The report that the Home Ministry of the Government of India has revoked the FCRA license of the Church of North India (CNI), which appeared in the Highland Post Shillong on the 12th December 2023, didn’t come as a shock to thousands of its believers throughout North India. They were aware of the infractions on the part of the Moderator and the Synod, and they had reported to and requested the Moderator and the Synod to inquire and take action against those that were flagrantly corrupting revenue earned from the schools and hospitals, they had even reported the selling off church lands in prime locations at ridiculously low prices to chosen individuals but their reports and appeals fell on deaf ears.
The implied consent to the indulgence of Bishops in the sale of church lands and the embezzlement of school and hospital revenues distracted the Synod from its duty towards record and account maintenance, hence the resultant revocation. For many of the true believers in the CNI they could not help but suppress a sigh of relief at the withdrawal of the FCRA license. For them the experiences in the last year or so has been a haunting with the head of the CNI Shri PC Singh landing up in jail as a criminal – not condemned by the crowd but by every secular law – every Christian law.
One Diocese that was compelled to send such embarrassing charges against its Bishop to the Synod was the Diocese of North East India and in particular the Pastorates of Northern Assam Deanery or North Bank as we prefer to call it, and the Shillong Pastorate. The charges were directed against Michael Herenz the Bishop as he headed everything in the Diocese, and had appointed his henchmen at every critical post to get his hands into the funds that the Pastorate had built up all these years for the benefit of its Parishioners. His appointees lacked every instinct that Christian ethics was built on; they followed the path that Christianity after Christ had been transformed into.
On seeing the anarchy that was building up, it was difficult for the Parishioners to maintain neutrality and constantly suppress their anguish, as a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy they had ever experienced haunted them in their place of worship. It was impossible for them to just watch as the Church that they cherished all these hundreds of years reinvent itself into an antithesis of the Gospel of Christ under this Bishop. It was perhaps the most difficult thing the Parishioners had ever experienced – and now they had to do what they had never done…file a complaint against their own Bishop – it was also the most contemptible thing that ten Parishioners did to elect him as the Bishop of the Diocese of North East India, whoever they are.
And so as to leave no doubt about what they despised and whom they despised the Parishioners assembled the General Body Meeting to take a consensus on how to go about containing the activities of the one who was behind all the suspicious misappropriation of School funds from Shillong and Tezpur and the illegal land dealings in Assam as every Pastorate throughout the North East looked up to the Shillong Pastorate as the centrum excellentiae. With regard to the past the Parishioners felt they were like all their predecessors, men and women with large tolerance or put in another way, men and women who possessed a magnanimous sense of self control.
You can traverse the entire 100 year history of the Cathedral; call it the Church of England, the Anglican Church and even the CNI Church; with the greatest suspicion and you will not find the clergy responsible for any banditry as the one we are witnessing now. With the advent of Michael Herenz as the Bishop in 2015 everything has altered. What we jokingly considered as hypocritical once upon a time has today become the norm. And it is here where everyone’s disgust commences. There is no longer a feeling of what was formerly called “truth” and they can no longer endure it when a particular Presbyter so much as utters the word “truth.” For them those faithful to the Bishop can no longer claim integrity, be they Lay Readers, Deacons, Presbyters, they not merely err in everything they speak – it’s as if they purposely lie. It is as if they no longer believe there is a God, there are no sinners, and there is no Redeemer.
Perhaps for them the concepts of the Gospels are recognised as malicious falsehoods – they have become dangerous parasites and without any shame they profess themselves as Christians while every action of the Parishioners is viewed as “against the rules.” Where have the last feelings of decency and self respect gone? If this can be the nature of the clergy what more can we expect from those unprejudiced Christians, who form the majority of the congregation, the ones who regularly go to church and take communion and who are dubbed as Sunday Christians – is Christianity doing them justice? What a monster of a falsity some modern day Clerics have become that they are none the less ashamed of being called Christians. Divinity is now dressed immorality.
The Parishioners, true to their old faith still “fall on their knees” at the altar when taking Communion (served by the Presbyter) inspite of the knowledge that what the Bishop and his Presbyter are doing is the opposite of their calling. The Parishioners are proud of the historical practices they have inherited and to suddenly find themselves confronted with having to believe in the nonsensical notion that the crude ways of the rich and the famous was now to be looked up to as a symbol of blessedness extended to Bishops and Presbyters from on high was nothing short of vulgar and barbaric. In such an atmosphere, as the one prevailing now, worship would no longer bring blessedness to the faith of the Parishioners; no longer will there be any meaning in “Now depart in faith, to love and serve the Lord” pronounced at every Holy Communion Service if Himangshu and Herenz were conducting the services.
What does this entire mess mean now? Let me be as lucid as I can, anything less would be unjustified. Our Christian age in Meghalaya is proud of its historical sense, but now an absurd problem has come up – the leaders at the Synod are being prosecuted by the law and they are asking, “how has God permitted this?” for this question they found a downright terrifyingly absurd answer, “your faith has made you whole, someone else has already sacrificed himself for your sins.” Immediately a justification for every wrong they have done is available. And that is what Christianity appears to mean to them.
Someone once said that, “in reality there has been only one Christian and he died on the Cross.” Whatever has been passed on after him is already the opposite of what he lived for. Jesus brought good tidings – those that followed brought bad tidings. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer not Christianity. The only true Christians are those that live as he lived, even today such a life as he lived is still possible and for certain men absolutely necessary, in vain would I mention their names, and we know that genuine Christianity will forever be possible at all times, it is not about a belief, it is about doing and above all ‘a not doing’ of many things. Faith is what a Christian is baptised into.
In faith the Congregations in America, Europe and England where Christianity is predominant, donate money for the spread of Christianity in India. Money became the centre of gravity of Christianity under the CNI depriving faith of its rightful position. And now with this centre of gravity being revoked into nothingness the next plan of action of the Synod excites mistrust, because for them there is no meaning in Christianity if funds are not coming in. What is the point of a Christian spirit of cooperation, of trust, of furthering and keeping in view the general welfare of the congregations? So now they start contemplating on how to divert and convert church properties handed down from the colonial days into money.
This approach of the majority of Christian leaders in the CNI cannot be branded with sufficient contempt by us in Meghalaya. This was not the case with the spread of Christianity in Meghalaya where people still donate their lands and money without a second thought and though money is an important player it comes from the congregation who even contribute to fund Missions in other parts of the country. We want no say with foreign funding; faith is still our biggest player of all, our C of G. And so when the centre of gravity is so brazenly different between Christianity at the Synod and Christianity in the All Saints Cathedral there is a need for the Parishioners to brainstorm a line of action, to break-away from the CNI and establish a Church of their own.