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Lawsuit demands bishop release spending figures: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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The parish council of St Andrews Vicarage Church, Ngangelizwe has filed a complaint in the Eastern Cape High Court seeking an order requiring the Rt. Rev. Sitembele Mzamane, Bishop of Mthatha in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to release the diocese’s income statements. The 1 April 2014 lawsuit further asks that the bishop’s salary and benefits be made public, along with the salaries of all other diocesan employees. Parish Council president Humphrey Lusu stated that although canon law requires the church’s financial statements be made public, the bishop had declined to do so. On 15 September 2009 the 49th session of the synod for the diocese, which had formerly been known as the Diocese of St John’s Kaffraria until 2006, saw protests from the clergy over alleged misconduct by Bishop Mzamane. A petition was circulated calling for his resignation and formal charges were laid before Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba for review. No action was taken, however. The bishop must file an answer to the lawsuit by 15 April 2014.

South African church back Thuli: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Church leaders in South Africa have defended the country’s Public Protector – the top anti-corruption official – from attacks made by allies of President Jacob Zuma over corruption allegations. In a statement released on 18 March 2014, the Most Rev Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town said: “We in the churches deeply regret that certain clergy have ganged up against the Public Protector in the name of the Church. They have done so without adequate knowledge of her reports and their intervention only serves to undermine the fight against corruption.” On 19 March 2014 Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, reported that almost £24 million of public money had been spent to improve the private residence of President Jacob Zuma. The expenditures were not related to security but were luxurious upgrades to the country estate. “It is shameful to see the dirty tactics being employed” to smear the Public Protector the archbishop said.  The Rt. Rev. Rubin Philip of Natal along with other religious leaders of KwaZulu-Natal released a statement noting the Public Protector’s office is “a vital institution which should be given all the support that it deserves, rather than be undermined. If we are patriots with a genuine love for our beautiful country and willing to see it occupy its rightful place in the world of nations, then we have no option but to unreservedly stand in solidarity with it.”

Suffolk clergyman arrested for fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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A Suffolk clergyman has been suspended by the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich following his arrest last week on suspicion of fraud.

Last month the diocese placed the Rev Canon Ian Finn, the rector of St Mary the Virgin in Haverhill,  on extended leave after allegations of misappropriating wedding and funeral fees were raised.

The Suffolk Constabulary released a statement noting a “55 year old man from Haverhill who was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation on Tuesday (March 4), and taken to the Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre (PIC) for questioning, has been bailed to return to Bury PIC on April 2 pending further enquiries.”

A diocesan spokesman said confirmed Canon Finn had been suspended and but added the “police are investigating and it is therefore inappropriate for the Church to make any comment at this stage.”

Last month the diocese released a statement stating Canon Finn had explained the misappropriation of funds was “entirely the result of administrative and accounting mistakes, rather than any deliberate acts.

“He has already refunded to the diocese what he currently believes to be owing.”

“He has already cooperated fully over the matter and will continue to do so.”

SSJE executive jailed for theft: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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The former chief executive of the Fellowship of St John Trust has pled guilty to theft. On 9 January 2014 Geoffrey Hammond was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment by the Southwark Crown Court for stealing £99,493 between May 2012 and August 2013 while serving as the trust’s executive officer.

An internal audit found a substantial shortfall in the trust’s accounts last summer. When confronted Hammond admitted the theft. He was dismissed from his post on 5 Aug 2013 and the matter turned over to the police.

The Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) was an Anglican religious order founded in 1866 at Cowley, Oxford, England, by Father Richard Meux Benson, and was the first permanent religious community for men established in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation.

In the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries the society expanded to America, Canada, Scotland, India, South Africa and Japan. It maintained a presence on Marston Street, Oxford from 1868 to 1980 and in 1905 opened St Edward’s House in Westminster. While the SSJE remains active in the United States, in 2012 the order was dissolved and Edward’s House sold.

Proceeds from the sale were placed with the Fellowship of St John Trust fund trust fund for care of retired members of the society in England.

A former Labour Councilor for the Higham Hill Ward of Waltham Forest, Hammond stated he took the money to meet his debts.  The trust has recovered all of the money stolen.

Indian bishop arrested/deposed: The Church of England Newspaper, January 10, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Corruption.
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The Church of North India has deposed the Bishop in Lucknow. Police also arrested Bishop Morris Edgar Dan on 15 December 2013 after the Allahabad High Court revoked the bishop’s bail on charges of forgery and fraud.

CNI general secretary Alwan Masih told The Church of England Newspaper Bishop Dan had “duly terminated by the  executive committee  of  the CNI synod  as of 25 November 2013” following an investigation into charges the bishop had sold church lands at below market prices to a syndicate which then resold the property, giving the bishop a kick back of the profits.

Shabnam Dan, the daughter of Bishop Dan, told CEN her father had been “framed”.  She accused an influential businessman with orchestrating a campaign to ruin her father after he refused to cooperate in a plan to defraud the diocese. The criminal case continues.

Zambian bishop interviewed by police over theft charges: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2013 June 27, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Corruption.
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Members of the chapter of the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Ndola have lodged a criminal complaint with police charging the Bishop of Central Zambia, the Rt. Rev. Derek Kamukwamba, with theft of cathedral funds.

On 11 June 2013 the Bishop was interviewed by police and asked to respond to the charges. Bishop Kamukwamba told the local media he had no comment to make about the allegations.

Bishop Kamukwamba has been engaged in a dispute with members of the Cathedral for the past year. Shortly before Christmas, the bishop found the door to his office at the Cathedral locked.

He was handed a copy of a letter written by the chapter to Archbishop Albert Chama of Central Africa calling for his resignation.  The letter accused the bishop of having unlawfully ordained his nephew to the diaconate over the objections of the congregation who had reservations about his fitness.

They accused the nephew, the Rev. Stubbs Kamukwamba, of having got with child an underage member of the cathedral youth group and then helping the mother procure an abortion. The objections were brought to Bishop Kamukwamba, but were ignored the chapter said.

The criminal investigation and ecclesiastical proceedings are ongoing.

Arrest warrant for Indian bishop stayed: The Church of England Newspaper, June 16, 2013 p 6. June 19, 2013

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An Indian court has stayed two arrest warrants issued against the Bishop in Lucknow, the Rt. Rev. Morris Edgar Dan, after the bishop’s lawyers filed an emergency petition with the Allahabad High Court.

Justices Arun Tandon and M K Gupta stayed execution of the warrants last week after two criminal complaints were filed against the bishop. On 22 April Paul Geniya lodged an FIR – the initial complaint in Indian criminal court proceedings the bishop accusing the bishop of threatening his life and for having held him in captivity.

The second complaint filed by Subodh Kumar Srivastava of Agra alleged the bishop had forged documents in order to allow him to the property of Luckow Diocese Trust Association. Last month the bishop was granted bail in two other criminal proceedings were he had been charged with theft of diocesan assets.

The bishop’s legal battles reached public notice in July 2011 after he held a press conference accusing Mr. C V Innes, the former principal of the diocesan owned Boys’ High School in Allahabad, of conspiring to kill him.

Bishop Dan told reporters that “with the help of former Bishop AR Stephen, Innes had got the by-laws of society changed and announced that the Bishop of Lucknow will not be the chairman of the Allahabad High School Society.”

The bishop demanded the government protect him from Mr. Innes and Bishop Stephen’s supporters. School leaders had sought to remove Bishop Dan after accusations of theft of school assets were leveled against the bishop. The cases and the bishop’s counter claims are currently pending in the courts.

MPs expenses “selfish and inconsiderate” Archbishop charges: The Church of England Newspaper, June 9, 2013, p 6. June 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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The Archbishop of Kenya has denounced plans by the country’s MPs to boost their salaries in defiance of the rules set down by the East African country’s Constitution.

In a statement released last week the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala said the unanimous vote in Parliament to raise salaries from Sh532,000  to 851,000 shillings and repeal laws that gave oversight to the Salaries and Renumeration Commission (SRC) was “selfish, inconsiderate and uncalled for.”

The archbishop’s attack on MPs salaries and expenses follows a statement issued on 24 May 2013 by the House of Bishops calling for the police to crack down on crooked politicians involved in the drugs trade

An independent nonpartisan government agency established under the Salaries & Remuneration Commission Act, 2011, the SRC last year blocked a bill giving MPs who leave office a hefty severance package and in February implemented a steep salary cut for senior government officials. Last week the SRC said the vote to increase MPs pay was unlawful and violated the Constitution.

