STRATEGIC PLAN 2014 – 2020
In 2014, as NCCI celebrates its centenary, the world is very different from the one at its inception. There is a radical reordering of international relationships, with the economic contours being totally rewritten. The world has just moved back from the brink of economic collapse, and is not out of the woods yet. Colonialism has gone, but exceptionalism still rules in international relations. Triumphalism has acquired religious overtones, as also the several ‘wars’ on terror, drugs, crime and even international trade. The planet-wide climate crisis exacerbates these tensions, rather than ensure a common effort against certain destruction. Globally we are staring at a leadership crisis of apocalyptic proportions.
The euphoria of ecumenism has matured into institutions of common communion, though the momentum has slowed. The role of the church, and religion itself, in international and personal relationships is being questioned as never before. Though inter-religious dialogues have been institutionalised, there is as yet no credible platform for such dialogue, and the discredited clash of civilisations has several adherents in high places. The advances in human rights has found uneven expression within the institutional church, with ordination of women and sexual minorities yet to be initiated, let alone institutionalised, in several denominations. The disconnect between stated position of the church and their lives have seen declining church attendance across the world.
India mirrors this transition in several ways. Exceptionalism in international relations is mirrored by impunity within the country of dominant groups and sections. The demographic transition to a younger, more aspirational India has higher expectations in terms of governance and standards—in personal and public life. The maturing of the media as a public voice, the citizens movement for probity in public life, for security of the person especially women, the rule of law is finding more and more space for expression. There is the simultaneous cultural assertion that sometimes accentuates regressive practices such as caste and gender based discrimination. Polarisation on regional, communal and political lines has left the country with no credible leaders. The venality of the political class and the avarice of the corporate class have hollowed out institutions leading to a vacuum that is being filled by demagogues.
Today’s India faces challenges of growing poverty, migration, displacement, ecological degradation, climate change, high rates of crimes, corruption, ultra-rightwing fundamentalism, rightwing ideologies such as cultural nationalism, moral policing, rebel and resistant ideologies, communalism, attacks on minorities, caste, race and gender based violence, and the dangers connected with the IT boom. On the other hand governments are moving from a welfare state model to a market-led model, resulting in increased privatization of education and health care, withdrawal of subsidies and welfare programmes for the poor, and rise in the cost of living. The people who are kept on the margins of society are the worst sufferers: the poor, women, children, Dalits, Adivasis, Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs), PLWH, LGBTQs, migrants, refugees, religious and linguistic minorities.
The role of the NCCI
The NCCI has given expression to its life and work in the context of the historical developments in the country. India has gone through several changes and challenges since its independence. The 1950s and 60s were characterized by India declaring itself as a republic, with its concerns for nation building, implementation of five year plans, etc. Churches too were committed to nation building. The seventies witnessed the imposition of the Emergency. The churches had to play a responsible role. The NCCI was transformed into a Council of Churches. The struggles of development caught up with country during the 1980s, while movements for justice and liberation for the poor, for women, for Dalits and tribals/Adivasis also began to take shape. Since the 1990s India has opted for a new economic policy leading to globalization. The information technology revolution also started changing the Indian context. At the same time India witnessed the intensification of fundamentalism and communalism, as well as growing power and impact of regional political parties and coalition politics.
The church is called on to provide savant leadership in this context, ensuring inclusion, equity, and justice to all sections of society. The church needs to work in a multi-cultural environment, in which there is decreasing respect for institutions and higher standards of behaviour and delivery. There are no holy cows, and the church must be bold enough to question and humble enough to be questioned. Such a response requires the church to be in solidarity with the excluded, a difficult task in the best of times, but difficult when diversity is seen as a threat and difference is labelled terrorist.
At the same time the Church is riddled with internal problems such as divisions among churches, mushrooming of church groups and theological institutions, prosperity theologies, effective and responsible administration of educational institutions, hospitals, etc., expressions of fundamentalism and communalism, increasing confessionalism at the cost of ecumenism, etc. The Church in India is therefore struggling to understand her identity, role and witness in such a context.
