18 January, 2021

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The Church Of Ceylon – Unethically Chasing A Dream To Be A Province

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Anglican Structure

The Anglican Communion consists of several national sister Provinces, each made of 4 or more dioceses. We were a single diocese – under the Church of India, Burma, Pakistan, and Ceylon. With independence, we broke into Provinces (Church of Burma, Church of Pakistan and India into South- and North-Indian Churches). Unfortunately, the Church of Ceylon, CoC, had only one diocese – the Diocese of Colombo – and remained under Canterbury. After Kurunegala broke off from Colombo, we had two but still short. Over time, circumstances allowed places like Hong Kong to be an Anglican Province without 4 dioceses. That opened up opportunities for CoC to apply. It seems that with one more diocese, we can be a province. 

Arguments For:

The arguments for being a province are: 

1. Administrative efficiency – with more bishops, more parishes can have episcopal visits and the Church’s mission advanced (a good reason); 

2. Not being under a foreign Archbishop at Canterbury (as if it matters to our imported Church); 

3. We will have our own Primate representing us at the Anglican Consultative Council (but we still are there on invitation). 

The Colombo Diocese has pushed hard for another Diocese but the resistance has grown within a skeptic laity, as well as clergy.

Arguments Against:

Opposition is rooted in the often cited numbers that the Church, which at independence had over 100,000 members, has dropped below 25,000. Far more serious are the objections over diminished faith within the church, besides the extra cost of a Bishop. What is the mission of the Church when priests deny the faith, as when they:

1. Follow the practice of Bishop Kenneth Fernando (BKF) to wish “May he attain Nibbana” when Buddhists die, calling into question the Church’s teachings on resurrection; 

2. Commit sacrilege – as Christ Church Dehiwela priests praying to the Buddha and singing Hari Krishna songs; 

3. Commit adultery –we reward adulterers with promotions to canonship, archdeaconship, or scholarships (abroad to take the heat off).

4. Deny episcopal governance as shown by Christ’s and the early Church’s example – one priest left the church to work as a Congregationalist in Canada, returned amidst accusations of being ousted for adultery and breaking up the host Parish under Fr. Isaak Selvaratnam by taking away the English-speaking part of his congregation, and is now returned a faithful practitioner of episcopal governance and even made a canon of the cathedral. The same priest’s reputation is infamous after his posting to Lockgate, where the wardens “locked the church gates” and disappeared. A university chaplain’s congregation dropped to two and the carpenter complained that he was asked for a bill for Rs. 600, although his work only cost Rs. 300.

5. Conceal allegations of child-abuse and sexual-harassment – when a CMS Priest-Principal was accused by a teacher of making homosexual advances and child-abuse, the allegations were dismissed by most in authority who said “I have known him for years.” After Bishop Dhilo, to his credit, ordered an inquiry, the priest retired as principal but is still a priest. With the inquiry report suppressed, people ask if their children are safe.

6. Ignore that being under a European Primate means importing European sexuality. As same-sex marriage would force Canterbury, an Established English-government Church, to accept their government’s decision to allow same-sex unions, our Primate would have little choice to disallow it, changing our theology of marriage from a covenant relationship ordained by God, to a contract between two same-sex adults.

There is no mission for this church unless our faith is asserted and faithless priests dismissed. For the first time, Bishop Dhilo has dismissed some priests (who have held on to their quarters showing what rotters some priests are).

Our Priests play their ritual part in CoC – forgiving sins (although their cynicism strips it of meaning), consecrating the Eucharist, baptizing, and blessing us – like actors. Their faith, sacrilege, thieving, and womanizing are irrelevant as in our misguided theology consecration indelibly marks clergy as Christ’s own. They should be sacked and our Lord freed of their burden.

Empowering the Faithless

Priests are either faithful or faithless. The latter usually have good skills, like writing and English-fluency, and are needed for the Church. People of the world, who know how to manage and invest funds, have been moved in and paid high salaries like never before. So they fly high.  

A good example is Sam Ponniah the Archdeacon of Jaffna. Ponniah has a sharp sense for justice and received promotion to his office ahead of senior men, despite past problems. Additionally, he is Manager of St. John’s College and Acting Principal. He cannot be his own manager but is. Without a recognized degree, he cannot be principal but is. In turn, he pushes for a new diocese even denying its opposition in Jaffna, even saying “Jaffna people are only good at shooting others.”  Others like Registrar Chanaka de Silva chime with him “You were not present at the meeting,” although I was at one meeting where opposition was staunch, and we know the Nazis killed Jews despite not being there. 

As Saint Thomas More asked when Richie Rich bore false witness against More to become Attorney General of Wales, “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales? Should we ask “To be Bishop in a failing Church?”