Dr. Wabukala urged MPs to respect the constitution stating that “barely 4 months ago they agreed to ‘obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect, and defend’ the constitution.”

By ignoring the SRC they were in “direct violation of the same. SRC has not overstepped their mandate but are operating within their scope of regularizing state officers’ remuneration. It would be unconstitutional and illegal for MPs to award themselves salaries in defiance of SRC recommendations. We applaud SRC for operating within their stipulated mandate and contributing to measures that will lower the public officers’ wage bill,” the Archbishop said.

Kenya was “undergoing a transition period inculcating devolved governance structures that will shape the nation’s social and economic well- being. Efforts and resources should be channeled to stabilize the structures for counties’ take- off; and the MPs and other legislators’ demands are derailing the process” the stated.

Bail granted to bishop in Indian fraud case: The Church of England Newspaper, June 2, 2013, p 6. June 6, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Corruption.
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The Church of North India’s Bishop in Lucknow has been granted bail in connection with a criminal complaint for fraud.

On 24 May 2013 the Allahabad High Court granted the petition of the Rt. Rev. Morris Edgar Dan releasing him from the threat of imprisonment pending the outcome of two proceedings underway in Jhansi and Allahabad.

Two First Information Reports (FIRs) have been lodged with the police alleging criminal misconduct by the bishop and his associates. Under Indian law a FIR is the formal complaint filed by the victim with the police. A FIR sets the process of criminal justice in motion for only after the FIR is registered in a police station do the authorities take up the case.

The bishop is accused of selling land belonging to Christian Inter College in Jhansi city that had an appraised value of Rs 20o million for Rs 12.5 million. A bribe of Rs 60 million is alleged to have been paid to the bishop to facilitate the transaction.

The bishop has denied any wrongdoing and the case continues.

Police seize bishop’s home/cars in corruption crackdown: The Church of England Newspaper, May 19, 2013 p 7. May 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Anti-corruption authorities in South Africa have seized the assets of Bishop Samuel Banzana, charging the leader of Umzi Wase Topiya (the Ethiopian Episcopal Church) with taking kick-backs from a construction company in return for awarding building contracts.

On 8 May 2013 agents of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions seized the bishop’s home, three automobiles and bank accounts as part of an investigation into corruption and money laundering. Tsepo Ndwalaza, the National Prosecuting Authority’s regional spokesman, told the SABC “this will show communities that the government and law enforcement agencies of this country are working hard to root out corruption”.

An African Independent Church, the Ethiopian Episcopal Church was part of the Anglican church of southern Africa for most of the 20th century. Formed by ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1900 the group entered into communion with the Anglican church of southern Africa and was known as the Ibandla laseTiyopia (Order of Ethiopia). Its polity and doctrine were based upon traditional Anglican formularies, but it placed special emphasis on the African experience – seeing in Psalm 68:31: “Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth its hands unto God” a mandate to evangelize Africa by Africans.

In July 1999 the South African Provincial Synod rescinded Canon 48, severing relations with the Order. On 27 August 1999 the bishop and clergy reformed the Order as the Ethiopian Episcopal Church.

Beware of creepy, crooked, cash-flush Pentecostals: Get Religion, May 4, 2013 May 4, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Corruption, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.

I do not love you, Sabidius, and I cannot say why;
All I can say is this, that I do not love you.

MartialEpigrams, I.32 (circa 86 A.D.)

The Australian, Australia’s largest circulation broadsheet, published a story this week about an Assemblies of God church that has taken a leap across the Pacific and planted a campus in the United States. The article entitled “Eyeing off God’s bounty” does not say that the Rev. Russell Evans is a fraud and a crook and that those who attend worship at Planetshakers City Church are ignorant rubes. However, you may well think so after reading this story.

The article opens on a self-consciously hip note.

JESUS is in the house!” roared pastor Neil Smith above the crash-boom of drums and the wail of electric guitars. You would have thought the Son of God was sitting right there in the packed auditorium, such was the excitement among the youthful crowd at the Rock Church in San Diego, California, in January.

This was a big moment in the history of Planetshakers City Church, once a small local church in Melbourne, now fast becoming an international Christian brand. As if Jesus wasn’t enough, Smith promised to “take it to a whole new level” as he introduced senior pastor Russell Evans, whom he called “the founder and visionary leader”.

Stylistically, this is grating and somewhat ugly in its diction, and derisive in tone. “[A]n international Christian brand”? It gets worse. After recounting Evans’ belief that some in the congregation should come forward for healing, the article states he appears to do quite well out of the business.

Soon Evans was calling out “healings” from the stage to his prospective followers. He announced that God wanted to heal people in the audience. “Wait a sec, wait a sec, God wants to heal some people in this room,” said Evans, as if the deity was whispering in his ear. “Someone’s back is being healed to my left, right there. There is someone here who has a knee injury and God is healing you right now; there is someone here with incredible sinus problems — you’re over in that section over there — God is healing you,” he crooned.

In any other forum, such a claim might spark derision, but in Evans’s world this is called carrying out his “pastoral duties.” His Planetshakers City Church and many of its staff receive generous tax concessions for these duties.

And at this point the article pivots and insinuates bad faith, stating:

 Until now, the government has shown only occasional interest in the activities of churches that receive tax exemptions. But from July 1 the newly formed Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission will bring unprecedented scrutiny. ACNC advisory board member David Crosbie has said the changes would not restrict the activities of legitimate churches, but would help to weed out “fringe religions” that act more like cults. While Planetshakers is regarded as a mainstream church, it too will be subject to the ACNC’s scrutiny. There is no requirement under law that churches comply with specific Christian doctrine, but the ACNC is nominally interested in the form and content of worship, insiders say.

Setting aside the suggestion the government should decide the content of religious faith — what is this, the Church of England? — the snide and derisive comments continue – interspersed with the odd fact here and there.

And Evans, one of the new breed of “pastorpreneurs”, is spreading the word in the US market, where the church could make millions of dollars in tax-free revenue. …  As the Evans brothers build their international ministries, they crisscross the world on their church credit cards.  … He recently tweeted his “fav eating places in the world: 1. Shangri-la (Singapore) 2: (Five star hotel) Langham (Melbourne) 3. Little pasta place in Rome 4. Angelinas Paris 5: mi cocina Dallas (Texas).” …  Under present rules, pastors such as the Evans brothers get to keep all the frequent-flyer points they earn on their corporate credit cards, tax-free. And with almost all church expenses paid on credit cards, that could run to hundreds of thousands of points each year. …  Insiders say Russell and his wife are paid a cash salary of approximately $100,000 each, but that the true value of their total package is closer to $500,000 once all fringe benefits are included. Planetshakers denies this, but declines to provide accurate figures, citing confidentiality.

Which is followed by this gratuitous observation:

Churches have enjoyed a presumption that they are charities by right, courtesy of the Statute of Elizabeth, enacted in 1601. The estimated overall cost of this exemption to the economy was estimated by Treasury to be $85m in 2011-12.

But, heaven forfend if the article has given the wrong impression:

The Australian is not suggesting that Planetshakers or Influencers is under investigation.

It will be interesting to see how churches such as Planetshakers and their congregations respond to the kind of scrutiny the ACNC may bring. In the past, disgruntled followers simply found another church to go to; now they can seek change in their own church via a confidential complaints process provided by the ACNC.

This article is just mean. It treats Pentecostal Christianity as if it were some exotic species of religious belief, best observed by the anthropologist peering through the bushes at the natives caught up in their ecstatic frenzies while the witch doctor pockets the offerings (and frequent flier points).

The article is one-sided, incurious and dismissive. It also suffers from an overabundance of irony — “Can you believe these people?” –  and seeks not to inform its readers about one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the world but to reinforce anti-Christian prejudices. Now I enjoy being savagely unkind as the next reporter but this is a hit piece.

It does not live up to the code of decent reporting. However, aside from libel laws there is little agreement on what constitutes the “code”.

During the 2008 Lambeth Conference I took a house with a number of other reporters on the outskirts of Canterbury to save on hotel costs and to avoid having to stay in the rather dreary Soviet-style concrete student dormitories provided for the bishops, staff and press attending the 10-day gathering at the University of Kent. Over the course of the conference – a pan-Anglican jamboree for bishops held every 10 years — I renewed friendships and formed new relationships with members of the British press corps.

And they came to know me. At the end of the meeting one of my housemates, Ruth Gledhill of the Times, the doyenne of British religion writers, gave me a paperback copy of one of the “Just William” books by Richmal Crompton. Evidently my manner of dress, diet, intellectual interests, attainments and conversation reminded her of the perpetual schoolboy — a naïf. As did the suppositions I brought to the craft of reporting.

