called to show a sign of what it means to be one humanity, of what it means that God loves the whole world”, Tveit said. As churches come together to offer this sign, addressing climate change “is uniting us in a very special way: as churches, as believers”.

The message that God loves the world and every creature on earth “has been the heart-beat of the ecumenical movement facing climate change”, said Tveit, recalling the long history of WCC concern with ecological matters.

In an ecumenical perspective, the concern for creation has always been linked to the concern for justice and peace. “It is not a matter of saying this is a planet for some of us”, said Tveit, “this is a planet for all of us”.

This point was also stressed by Jesse Mugambi, from the University of Nairobi and a member of the WCC working group on climate change. “The world is a world in which we are all relatives, but somewhere along the line we decided […] to treat each other as strangers”, he said.

Mugambi explained that in Africa climate change is already causing both severe droughts on the one hand, and flooding on the other.. With the help of maps he showed that those parts of the continent rich in water and cultivable land are also the areas of greatest conflict. Such a conflict “has nothing to do with ethnicity, it has to do with resources.”

For Mugambi, the role of Christian faith and religion in general – through its leaders, theologians and ethicists – is that of “bringing us back to the norms” that can contribute to address a challenge like climate change.

“We are not talking about ‘helping’ African countries”, Mugambi said. “It is not a matter of ‘help’, but of survival for all of us.”

(*) Juan Michel is WCC media relations officer.

Gulf News

Muscat Mar Gregorios Church held Christmas Carol Service on December 22

MUSCAT: A Christmas Carol Service was held on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 by Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Muscat.

Metropolitan Joseph Mar Dionysius of Calcutta Diocese gave the Christmas Message.

Carols by the senior and the junior choir, dances based on biblical themes, a skit and Tableaus were presented at the celebration.

News Parish News

Orthodox Church in Melbourne Starts a New Service in Dandenong

MELBOURNE: Fr. K Y Chacko (Vicar) St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church informed IOH that with the help of Bishop of Dervis, Rev. Anthony Krinis and the Greek Orthodox Community, “St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church” is now starting its first Holy Service in the South Eastern Suburb on January 3, 2010, with Evening Prayer at 6.30PM and Holy Qurbana at 7.00PM at Greek Orthodox Parish & Community of “St. Panteleimon”, 19 Herbert St, Dandenong, VIC 3175.

“The Church has grown immensely though all these years. Now as a reach out program of the church to its faraway resident members, a new service is planned to start in their area to lessen their travel problems. Hope this service will enable our faithful to participate in the service more regularly” added the Vicar.

Few migrants from India who called AUSTRALIA, the country which is unique & diverse with multiculturalism their home, with God’s help started the first Indian Orthodox Church on 30th August 1980; “St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church” located at 118-122, Nicholson St, East Coburg, VIC 3058.

“We are indebted to the Australian Government, Mooreland Council for their support” said Fr. K Y Chacko .


Christmas Celebrations in Kuwait : Mar Epiphanios as Chief Guest

christmas  Program-kuwait
KUWAIT: On the eve of December 26, 2009 Kuwait St. Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka conducted a cultural –competition program at Kaithan Indian Community School as a post Christmas celebration of the parish.

Metropolitan Abraham Mar Epiphanios of the diocese of Sultan Bathery was the chief guest on the occasion. Vicar Fr. Jose Mathew presided over the function.

The competition was held on skit, Christmas carol and traditional carols.

St. Mark Prayer group and Sunday school shared the first and second places for the Christmas carol.

St. Bahanans Prayer group and St. Peters Prayer group shared the first and second place for the traditional Christmas carol competition.

For the Christmas Skit, St. Baselios Movement and St. Thomas Prayer group shared the first and second places.

Metropolitan Mar Epiphanios distributed the prizes to the winners.

Asst. Vicar George C. Varghese welcomed the gathering and Secretary Jerry John Koshy proposed vote of thanks

Biji Paul and D. George Philip were the program conveners of the event.