Dishonest Democracy

The heart of the problem seems lack of democracy within a church that is vociferous about national democracy. It is said that the priests pushing for another diocese want to be Bishops. Unfairly, they say Bishop Dhilo Canagasabey wants to be Archbishop as his 10-year term as diocesan bishop ends in 2020.

Starting bottom-up, an un-sanctimonious priest and leading Colombo women were sent to the rural deaneries to canvass support for another diocese. No group wanted another diocese. 

We are already short of priests, ordaining and retaining unsuitable men from the bottom of the barrel. How would we staff the new diocese? A woman sent to Jaffna to drum up support for a new diocese and who schooled in Tamil, spoke in English and asked for a translator claiming not to know Tamil. That is how out-of-touch Anglican leaders are.

When the exercise failed, a resolution was moved in the 2018 Diocesan Council trying to drum-up support for a diocese. As the majority spoke negatively, the resolution was withdrawn to avoid defeat and uphold the mirage of a new diocese as popular. The seconder, Romesh Schafter, claims they withdrew because Kurunegala had passed something similar. If true, why propose it and waste our time?

Bishop Kenneth Fernando

Suspending Standing orders, BKF, who is not a member of the Council, was then brought in to convince us. In addition to “Arguments for” above, he made the claim: “A Bishop doesn’t need a big cathedral and big house and luxuries. This comes from the colonial times.”

I pointed out this out as untruthful because Bishop Rollo Campbell, a non-national Bishop of Colombo, led a simple life in a simple house near STC-Prep with cheap straw-shutters, unlike BKF, and walked to the General Hospital to visit patients. Before I could finish, Shafter and the Registrar (who cacophonously shut down any dissent through objections like vicious guard dogs) moved a motion that I be ejected from Chambers, untruthfully claiming I called BFK a liar; Bishop Dhilo gracefully ignored it saying BKF had expressed his personal views. 

Bishop Campbell retired and went to England to live on his pension. Conversely, BKF and Bishop Duleep Chickera (BDC), our two liberal bishops in succession who installed faithless priests in powerful office, lived in palaces while in office, had palatial houses put up for their post-retirement, and had millions in church money allocated for personal cars in retirement, while BDC was given Rs.75,000 a month to lease a van. Both visited a car dealer’s recently and picked 5,000,000+/= cars that the diocese would buy for them. Each national Bishop coming with each new diocese, will now have a palace and car for life. What slander on our faithful English bishops!

It is relevant that our first Vice-Chancellor, Sir Ivor Jennings, drove his own old jalopy and walked the 100-yards from his quarters to his office across the street. In contrast, our first national VC, Sir Nicholas Attygalle, succeeding Jennings, ordered a new Mercedes Benz, and recruited a chauffeur to drive him daily to his office 100-yards across. 

Top-Down

In a new twist, the CoC General Assembly at the top is trying again for a new diocese. Resolving, despite 2018-Council rejections, that the CoC “is earnestly desirous of regulating its own affairs” it directs the Diocese of Colombo to initiate an immediate process to examine the needs for the creation of a diocese.  The charade has to stop. Archbishop of Canterbury arrives in August.

Where is Faith?

There is no CoC mission in this milieu. Period. The indication is the Tamil Eucharist of the CoC. The Liturgical Commission of the Church approved the Liturgy in English and put Rev. Joshua Ratnam to translate into Tamil.

The so-called mistakes are in the hundreds and sacrilegious and deliberate. Consistently in “Almighty God,” the word Almighty is gone. So in the Nicene Creed.  So also at the end of the Gloria in Excelsis, where the words 

“For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

are removed. As taught, generations of our priests at Pilimatalawa Theological College by Dr. Jayasiri Peiris and Rev. Muthaiyah Selvarajah, to call God Almighty is insulting of Hindus and Buddhists and is unsuitable for Asia. Our Pilimatalawa priests are tainted. Almost like a trick on us, the Trisagion calls God புனிதமும் அல்லாதவா;, that is unholy God. We, in our illiteracy, have been repeating this parrot-like in our services for 9 years. Even the innocuous Fourth Commandment is missing and nobody noticed.

A part of the problem is that some of our clergy suddenly get the call of the Holy Spirit to serve God after failing their GCE O-Levels. Thus, in the Liturgy, the titular word Holy Eucharist, நற்கருணை, is spelt incorrectly with the 2-ring letter na as நற்கருனை. Even the Bishop’s motion is spelt wrongly as பிரேரனை instead of as பிரேரணை 

The Diocesan rulers resisted this resolution on the urgent need to revise the Tamil liturgy. It was finally passed after Shafter and De Silva made changes claiming the mistakes to be translation errors, prevaricating that something so systematic and pervasive was accidental. Surely all the priests at Council-2018 knew it is the teaching of the Church through Pilimatalawa to make God Not-Almighty. They misled the trusting laity. A Committee was appointed and now the Committee’s report has gone back to the impious original translator who rewrote much of the liturgy while claiming to translate it. To Anglicans that he speaks good English and chants well is all that matters. 