Setting aside the class and political overtones implied by the book – – think cold showers, push-ups, evangelical Christianity, conservative politics, and sport  — I guess she was not that far off the mark. I was a happy teenager, fortunate in my parents and my schooling. Latin was taught to me (it would be not quite true to say I studied the classics as that would imply effort on my part) but some of it did sink in. But what I did learn, and still believe, is in fair play. This article is unfair.

Hearing how a church grew from a few hundred to almost ten thousand over a decade in the hostile climate of Melbourne is a story worth telling — as is the move to Southern California. There is so much in this story waiting to be told, that it is a disappointment that suggestions of financial misconduct that appear to be based on nothing more than envy, dominate this story. If there is a Jim and Tammy Faye story here, tell it — don’t hint there might be one without some evidence.

The Seventeenth century satirist Thomas Brown updated Martial’s epigram, substituting his tutor at Oxford for Sabidius.

I do not love thee, Dr Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Dr Fell.

Pentecostal Christians are bad and we should not love them, The Australian tells us – though it never quite gets round to saying why.

First printed in Get Religion.

Crime concerns dominate Jamaican synod: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013, p 7. April 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Corruption, Crime, Gambling.
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The Bishop of Jamaica has denounced his government’s slow response to a lottery scam that has defrauded thousands of elderly Americans, saying it was symptomatic of the breakdown of law and order in the West Indies.

In his presidential address to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at the 143rd annual meeting of Synod held at St Ann’s Bay parish church, Bishop Howard Gregory said the “system of justice needs to become a primary focus of attention.”

“As a nation we are being called to repentance with a consequent change of action in relation to the blood of our young men and our women and children which is being shed daily in our country by criminal elements, but just as significant in the resolution of domestic disputes.”

The Bishop condemned the government for permitting the sale of lottery tickets on Sunday. He noted that the legislation passed during holy week led him to ask “whether this is an expression of gross insensitivity or a statement concerning the way forward for the relationship between church and society”.

He also took the government to task for not moving to stop the “Jamaican lottery scam” until the U.S. Senate began hearings on the crimes.

A report by CBS reported that in 2012 over 29,000 lottery scam complaints were filed with American police agencies. Posing as representatives of Publishers Clearinghouse and other lottery and sweepstakes firms, the scammers would tell elderly Americans that they had won a cash prize but first needed to make a tax payment before the money would be released. The Jamaican-based fraud had taken in tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors have alleged.

“After seven years of public awareness of the lottery scam, our Government has only managed to table anti-scamming legislation and talk tough at the very moment when the United States Senate was holding a [Senate] hearing on the scam in Jamaica,” Bishop Gregory said.

The government’s failure to act did nothing to combat Jamaica’s reputation as a den of crime and corruption. “The way we are presenting ourselves to the world in terms of our moral values as a nation calls for serious repentance on the part of citizens and political leaders as a whole,” he said.

The willingness also of ordinary Jamaicans to countenance the lottery scam told the world “we have some very skewed moral values.”

Indian bishop jailed for forgery: The Church of England Newspaper, March 31 2013, p 7. April 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption, Crime.
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Manickam Dorai

A retired Bishop of the Church of South India (CSI) has been sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined Rs 15,000 for forgery and fraud.  The conviction of the Rt. Rev Devaraj Bangera, the former Bishop in the Karnataka Southern Diocese last week follows news that the Indian tax authorities have seized the assets of the former Bishop in Coimbatore, Manickam Dorai– who last year was defrocked by the CSI for fraud and theft.

On 20 March 2013 a judge in Mangalore sentenced Bishop Bangera after the trial court found he had forged his birth certificate in order to avoid mandatory retirement at age 65. Elected Bishop in 2005 the bishop declined to step down from office on his 65th birthday on 29 June 2009.  He presented a birth certificate showing he had been born in 1945 and brought suit to block his retirement.

However the newly appointed treasurer of the diocese, while investigating allegations of theft made against Bishop Bangera, uncovered a birth certificate dated 1944. An inquiry with the municipality that had allegedly issued in 1945 birth certificate found it was a forgery and bishop’s true birth year was 1944.  Bishop Bangera currently is on bail pending appeal.

Last month the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Indian tax authority attached properties registered in the name of the life and brother of the former Bishop in Coimbatore Manickam Dorai under the rules governing the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.  The levies came after the Tamil Nadu state police registered a case against Bishop Dorai and his brother for “misappropriation of Diocese funds, a public charitable trust, to the tune of Rs 7.93 crore” (£865,000).

In 2012 Bishop Dorai was defrocked by the CSI after he was found guilty of fraud and theft of church funds.

Additional Complaints Filed in Tanzania: Anglican Ink, March 7, 2013 March 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Church of Tanzania, Anglican Ink, Corruption, GAFCON, The Episcopal Church.
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Three complaints have been lodged with the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) by members of the church’s general synod alleging misconduct and fraud in the conduct of last month’s election of an archbishop.

On 3 March 2013 Dr Dickson Chilongani, Provincial Secretary of the ACT, released a statement announcing the election of the Rt. Rev. Jacob Erasto Chimeledya “as the new Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania.”

However supporters of the sitting archbishop, Valentino Mokiwa of Dar es Salaam, cried foul. A 27 Feb 2013 complaint seen by AI has alleged eight constitutional irregularities in the voting, including the casting of four more ballots than electors present. The claim put forward by Dr. Chilongani was ingenuous, they added, stating that while the House of Bishops may have endorsed the election, the Lay and Clergy Houses of Synod had not.

Read it all in Anglican Ink

Soft judges encourage crime Archbishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013 p 7. February 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Corruption.
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A two year prison term or an option of paying a fine of £3000 for stealing £9.3 million from the Nigerian Police Pension Fund was an invitation to politicians to steal, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh told members of the Church of Nigeria Standing Committee in Benin City last week.

On 6 Feb 2013 Archbishop Okoh said he was appalled by the lenient treatment given by the Abuja High Court to convicted thief John Yusuf. “Nigerians are unhappy with the kid-glove treatment given to a man who, by his act, must have killed many pensioners. It is a great encouragement to looters of government treasury. Whatever is responsible for such encouragement of evil, government should act promptly to show the people where its sympathy lies.”

The Washington, DC-based NGO, Transparency International, gave Nigeria a score of 27 out of a possible 100 in 2012, placing the country among the most corruption plagued countries in the world, earning the same score as Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan.

Denmark scored a 90 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) edging out New Zealand for first place. Somalia edged out Afghanistan and North Korea to came in last of the 176 nations surveyed, scoring 8 on the CPI. Among the nations of West Africa, Nigeria ranked 14th while Cape Verde was ranked 1st in the region with a score of 60 and Ghana second with a score of 45. Africa’s highest ranking nation on the CPI was Botswana which was ranked 30th world wide with a score of 60.

The CPI ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 – 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean.

While the government had taken steps in recent months to confront the terrorist violence of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, “equal attention should be given to the insecurity created by armed robbers, kidnappers, and human trafficking across the country,” the archbishop said.

On 5 Feb 2013 the Archdeacon of Ogidi, the Ven. Obi Ubaka reported the vicar of Umunachi in Awka State had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. The archdeacon said the Rev. James Achigbu and his wife were driving home from visiting a neighboring church when their car was stopped at a road block by a criminal gang.  The archdeacon reported the gang has demanded money, but the parish has stated it will not pay a ransom and has appealed to the kidnappers for the release of their priest.

In his address to the standing committee, Archbishop Okok called upon the government “to do more to address the sore issues of unemployment for young graduates and general poverty in the country.   In addition, we wish to advice government at all levels to make corruption unattractive to both the rich and the poor.”

A spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, responded to the archbishop’s call by noting the church’s role in transforming Nigeria. “The theme of the meeting, overcoming the challenges of the time is apt and divinely inspired. As leadership and representatives of the entire membership of the Church of Nigeria you will take up the challenge of re-invigorating the Church in the vanguard of our national transformation efforts,” Gov. Oshiomhole told the gathering.

Ugandan bishop arrested in anti-corruption protest: Anglican Ink, February 7, 2013 February 8, 2013

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A retired Ugandan bishop was arrested this week, accused of disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly for handing out pamphlets denouncing government corruption.

