We, the National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka, representing the indigenous Churches in Sri Lanka do observe with deep regret the contents of the press release made by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith relating to ‘Pastors’ as it contains factually incorrect, misleading inaccuracies. Especially at a time where certain religious leaders are calling upon their adherents to violently attack Christians, statements such as the Archbishop’s, only serve the purpose of adding fuel to the fire.
His Eminence has raised six issues in his media release and we wish to address each one of them here.
1. Quote: “those who call themselves ‘pastors’ have disturbed and confused the nation through their organized activities carried out aiming the country’s elite, veteran artists, sportsmen and businessmen.” Unquote. It does not directly state what the so called ‘activities’ of these ‘pastors’ are. However it must be highlighted that the named elite, veteran artists, sportsmen and businessmen are a very learned and intelligent groups of our Society. They have the right to exercise their freedom of choice in making decisions as do any Sri Lankan citizen as per the constitution.
2. In his statement the Cardinal states that there is absolutely no connection between the Roman Catholic Church and the ‘pastors’ by pointing out to a history of 2000 years as proof to the fact. This statement is completely misleading and is false. Jesus often likened His relationship with His disciples to a shepherd and sheep relationship. By being born again His true disciples become symbolically known as His ‘sheep’ (John 3: 3,8 and 10:27-28). St. Paul states that there are five positions or titles to protect these ‘sheep’. They are the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Incidentally the Holy Scripture refers to his followers as ‘people of the way’ (Acts 9:1-2) and ‘Christian’ (Acts 11:26) and the main officers of the Church ‘the five-fold ministries’ which were mentioned above. All other denomination names and titles were introduced much later.
Although Christians sacrificed their lives for the faith in the early centuries, it is correct to say that Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 312 A.D. ended the persecution that prevailed at the time.
3. Just as when a state patronizes any religion, the number of devotees’ increases in favor of that religion, in view of the privileges they would benefit from the State. Christianity began to decline spiritually with extra-biblical teachings brought into the Church with conversions taking place without a true regeneration by faith. The church entered a dark age.
4. In 1054 the Christian community split as the Greek Orthodox Church, and again in 1517 the Church split into Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholism, when Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, recognized that the Catholic Church had largely deviated from the true biblical principles and teaching. Since then, these ‘winds of reformation’ have permeated the Christian church in various ways working from within to bring human beings to reality. This Protestant Christian denomination accepts the 66 books of the Bible as the inspired infallible Word of God whilst also reflecting – not only by words but also through experience – on the importance of obeying it in its original form.
5. Despite how corrupted church history was, the Lord constantly preserved a remnant of the born-again believers and He brought about great revival around the world beginning with the 20th century Pentecostal revival. Roman Catholicism which was predominant in Latin America dropped from 90% to 69% during 1960-2014 period. In Argentina the Catholic community has shrunk from 77% to 63% between the time period of 2008-2019. Africa and Asia alike have seen great increase of ‘born-again’ protestant Christians. It is true that these ‘winds’ blew into Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s decade. There is no doubt that even our rural communities were more attracted to these beliefs than to those coming from the influence of the colonial era or Latin-inspired practices as they followed belief systems in accordance to the native language and culture.
6. Although majority of Jesus’ early disciples were fishermen and lacked education, they were full of His power at Pentecost. However, we acknowledge that although those who are ordained as ‘pastors’ are educated in reputable Bible schools and that there may be questions about the education and quality of a minority. We are compelled to accept it as a fact by the number of imprisoned monks, that there is such a minority in every religion.
7. We would like to state very clearly that we deplore some of the events which are not in line with the biblical teaching in some traditional churches. In his third point, the Cardinal mentions financial gains and impropriation of funds. We accept the scriptures he quotes literally and should be adhered by all. However, of the wealthiest states in the world, the Vatican is one in the forefront. One of the richest organizations in the world is the Roman Catholic Church. Here, we quote from the internet the statements and links made by His Holiness Pope Francis and some others about the corruption in the Roman Catholic Church:
* “DW Made for minds- NEWS-Pope Francis: ‘There is corruption in the Vatican’”
* “The Vatican’s new corruption scandal-By JD Flynn-October 23, 2019 | Two weeks later, the longtime head of Pope Francis’ security service resigned after leaked reports of alleged financial wrongdoing in the Vatican”.
* “The unbearable ugliness of the Catholic Church-Damon Linker-August 29, 2018. The core of the church’s problem is not personal immorality, or institutional corruption, or hypocrisy. The core of the problem is ugliness”.
* “By secular standards, the Catholic Church is a corrupt organization:- Neil Macdonald · CBC News · Posted: Aug 26, 2018 –More than 1,000 children abused by Pennsylvania priests, report says–‘We showed no care for the little ones’: Pope’s letter vows to end sex abuse, cover ups”.
However, it is no secret that the majority of ‘pastors’ are economically weak and are not guilty of such “child abuse, misappropriation of funds homosexual abuse etc.”.
8. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We believe it is a physical, mental and spiritual relief. He also said “Give to others, and it will be given to you….And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”. Therefore, we see it as the responsibility of every Christian to provide relief through prayer to the afflicted Sri Lankans.
9. This new birth or ‘born -again’ in Christianity is a spiritual experience. To enter into that experience, one must use his free will to repent of sin and live a righteous life. We assuredly declare that the ‘pastors’ do not evangelize a ‘forced conversion’ that the Cardinal refers to under the 5th point; a forced conversion such as that of a ‘sword in one hand and the Bible in the other’ as in the Portuguese era. The Bible says that we should respect one another. Therefore it is our belief to live in peace as much as possible with everyone, respecting people of all religions, and races.
10. While the Roman Catholic Church is the richest organization in the world, In Sri Lanka too it is the wealthiest denomination possessing property and resources obtained during the time of the Portuguese era. The majority of ‘pastors’ are those who are dedicated to a simple life of non-violence and who have directed their lives to the good path through the new birth. It is a pity to hear about child abuse and homosexuality and money laundering taking place within the Roman Catholic Church as reported in the above mentioned online articles. It would be more appropriate to ask the political leadership to find out whether such a situation exists in Sri Lanka as well.
11. According to the last Government Census the Protestant population was 1.4%. i.e: 290,000 approximately. The so called ‘pastors’ are approximately shepherds to 50% of this number. i.e 145,000. It remains to the rational mind to evaluate the threat of 145,000 people who are committed to non-violence against a 21,000,000 people.
12. Jesus’ statement was that religious co-existence should be based on Biblical truth. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)” “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10) .
The Cardinal’s statement is partial fulfillment of the prophecy of the last days of the world – betrayal of the brethren.
*Rev Rohan De S Ekanyake – General Secretary-National Christian Fellowship of Sri Lanka