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Every denomination needs one of these...

UCC's Wider Church Ministries involved in overseas dispute

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

There is a very rich and interesting history between our predecessor denomination and the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) and the American Ceylon Mission (ACM) dating back to the Haystack Prayer Meeting. However, a nasty rift is brewing between the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India and United Church of Christ's Wider Church Ministries (WCM).

The UCC's Wider Church Ministries is weighing in on a fight between different factions in the JDCSI. On one side there is the newly elected leadership who have taken control after a series of court disputes and rulings in India and Sri Lanka which appear to have gone in their favor. On the other side of the schism is a group of dissidents who appear to have lost the internal fight, but have appealed to the WCM for help, prompting Rev. Cally Rogers Witte to intervene on their behalf. Rogers-Witte appears intent on blocking, or at least delaying, the installation of the newly elected leaders. The conflict raises questions about who actually has final authority over the inner workings of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India -- the local adherents or the Wider Church Ministries out of Cleveland, Ohio.

Earlier this month, the JDCSI held its annual Diocesan Council sessions presided by the new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel Thiagarajah and a new Executive Committee was elected along with other officers of the council including that of the American Ceylon Mission.

According to Victor Karunairajan, spokesman for JDCSI, the UCC's Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries is asserting authority she doesn't legally have over the appointment of officers to the American Ceylon Mission. According to Karunairajan, "only the Diocesan Council of the JDCSI can elect or appoint officers to the American Ceylon Mission, an institution within the JDCSI".

In an email dated July 3, 2007 to Bishop Thiagarajah (Bishop in Jaffna, Church of South India) Rogers-Witte asserts:
"In as much as we have been informed of the unusual and disturbing circumstances prevailing within JDCSI leading to a schism consequent upon your assuming office as Bishop and in as much as the Wider Church Ministries (formerly UCBWM and before that called the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission) has not thus far appointed the new Body Corporate of the American Ceylon Mission since the retirement of the previous Bishop to manage the affairs of ACM institutions and movable assets held in the name of and on behalf of ACM in Sri Lanka, by virtue of powers vested in me as the present Executive Authority of the UCBWM (now called WCM) in my capacity as the Executive Minister of the Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ, I hereby direct that no changes be made in the management structures of the said institutions and in the status of any immovable assets until such time WCM (UCBWM) makes the arrangement for an alternative Body Corporate of the American Ceylon Mission."
According to Karunairajan, in 1908 the American Ceylon Mission was incorporated under the laws of Sri Lanka and was already a part of the South Indian United Church (SIUC) in 1907. The American Ceylon Mission worked under the leadership of the SIUC and had its own officers elected by the Council of the SIUC.

In 1947 when the Church of South India (CSI) came into being with its several dioceses in India and the one in Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI), the American Ceylon Mission became an intrinsic part of the JDCSI. In August 1947, the relationship was formalized with the President of the American Ceylon Mission (the Rev. Dr. Sydney Bunker) signing the deed of transfer to the JDCSI.

Karunairajan further explained that ever since, the American Ceylon Mission has remained within the JDCSI as a symbolic gesture of appreciation of the work of the American Foreign Missions, which later became the United Church Board of World Missions and now Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ.

The consequences for the image of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries are enormous. While Rogers-Witte has expressed concern for the schism within the JDCSI, she doesn't directly reference what "relevant legal and constitutional documents" take precedence over laws in India and Sri Lanka in a July 12 letter to Bishop Thiagarajah.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Rev. Daniel Tiagarajah spent several years in indiana, getting his doctorate. He is highly respected by the I-K conference, and has visited many times. The conference has partnered with the JDCSI to start an orphanage, and works closely with him and his wife. It is very disheartening to see this rift.
commented by Blogger Steve, 1:30 PM  
How Batticotta Seminary was closed

Victor Karunairajan


The Batticotta Seminary was a unique educational institute founded by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) at Vaddukodai, north Sri Lanka in 1823. Unfortunately, much against the wishes of the people of the Jaffna District it was closed in 1855. The reason for such a decision being that it was not successful in the mission of its founding namely, conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

The historical reality was that a commission headed by Rufus Anderson who served as the Foreign Corresponding Secretary of the ABCFM asserted that missions were instituted for the spread of scriptural, self-propagating Christianity.