On 4 Feb 2013, Dr. Zac Niringiye, the former Assistant Bishop of Kampala, and seven other democracy activists were arrested by police at Makere University as they handed out leaflets documenting that called for action to combat corruption. After bail was posted the bishop was released from custody but ordered to return for a hearing before a magistrate on 14 Feb.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Archbishop Adetiloye a foe of idolatry and corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

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Spiritual and material corruption was eating away at the hearts of the Christian Churches of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said last week, warning that the failure of Church leaders to live up to their callings was emblematic of the failure of Nigerian civil society.

In his eulogy for the late Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye on 25 Jan 2013 at St Paul’s Church in Odo-Owa in Ekiti State, Archbishop Okoh told the mourners: “We are not here to help Archbishop Adetiloye but to help ourselves to see if we can realign with God and make a meaning of our life.”

Taking as his text 2 Timothy 4:7-8, the archbishop lambasted Prosperity Gospel preachers who taught false doctrine and used their ministries to enrich themselves.  “The church today is highly criticised because many of us who profess Christ are very poor images of Christ,” the archbishop said.

“It is a pity that we have become slaves to money; we have lost our dear moral values in the name of getting money,” he said, noting “teaching now centres around quick money, quick riches, and selfishness in the service of God.  People don’t want to serve, but to get reach quick through miracles,” he said.

The archbishop added that “rather than worshiping God, today most Christians worship money, and some other gods that are of no benefit to the growing of the Gospel and the spread of evangelism.”

The pursuit of wealth had even led to some Christians to “idol worshiping in the name of cultural reawakening,” he said.

The late Archbishop Adetiloye had lived an exemplary private life, Archbishop Okoh and had dedicated his ministry to growing the church and combating the infusion of pagan practices and secret societies into the life of the church.  Archbishop Adetiloye “waged war against augmenting the power of God with some other powers.”

Nigeria needed more men like Archbishop Adetiloye — a “courageous prophet of the church who was not afraid to speak the truth to the authorities and stood firm in it,” Archbishop Okoh said.

God Save the Tsar: Get Religion, December 31, 2012 December 31, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Corruption, Get Religion, Politics, Russian Orthodox.
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Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

So reads the second stanza of what may be the most politically incorrect poem in the English language. Interpretations of what Rudyard Kipling meant by his 1899 poem “The White Man’s Burden“, written in the wake of the American annexation of the Philippines, have differed sharply. From Henry James and Mark Twain to the denizens of Lit-Crit faculties today, many have objected to the poem as racist and condescending. Others, especially as of the time of its writing (Theodore Roosevelt for example) saw in it an expression of a Christian duty to bring the light of civilizations to the darker corners of the world.

The era that produced “The White Man’s Burden” also formed the tenets of classical Angl0-American journalism. Motivated by many of the same moral imperatives that under girded Anglo-American imperialism, the liberal school of journalism sought to civilize the newspaper profession, replacing  partisan, hysterical, “yellow journalism” with an impartial, scientific, and honest retelling of the news of the day.

The mission of classical liberal journalism was summarized by the editor of the Manchester Guardian C.P. Scott in 1921. “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” While on the editorial page he said: “It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair”.

Scott’s dictum guides the writers at GetReligion. Yet this view is not universal. It is disappearing within the American newspaper guild and is all but gone in Europe. Yet not all agree that this approach to journalism is possible or ideal. Seeking balance and fairness in reporting is viewed (charitably) as being quaint, and (more commonly) as naive. It exhibits, the critics say, the same sort of condescension that makes Kipling’s poem so execrable. When truth is relative, this line goes, claiming to possess the sole truth is illusory — or an arrogant manifestation of a journalist’s “White Man’s Burden”.

This philosophical conflict can be illustrated by my critique of an article in the Observer, the Sunday edition of the Guardian. The article entitled “Church backs Vladimir Putin’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children” tells the story of the Russian Orthodox Church’s response to the passage of a law by the Duma that prevents Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Here we have a formidable caste of bogeymen — Vladimir Putin, Vsevolod Chaplin, the Russian Orthodox patriarch Cyril — playing off against orphans, Pussy Riot, and liberal democracy. What right thinking person would back KGB hacks and creepy clergy against orphans?

Before answering the question, let’s look at the article. It begins:

The Russian Orthodox church has been attacked for supporting a new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, at the end of a year that saw it plagued by scandal and accusations of collusion with an increasingly authoritarian Kremlin.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a high-ranking priest and a spokesman for the church, said the law was “a search for a social answer to an elementary question: why should we give, and even sell, our children abroad?”

Speaking to Interfax, a state news agency, last week, Chaplin said the path to heaven would be closed to children adopted by foreigners. “They won’t get a truly Christian upbringing and that means falling away from the church and from the path to eternal life, in God’s kingdom,” he said.

This is a strong opening. It asserts church has been “plagued” by scandal and is in bed with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin before moving to a second hand quote from a church spokesman that is wonderfully awful (to Guardian readers). It then introduces a voice offering an opinion in line with the editorial slant of the story.

Critics say the church’s support for the law is the latest example of its submission to the Kremlin, in which it acts more like a government ministry than an independent spiritual body. “Everything is repeating – it’s like the 19th century, when the church lay completely under the state,” said Valery Otstavnykh, a theologist and Kremlin critic. “Everything was calm and fine until churches started getting blown up in 1917 and they all asked, ‘Why’?”

As an aside, I do not care for the word “theologist” — it is an uncommon word that is most often used in a pejorative sense. That may not be the case here as the statements of the theologist are in line with the views of the article, but it nonetheless is an ugly word.

The article then lays out the 2012 church scandals: Pussy Riot, the wandering watch, hit and run priests driving BMWs, church involvement in politics and suspect financial dealings. It then closes with a gratuitous unsubstantiated accusation and a plea by the outside commentator for the church to clean up its act.

Two weeks later, the state news agency RIA-Novosti cited an anonymous source as saying that a bordello was uncovered in a Moscow monastery.

“The church has also done a lot of good,” said Otstavnykh. “But the church as an organisation must change.”

There is no balance to this story. No facts are offered in mitigation nor voices in defense or explanation of the church’s actions. It may well be these actions are indefensible, but the reader cannot know this from this story. Throwing in the bordello line without further corroboration was improper.

The quote offered by Fr. Chaplin, who is a character about whom I have written, is taken from a Russian language story and is abbreviated in such a way by the Observer as to not allow for any nuance. The tail end of the first quote in the Observer story — “why should we give, and even sell, our children abroad?” — continues in the original with a statement by Chaplin that Russia must take care of their own at the level of the family as well as at the local, state and national levels.

I would translate the second passages as:

As he noted, the adoption of children by foreign couples in most cases means “they can not get a truly Christian education, and thus fall away from the Church and from the road to eternal life in God’s Kingdom.”

“Orthodox people should remember and take seriously the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘He who has faith and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not have faith will be condemned’.”

The shading of the Observer’s version may leave the impression that children taken from Russia will go to hell because they have been taken from Russia. However Chaplin’s meaning is they may wind up raised in homes where the Christian faith is not practiced.

Chaplin’s views about the necessity of a Christian upbringing do not find favor with the Observer. In a Twitter exchange about the article, the author of the story responded to a critic who defended Chaplin by writing:

Your attempts to justify his statement as holding any logic or good will confound me.

The author may well think that, but should she have commented in public? If this article was in the op-ed section, I would say it would be appropriate for her to make this statement. But is it appropriate for a news story?

From a journalistic perspective, the critique offered by Mr. Otstavnykh should have been matched with a defense of the church’s actions. And it also would have helped the reader to know that Mr. Otstavnykh spoke in court on behalf of the Pussy Riot defendants, saying their actions did not constitute blasphemy.

Please note I am not speaking to the issues under examination. I am commenting on the professionalism and journalistic craft exhibited by this article. As a hit piece, the story is well done. As journalism, it is junk.

While many of the ideals expressed by Kipling in “The White Man’s Burden” are passé, “By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain”, is not. There is a story to be told from Russia on the interplay of the church, state and society. Mr. Otstavnyk’s concerns the Russian Orthodox Church is returning to the days when church and state were one is an important one. Is the Orthodox Church returning to the bad old days of the Nineteenth century, updating its prayer and priorities from God Save the Tsar to God Save the President? That story needs to be told.

The story told in this article, however, is neither plain nor simple, frank nor fair. And that is a shame.

First printed in Get Religion.

Bribery allegations false, Archbishop declares: Anglican Ink, November 13, 2012 November 14, 2012

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Ink, Corruption.
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The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, Archbishop of Rwanda

Allegations the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) solicited a $250,000 gratuity from the Anglican Mission in America and its refusal led to the breach with the African church are baseless, church leaders tell Anglican Ink.