The Strategic Planning Process
The General Body of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which met on 6-7 August 2012 in Nagpur, discussed priorities of the NCCI for the new quadrennial (2012-2016) and the question ‘How should NCCI function in the context of the socio-economic, cultural, political, scientific-technological, religious (including Christian ecclesial) challenges of the 21st century?’ In view of the fast approaching Centenary of the NCCI in 2014, it mandated the Secretariat to initiate a Light Assessment of the life and work of the NCCI Secretariat and to engage in a Strategic Planning Process (SPP) for the future ministries of the NCCI, including the structure of the NCCI and its governance.
The General Body appointed a four member Advisory Group (Rev. Dr. Chandran Paul Martin as Convener, Dr. Sushant Agrawal, Ms. Pearly Jos, and Rev. Raj Bharath Patta) to guide and facilitate the NCCI Secretariat in getting the assessment and strategic planning process done.
The Executive Secretaries were actively engaged under the guidance and support of the Advisory Group. Edwin, an external consultant was engaged to help in getting the work done professionally.
Scope of the SPP
The SPP was conducted between December 2013 and July 2014. Its primary focus was the life and work of the NCCI including its governance, perspectives, programmes, administration and finance and resources. It included a light assessment covering internal and external stakeholders of NCCI and those who had engaged with the NCCI over time. It would provide directions and guidelines for the period 2013-2020.
The objectives of the SPP were to
- Articulate a vision and mission for the NCCI
- Spell out the implications of such a vision for the mission of the NCCI.
- Draw out the implications of the mission statement for the structure of the NCCI and its governance.
- Give directions and functional policies for the existence and relevance of the NCCI.
The light assessment
A light assessment of the status of NCCI and its preferred direction was done as part of the SPP during January and February 2013. The questionnaire was sent to 491 institutions and organisations, including all the constituent members, of whom 64 (13%) replied. 31 of the 71 constituent members (40%) replied to the questionnaire.
The light assessment found that there is a lack of ‘one big idea’ or mission, and there is a lot of level conflict. The level conflict spills over into the expectations too. The expectations from NCCI are diverse, making it virtually impossible for NCCI to fulfil these expectations. NCCI is expected to be everywhere, do everything—right from the grassroots to national and international levels. In management terms, this diversity of expectations makes NCCI as it is now designed to fail.
The key areas of concern expressed by the constituents are: (a) Distancing: Identification of the constituents (and those who were sent the questionnaire) has considerably decreased. There seems to be some distance that has built up. (b) Discrimination and social justice: There are concerns of caste and social justice within the churches, and persistent active prevalence of discrimination within the church and NCCI. (c) Internal accountability: Though there were statements and public pronouncements about transparency and accountability, there is a deficit in internal practice, both within NCCI and the constituents. (d) Leadership: NCCI and the church in India have conceded leadership in several arenas, even where they were considered ‘natural leaders’ in the past. (e) The engagement of NCCI with different levels (grassroots to national) and constituencies (members to government and Indian society at large) is more episodic and event based, rather than a process—despite NCCI designing processes. (f)Communication needs to be improved, both within NCCI and its constituents and with the larger society and the government for NCCI to be the face of the Christian community to the nation and the outside world.
In the strategic plan period, the expectations of NCCI are (a) Focus on being a platform for mutual learning, coordination and joint action. (b) Assume the mantle of the national body of all the churches in India. This includes being the face of the Christian community to the nation, state and society and being the focal point of the Christian community in India. (c) Be active in promoting human rights, theological leadership and advocacy. (d) Conduct more training programmes, and a more active advocacy.
The key benefit of being part of NCCI were the programmes conducted, with ecumenical, multi-faith, and international interactions coming second. The work on human sexuality and HIV were the most appreciated, along with the theological conversations.
The key area that needs attention was governance. It needs serious and urgent attention at the NCCI and constituent levels. Communication is another area that needs urgent attention, both internal and external (to the government). The influence of caste and class and the lack of vision were also identified as important issues. Other areas that could do with more attention are strengthening the secretariat and joint programmes (fellowship and sharing as well as joint action). The gap between NCCI and its members was identified as the key factor keeping NCCI from realising its potential. There was a strong desire to have a more inclusive NCCI, but how to do it remained ambiguous.
