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NCCI President’s Address: Embracing the Strangers and Practicing Prophetic Witness

This is the inaugural address of NCCI President, The Most. Rev. Dr. P C Singh at  the National Consultation on “Embracing the Strangers and Practicing Prophetic Witness” ( A Program of CCA – Vichara | June 19, 2018 | Orthodox Seminary – Kottayam).

Greetings

Let me, first of all, greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is with great joy that I am bringing greetings from the Church of North India as its Moderator and from the National Council of Churches in India as its President. My own diocese, the Diocese of Jabalpur CNI also joins me in wishing success for this conference.

I congratulate CCA and Vichara for the great partnership in organizing this conference. The Orthodox Church in India has been gracious to provide this Centre as the venue of the conference. It will be only proper to offer a special word of appreciation for the hard work put in by the Vichara team of Prof. Mammen Varkey.

For CCA “Embracing the strangers” has been a favourite theme and  area of action for several years now.  For me, it has been a privilege to serve in CCA Central committee. I see that a good number of  participants  are attending the conference and enjoying the hospitality of “God’s own country”!

Strangers and Wanderers

“A wandering  Aramean was my father…” was the memorial confession of the people of God in the Old Testament.  Abraham, Jacob, and the  people of Israel were all strangers in the land  into which their journey  brought them .  Then, we have the story of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness which depicts many occasions where people were treated as strangers and wanderers. Throughout history even up to modern times we can see people moving or fleeing from one place to another becoming  strangers elsewhere.

According to the UN report – 2013, Asians represented the largest Diaspora group residing outside their major area of birth, accounting for about 19 million migrants living in Europe, some 16 million in Northern America and about 3 million in Oceania.

Compared to other regions of destination, Asia saw the largest increase of international migrants since 2000, adding some 20 million migrants in 13 years, and this growth was mainly fuelled by the demand for foreign labour in the oil-producing countries of Western Asia and in South-Eastern Asian countries with rapidly growing economics such as Malaysia and Thailand.

The influx of migrant workers leaving various Asian countries increase yearly and more than 250,000 workers from Sri Lanka and 100,000 from Thailand have also been leaving their country every year since 2008.

The recent cases of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and  the influx of refugees from Syria give us the magnitude of suffering the “strangers” to other countries had to bear. Some countries decided to embrace the strangers whereas some others closed their doors. I am sure that this conference will take much time to discuss about the recent trends in migration and refugee situations. So I do not wish to go into further details.

We will look at our own country where neighbours are living as strangers and not willing to embrace each other. You know that I am speaking about the curse of caste system in our country. Exclusion or the practice of ostracising a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom  is the dynamics of caste system. Even after many years of abolishing  “untouchability”, it is still in practice.  The Dalits of India are untouchable for the upper castes.

Thus, I wish to identify three main reasons which exclude  people from people and  prohibit the opportunity of embracing each other.  That is, these are the reasons which create “strangers” in our communities. Economic crisis and disparity, political aggression, religious intolerance are the main causes. Large communities, especially from Asia migrate to economically affluent countries in search of jobs to keep their life going at least in the minimum way.  Political exclusion and dictatorship as well as  ethnic cleansing  are some of the main reasons which make strangers in one’s own country and outside.  What is happening in Syria is mainly due to religious intolerance.  These  situations can be resolved only through dealing with these basic causes at the root.

The Prophetic Role

What does the Bible say about Embracing the strangers?  Practicing prophetic witness is what the Bible says.  The prophets  stood between God and people  and communicated to people what God wanted to tell them. It was not simple oral communication only, but it was the compulsion of establishing the justice of God in the world. Let us see some of the passages

  • “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 33-34)
  • Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15.7)
  • Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4.9)
  • Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. ” (Hebrews 13. 1)

What can we do to enhance embracing the stranger?

We live in a world which is run by selfish economic motives. People use each other  for commercial gains. Money has become the measure of all things.  Greed has made human race like beasts.  The teaching  about Christ model, that is giving your life for others, does not attract many people.  So we need to create a counter culture of mutual care and deep concern for others.  I would like to make some practical proposal.