Rumors have circulated on the internet for the past few days accusing the Rwandan primate of graft. “I learned from an unimpeachable source today that Rwandan Archbishop Rwaje had asked Bishop Chuck Murphy for $250,000 to build a home,” one message shared on a popular Anglican news portal alleged.

Speculation attached to the rumor said the refusal of Bishop Murphy to agree to the shakedown  might have been behind his “downfall from Rwanda.”

Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda told Anglican Ink the accusations were “not true.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Court overturns church college appointment: The Church of England Newspaper, October 28, 2012 p 7. October 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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The American College, Madurai India

An Indian court has overturned the appointment of the head of the Church of South India’s American College, saying the late bishop in Madurai-Ramnad had colluded with his son-in-law to engineer the younger man’s appointment as principal.

Elected bishop in Madurai-Ramnad in 2003, Bishop Asir was also elected deputy moderator of the CSI in 2008.  In 2010 he stood for election as Moderator, but lost by 8 votes.

At the time of his death in February 2012, Bishop Christopher Asir had been fighting tax fraud charges brought by the Indian government. The District Revenue Collector of Madurai had charged the bishop with being part of a criminal ring that had defrauded the diocese of £925,000 by selling college land and pocketing the proceeds.

In response to a lawsuit brought by a member of the staff, on 15 Oct 2012 Justice Vinod Kumar Sharma quashed the appointment of M. Davamani Christober as principal of the church-owned college.  The court accepted the petitioner’s claim the bishop and his son-in-law had created a search committee composed of their cronies and had participated in subsequent board meetings “without revealing the fact that Mr. Christober had applied to the post of Principal as early as February 21, 2011. It is clear proof of collusion between the two.”

However, the court did not rule on the claim the appointment had been engineered to cover up the bishop’s alleged thefts.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Indian bishop jailed for fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, October 7, 2012 p October 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Corruption.
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Church of St John the Baptist (Afghan Memorial Church) in Bombay

The former Bishop of Pune has been jailed and several other serving and retired Church of North India bishops are accused of complicity in a scheme to sell churches to property developers and pocket the cash.

Last month the Bombay High Court ordered the Rt Rev Vijay Sathe to be remanded into custody on charges of fraud, forgery and breach of trust for allegedly seeking to sell the Afghan Memorial Church in Bombay to property developers and pocketing the proceeds.

The former bishops of Bombay, Pune and Gujarat are also being sought by police.

Prosecutors claim that up to a dozen senior church leaders who acted as trustees to a shell corporation alleged to have been created to divert church properties into private hands may be implicated in the scheme.

In their application to the court, prosecutors asked the bishop to be jailed to prevent his flight after a search of his home unearthed evidence it believed incriminated Bishop Sathe. A bail hearing was set for last Monday, 1 October 2012.

An investigation by the Maharashtra state charity commissioner found there was an ongoing pattern of fraud in the sale of church lands in Bombay. In a report dated April 18, 2009, VR Patil, the Maharashtra law and judiciary department’s legal adviser, found that a “bogus” corporation entitled the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Private Limited had been created to “grab the properties of genuine Christian trusts” — the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Limited (BDTA) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in the Diocese of Bombay.

“The bogus trustees indulged in many illegal activities to grab the property of BDTA Ltd and SPG by taking advantage of the similarity in the name of the bogus trust with the complainant’s trust,” the Patil report said.

In 2004 the BDTA Private Limited group presented an application to the charity commissioners to redevelop the Afghan Memorial Church – a former Church of Scotland church built to honour the dead of the First Afghan War. The colonial church was in need of structural repair and was also located in what was now the heart of the city’s commercial district. In 2008 lay church activists filed a complaint with the charity commission saying BDTA Private Limited was not the owner of the church, the BDTA was. They also argued that under Indian law churches built on cantonment land – land set aside during the British colonial era for military purposes – reverted to the control of the government if they were no longer used for religious purposes.

Lawyers for the BDTA Private Limited trustees responded to the charge by bringing a charge of criminal liability against the lay activists and sought to lift an injunction against development imposed by the charity commissioners. However, in August 2012 the charity commissioners finalized their ruling and directed the courts and police to investigate the BDTA Private Limited trustees for fraud.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

CSI moderator to clean up the Indian church: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 6. September 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Former CSI General Secretary Pauline Sathiamurthy

Anti-corruption activists in the Church of South India have applauded a series of reforms instituted by the church’s new moderator the Bishop in Kanyakumari, Gnanasigamony Devakadasham, to clean up the scandal plagued church.

Bishop Devakadasham  has appointed Adrian Rozario to serve as the CSI synod’s chief legal adviser, the Youth4CSI website reports.  Mr. Rozario spearheaded the investigation into the misappropriation of Tsunami relief funds donated by Episcopal Relief and Development to the Church of South India.

In 2009 detectives from the Central Crime Branch of the Madras police arrested the former General Secretary of the Church of South India (CSI) Dr Pauline Sathiamurthy on charges of stealing almost £1 million of the £2.2 million donated by Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) to the CSI to help in relief efforts following the 2004 tsunami.

Dr Sathiamurthy, her husband, daughter and nephew were arrested on 13 Oct 2009 following a 10-month investigation by police. The alleged thefts came to light in 2007 when the Rev Moses Jayakumar was appointed General Secretary of the CSI in succession to Dr Sathiamurthy. Upon assuming office Fr Jayakumar found that a request for an accounting for the funds from ERD had been ignored by Dr Sathiamurthy and that the NGO had cut off funding pending an audit.

The CSI asked retired Madras High Court Judge J Kanagaraj to head the committee charged with investigating the defalcation. Dr Sathiamurthy declined to cooperate but Judge Kanagaraj found that she had appointed her husband to oversee the construction of houses built for survivors of the tsunami, her daughter to head up medical relief efforts, and her nephew to serve as a liaison officer for tsunami rehabilitation work — all at inflated salaries.

In December 2008 Fr Jayakumar turned the Judge Kanagaraj’s report over to the police and appointed Mr. Rozario to serve as the church’s attorney in the affair. The police began a criminal investigation and arrested Dr. Sathiamurthy. The daughter of the former moderator of the CSI and Bishop in Tiruchi-Thanjavur, Dr. Solomon Doraisawmy, Dr. Sathiamurthy was subsequently released on bail and has since absconded.

Following the election of the Bishop in Karnataka Central Diocese S. Vasanthakumar as moderator of the CSI in January 2010, the new moderator replaced Mr. Rozario as the church’s attorney.  Bishop Vasanthakumar, who was the subject of corruption and abuse of office claims and whose election as moderator was marred by accusations of vote buying, served as Deputy Moderator of the CSI when the Tsunami funds were stolen.

Under Bishop Vasanthakumar, the CSI declined to press the police to track down Dr. Sathiamurthy and recover the stolen funds.  With Mr. Rozario’s return to office, anti-corruption activists hope new interest will be shown by the church in resolving the scandal.

Forgiving monsters — The Dutroux Case: Get Religion, August 2, 2012. August 2, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Corruption, Get Religion.
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One of the most notorious criminal cases in modern European history has returned to the public eye, dominating the front pages and leaders of Belgium’s newspapers. A judge has agreed to release Michelle Martin from prison on the condition she enter the Convent of the Les Soeurs Clarisses de Malonne (Poor Clares) and remain under police supervision.

The news of the parole has prompted an appeal by state prosecutors, public protests, outrage in the press — and the mayor of Namur has ordered police to guard the convent. Why such a fuss? The opening paragraphs of a solid AP story tells us why.

BRUSSELS — The ex-wife of a notorious pedophile who aided her husband’s horrific abuse and murder of young girls – and who let two children starve to death while her husband was in jail – was approved Tuesday for early release from prison, infuriating the victims’ parents and reopening a dark chapter in Belgian history.

Michelle Martin, who is now 52, received a 30-year prison term in 2004 for not freeing girls her then-husband Marc Dutroux held captive behind a secret door in their decrepit, dirty basement in Marcinelle, 40 miles south of Brussels.

Dutroux, 55, is serving a life term for kidnapping, torturing and abusing six girls in 1995 and 1996, and murdering four of them.

During those years, Dutroux also spent four months in jail for theft, leaving it to his wife to feed Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, a pair of friends imprisoned in the basement. Martin let the girls starve to death. They were 8 years old.