Totally oblivious and even contemptuous of the cultural ethos of the community that warmly received the missionaries in the first place, he was fundamentally flawed in his observations. Either he was ignorant or highly disoriented to understand that the Cradle of our Culture was that of the entire Tamil community and we are all part and parcel of our people. Religion apart, our traditions, cultural norms and values are fundamental to our interests.

Did Anderson believe that it was important to raise a subculture within our community confrontational to the rest of our people; friends, relations and neighbours? Christianity prospers quite comfortably among our people and that is the kind of cradle that nourishes all faiths, and Rufus Anderson, considered an expert in this field, proved he was beyond understanding this deeply ingrained truth

The eminent British historian, Sir Emerson Tennent judged the Batticotta Seminary equal in rank with many a European university. The late Rt Rev Dr Sabapathy Kulendran, the first bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) observed that the seminary brought about a tremendous upsurge the like of which has never been seen in the country before or after.

The Batticotta Seminary had all the bearings of a fledgling university and if it were not closed, it would have become the first university of Sri Lanka and developed into one of the finest in Asia. It would have even helped to create a nation that would have stepped clear of disruptive and divisive politics. Seventeen years after it was closed, through the efforts of the local people, Jaffna College was founded where once the seminary stood.

Today, 152 years after the seminary’s fate was sealed, the same missionary body which now calls itself the Wider Churches Ministry (WCM) of the United Church of Christ (UCC) is engaged in a certain corrosive activity to cause a deep fissure within the JDCSI, the successors of the church that was founded by the American Ceylon Mission (ACM).

In the nature and character with which Rufus Anderson denied the local community of what would have been one of the finest seats of learning in Sri Lanka, the WCM of the UCC headed by Dr Cally Rogers-Witte wants to meddle in the affairs of the JDCSI and has made it clear that her organization has a right to determine and decide certain matters in Sri Lanka in respect of this church.

No such basis exists for her to make this demand. But it is evident her help has been sought by disgruntled elements that look up to US sources for bits of crumbs and dots of marmalade.

She has taken a stand to encourage and support a rebel group within the church that has expressed interests in the material assets of the church over which only the JDCSI has authority. Furthermore, the JDCSI is a diocese under the Church of South India and its relations with any church body in the US are only fraternal.

It appears to be an American custom to cause fissures and factions among organizations that have a good record of success and stability. The church community that has several parishes in the north and east and manage such institutions as Uduvil Girls College and two hospitals among others, do not want a repeat of the Anderson humiliation, more appropriately destruction.
commented by Anonymous Victor Karunairajan, 8:38 AM  
In 1977 Rev John Crozier published a book THE ADVENTURES OF GORDON HALL.He was grateful to Dr Telfer Mook, the India Secretary for UCBWM in New York and Rev Eric Gass Of the Bombay UCBWM fIELD REPRESENTATIVE. It is rather unfortunate to note that the effort of Rev Crozier has gone down the drain,in none of yr entire web site there is nothing mentioned about Gordon Hall his exemplary work in India, it is even further sad to note his gravesite has not yet been found even though we use 22nd generation technology can some one pl tell me why such a brilliant man's effort has not been acknowledged.WHAT A LIFETIME IS LOST IN THE WANT OF WAITING .If anyone would like to share their thoughts pl contact me carltonj_hall@hotmail.com
Thank you
commented by Blogger carl, 3:55 AM  
Rev Gordon halls grave is in Dhole dapoor near nasik and sangamner how can one say that it is not there there is lot of land selling business of ahmednagar marathi mission by the wicked trustees of the Wider church ministries and all pastor association comprising of various pastors of ahmednagar district are protesting against the illegal sale of Land of these holy missionaries like samuel newell, luther rice, hervey who had come to ahmednagar in 1831 and started their gospel work, will somebody give news to these happenings?
commented by Blogger sam, 2:08 AM  

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