THE MALANKARA ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH
CONSTITUTIONS & CANON
The Malankara Church is a division of Orthodox Syrian Church. The primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church is the Patriarch of Antioch
The Malankara Church was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle and is included in the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East and the Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East is the Catholicos.
The ancient and the real name of the Malankara Church is The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, although it is also wrongly called ‘The Jacobite Church’, for the same reasons for which the Orthodox Syrian Church has been also called so.
All men and women, who has received Holy Baptism and believe in the divinity of The Holy Trinity, the incarnation of the Son, the procedure of the Holy Spirit, The Holy Church, and the application of the Nicene Creed there-in-all, the divine inspiration of Holy Tradition, the mediation of the Mother of God and Saints, the commemoration of the departed ones,
the administration of the seven sacrements, and the Canonical observances like fasting etc. and have accepted the obligation to observe them, will be members of the Church.
The approved canon of the Church is the Hudaya Canon written by Bar Hebraeus (the same canon book as the one printed in Paris in the year 1898)
The Parish Church
The Parish Assembly
Every Parish Church shall have a Parish Assembly
All men who confess and receive Holy Qurbana at least once a year, and who have completed the age of 21 years, may be the member of the Parish assembly.
There shall be a Parish Assembly Register containing the names and particulars of the members of the Parish Assembly, and the Holy Confession Register containing the names and particulars of those who have confessed.
A member of one Parish church can either become permanent member of another parish church of if he resides temporarily in another place for profession or other-wise become temporary member of the parish church there, with the permission of the Vicar of the parish church he leaves and the Vicar of the parish church he joins and the respective vicars shall report to the respective Diocesan Metropolitans about such leaving and joining. In the event of the Vicar refusing permission for such transfer the Diocesan Metropolitan may be petitioned and all concerned shall abide by his decision. Those who have joined a Parish temporarily will not have, as long as they continue so, the right to participate in the parish assembly of the parish church in which they are permanent members or exercise their vote there.
If a member of a parish assembly fails to pay for a period of six months any amount on any account due from him to the parish or to the Church, that member will not have the right to take part or exercise his vote in any Parish assembly. If he continues in arrears, without paying such amounts for one year his names shall removed from the Parish assembly Register. A member so removed from the Parish assembly Register will forefeet the right to be a member either of his own or any other Parish Assembly, until he has paid up all his arrears. The Vicar of the Parish shall write to the Metropolitan of the Diocese as to what shall be done thereafter with that member, and deal with him according to the written order of the Metropolitan.
By virtue of being an Episcopal church, its authority is vested in the apex body of the council of all the Episcopas of the church with the Catholicos presiding over it, called the Holy Synod. The authority of the Synod is final and binding. It has exclusive rights and privileges in the matter of upholding the Faith of the church, its discipline and order of Apostolic Succession’ as regards temporal administration. The church is guided by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association.
The Metropolitans rule the dioceses assigned to them by the Synod. The appoint vicars for the parishes. The vicars are, therefore, responsible to the metropolitans. The church administration is, therefore, a three tier system; the vicar- Metropolitan synod tier.
The vicar is not only a priest ordained by a metropolitan for discharging ecclesiastical duties but also a representative of metropolitan in the parish and is obliged to serve the interests of the former while at the same time keeping in view the welfare of the parish.
Parishes are the constituent units of the church. They were represented in the Malankara association of 1934 which adopted the constitution. The constitution therefore, is applicable to all parishes of the church. It also follows that the parishes are within the constitution and obliged to the operation of its provisions in so far as they are concerned. They are neither outside the umbrella of the constitution nor independent entities. Thus the constitution safeguards the rightful place of the parish in the church and enshrines an administrative machinery for its management.
The Malankara Syrian Christian association
The constitution adopted specific provisions for the composition of the Malankara association. The following articles are relevant .
Composition and Representation
The Malankara arch diocese shall have an association by the name “ Malankara Syrian Christian Association”
A priest and two laymen elected by each parish assembly and the members of the existing managing committee shall be members of the association.
The Malankara Metropolitan shall be the president and the remaining prelates having administrative charge of dioceses shall be vice presidents of the association.
The Malankara metropolitan shall preside over meetings of the associations.
The Malankara metropolitan is the administrative head of the church and in him “ the prime jurisdiction regarding the temporal, ecclesiastical and spiritual administration of the Malankara church is vested”. only a metropolitan elected by the Malankara Syrian Christian association could hold this office for the constitution stipulates that the Malankara metropolitan shall be elected to that office by the association.
The administrative powers, duties and responsibilities of the Malankara Metropolitan campus the temporal, ecclesiastical and spiritual affairs of the church. To enumerate they are:-
The Malankara Metropolitan shall be the president of :
a) the Malankara Syrian Christian association.
b) the managing committee
c) the working committee
He shall convene the association and the managing committee.
He shall nominate members to :
The managing committee corresponding to the number approved by the association and
The working committee
He shall be the metropolitan trustee:
For the trust fund and the Kottayam Syrian seminary along with the other two clergy and lay trustees and
For the rest of the community properties if they are not subject to other special provisions.