Bumbling police work and claims by Dutroux that he was part of a wider pedophile network that included politicians, judges and police officials prompted public protests in Belgium and nearly led to the fall of the government. King Albert intervened and ordered a reorganization of the criminal justice system. The Dutroux affair had a profound effect on Belgium’s national psyche, some have argued, damaging public trust in the country’s civil institutions. Sixteen years into her 30 year sentence, Michelle Martin may be leaving prison to enter a convent.

While this has been a gruesome true crime, political intrigue and corruption story, it has now become a religious liberty story with faith taking center stage in this drama. The AP article closes with these paragraphs:

Under the terms of her release, Martin will have to remain at the convent and be assigned a task daily. Moreau, Martin’s lawyer, said it took some time for the convent to agree to have her live there. But in the end they realized that no one else would take her in, he said.

“They accepted because their vocation is to welcome people nobody wants,” he said.

The convent’s decision to give refuge to Michelle Martin has not been warmly received by the Belgian press, some of whom cite the clergy sexual abuse scandal as evidence of its institutional failings. The coverage of the Michelle Martin parole is a great example of the strengths and weaknesses of European advocacy style journalism. Working from the same fact base, the European press can give widely diverse interpretations of events. While you may not find a single truth in the diversity of accounts, a European reader will come away much better informed of the events and issues at play than an American reader.

For example, in its articles the liberal national daily Le Soir has taken an outraged stance. Its editorial argued:

There is great doubt, it not total disbelief about the chosen place of [Martin’s] reintegration into society. .. . Certainly, the gesture of the Poor Clares is a remarkably generous. But a convent, cut off from the world and managed by women who have voluntary withdrawn from real life and any professional activity, should become a place for rehabilitation is breathtaking. That the Church – which has not shown great courage or clarity in recent years when confronted with deviant behavior – will serve as the monitor and guarantor  of Martin’s reintegration adds to the disorder.

Objections to her release were founded upon a belief that Michelle Martin was the incarnation of absolute evil — “l’incarnation du mal absolu” — the conservative national daily La Libre Belgique  reported. But no person was beyond redemption, the newspaper argued, saying the law must not “deprive anyone, not even the most heinous criminal, of any hope of getting out of jail. To challenge this principle based upon hatred of the criminal would be unreasonable.”

The Sudpresse’s editor disagreed, saying this was “un impossible pardon”. The Belgian judiciary in complicity with the Catholic Church had committed a coup against the Belgian people: “mauvais coup (de la justice belge), perpétré avec la complicité de l’Eglise catholique”.

However, De Standaard has endorsed the church’s intervention. Its editor said the news of the parole had led him to experience two feelings at the same time: horror over the crimes of Michelle Martin and respect for the Catholic convictions of the Poor Clares.

De Standaard printed a letter from the Abbess of Malonne, where the sisters explained their decision to give Michelle Martin a home. They stated they had agreed to take her in as she has no family and no half-way house or other institution would have her due to the notoriety of her crimes. They stated that while she would be residing at the convent under the supervision of the judicial authorities, she would not be a entering the order but would be the guest of the Poor Clares. And, they felt it was their Christian duty to act as they did.

Nous avons la profonde conviction qu’enfermer définitivement le déviant dans son passé délictueux et l’acculer à la désespérance ne serait utile à personne et serait au contraire une marche en arrière pour notre société. Michèle Martin est un être humain capable, comme nous tous, du pire comme du meilleur.

Ideology plays its part in the coverage of this story. Self-identified Catholic newspapers have stressed the theme of penitence and redemption. Some secular newspapers have objected to the intrusion of Catholic sensibilities into the parole of a “monster”, but others have advanced ethical theories of crime and punishment. No one newspaper encompasses all of these views, but collectively the debate over the parole of Michelle Martin is an example of the best of the European press.

Can Michelle Martin be forgiven? Is parole a form of forgiveness? Should the church be accorded a custodial role in a secular state? All great questions. What say you?

First published in Get Religion.

Bhopal bishop questioned by police: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2012 July 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Corruption.
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The Bishop of the Church of North India’s Diocese of Jabalpur has been questioned by police in Bhopal in connection with the abduction and beating of a church school headmaster.

On 3 July 2012, Mr. Ladley Matthew, the headmaster of Christ Church Boys School in Jabalpur was walking to the home of a friend following a meeting of the school’s governors when he was abducted by three men.  Forced into a car, Mr. Matthew was taken to an undisclosed location and beaten.  His captors took a number of documents pertaining to the management of the school and the diocese’s finances and then released the schoolmaster.

Mr. Matthew made his way to a police station and reported the incident.  A police inspector confirmed to the Times of India that the Rt. Rev. B.P. Singh, Bishop in Jabalpur was contacted by the police and asked to appear to give a statement in the matter.  The bishop has subsequently denied any involvement in the attack.

Founded in 1870 to educate Europeans and Anglo-Indians, Christ Church Boys School has approximately 3000 students and is reputed to be the most prestigious private school in the Indian state of state of Madhya Pradesh.  The school retains close connections with the Anglicanism as it holds regular chapel services and the chairman of the board of governors is the Bishop of Jabalpur.

In recent years, however, disputes over financial contributions from the school to the diocese and accusations of the sale of admissions by church leaders have soured relations between the school and the bishop.  Mr. Matthew has leveled charges of corruption against Bishop Singh while the bishop has pressed for Mr. Matthew to step down.

Investigations into the abduction and the charges of financial irregularities are on going.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Indian bishop suspended for corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012. June 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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T. Samuel Kanaka Prasad

The Church of South India’s Bishop in Medak, the Rt. Rev. T. Samuel Kanaka Prasad has been suspended for corruption by the Synod Executive Committee.

In a letter to the bishop dated 9 June 2012, the Moderator of the CSI Bishop G. Devakadasham stated the Synod Executive Committee had voted on 24 April for suspension in the face of prima facie evidence of corruption, but had been unable to enforce the decision due to a court order blocking the decision secured by Bishop Prasad.  However, when the order lapsed on 5 June, the Executive Committee was free to enforce its decision, and ordered Bishop Prasad to step aside, the moderator said.

Bishop Prasad is the second bishop this year to be disciplined by the CSI. On 9 January 2012 the moderator announced that the trial court for bishops had deposed the Bishop in Coimbatore, the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai for corruption.  However, corruption remains widespread in the Indian church, lay activists charge, telling The Church of England Newspaper that only “8 or 9” of the CSI’s 21 current bishops were untainted by corruption charges.

One of India’s wealthiest dioceses, the Hyderabad-based Medak diocese has witnessed legal and physical fights between the bishop and his opponents.  On 10 June 2012, the Deccan Chronicle reported that police were called out to separate the bishop’s men from anti-corruption activists who rallied for Bishop Prasad to go.

In his letter to Bishop Prasad, the Moderator accused him of “not functioning and discharging the responsibilities of Bishop of CSI Medak Diocese in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the CSI, the directions of the Synod or its Executive Committee and the Council of Bishops.”

“In particular it was brought to the notice of the Executive Committee that you are misusing your position as Bishop, acting as attorney of the CSITA even after the lapse of the power of attorney and committing various illegalities in the administration, supervision and preservation of the properties of the Church. The members expressed shock and anxiety over the same and demanded immediate action against you by the Synod.”

CSI Deputy Moderator Bishop G. Dyvasirvadam of Krishna Godavari was appointed Moderator’s Commissary for Medak by the Executive Committee following Bishop Prasad’s suspension, and a nine-member administrative committee led by a retired Director General of Police has been charged with auditing the diocese’s books.

In addition to accusations of financial malfeasance, Bishop Prasad has been charged with violating canon and civil corporate law.  In 2011 Bishop Prasad banned his opponents from standing for election to the diocesan council and waived rules that forbade sitting council members from serving more than two consecutive terms – subsequently producing a council composed of the bishop’s cronies.

The CSI General Synod refused to recognize the election and attempted to block the seating of the diocese’s delegates at its January meeting to elect a new primate.  However, Bishop Prasad was able to secure a court order allowing his men to be seated at the 33rd meeting of Synod.

The anti-corruption pressure group, the CCC [Christ-Centered Coalition] applauded the Synod’s decision to suspend Bishop Prasad, but asked whether its decision was influenced by Bishop Prasad’s support for the losing candidate in the election for moderator this year.