Church News Episcopal Election News

Episcopal Election 2010: 14 Candidates Shortlisted by the Screening Committee

KOTTAYAM: The screening committee has reviewed all the candidates in their final sitting on December 28 and finally shortlisted 14 candidates as decided earlier. The official list of the 14 candidates will be published on December 30, 2009. This list will then be forwarded to the Church Managing Committee that is scheduled to meet on January 22, 2010. The Managing Committee will further shortlist 11 candidates out of 14 who will then be presented to the Association to be held on February 17, 2010. Three of the candidates will get eliminated in the Managing Committee election process.

An unofficial list of candidates was received in our office today from Kottayam. They contain 14 names and most likely the same will be published from the Catholicate Office this Wednesday as the final official list of the Screening committee.(The names are mentioned below according to descending order of age).

1. Fr. Dr. John Mathews
2. Fr. O. P. Varghese
3. Fr. V. M. James
4. Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Ramban
5. Rev. Thomas Yohannan Elavukattu Ramban
6. Fr. Zacharia O.I.C
7. Rev. Geevarghese Ramban
8. Fr. Mathukkutty Chengamanadu
9. Rev. Yoohanon Ramban
10. Fr. M. K. Kurian
11. Fr. Dr. Sabu Kuriakose
12. Fr. Dr. George Pulikottil
13. Fr. Dr. P. C.Thomas
14. Fr. Dr. V. M. Abraham

Few Church loving people from Kottayam who were closely watching the screening process told IOH that, “the exclusion of Fr. Dr. M. O. John (the Chief Editor of Malankara Deepam and a Professor of Church history in UTC, Bangalore) from the list was a political move from the Metropolitans and some of the nominated priests on the Screening Committee.” Many expressed their regrets for not seeing Rev. M. S. Yuhanon Ramban’s name on the list. Both of them were considered outstanding candidates for the 2010 Episcopal election.

The names of the final 11 candidates will be announced as the official panel of the Church for a secret ballot to elect 7 Bishops for the Malankara Orthodox Church on the 22 January, 2010 at Sasthamkotta. 4000 plus members of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association eagerly await the out come of the Church Managing Committee and will then decide who to vote for.

Many observers think that there is little possibility of getting 7 bishops in the 2010 election. One of them told IOH that, “4 or maximum 5 candidates has the chance to win in the association elections.”

Readers are welcomed to leave their thoughts and reflections below by posting comment on this topic_ Editor

Columns Episcopal Election Opinions

How A Bishop Must Be Chosen – A Laymans Perspective

The answer to the question “Who chooses a new bishop?” is “The Holy Spirit.” Christ has not abandoned His church, and continues to guide and govern her through the Holy Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit uses human beings to accomplish this. The process consists of two parts: identifying priests with the necessary qualities, and selecting the one who best fills a specific vacancy. We have to try to find the best candidate who fits the niche.

Identifying the Right Priests

The process of identifying priests with the qualities desired in a bishop is an ongoing process, even if there are no vacancies. The bishop of a diocese in the Indian Orthodox Church should give the Catholicos the names of priests they think would make good bishops. The candidates passed on by a bishop should usually be from his diocese or with whom he has served, since these are the priests he knows best. In my opinion, the process of 30 people having to sign a form and then getting the consent of the person to become a bishop is uncanonical. From when have we become a worldly and secular institution?

The Qualities of a Bishop

The church is very explicit about the qualities that must be present in a candidate to the episcopacy. He must be “a good pastor of souls and teacher of the Faith.” The church examines whether the candidates “enjoy a good reputation; whether they are of irreproachable morality; whether they are endowed with right judgment and prudence; whether they are even-tempered and of stable character; whether they firmly hold the Orthodox Faith; whether they are devoted to the Apostolic See and faithful to the Church; whether they have a thorough knowledge of dogmatic and moral theology and canon law; whether they are outstanding for their piety, their spirit of sacrifice and their pastoral zeal; whether they have an aptitude for governing.”

Consideration is also be given to “intellectual qualities, studies completed, social sense, spirit of dialogue and cooperation, openness to the signs of the times, praise-worthy impartiality, family background, health, age (40-50) and inherited characteristics.” By the way, celibacy is by no way the only criterion for episcopacy. There was a time when men ran away from wanting to become a bishop, nowadays, we have many running for it and setting their eyes on higher offices. We sing in Syriac: tow b’shlomo aboon d’rabyath rooho d’qudsho: w’ablaishoneh t’een laqleedai d’baith aloho – (Hail Bishop, whom the Holy Spirit did raise up, and, with his tongue, bears the keys to God’s house).