  1. Let us start with our homes. Some of us live in heavily protected houses and gated    Access for strangers to such living spaces will be impossible. So we need to make our  homes open to strangers in need.  The “strangers” may be even the people living next door!  As communities we need to formulate organized activities to take care of strangers.
  2. Next, let us take our local church. A recent  book on Parish Revitalization  titled one of the chapters  as, “A Gathering of Strangers?”  (Robert Worley, Chicago).  Are our local churches a gathering of strangers? We need to take a moment of  introspection . There are two questions. First, is our church a place of embracing the strangers within itself? Second,  as a church, do we have an outreach programme for the strangers?
  3.  Embracing the stranger at the grassroots. Embracing the strangers has found  place in international ecumenical councils like CCA and WCC. Even the NCCI has the related concern of migration as one of its ministerial foci. But embracing the stranger  has not found its due place in the agenda of local churches  and local ecumenical communities.  We know that  whatever does not happen  locally does not happen at all. So bringing  the agenda of embracing the stranger in the local ecumenical level is a pending task.
  4. Education from childhood. Christian nurture of children is mainly through Sunday Schools. The church has additional resource of  schools. These educational institutions  can be used as  places where children are taught from childhood  about the  care of strangers. Such positive attitudes are best developed  in schools.
  5. Wider ecumenical instrument. Religious fundamentalism is one of the main causes of exclusion . Strangers are created because of the misinterpretation of religious teachings. When interfaith communities take up the cause of embracing the strangers, it would have a great impact.  Well meaning and peace loving religious leaders can come together and make joint efforts towards this.
  6. The last suggestion is with a punch! Caste system has to go away from Indian community if our country has to be liberated from the bondage of mental and social oppression. The Church can play a model role by removing caste system from her own body. When that happens the Church will have no more strangers!

I am sure that this consultation will bring out rich insights and practical recommendations related to the theme. NCCI and CNI will be happy to follow them as well as implement them.

With blessings,

The Most Rev. Dr. P.C. Singh
Moderator CNI & President NCCI

 

Advertisement for the post of NCCI General Secretary

April 27, 2018

To

The Constituent Members

National Council of Churches in India

 

Dear Ecumenical Leaders,

Please find here an Advertisement for the post of NCCI General Secretary. The Search Committee in its meeting held on 21st April 2018 in Chennai decided to advertise for the post of NCCI General Secretary in the official journals of all the Member churches, Related Agencies, Christian Organizations, Regional Councils of NCCI and also in their websites. The application should be addressed to the President of the NCCI. The hard and soft copies of the application must reach the following address on or before 30th June 2018.

The Most Rev. Dr. P.C. Singh
President, National Council of Churches in India
2131, Napier Town
Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh 482001.
Email: bishoppcsingh@yahoo.co.in

The application must contain a vision statement, resume, and copies of the certificates. It was further decided that if more than ten candidates apply, they will be shortlisted before being called for the interview.

Therefore, with this email you are requested to kindly contribute/support by publishing the attached advertisement in your official journals and also put in your official website for the upliftment of ecumenical movement.

With all good wishes,

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Dr. P.C. Singh
President
National Council of Churches in India.

Christian Council Campus
Near Maharashtra State Biodiversity  Board, NCCI Road,
Post Box # 205, Civil Lines, Nagpur-440 001, Maharashtra, INDIA
Tel: +91-712-2531312, 2561464 | Fax: +91-712-2520554
Email: ncci@ncci1914.com; ncci@nccindia.in |Website: ncci1914.com

 

Download:

General Secretary 2018 Adv

Open Letter to Prime Minister of India | End Culture of Rape & Sexual Violence on Girls, Children & Women in India!

Date: 16th April 2018

To

Sri Narendra Modi,
Honourable Prime Minister in India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi -110011

Open Letter to Prime Minister of India
End Culture of Rape & Sexual Violence on Girls, Children & Women in India !