The key challenges identified by the respondents centred around the volatile external environment characterised by the market economy, growing fundamentalism, good governance and social justice. Unity among denominations, ecumenism and social justice were the next most important areas that would be challenging in the years ahead.
In the strategic plan period, NCCI is expected to focus on being a platform for mutual learning, coordination and joint action. The second area of focus would is being the national body of all the churches in India. This includes being the face of the Christian community to the nation, state and society and being the focal point of the Christian community in India. The NCCI is expected to have an active role in promoting human rights, theological leadership and advocacy. Constituents expect more training programmes and more active advocacy, and would not mind supporting more staff for the same.
Presentation to Executive Committee and Working Committee
The findings of the Light Assessment were presented to the executive committee on 7 and 8 March 2013, from which the delegates drew out the vision and mission and the strategic objectives for the period 2013-2020. These were presented in detail to the Working Committee on 2 May 2013, which included an objective by objective detailing of principles, methodology, stakeholders and expected output. The vision and mission statements were also presented and refined at the meeting.
Oikumene, Witness, Service in Practice
Strategic plan of The National Council of Churches in India 2014–2020
1 Who We Are
The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) is an ecumenical community comprising about 14 million members from 30 Protestant and Orthodox Churches, 17 Regional Christian Councils and 24 other Church related, ecumenical bodies rooted in the Gospel as revealed in the person, life and work of Jesus Christ.
NCCI envisions just and inclusive communities which enable the full realisation of the human potential individually and collectively, and live together in harmony, justice and peace.
NCCI is called to facilitate and strengthen ecumenical bonds of unity among the churches, as a visible expression of being members of the one body of Christ. Through such ecumenical togetherness, it is committed to serve all of creation by giving expression to the various implications of the gospel. Through such unity and service, NCCI continues to bear witness to Jesus, the gospel and the movement for the realisation of the ‘reign of God’.
NCCI is thus called to bear witness in the Indian society and the world, sharing a common task with all of creation, participating in efforts towards realising societies based on principles of justice and inclusion.
The mission of NCCI is to participate in efforts towards realising just and inclusive communities through collaborative programmes with the churches at local, national and international levels, people’s movements, grassroots communities, community based organisations, faith communities, and governments.
Affirming solidarity with the social, economic and political initiatives of the communities such as Dalit, tribal, women, children, youth, migrants, persons with disabilities, different sexual orientations, religious and linguistic minorities, and PLWHA who have been historically disadvantaged and excluded, NCCI will facilitate and accompany the churches through joint action simultaneously reforming church and society.
4 Core Values
Equality, dignity, justice, love, peace, inclusion, transparency and accountability, are the core values of NCCI, and they will be practiced in all dimensions of our life together. NCCI commits itself to a church of the poor and for the poor.
NCCI acknowledges the complementarities of cultures, and affirms the uniqueness of all faiths, ideologies, traditions and beliefs that respect all people and do not discriminate.
5 Strategic Objectives
To actualise the vision and mission in the period 2014—2020 NCCI will have four strategic objectives (SOs). These four strategic objectives embody and express the essence of the gospel.
SO 1: Unity: Be a common platform for wider Christian communities.
It is in the pursuit of and commitment to this vision that the churches are called to play a responsible role being united together (Jn.17:21) loving one another (cf. Jn.15:12), facing all the challenges that may come in their way (Jn.15:18-27).
SO 2: Witness: Facilitate expressions of wider ecumenism.
The vision of God’s involvement is one of all embracing ecumenism in which there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (cf. Gal.3:28), where there is an innumerable multitude of people from every nation, tribe, and culture (cf. Rev. 7:9), indeed all of creation experiencing fulfilment (cf. Rom. 8:21).
SO 3: Service: Promote just and inclusive communities with good governance.
