Tension in Goregaon as Church, Association clash

"This creates a dichotomy and results in differences between the two authorities..."
( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:52 AM EST

Goregaon, India., Nov. 19 - Sunday services at St John’s Tamil Church, Goregaon, took an ugly turn when a quarrel broke out between the clergy and an independent association of the church.

The clergy, including Reverend Jairaj, were reportedly not allowed to enter the church premises and association members wanted to conduct the prayers instead.

The church, which was established in 1976, is under the Church of North India Tamil Association and under the jurisdiction of Bishop Baiju Gavit. However, six months ago, 15 members of the church formed an independent association called the St John’s Christian Association.

The association has now laid claim to both the property of the church as well as powers over its clergy as the legitimate authority of the church. “The association is claiming that the church structure belongs to them as they are a registered body. However, the church property belongs to the Church of North India and the land belongs to the municipal corporation,” said Bishop Gavit.

However, members of the association said that they are a registered body and have the right to perform prayers and other rituals. They have also appointed a new priest, as they are not happy with Fr Jairaj. “The church did not have a legitimate trust earlier so our authority cannot be questioned,” said a member of the association. “The problem arises when the clergy is given the authority to handle church services and another body is given authority to handle the church property. This creates a dichotomy and results in differences between the two authorities,” said Dr Abraham Mathai, secretary of All India Christian Council and member of State Minorities Commission.

The bishop also mentioned that they were expecting disruptions in church services on Sunday mornings and had asked the police to provide security. After the quarrel broke out, a non-cognisable complaint was lodged at the Goregaon police station. “I had already filed a complaint with the police before, but the police arrived only at 11 am despite our request that they provide security from 8 am, when we begin services.”