 

Honourable Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi,

Greetings from the National Council of Churches in India.

National Council of Churches represents around 14 million Christians in India from Reformation and Syrian Christian Traditions.

We write this letter at the darkest hour of our country when our Government is failing to protect girls, women and children. We express our deep anguish and pain, regarding the barbaric and heinous act of gang rape and murder of the little eight year old girl in Kathua and the rape of young 20 year old girl from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

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Most Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh, The new President for ECLOF India.

Ecumenical Church Loan Fund of India (ECLOF India) is happy to announce that Most Rev. Dr. P.C. Singh, President of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Moderator of the Church of North India (CNI), has been elected to serve as the President of ECLOF India. He was installed as President, on 3rd March 2018, at the Board of Directors’ meeting held at Chennai.

Most Rev. Dr. P C. Singh, Bishop of the Jabalpur Diocese of the Church of North India, is a well-known Ecumenical leader. He is President of the prestigious Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS); Executive Committee Member of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and holds other responsible posts in many organisations across India.

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NCCI President’s Christmas Message 2017

The Most Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh, President, National Council of Churches in India.

Dear Ecumenical Colleagues,

Greetings to you all in the sweet name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As the Moderator of the Church of North India, the President of NCCI and the Bishop of the Diocese of Jabalpur CNI, I like to express my best wishes to each one of you on this Christmas.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to my ecumenical colleagues for the Prayer and support during this year 2017 and for their prayers for the smooth running of the Executive Committee of NCCI.

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of  Reformation. It was on 31st October 1517 that the great reformer Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, Germany his 95 theses which triggered the reformation process. His heart yearned for a drastic change of the system. He knew that transformation of the system was possible only through reformation. In line with the spirit of reformation I wish to title my message as “Incarnation for Transformation”.

My pivotal affirmation is that incarnation of Jesus Christ was the greatest transforming event in world history. It changed the course of history and the destiny of human beings. Therefore, I am considering the birth of Jesus Christ as “reformation” of God’s creation. Christmas story is more than the survival of a baby born in some very unfriendly conditions. Its  message is about God taking control of the most difficult and threatening conditions of life and transforming them into experiences of  enriching the life of the whole creation

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Democracy: Debate, Dissent, Discussion and Decision

Rt. Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh – President, NCCI.

In the life of States, organizations and movements decision making is an ongoing life process. History has witnessed many forms of governance and decision making. Kingship, autocracy, oligarchy, and democracy are some of them. The world has suffered from tyrant kings and reckless autocrats. Kingship has disappeared from many nations though many of the Middle Eastern countries are even now ruled by Kings and Sheikhs. For that matter, our own country emerged as a union of many small kingdoms.

Of all the forms of governance, democracy has been tested and found the best form of government. Democracy is government of the people by the people for the people. Our country is world’s largest democracy.

However, early church had a much simpler form of governance. They gathered together spent time in prayer and made decisions in one mind, probably guided by the elders. Their appointments and nominations were by casting lots. As the church grew up most of the mainline churches adopted democracy as their form of governance. Now CNI, CSI, MarThoma and many other churches are fully democratic. Yet, we cannot boast that our democratic process is without flaw. In many cases we fail to observe that salient features of democratic decision making process.

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A Moment of Introspection and Reflection

Rt. Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh – President, NCCI.

Greetings

Introduction

We have come together for the annual meetings of NCCI and CSA. As President I take this time to greet you all and welcome you to these sessions of deliberations. This is also an occasion of our mutual accountability. This responsibility will be carried out officially through the reports of the General Secretary, Treasurer and the secretaries and directors who are in charge of various activities of our great ecumenical movement. What I wish to do is to take a moment to introspect and reflect on our work during the past year. This, as you know, is a spiritual exercise which will provide a focus to our deliberations.

