I was very much impressed with the scholarly introduction of HG Dr. Gregorios’ justification against the idea of Metropolitan’s transfer. From the outset it looked like a researched article. However, further reading in to the article did not hold my interest. The presentation of some high sounding syllables and undocumented “tradition” can impress readers but cannot justify a unsound argument. The arguments he placed did not compellingly support his theory. Let me explain why?
1. In his introduction he cited many ancient works Didache, Didascalia, Apostolic Constitution, Hoodaya Canon and so on. I did not see any relevant documentation or citation to support his premises selected from any of these documents except the (erroneous/typo) citation of the constitution of our church . It is true that Orthodox Churches accept some of the teachings from these ancient documents and made contextual modifications to many .
2. His explanation to the Syriac word Hoodaya was “ marga nirdesam” or guidance. The word Hoodaya also means “explanation or interpretation” according Abrham Malpan Konnattu . When we look into the formation of Hoodaya Canon, the latter explanation is more applicable than the first one. All canons are guiding principles. Gregory Bar Habraeus/Ebraya (Son of the Hebrew) (1226-1286) was a Maphrian of the East by 1264. The major work for which Bar Ebraya is known for his codification of the canons of the church from the Apostolic time onwards. A critical study of his work shows that he collected the canons of the church regarding faith, order and practices and gave explanation (Hoodaya) to each of them; that is Hoodaya Canon.
3. The current Malayalam translation of Hoodaya Canon was prepared/published by Konattu Abrham Malpan, Pampakuda, 1986, (4th Edition) has only ten chapters and does not talk much about the transfer of bishops. There is a section about the selection and consecration of bishops , Chapter 7: Paragraph 3 where he does not support the election of bishops by the people.
4. Bar Habreus depended a lot on the Apostolic canons (85) the canons the Council of Laodicea 362 AD (60) and the canons of the Council of Trullo (692 AD) (102) in addition to the writings of Orthodox Fathers and decisions of the three ecumenical councils. Most of the Orthodox Churches accept the decisions of the Council of Trullio or Quinisext council as authentic and foundational. Eastern Orthodox Churches considers it as the Rudder of the Orthodox Churches and approved by the Council of Jerusalem or Bethlehem of 1672. My point here is this:
that Bar Habraeus codified and took only the essential ones he thought relevant at that time to carry out his administrative duties as the Maphrian of the East. His work or canon is not exhaustive or infallible. Today we cannot consider it as an absolute dogma on practical decisions.
5. Even if one accepts this work as absolute dogma, Bar Habraeus did not prohibit Bishops’ transfer and that did not come into play. Church was still growing and contextual changes were demanded.
6. Malankara Orthdox Church made bishop’s transfer as early as 1991, in the American Diocese. It was based on the demands of or the need of the hour . Mar Makarios did not voluntarily resigned his position. The church followed constitutional protocol as outlined in the 1934 constitution 118-119 and conducted due process.
7. There was a troubling sentence in his article which reads as: (translation) “the clergy- laity leadership move of the church is a dangerous to the h church” and at another place he asserted that that church is synodal without giving an explanation of the word Synodal. If the author meant what was printed then there is a theological and ecclesiological problem: (a) According to the New Testament studies, the Church is defined as the people of God (1.Peter 2: 10; Act. 15:9; 2 Cor. 6:16, Rev. 21:3, Romans 8:21 and Matt 5:13-16) (b) Bishops and Synods were formed to take care of the people of God, ti nurture them, (c) Bishops are elected from the people of God (Pastoral letters) and the constitution of the church Article 113 . Bishops candidates were elected by the Association , consecrated and appointed by the Catholicos and Malankara Maetropolitan. Hoodaya canon did not support the idea of election by lay people. However, 1934 constitution made contextual changes contrary to the recommendations of Hoodaya Canon. That means our church recognized laity/clergy leadership as early as 1934 and did not feel any threat as discussed by Metropolitan Mar Gregorios.
8. The Malankara Association elects bishop candidates based on the need felt by the church and approved by the Holy Synod and Malankara Metropolitan. Holy Synod is not, administratively above the Association or the Managing Committee. I agree with the author, that the Malankara Metropolitan appoint Metropolitans to the diocese and every diocese should have a diocesan metropolitan ( Article 64, and 63 of the Constitution) These articles does not imply that Metropolitans are appointed for life and they are immovable.