Jesus Christ started his ministry laying emphasis on the reign of God (Mk.1:14-15), calling upon people to direct their views and ways of life to the purposes of God in all of creation, as exemplified in the Nazareth Manifesto (Lk.4:18-19).
SO 4: Practice: Actualizing a just and inclusive church for all.
Thus churches are required to so structure and administer themselves that they serve as bearers of the gospel of justice, love, fellowship, peace, and fulfilling life (cf.Phil.2:1-8).
|SO 1: BE A COMMON PLATFORM FOR WIDER CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
|NCCI will be a polycentric platform, providing space and opportunity for dialogue and discussion of inter and intra church issues and to widen and deepen inter and intra church fellowships.
|Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Christian Unity / Oikumene They all be one (Jn 14)
Being committed to the reign of God, and being called to wider ecumenism in the steps of Jesus Christ, the churches have to introspect whether we are giving expression to God’s purposes within each of the different church traditions and in relationship with one another. The Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus (Lk.4:18-19) should be the just and inclusive basis of the life and work of every church. Paul’s Ecumenical Creed (Gal.3:28) should be constitutive ecumenical principle of individual church traditions. He reminds us that Jesus has broken all the dividing walls of social culture in the church (Ep.2:11-22). Indeed Jesus calls Christians to love another (Jn.15:12) and prays for their oneness in fellowship (Jn. 17:21). Similarly there should be holistic edifying inter-church relationships (cf. I Cor. 1:10-13).
|SO:1.1 Principles of Work
||SO:1.2 Methodology of Work
||SO:1.3 Who we will work with
||SO:1.4 Expected Outcome
|1 The Nazareth manifesto.
2 Work under the leadership of the community where possible.
4 Strategic foresight.
7 Dialogues and cross fertilisation of best practice.
|1 Be a common platform for the Christian community.
2 Provide leadership in policy and theology in the evolving socio-political context.
3 Create more value based leadership within members, the congregations and the Christian community.
4 Theological conversations.
5 Ecumenical dialogues.
6 Facilitate inter-church sharing and learning.
7 Nationalise local issues, and localise national issues.
|1 Community, especially the socially excluded.
2 Churches, the Christian community, church institutions, and ecumenical bodies.
|1 NCCI is the platform of choice for intra-church matters and the Christian community in India, and is well known at the grassroots and decision making levels.
2 NCCI articulated policy and theology is accepted by the member churches and the Christian community in India, with increased sense of justice, equality and fellowship among member churches.
3 Value based leaders are in positions of governance within the members and society at large, leading to a more dynamic, united and vibrant Christian community.
|SO 2 FACILITATE EXPRESSIONS OF WIDER ECUMENISM
|NCCI will work with the state and other institutions to further the rule of law, secularism and human rights and strive to become the prophetic voice of the Christian community to the nation.
|Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Church as Prophetic Voice.
In the light of our understanding of God’s participation in history ‘The reign of God’ involves standing for and living by values wherever they are found. As Paul puts it, Christians are to be committed to whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and the like (cf. Phil.4:8-9). We have to transcend our narrow boundaries in prophetic commitment to God’s purposes, just as Jesus entered into relationships with the Samaritans, Greeks, and Romans of his day, had compassion for the poor, oppressed and ostracized, included with due dignity, lepers, women, and children in the community, and critiqued customs and practices which were inhuman, as his statement “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mk.2:27) powerfully articulates it. It is not only humans but all of creation which seeks the realization of God’s cosmic ‘oikoumene’ of justice and love (cf. Rom.8:21). Therefore the NCCI is committed to facilitate expressions of wider ecumenism.
|SO:2.1 Principles of work
||SO: 2.2 Methodology of work
||SO: 2.3 Who we will work with
||SO: 2.4 Expected outcome
|1. The Indian constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
2 Where the community can advocate for themselves, we will go with their leadership.
3 Strategic foresight.
4 Rooted in faith, but not communal.
|1 Create more value based leadership in society at large.
