The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

All in God's name

All in God's name

George Iype
March 10, 2005

Thaliath Abraham, a jeweller from a traditional Christian family in Kerala, recently decided to break away from the Catholic Church to establish a church of his own called City of Faith.

Abraham is among the many who are breaking away from the traditional church to start independent churches. These believers do not consider the Pope or the Vatican a living reality.

"I am answerable only to Jesus Christ. I live and lead by the gospel, not by the church. I am born again," says Abraham.

The City of Faith Church is among the large number of new faith groups that have cut their roots with the traditional church and call themselves 'born again'.

These new church sects are christened Exodus, Joshua, New Life, Master Ministry, Covenant, Hiel Gospel, City of Faith and High Land Trinity.

These independent churches abhor rituals, episcopal hierarchy and all kinds of mediators, including saints. Their members consider Christ as a friend, guide and the only saviour.

They believe their new churches -- most having few hundred middle-class members -- are better spiritual places than the traditional church.

* One of the biggest independent churches with a large following is the Indian Pentecostal Church. "We have over 500,000 members in India and we are growing every day," says IPC Coordinator Pastor Sam Kuzhikala

* The Council of Baptist Churches in northeast India has over 875,000 members in nearly 6,000 local congregations and members belonging to over 50 different tribes. CBCNEI has a strong and historic relationship with the American Baptist Church.

* The Central India Christian Mission has now established 162 New Testament Churches across the country. Six of these churches are in New Delhi. There are over 300 prayer groups and over 160 preaching points. A spokesman for the church says city churches are growing very rapidly towards becoming self-supporting congregations.

The proliferation of new sects have upset traditional churches, with some chalking up plans to counter them.

Bishops belonging to the official Catholic church hierarchy have written to parishes across the country, asking people neither to join nor support any independent church group and urged people to be vigilant against 'false' charismatic groups in dioceses across India.

The Kerala-based Syro Malabar Church's Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil has issued a set of guidelines, which charismatic groups, evangelists and parish priests should obey in conducting spiritual retreats and renewal programmes.

Cardinal Vithayathil says the charismatic movement is slipping out of the church's control as many groups are propagating spiritual missions like 'healing the sick' and 'driving out demons' in their own way.

Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson for the Syro Malabar Church, calls it "a dangerous trend."

"They discard the church authority and the teachings in the Bible. They do not interpret theology correctly. They are misleading followers of the church," the priest told

Father Thelakat claims most groups disallow many of the well-laid church ceremonies like baptism and even burial.

Mainstream church leaders allege that the independent churches are funded mainly by the United States.

"Many of these groups are getting a lot of money and that is why they came into existence. It is basically a money-making business and nothing spiritual," alleges an official at the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

Despite the criticism and warnings from the Catholic Church, these independent church groups continue to grow.

Samuel Jacob, a member of the City of Faith Church, says the traditional church could not quench his spiritual thirst. "All these years, church-going was just a social custom. It was a mechanical affair," he says.

"At the City of Faith, prayer is very lively, unlike in traditional churches," adds Jacob.

Every Sunday, members of this church meet in the home of one of its members. Tranced prayer sessions, Bible readings and loud, inspirational hymns continue for hours. "When God speaks to us through the Holy Book, our prayers become deafening," adds Jacob.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Home | Syndicate this site (XML) | Guestbook | Blogger
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors.
Everything else © 2005 The Conversion Agenda