9. The 1934 Constitution clearly states that the authority of the Holy Synod is limited to, faith, order and discipline . Holy Synod, the spiritual authority of the church, may abstain from interfering temporal/administrative actions or proposals made by the Church Managing Committee. Such interference is intermingling of legislative, executive and judicial power of the church. That will create tyranny. In the article, the author also wants the church to be synodal. The dictionary meaning of the word Synodal is the following: “an assembly of ecclesiastics or other church delegates, convoked pursuant to the law of the church, for the discussion and decision of ecclesiastical affairs; ecclesiastical council”. (Dictionary.com). If we accept that definition, then laity clergy leadership will also be part of the “synodal” nature of the church suggested by the writer and his fear is displaced.
10. No canon has universal effect /binding in the Christendom ; all Canons were developed out of certain local or regional issues .
11. The author asked, what is the administrative practice/background of our church? It requires thorough review of Malankara Church history from Nestorian era to the establishment of Catholicate in 1912 and the formation of 1934 constitution. We are different from other Eastern Orthodox Churches in this regard because of our intertwined relationship with the Portuguese and CMS missionaries. Knowingly or unknowingly we have elements of Congregationalism and Episcopalism in our administration. We see that in our parish administration to Malankara Church administration. We are Malankara Orthodox not part of Byzantine tradition which is more Roman in administration.
12. Therefore, the foundations on which Dr. Mar Gregorios launched his arguments lack combustion to shoot down the pro-transfer argument. The author failed substantiate his argument with adequate theological, Sociological, historical, ethical or canonical grounds. Transfer of Metropolitans/bishops is not heretical but critical. Transfer of Bishops in Malankara Orthodox Church does not weaken Orthodox faith or belittle metropolitan’s authority. On the contrary it will only increase the image of the church with its proactive mission initiatives. Bishop transfer shall not be a reactive measure but it should be creative steps to meet the contextual needs and demands. Constitutionally, Malankara Metropolitan , by virtue of his office, has the authority to distribute diocese to Bishops new or by transfer. Canons or constitutions were never infallible and will keep on updating. Church is dynamic and growing; growth demands change. Let the clergy and laity be prepared enough to welcome changes in our system.
Article 53 instead of 63.
Canon 24 of the Council of Laodicea prohibits clergy of any class from eating out- Restaurant. Do all our bishops practice that? We make contextual changes
Abraham Malpan Konattu took the initiative to translate Hoodya Canon into Malayalam.
It was at this council fathers decided to make Sunday as the worship day as against the Sabbath observance.
Canon 28 did not allow chairs in the church; Canon 49 mandated againt celebration of Holy Qurbana during lent season except on Sundays; Canon 45 mandates no baptism after the second week of the Lent until the Resurrection. Canon 24, prohibits clergy from eating out/restaurants!!!! It was at this council they decided on Clerical marriage. There were only 215 bishops of the Eastern province of Roman empire attended this Synod. All decrees of the Synod were not accepted by all; Roman Church took only 50, Orthodox Church subscribed to the whole 85, and Bar Habraeus sparingly used them.
This council was attended by 215 bishops of the Eastern Roman Empire and the West initially did not accept their decisions. Eventually they adopted 50 canons of the Council of Trullio.
Orthodox Churches held a Council to refute the Calvinism in 1672 and developed its own canons.
In 1996, there was a special Synod at Kottayam, which discussed the transfer of Bishops especially in American diocese.
This is against the decision of the council of Laodicea Canon 13, and cited in Hoodaya Canon, Konattu Abrham Malpan, Pampakuda, 1986, 4th Edition 1986, P.101,
Constitution Artcile 113
These three are also not arbitrary buy based on tradition, practice and established ethical and moral standards. Sometimes, erratic use of disciplinary steps created problems in the church in the past.
That is how LL Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios taught us (4t year students) at the Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1977-78
In the case of LL HG Mar Makarios, it was more a reactive measure than a proactive one. A greater picture of reactive measures are seen the Roman Catholic church with Reformation and counter reformation.