2 Articulate the Christian position to the society, the government and influence the government on policy matters.
3 Work with the common masses, other faith communities, especially the marginalised and other religious minorities, to creating awareness and promote the rule of law, secularism and other constitutional rights.
4 Encourage inter-faith dialogues for a peaceful society, and build peace communities and other institutional links between faiths and secular communities.
5 Network based on commonality of values and interests, not only commonality of interests (utilitarianism).
6 Nationalise local issues and localise national issues.
7 Promote ecological justice discourse and programmes
|1 The government: bureaucrats, politicians.
2 National/ International human rights and development agencies.
3 Other faith communities, secular organisations, and social movements.
|1 NCCI is consulted by the central and state governments on all matters of policy and execution regarding Christians in India.
2 Greater awareness of the rule of law, secularism and other constitutional rights.
3 A more harmonious Christian existence with other religious minorities and society at large.
4 Peaceful coexistence among different faiths and communities. Greater interfaith, inter-ideology relationships and partnerships.
|SO3: PROMOTE JUST AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES WITH GOOD GOVERNANCE
|NCCI will work with communities to enable them to access justice, good governance and be included in national development and progress through the creation of inclusive, equitable communities and institutions. Good (transparent, accountable, inclusive and participatory) governance shall be promoted at all levels.
|Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Giving Expression to the Reign of God
In commitment to the reign of God on earth, following the mission of Jesus Christ, Christians are called upon to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of God’s favour (cf.Lk.4:18-19). We find the blessedness of our lives in realizing the struggles of the poor and being in solidarity with the suffering, in hungering and thirsting for righteousness, in being merciful, and becoming channels of peace in the world (cf. Matt. 5:3-12). Therefore the NCCI is committed to promote just and inclusive communities with good governance.
|SO:3.1 Principles of work
||SO: 3.2 Methodology of work
||SO:3.3 Who we will work with
||SO:3.4 Expected outcome
|1 Working with the socially excluded and minorities to claim their rights and entitlements themselves.
2 Constructive Christian participation in the nation building process, to challenge and be challenged.
3 The involvement in the issues of the common people will be under their leadership where possible.
4. Recognise that the traditionally excluded communities (majority communities (eg. Dalit, tribal, women, children, youth, disabled, sexualities, religious and linguistic minorities, and such others) are the majority.
|1 Trainings and workshops for the socially excluded communities and sections to enable them to claim their rights and entitlements.
2 Advocacy and advocacy campaigns
3 Dialogues and deliberations
4 Networking with state agencies to demonstrate best practices and models
5 Scholarship for students in vulnerable communities
6 Make visible the unjust policies of the governments through mass movements.
7 Social Audits and policy research to analyse, critique, monitor, and provide options and best practice tools to the churches on areas such as RTI, RTE, PILs.
8 Use mass media and new media to create awareness of just society.
|1 Community, community leaders, women, youth, children and the vulnerable communities.
2 Church members, Christian community.
3 The State: bureaucrats, politicians, panchayat, state and central government bodies.
4 National/ International human rights and development agencies.
5 Other faith communities, secular organisations, and social movements committed to a just, inclusive and participatory society and governance.
6 Civil society, opinion leaders, mass media.
7 Global ecumenical movements
|1 Progress toward just and inclusive communities
2 Recognition of discrimination as corruption and therefore unacceptable behaviour.
3 Increased voice for the voiceless and access to benefits of vulnerable communities in rights (RTE, RTI, FRA), services and social security (RTF, REGA).
4 Improvement in the performance of state agencies.
5 Quota for SCs and STs in the private sector.
6 Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are recognised as Scheduled Castes.