“What is disconcerting is the double standards being applied by the current synod administration in handling cases of Episcopal corruption,” the CCC said.  The CSI Moderator had allowed the Bishops in Rayalaseema and Dornakal to retire rather than face corruption investigations.  “Is it only a coincidence that both the Rayalseema and Dornakal bishops who supported Moderator Devakadasham and his deputy Dyvasirvadam at the Synod polls in January have got away with their crimes while Bishop Kanaka Prasad who supported their opponents (the Bishops in Madras and Karimnagar) has had punitive action taken against him,” the CCC asked.

Bishop Prasad did not respond to our request for comments, but his son, William Carry told the Deccan Chronicle his father would fight the suspension.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church of South India Trust Association fails government audit: The Church of England Newspaper, June 10, 2012 p 6. June 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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An environment conducive to fraud and corruption surrounds the business practices of the Church of South India (CSI), a government investigation has found. A report prepared by auditors from the Indian government’s Registrar of Companies (RoC) listed 27 violations in the management and practices of the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA).  Unless reforms are immediately implements, the trust that holds title to the church’s property may be liquidated or lose its not-for-profit status.

Charted as a not-for-profit corporation under Section 25 of the Indian Companies Act of 1956, the CSITA is not required to register a minimum share capital, need only maintain business records for the previous four years, and may increase the number of company directors without prior government approval.  In return, the CSITA is required to use its income for the furtherance of the mission and ministry of the CSI and not distribute dividends to its members.

In a report dated 22 May 2012, the RoC notified the members of the CSITA’s management committee that it had concluded the CSITA’s income was not being used for furthering the objects and purposes of the trust.  The Balance Sheet and Income Expenditure statement of the CSITA for the last four years “do not give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the company,” the RoC report said.

Nor were transactions properly recorded, the report said as “no details of fixed assets/immovable properties, secured loans, sale of property, sale consideration, purchase of property, receipt of foreign contribution, income and expenditure of other dioceses, units or sub-units reflect in the Balance Sheet and books of accounts of the company.”

The CSI has been plagued by financial scandals in recent years with only “8 or 9” of its 21 current bishops untainted by corruption charges, the lay-led anti-corruption group, the CCC has reported.  Lay leaders have pushed for greater transparency from the bishops and executive committee of the general synod, but have so far been unable to receive an accounting.

On 1 Feb 2010, Dr. John Dorai, the general secretary of the CSITA Beneficiaries Association – a lay advocacy group in the church – filed a complaint requesting the RoC examine the accounts of the CSITA.  The CSITA, through the its secretary, M.M. Philip – who also serves as General Secretary of the CSI – fought the request through the courts.  However in a ruling released on 22 March 2012, Justice S. Rajeswaran of the Madras High Court ordered the CSITA to turn over its records to the RoC.

“Now we know why the CSITA tried so hard to prevent the RoC from doing its statutory duty,” the CCC said after the report was released, stating it was a “scathing indictment of how the church leadership (mis)manages the CSITA.”

“Given the seriousness of the violations unearthed by the RoC, the CSI leadership has no choice now but to put in place mechanisms to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Companies Act,” the CCC said, noting that “any continued violations could attract more stringent penalties including imprisonment.”

The CSITA did not respond to our requests for comments.  But it has been given 10 days to review the findings of the RoC and to offer comments or corrections.  If none are forthcoming the report will be finalized by the RoC.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Keep drug money out of church, bishop pleads: The Church of England Newspaper, May 31, 2012 May 31, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Corruption.
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Bishop Howard Gregory

The Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Rt. Rev. & Hon. Howard Gregory called upon Anglicans to stand fast against the tide of corruption racing through the West Indian nation.

In his 18 May 2012 sermon at his service of institution as 14th bishop of Jamaica held at the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town, Dr. Gregory said the church must recommit itself to preaching the Gospel with “power and effectiveness” to a “world that is desperately in need of the good news, even as it is being bombarded by secularism which, while seeking to undermine religious faith, has nothing to offer in filling the void it is creating in the life of persons seeking to find a sense of meaning and purpose.”

Christians are a “people called out and yet in the world,” the bishops said.  And “this calls for an act of consecration of the self to God and to God’s service if this is to be realised.”

In Jamaica this consecration of the self must include a rejection of the culture of corruption that was ravaging the country.

“We live in a society which is permeated at every level by corruption, and in which we benefit co-operatively from ill-gotten gain, and not just the acts of corruption, supposedly restricted to politicians and those in the public service,” the bishop said.

“For example, the inflows into this country from the lotto scam has wide circulation within the economy, and there is not only a culture of silence around it among some persons, but there are many who would suggest that there is nothing wrong with it. When parents can accept the gift of a home from a 15-year-old who is not working, and be contented with it, and when teachers in our schools can tell us of the high school students who own their own substantial three-bedroom house, and multiple taxis plying routes, you know that things have gone terribly wrong in this country, where our values and morality are concerned,” the bishop said.

It was no good pointing the finger at others, Dr. Gregory said, as the church was caught up in this web also.  “We, members of the Church, are caught up in the corruption or are benefiting from it.”

Church fundraising activities “need to be subjected to closer scrutiny, as they run the risk of bringing drug and other tainted money into the coffers of the Church. Likewise, while the Church seeks to minister to the spiritual needs of all people, we must be careful how we bend over backward to charge fees and to accommodate some funerals that are bashment affairs funded by money of dubious origin,” Dr. Gregory said.

The bishop also challenged Anglicans to “re-think the excesses and vulgarity which are attending many weddings and funerals, even as those making such expenditures and displays claim to have nothing to assist needy children and young people in our congregations and society.”

Some cultures believe that “nothing goes into the ground with the dead which cannot be of use to the next generation. We would do well to take a leaf out of their book so that we can invest in the creation of a community of love” and for a better Jamaica, the bishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop rejects corruption charges: The Church of England Newspaper, April 22, 2012 p 5. April 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Corruption, Politics.
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The Primate of the Church of Nigeria has denounced as “satanic” the calls for the impeachment of the President of Nigeria after an Italian construction firm refurbished a church in the president’s home town.

Speaking to reporters last week, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said the claim put forward by the opposition ACN party that there was an element of corruption in the refurbishment of a church was nonsense.

“The call for the impeachment of the president over the renovation of the church in his town is satanic and it is capable of causing religious bigotry which we don’t want. The ACN should apologise and retract the statement. We call on the National Assembly to disregard the call,” the archbishop said.

The ACN was wasting its time by pursuing a political vendetta against the president.  The Muslim-dominated party’s actions would serve only to flame religious tensions and did nothing to address the major issues facing the nation, he argued.

Speaking to reporters in Abuja after Easter services, the Archbishop said:

“It is not an issue, that church, I can renovate it myself, it was already built and the renovation of church can be done by either [the Italian construction company] or anybody.  People are looking for problem where there is none. The President doesn’t have to have a friend to renovate that church, since if anybody volunteered to do it, those people will receive blessing from God.”

“Those who are pointing to the renovation of the church, let them search their midst, there are logs in their eyes, not the speck in somebody’s eye,” the archbishop said.

In a statement published in the country’s major newspapers, the Italian construction firm noted that they had rebuilt the church as part of a The company said its act “of Corporate Social Responsibility is an established practice in our Mother country (Italy) and Italian firms in Nigeria have engaged in this practice rendering free construction, medical and advisory services as well as providing scholarships to various communities within Nigeria” since 2005.

It had refurbished the church in response to a “request by the Otuoke Community.”

It had not been “induced to do this act neither where we compensated for it by the Federal Government,” it said, adding that it had not been “awarded any major contracts under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan rather nearly all the projects being executed by the Company are from the previous administrations which are ongoing.”

Church of Nigeria caught up in political bribery scandal: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012 p 6. April 18, 2012

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The Church of Nigeria has been dragged into the corruption scandal that has pitted President Goodluck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). On 2 April 2012 the ACN accused the president of corruption for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a foreign contractor, the Italian construction company Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nigeria Ltd.  (CGC) The alleged bribe was the gift of St Stephen’s Anglican Church built by the contractor in the president’s home town.

In a statement given to the press on 4 April 2012, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati stated that “a contractor who has worked and continues to work in Bayelsa State and other parts of Nigeria thought it fit, in fulfillment of its corporate social responsibility, to facilitate the renovation of the small church in the President’s home town of Otuoke.”

Mr. Abati said that the president however had never solicited or received a church as “bribe” from any contractor and that the building belonged to the Church of Nigeria, not the president. He added that the Anglican Bishop of Ogbia Diocese, Rt. Rev. James Oruwori, had also commended President Jonathan and his family “for building a house of prayer for the Lord”.

The ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, responded that the president had been convicted out the mouth of his spokesman.