Dioceses and Parishes
The Malankara metropolitan has the power of supervision over the diocese metropolitan in the administration of the diocese.
He shall hear any appeal against any decision of the diocesan metropolitan before his advisory council.
He, if found necessary can convene the diocesan assembly after giving information to the diocesan metropolitan.
He shall directly administer any diocese in case there is no diocesan metropolitan.
He may officially visit all the parish churches of the Malankara church and if found needed, he may convene the parish assembly after giving information to the diocesan metropolitan.
The Malankara metropolitan is entitled to a fixed percentage of the income out of the annual gross income of a parish church.
he may allocate a percentage of this annual income to himself, dioceses, metropolitans Diocesan fund and Malankara diocesan fund.
Faith, Order and Discipline:
In all matters concerning the faith, order and discipline of the church, the Episcopal synod is the supreme authority. None has the right including the assemblies of the parish diocese and the Malankara association to alter the faith of the church but in case of any dispute, the decision of the synod shall be final.
In the matter of ordination also, the Malankara metropolitan oversees the process of selection and theological study of the candidates desiring ordination. He receives the requests of candidates duly recommended by diocesan. According to his convenience, the Malankara metropolitan shall send the applicants to the theological seminary for theological study and provided the principal of the seminary certifies the fitness of the candidates for ordination, the Malankara metropolitan or diocesan metropolitan at their discretion, ordains them.
Importance of laity in church administration democratic character
Evidently, three groups in the church are represented in the association general assembly the metropolitans, the clergy and the people. A distinct feature and significant factor to be observed is that two third of this administrative body is composed of the laity and only one third by clergy. This ratio is maintained in regard to the composition of managing committee also.
The constitution provides for a three member trusteeship of Malankara metropolitan, clergy trustee and layman trustee for the management of community properties and its finance and that these three associate trustees are elected by the association.
The constitution stipulates that there shall be a secretary for the association and that he shall be elected by the association managing committee. This secretary is assigned three roles. He functions as the secretary of the Malankara association, secretary of the managing committee, and secretary of the Malankara metropolitans consultative committee. He is also a member of the working committee.
The duties and responsibilities of the secretary are also specifically laid down. They include I) maintaining the minutes of the Malankara association and the managing committee ii) recording and maintaining the accounts of the income and expenditure from the assets of the community and the revenues of the Malankara archdiocese, iii) preparing add presenting up to date statement of accounts at the meetings of the managing committee and iv) maintaining a register for the movable and immovable properties of the community.
The secretary is accountable to the managing committee. It has the right to remove him from office without assigning any reason.
The office of secretary for the church formally came into being with the adoption of the 8th canon of the Mulanthuruthy synod of 1876 and later the constitution in 1934. But a secretary personal to the Malankara Metropolitan was in existence although not elected and responsible to managing committee.
By virtue of the elected representative character, the association if beholden as the parliament of the church the supreme administrative authority of the church. Two thirds of the composition of the association is, as already seen, made up of the elected laity. The constitution has, therefore entrusted the laity with an important and responsible role in the management of the church as a whole. It upholds a democratic feature.
The higher percentage of laity does not minimize the importance of clergy. In their own right, the clergy has equal responsibilities to shoulder in the administration of the church. Along with the laity, the clergy serve as the mind and voice of the community.
Not withstanding the importance of laity in the administration of the church, the Malankara association blends Episcopal and democratic trepidations and features in a most equitable and justifiable manner without either of them losing grace and grounds or dominating.
Management of the finance of the church
The finance of the church is managed by the managing committee. The constitution has laid down that “ for the income and expenditure of the community, a budget shall be prepared by the committee in the beginning of the year and any expenditure exceeding the same shall only be incurred with the consent of the committee.
The assets of the church are landed property, buildings, and institutions. It derives income from these sources and other programs and projects managed at different church levels. – by Malankara Metropolitan, managing committee, trusts, societies, Dayara etc. the managing committee appointed a sub- committee to rationalize the accounting procedure of the assts and revenue sources. This committee recommended categorization of the assets and income resources under four schedules, for preparation of its budget.
Schedule A : properties, institutions and projects the accounts which should be rendered to the managing committee. These are : old seminary, MD seminary, Catholicate Fund, Catholicate office, Malankara Sabha Magazine, General accounts, Malankara church coffee estate, Pallikunnu, St. Mary’s hospital, St. Thomas Dayara, church center development fund.
Schedule B : organizations, institutions etc, the accounts of which are to be rendered to the Episcopal synod and for information of the managing committee, missionary organizations, sectoral organizations, theological seminary, monasteries, convents, child welfare centre, Parumala seminary and institutions under its management, Puthuppally, St. George hospital, Puthupaddy, Malankara orthodox church publications,.
Schedule C : institutions, the accounts of which are to be rendered to respective governing boards, colleges and school under the corporate managements, Malankara medical mission hospital, Kolenchery, Baselius Marthoma charity fund.
Schedule D : budgets of all dioceses .
This rationalized budgeting procedure in four schedules was accepted by the managing committee and was introduced for the first time in 1967 – 68 and continues since then.