The List

Periodically, the bishops must meet under the chairmanship of the Catholicos to consider the names of priests who are possible candidates for the episcopacy. At such meetings, a list of candidates for the episcopacy must be assembled, voted on and forwarded to the Managing committee. While the Managing committee can nominate a priest for bishop not from this pool of candidates, most appointments must come from these lists. When the church needs bishops, the second part of the process must get underway i.e. the thorough screening for the best persons who will fill specific vacancies. Why should we wait till the next association to have a pool of good and able candidates? Why wait, start early!

During the investigation the Church must send out a confidential questionnaire on the candidate to people who know him. The questions must address the physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, and priestly characteristics that one would hope for in a bishop. Those from whom a report is requested must include clergy and laity and also from secular and religious institutions…these must include the priest’s diocesan bishop, others should be diocesan officials the person has gotten to know personally and also people who have worked with him on secular and academic levels too.

The laity consulted should be officers in diocesan lay organizations or on diocesan advisory committees. Each must be told to answer the questions without consulting others. They cannot tell anyone, especially the candidate, that they have received the questionnaire. If we already have a pool of able candidates, then these reports makes the selection of the best among the list much easier.


Nativity Reflections: Waiting With Hope And Expection

1) – Meditational Texts:

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10 , 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36

The LORD Our Salvation

The Nativity of Christ marks a wonderfully exciting time in the church year. The change of season proclaims – Jesus Christ is coming! We sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel” as we await Christ Jesus’ arrival. In announcing his nativity, all the readings echo the word COMING:

  • Behold, the days are COMING, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (Jeremiah 33:14, RSV)
  • So that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the COMING of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13, RSV)
  • And then they will see the Son of man COMING in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27, RSV)

The message of Nativity is God’s reassurance to us of his faithfulness to his promises. The promise is that Jesus Christ will be present among us and the Holy Spirit will guide and counsel us. Advent also is a summons to watch and pray. Watch for signs of the kingdom of God, for signs of love and forgiveness, for signs of hope and joy, for peace. Be alert for opportunities to reach out to others. Pray for the coming of the kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will. We are called to grow in holiness as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.

God will overcome and change the world by pouring out, in self-sacrifice and love, his unrestricted force and flood of divine life. This life can be brought into being by making real in human affairs the depth of divine life and love; by showing ‘glory’ – the intensity and radiance of unqualified joy, eternal self-giving. Only in the heart of the ordinary vulnerability of human life can this be shown in such a way, so that we are saved from the terrible temptation of confusing it with earthly power and success. This is an assurance from the LORD, as recorded by Jeremiah, that God truly is the LORD, our salvation.

We have begun the new church cycle; we start over again, and we have the opportunity to review and recommit ourselves to the disciplines of faith. We will again receive the invitation and call, “Come, for all things are ready!” Let us respond with faith, in preparation of Jesus Christ’s coming! Amen!

2) – Meditational Text:

Malachi 3:1-4, Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6

Prepare the Way for the Lord

Preparing is hard work and preparing the way for the Lord is harder. The prophet Malachi calls us to a time of preparation during the Advent season as we anticipate the coming of Christ. Malachi has good news—God will indeed appear. As a spokesman for the Lord, the prophet begins this particular chapter by saying, “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3. 1, RSV). In this season of preparation, we await the coming of Jesus into his temple – and into our hearts again at Christmas.

But, Malachi also has a warning: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” (Malachi 3. 2, RSV). In other words, the coming of the Lord means judgment.

That is precisely why it is imperative that we prepare for the Lord’s return. Preparing for the Lord’s coming is a matter of purification. True spiritual preparation involves repentance and change of heart. That is what getting ready for Christmas is about — preparing the way for the Lord’s arrival into our lives.

Like Malachi, John the Baptist tells us to prepare, but he also admonishes us to repair the path into our hearts. The crooked areas needs straightening and our souls that have been bent and turned by too many false hopes need to return to God. The only way for us to get our souls made right with God is for us to turn our hearts toward the coming Savior. John said it best when he quoted the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3.4, RSV).

This Advent season, may we have the courage to ask God to repair our hearts so that we are truly prepared for the coming of the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!