I wish to place before you a question around which we can do our introspection. How faithful and effective were we in fulfilling our quadrennial commitment of building up just and inclusive communities? We have completed sixteen months since the quadrennial meeting in Jabalpur. After observing and participating in many meetings, consultations and conversations since then, with appreciation I can say that we have made good progress in enhancing inclusivity.

Let us have a look at the development of our understanding of inclusivity. About two decades ago, NCCI’s agenda of inclusivity was very traditional. NCCI itself has been an umbrella of ecumenism for its member churches. Slowly the umbrella became larger to accommodate Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelicals with a new name NUCF. Side by side we had also occasions of dialogue with people of other faiths. Our understanding of gender equality was limited to giving equal status to men and women. Even for that, we did not succeed in giving equal status to men and women in all the member churches of NCCI.

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NCCI PRESIDENT’S CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2016

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth Peace and goodwill to all in whom God is pleased”

Dear Ecumenical colleagues

Christmas Season has come again!  It is with great joy that I take this opportunity to wish all the Churches, other NCCI constituencies, leaders, and staff of NCCI a Blessed Christmas and along with it a Happy New Year. On behalf of NCCI, I convey my greetings to all our global colleagues and partners also. Let us thankfully remember that this is the first Christmas in the New Quadrennium of NCCI

It is commonly observed that we forget the meaning of festivals while we indulge in the extravaganza of the festival. We send greetings cards, share sweets, buy expensive clothes, decorate our homes, offices and streets and organize parties and other celebrations. Thus  Christmas for many people is a festival  of Christmas cards, Christmas trees, Christmas stars and lights, Christmas cakes and Santa. In the western country where  Christmas was celebrated with all  pomp and show, a survey was taken among the teenagers. Only 7% of them knew that it was the birthday of Jesus Christ! So, it is time to revisit the real meaning of  Christmas. Cards, Cakes, Trees, Carols and Santa are only insignificant accessories, though they give us the ambience of celebration.

Let us continue to proclaim that Christmas is the unique expression of God’s love, and God’s own initiative of saving God’s creation through self-emptying, and God’s assurance of God’s presence with us.  God is travelling with us in our life’s journey as a companion providing us with our needs, sharing our joys and sorrows, comforting us and healing us, above all, guiding us in our everyday life. When God is with us we will have peace and joy in our hearts, in our homes, in our community and in our nation.  

The word of God says that God sent God’s son when the time was ripe. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” Galatians 4.4 (NIV) It did not mean that all situations were congenial. It meant just the opposite. The people of God were in   darkness under the Roman oppression. The morale of the people were at the lowest. For a long time there were no clear messages from God to guide people. People were in utter darkness.

Our situations globally and nationally is that of darkness.  Countries all over the world are under the threat of regional wars and terrorism.  No country is a   safe place at all. Poverty is still looming all over the world.  Nationally, we are in Darkness of Demonetization and the Depression which has followed it. Demonetization crisis affected all of us except the affluent few and the politically supported few. A large group who did not have bank accounts suffered the most. People were dying standing in the bank queues and being unable to buy medicines to sustain their lives.

Soon, an educational policy may come into force where minority institutions  will have  to face many challenges  especially related to the curtailment of freedom provided in the constitution. We need to be seriously concerned about the future of our vision and mission to spread the Good News to the whole humanity.

We know that we are no more people of darkness but of light. As the Bible says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9.2. (NIV).  The Lord’s birth has brought light into our lives and turned our lives to light and hope. We have become a people of hope” Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.  Zachariah 9.12  (NIV). Or again, “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast.” Jeremiah 30.17  (NIV)

 We know that we have to be active participants in nation building.  We should not be cowed down by our minority complex.  In the area of service to the nation through education, health care and ministry to people in the margin we are a “majority”. Let us be a people of hope and courage and work towards the transformation of our country by firmly continuing these and other services.            

Let us thank God for the Lutheran Church in India and all over the world which is celebrating 500 years of reformation initiated by Martin Luther. Roman Catholic  Church and the Lutheran Church  have decided to  forgive each other for their divided existence for 500 years! Pope Francis went to Sweden to attend the joint celebration of the 500th anniversary. Let us also work for more unity among Indian Churches transcending the barriers of denominational feelings.