Orthodox church administration -a view
The form of orthodox church government is neither authoritarian nor majority rule. It believes in sharing of authority, keeping in view the special roles of the clergy and the laity – the mind of the community.
The orthodox church is organized according to the Episcopal system. As St. Ignatius put it, the church is where the faithful are gathered around their bishop. To understand St. Ignatius rightly, the background of his epistles has to be kept in view. St. Ignatius lived and taught and wrote his epistles as the pastor of a church under persecution, to console and strengthen people whose loyalty to Christ was being tested in the crucible of suffering inflicted by enemies of the gospel. When he asked those harrowed Christians to preserve their unity by keeping close to their bishops who were themselves under persecution, his words were surely not meant to support any authoritarian claims of individuals who wanted power over others. In traditional roman usage, episcopacy came to mean something rather different from what St. Ignatius had in mind. Monarchial episcopacy, in which the bishop is conceived of as the source of authority in church, is a carry over form his government of imperial Rome. The orthodox conception of episcopacy may be described as pastoral episcopacy, where the bishop is not the monarch or the ruler, but the shepherd or father of the people. The bishop is counselor and guide rather than magistrate and rules by consent rather than fear. The roman promotion of Episcopal autocracy inevitably led to the growth of congregationalism in the west. The orthodox churches did not pass through this kind of revolution because the orthodox Episcopal system was not incompatible with some of the values which congregationalism arose to conserve, and which the old roman Episcopal system did not permit. Even Rome is beginning to recognize this and make adjustments .
The orthodox system of church government is based on what may be called “ the mind of the community” which depends neither on the infallibility” of person or any section of the church nor on a democratic vote. Dictatorship and “ major rule” are both alien to the spirit of orthodox church administration. It is a perversion of ecclesiological concepts to teach or act as if conviviality or syndicalism means that the Episcopal synod has some kind of infallibility or stands above any need for correction by the whole body of the church. If St. Irenaios believed that the best guarantee of apostolic faith would be the bishop in the apostolic succession. He surely did not ever imagine that the laying on of hands would make any bishop infallible in all matters of church life! In the church, the bishops have an honored place because they are the custodians of sacramental grace, but they are not the whole church and their authority is not meant to be dictatorial. The clergy have a special position in the life of the church because they are instruments through whom sacramental grace is conveyed to all members of the church, but they are only a section of the church and cannot be treated as a whole. Nevertheless the laity too, in spite of numbers must be subject to : the mind of the whole community”. the point is that no section of the church should arrogate to itself exclusively the authority of the church. All sections should have a share in this authority of the whole. This is the basic principle of orthodox church government.
Malankara Association and Church Constitution
When one would study the constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Church, he/she would learn that it has got its own unique features and specialties. The main one is that it does not forsake the Episcopal principles or it is not free from the democratic practices. We could see a very healthy and wise combination of the democracy and episcopacy in the constitution of the Church. The Church has three different administrative bodies.
Malankara Orthodox Holy Episcopal Synod
Association Managing committee
The duties, responsibilities and jurisdiction of powers of the Synod, Managing Committee are distinctly defined in the constitution. All matters concerned with the Faith, Order and Discipline are entrusted only with the Holy Synod. Still the Holy Synod is not permitted to consecrate one priest as an Episcopos (Bishop) without the selection and approval of the Association. The position and powers of the laymen, priests and the Holy Episcopal synod in the matter of the election of Bishop designates are very significant and important. The constitution envisages the chance to elect the best from the available. It is the greatness of the Constitution of the Orthodox Church that it holds all facilities and precautions for the above need in the pages of the constitution. The Bishop designate could be consecrated if the Holy Episcopal synod is in favor of such a decision. If not they could refuse to consecrate too. The reason for the denial need not be published for the understanding of the public. And as such, there is no ruling in the Constitution.
His Holiness the Catholicos is the president of the Holy Synod. Still His Holiness is not exempted from the decisions of the Holy Synod. His Holiness is bound to inform the decisions of the Holy Synod to the members of the Church and to get them implemented. Managing Committee is the legal body to formulate all decisions of the Holy Church. All decisions of the Managing committee are to be ratified by the Holy Synod.
The elected lay representatives of each parish as well as the vicars ( or by election if more than one priest is there in one parish) from each parish are the members of the Association. Whenever there is a need of election to the post of Bishops/Malankara Metropolitan/Catholicos, or the members of the Managing committee or the lay/priest Trustee, the Association will be summoned by the Malankara Metropolitan.
According to clause 87 of the Constitution, there will be working committee with not less than ten members. The working committee is implementing the decisions of the Managing Committee. The Catholicos / Malankara Metropolitan will be the president of the Working committee. There will be a representative from the Holy Synod. The priest Trustee and the lay Trustee are members of the working committee. The President on consultation with other members will appoint the rest of the members. The working Committee could meet the unavoidable needs without the prior decision of the Managing Committee. But in the next meeting of the Managing Committee, the matter has to be brought to the notice of the Managing Committee.
The Secretary of the Malankara Association is elected by the Managing committee and he shall be the the secretary of the Managing committee too.