The church must not cover-up for dishonest priests who, with cocked guns, are ready to blow our faith out of the water. The Bishop must let a few heads roll if the Church is to survive these faithless careerists, starting with those who gave us a blasphemous liturgy on the pretext of translation. 

Bishop Dhilo should say he wants a diocese if that is his wish, and we may agree out of obedience. If we do not, he must let go. The author is an elected member of the Standing Committee of the CoC (Colombo).

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Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    I’ve done just a wee bit of checking.
    .
    Mr Salahudeen probably still is the Director in Charge of Private Schools.
    .
    They will do as little as possible to rock the boat. They rubber-stamp whatever is not controversial, and keep the system running. Somebody with much more commitment has to correct the system. Prof. Hoole’s article has certainly done that.
    .
    I’m too old to reform this mess, but at least I’m concerned. That is how and why I am able to catalyse some of the happenings even in the Northern Province which I know so little of.
    .
    There are two days more to comment on this article. Let me tell you as clearly as possible what is happening in the Private Schools that I’m most familiar with: the four S. Thomas’ schools, and especially the two in Uva, where it is felt, by the unprincipled, that manipulation would be easiest.
    .
    The Annual General Meeting of the Old Boys ‘Association of STC, Bandarawela will be coming up on Saturday, the 17th of August. Many of us hope that things will come right, in which case we should not be publicising past misdemeanours. The chances of that happening are remote. If all the contradictions come to a head, I’ll be hoping that CT will allow us to discuss it, and I will do so stripping away as much of the mystery that surrounds them as possible.
    .
    Meanwhile, Daniel Poor, it is heartening that there are some people like you who are asking relevant questions.
    .
    Let us do what we can to ensure that the future of Sri Lanka is made a little better.

    • 0
      0

      Sinhala-Man,

      Thank you for all the fact checking. You know more than I do.

      Internal change may come when the Bishops retire but only if new and not corrupted people take over. Do they exist in the existing hierarchy? Change will also come when the churches realize that they can not survive without members. A Church of Sri Lanka as you write may be the solution.

      External change may be easier to achieve if controlling authorities and financiers are forced into action. The sad fact is that despite demands from the Trustees, several court cases and media attention the “JDCSI Congloremate” consisting of the schools, the hospitals, the church and the other institutions continues with irregularities to use a mild description.

      I can not comment on the other Anglicans but the”JDCSI Congloremate” already faces a serious lack of human resources. There are very few people left and very few of them are competent. In 5-10 years time there will be a competency crises.

      • 5
        0

        Does the Church of Ceylon face a shortage of funds?

        Poor parishes are forced to pay a quota to the diocese. Church-run orphanages have a cut in funds.

        But then, all archdeacons are given Rs. 10 million for cars. I hear that a mercedes benz was offered as an option during standing committee discussions.

        Worse, all retired bishops will now get fancy motorcars. A mercedes benz?

        Our present bishop by approving this has ensured that he too will get a motorcar for life! His high standing is ruined forever.

        Should we contribute to this church run by a small clique in Colombo? Perhaps we should give cash gifts to faithful priests in rural areas without putting money in the till which is subject to diocesan taxes.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Daniel Poor,
    .
    On the previous page you have asked:
    .
    Why did parents and alumni have to file a court case and appeal to higher courts?
    .
    I wonder if you never came across this famous happening?
    .
    Sri Lanka`s Education Minister Prevents Tamil Girl Admission To Sinhala School
    Monday, 18 February 2008 30 Comment 621875 views

    In truth, Nethmi Lavanya Yogendra should have attained fame when the Year 5 scholarship results for 2007 were released late last year. Nethmi was placed second in the Colombo District after securing 190 marks at the scholarship exam held in August last year.
    .
    http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2008/2/24845.html
    .
    Nethmi had to fight her way in via the courts. Google her name, and you’ll find more accounts of this story. However, the report with the most telling comments seems no longer to be on the Internet.

    • 4
      0

      Bishop Kennerh Fernando appointed his unqualified nephew Eksith Fernando as Warden. He had a degree but not the required 10 years.
      As I recall the courts removed Eksith.
      Why is Bishop Kanagasabai risking the church’s reputation by appointing the unqualified Ponniah?
      Is looking after favoites more important than the church’s reputation? Than the rules of Christian Administration?

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