 Let us continue to uphold the cause of NCCI and all its ministries.  Please remember to observe unity octave and NCCI Sunday on 22nd January, 2017. I request all Churches to take a special offertory on NCCI Sunday and send it to  NCCI office .

Let us celebrate Christmas by sharing  our joy and resources with our neighbours, especially with those who cannot afford to celebrate. In the new year, let us  renew our covenant faithfully with our Lord, our fellow beings and with the mother earth whose stewards we are. Let us regularly pray for peace all over the world, especially in the Middle East.

My wife Nora and our children Piyush and Priyanka join me in sending you season greetings and warm regards. We remember you in prayer.

With Blessings,                                                                                                                                

The Rt. Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh

sign

President

National Council of Churches in India  

Bishop Dr. P. C. Singh’s Presidential Message: Our Vision and Mission

OUR VISION AND MISSION

Dear Ecumenical Colleagues,

I thank God along with you for a century-long ministry of the National Council of Churches in India.  I welcome all of you to this new quadrennial period of renewed vision and commitment.

I am grateful to all of you for unanimously electing me to be the President of this national ecumenical movement which, in the past, had been led by great ecumenical leaders like Bishop Vedanayakam Azariah.  All the members of the Presidium will be working as a team.  I request the full support of my friends.

Let me take this opportunity to bring greetings from Church of North India of which I am the Deputy Moderator and also from the Diocese of Jabalpur where I serve as its Bishop.  We were privileged to host the quadrennial assembly of NCCI from 27 to 30 April, 2016 in Jabalpur.  Our diocese was greatly blessed by your presence and participation.

It is only appropriate to reflect on our vision and mission for the new quadrennial period and future years.  As all of us know, NCCI has initiated a Strategic Planning Process (SPP) which also involved a light assessment of NCCI’s life and work (Jan-Feb 2013)

The main objectives of the SPP were to:

  • Articulate a vision and mission of NCCI
  • Spell out the implication of such a vision for the mission of the NCCI
  • Draw out the implications of the mission statement for the structure of NCCI and its governance
  • Give directions and functional policies for the existence and relevance of NCCI

I have drawn major insights of this “Vision and Mission” paper from the findings and recommendations of the SPP.  To those I have added insights from my own experience a minister of the Church.

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Meditation on ‘Inclusiveness’

Introduction: “Gospel in a groaning world” was the theme of the previous quadrennial.  The present quadrennial has the theme “Towards Just and Inclusive Communities”.  During the assembly we deliberated on this theme in detail.  This morning I wish to share some thoughts on the theme of “inclusiveness”.

Inclusiveness in simple terms means comprehending everything, containing everything and including everything.  In human terms it means accepting and respecting others who are different from us, giving opportunities to those who are marginalized, and working towards a community without discrimination of gender, caste and creed.

What does this term mean in our Christian faith?  What are its implications in our community life?  These are some of the questions we need to deal with.

There are three main principles of Inclusiveness

Principle 1. God is the most important principle.  Col.1:17 says that God is the basis of all things.  We can call this principle also as unity in creation.  It is by the word of God (divine fiat) that all things were created.  Human beings were designed by God’s hand.  The source is the same.  Therefore, all creation will have to be finally restored to God.  That is God’s purpose.

Principle 2.  Life and its resources.  Life is a gift from God.  It is a common factor for all creation.  Life has many forms.  Think of the simple common things that we share as part of our life-sustaining system.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, the sunlight we enjoy are some of them.  All creatures share them.  All of them originate from God.  People belong to different religions and faiths.  Yet, we are all grounded in the same source – life.  So, life has priority over religions and faiths.  The life which comes to us as a gift from God binds us all together.

Principle 3. Jesus Christ, He is the most powerful symbol of inclusivity.  All things were created through him and all things which were created came into existence only through him (Jn.1)

 

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