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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

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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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