7 Appropriate constitutional changes affirming the dignity and rights of all citizens.
8 Reservation of women in parliament and legislatures.
|SO: 4 ACTUALIZING A JUST AND INCLUSIVE CHURCH FOR ALL
|NCCI will embed within itself and its constituents, systems, structures and processes that enable the practice of global standards of good governance, inclusion and equity. It will build the human resource capacity to complement commitment for effectiveness in internal implementation of its core values and objectives.
|Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Being and Becoming
God’s creative activity, participation in people’s histories and the incarnation are expressions of the divine presence and movement towards realization of fuller life for all. Christians and Churches are called to be engaged in this dynamic movement for realizing God’s reign. We should be careful that we do not reduce our faith and practice to a static monument. While systems and structures are important to facilitate the work of the churches in our commitment to God’s vision and mission, care has to be taken that these mechanisms do not become outdated and cumbersome, and that they do not adversely affect the holistic vision and mission. That is why Jesus was critical of the interpretations of the religious laws and practices, and of the burdens laid upon people in the community. So he declared, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt.11:28). Paul in Acts 20:18-25 advises the elders of the Church in Ephesus to ensure that the congregation is looked after with love, wisdom, sincerity and integrity. Thus through it all, churches will seek to become inclusive communities of justice and love as we endeavour to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ (II Cor.3:18) and of God who makes the sun to shine on all, and sends down rain for all (Matt.5:43-48).
|SO: 4.1 Principles of Work
||SO: 4.2 Methodology of Work
||SO: 4.3 We will work with
||SO: 4.4 Expected Outcome
|1 Demonstrate the best practices (‘witness’) within the church, church institutions and agencies, congregations and within the Christian community what is required of society at large.
2 The tools and practices of good governance, inclusion and justice can be taught and applied.
3 Respect inclusive, participatory and gradual but firm change including decision makers.
3. Uphold justice, equality, transparency, accountability and responsibility by upholding Christian values in our own churches, institutions and organisations.
|1 Strengthen governance systems, especially at the member church, RCC, and NCCI levels, enabling a more flat governance and accountability system with more participation in decision making and execution.
2 Train members and decision makers at all levels in the latest management and governance standards, best practice, tools and monitoring systems for ensuring inclusion, diversity, justice, and good governance (transparency, accountability and responsibility).
3 Develop standards and goals for members in inclusion, diversity and good governance and enable the secretariat to monitor adherence and/or progress to these standards.
4 Teaching and sensitising (preaching, seminar, workshop, etc) and sensitising the churches and Christian community about contemporary issues (environment, gender and caste based discrimination and inclusion) and how to address them.
5 Gender, generational, environment and accessibility audits followed by support towards compliance.
|1 Constituent members, especially at the leadership levels and different constituencies within the churches.
2 Ecumenical partners – national and international.
3 Secular organisations with expertise in good governance.
|1 All member churches, RCCs, and NCCI decision making bodies meet regularly and have fully functional mechanisms for good governance for themselves and the constituent members.
2 A leadership nurturing process which will the requisite skills and expertise and provide space for the exercise of such imparted capacity will be institutionalised within NCCI and its constituents.
3 The constitution of NCCI and its constituent churches and organisations will be revised to reflect ‘inclusivision’ – just, inclusive and participatory governance and practices – the practice of which will lead to the Christian community becoming an exemplary model of an inclusive community in the society.
4 Substantial representation at all levels including decision making will be ensured for traditionally excluded sections
a)Women’s leadership would be at least a third preferably half, at all levels (including bishops, ordained clergy and lay leaders in church councils and other decision making bodies of NCCI, the church and church institutions) with leadership positions being in gender sensitive rotation of office.
b) Youth (below 30) would be at least a third in all positions that are open to the laity with gender sensitivity.
c) Those from traditionally excluded communities (such as Dalits and Adivasis) will be represented at all levels in proportion to their membership.
5 All constituents will meet or surpass, and adhere to international standards and legal requirements of
a) Financial, administrative and executive probity including disclosure.
b) Diversity (gender, caste, age, ethnicity and such others).
c) Child protection.
d) Women and gender sensitivity
e) Accessibility, taking into account special needs of persons with disability, gender and age.
6 Our pledge
The period 2014-2020 is one where the challenges and opportunities of the church in India are historic. The capacity, tools and resources to make poverty history and transition to an equitable, just society exist. NCCI pledges to demonstrate through witness and practice that Oikumene is indeed possible, and likewise inspire others to actively join in this effort.