“Since the statements did not deny that the church in question was constructed or ‘renovated’ by a foreign construction firm taking contracts from the government and that the church is situated in the President’s community, and since they did not refute the statement credited to the President himself that he solicited and received the ‘gift’, then we are compelled to renew our call on the National Assembly to urgently launch impeachment proceedings against the President,” the ACN spokesman said.

“Shouldn’t the President see the obvious conflict of interest in a church where he worships being gratuitously renovated by a government contractor?” the ACN spokesman said.

But in an advertisement printed in the Nigeria press this week, the Italian construction firm said the renovation of the church was part of the corporation’s policy of being a good corporate citizen.

The company said its act “of Corporate Social Responsibility is an established practice in our Mother country (Italy) and Italian firms in Nigeria have engaged in this practice rendering free construction, medical and advisory services as well as providing scholarships to various communities within Nigeria” since 2005.

It had refurbished the church in response to a “request by the Otuoke Community.”  CGC “was not induced to do this act neither where we compensated for it by the Federal Government,” it said, adding that it had not been “awarded any major contracts under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan rather nearly all the projects being executed by the Company are from the previous administrations which are ongoing.”

“President Goodluck Jonathan did not solicit any gifts” from CGC, nor was “any gift received by President Goodluck Jonathan or on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan” from CGC, it said.

CGC “did not build a new church at Otuoke for President Jonathan or any other person. The fact of the matter is that the Company, as well as friends and well wishers of the community, were contacted during the burial of the late Pa Jonathan by the members of the community and parishioners of Otuoke to renovate the already existing church. To this end (GCG) responded to this request based on its strong Corporate Social Responsibility culture,” the company said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

CSI ordered to open its books: The Church of England Newspaper, March 30, 2012 p 7. March 29, 2012

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Anti-corruption activists scored a significant legal victory in India after the Madras high court ruled the trust that holds the assets of the Church of South India (CSI) was a corporation under the Companies Act and must submit is financial accounts for inspection.

In a ruling dated 1 March 2012 but released on 22 March, Justice S. Rajeswaran held the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA) must turn over its records to the government’s Registrar of Companies (RoC) for inspection.  A spokesman for the CCC (Christ Centered Campaign) applauded the decision saying the anti-corruption coalition believed that in light of the church’s stonewalling of past government queries into the misuse of funds, “there is little doubt the RoC will now conduct an aggressive inspection of the CSITA which will result in a lot of skeletons tumbling out of its cupboard.”

Long plagued by financial scandals only “8 or 9” of the CSI’s 21 current bishops are untainted by corruption charges, the CCC has reported.  Lay leaders have pushed for greater transparency from the bishops and executive committee of the general synod, but complain of being stymied by the church.

On 1 Feb 2010, Dr. John Dorai, the general secretary of the CSITA Beneficiaries Association – a lay advocacy group in the church – filed a complaint requesting the RoC examine the accounts of the CSITA.  The CSITA, through the its secretary, M.M. Philip – who also serves as General Secretary of the CSI – responded by saying Dr. Dorai had no standing to press his case.

“The complainant Mr John S. Dorai is not a member of the CSITA and is a stranger and as such any representation by a stranger is void,” Mr. Philip told the RoC and stated the complaint should be “brushed aside and needs to be disposed off without any merit.”  However, on 1 Aug 2011, the RoC upheld Dr. Doria’s request for an inspection and ordered the CSITA to open its books to government inspectors on 12 Sept 2011.

The CSI asked for a week’s delay, and then filed a motion with the Madras High Court and received an injunction forbidding the RoC to investigate the church’s trust holdings.

In his ruling lifting the stay, Justice Rajeswaran held the CSITA was subject to the rules of the Companies Act.  The arguments offered by counsel for CSITA were of no merits,” the court held, adding that it was the “duty of the directors and other officers or the employees of the company to provide all the assistance for such inspection of the records.”

The judge agreed with the RoC that the CSITA “is a habitual defaulter in filing the statutory returns in time and also not in the habit of replying to the genuine queries raised by the first respondent regarding the complaints received against the company.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Missing millions trial underway in S.A.: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2012 p 6. February 23, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Trial has begun in South Africa of a former diocesan bookkeeper accused of stealing over R2.3 million (£200,000) from the Diocese of George.  Gwendoline Leyd (45) is scheduled to appear for trial before the George Regional Court in the Western Cape on 28 February 2012 to face 10 counts of theft.

The scandal has far led to the resignation of the Bishop of George, the Rt. Rev. Donald Harker, and to the dissolution of the diocese’s Board of Finance.

In a 12 Aug 2010 letter to the diocese, Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba wrote that a Port Elizabeth auditor firm was investigating over 1000 suspect transactions in excess of R6 million that had been brought to the church’s attention in 2009.

The auditors found that “significant fraud and theft had been taking place and that a forensic audit was required to ascertain the extent of the amount embezzled.”

“After visiting Bishop Harker, he agreed to step down as Diocesan Bishop with effect from 10 August 2010,” the archbishop said.

Bishop Harker was not accused of malfeasance. “I resigned as head of the church as this is the honourable thing to do as I accept responsibility and thereby take the liabilities on me,” the bishop later told his clergy.

Ms. Leyd served as the diocese’s accounts clerk for 16 years until 2009.  Following the audit the Commercial Crime Unit arrested the bookkeeper on 10 charges of theft in excess of R2.3-million.

Southern Cape police spokeswoman Captain Bernadine Steyn stated the suspect allegedly moved funds from the church’s accounts into her personal account via the internet and also claimed false medical expenses, allowances and additional salary.

“Fictitious beneficiaries were allegedly created to receive church money, and money was allegedly paid into Leyd’s brother’s personal bank account, and then used by the suspect,” Captain Steyn said.

CSI bishop suspended for corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012, p 6. February 17, 2012

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Bishop K.B. Yesuvaraprasad

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of South India has placed the Bishop in Rayalaseema on terminal leave in the wake of corruption allegations leveled by members of the diocese.

Last week the newly elected Moderator of the CSI, Bishop G. Devakadasham reported he had removed Bishop K.B. Yesuvaraprasad from office and appointed the Deputy Moderator, Bishop G. Dyvasirvadam as his commissary pending the election of a new bishop.

Elected bishop in 2006 of the diocese located in India’s South Central Andhra Pradesh State, Bishop Yesuvaraprasad (whose name means ‘Gift of Christ’) has enjoyed a turbulent tenure.

Shortly after his election, the bishop allegedly abrogated the diocesan constitution and appointed supporters to key positions on the diocesan council, while leaving other seats vacant.  In November 2009 a criminal complaint was filed against the bishop by Dr. Thomas Reddy accusing the bishop and his treasurer of stealing £100,000 from diocesan coffers.

The bishop allegedly was also involved in selling diocesan assets given to the diocese by th e London Missionary Society for his own benefit, mortgaging diocesan properties and keeping the proceeds, and collecting rents on diocesan properties and not turning them over to the diocese.  A 2010 report commissioned by the CSI Synod estimated the bishop and his cronies had cost the church £765,000 in defalcations and had committed a “serious offence and breach of trust.”

The bishop and his confederates were also accused of offering no-bid contracts for building projects and receiving kickbacks in return from the contractors.  The total amount of the thefts is so far unknown, but a criminal investigation into the bishop’s conduct is on-going.

However, the 2010 synod investigation found that it was not out of “ignorance” that these actions occurred.  The bishop and his cronies had engaged in a “deliberate attempt to misuse the funds and also to harm the diocese.”

The anti-corruption watchdog, CCC, commented that while it was pleased the bishop had been stood down from office, it noted that he was scheduled to retire in March 2012 anyway.  It would be a “crying shame” to allow the bishop to “retire quietly and draw a pension after committing heinous crimes against the church.”

However, the CCC said it did not expect “any action” to be taken.  The terminal leave imposed on the bishop was “largely inconsequential,” but criminal charges lodged by the members of the diocese were outstanding.

Of the CSI’s 21 diocesan bishops, only “8 or 9” were untainted by corruption scandals, the CCC reported.  “That the CSI Synod has turned a blind eye to [Bishop Yesuvaraprasad’s] crimes and not registered even one criminal complaint against him will always stand as stark testimony to the corruption and incompetence that has been the hallmark of successive Synod administrations,” it said.

Bishop Yesuvaraprasad and the CSI synod’s offices concerning the bishop’s suspension and the outstanding criminal charges were not answered as of our going to press.

Bishop fighting tax fraud charges dies: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012, p 6. February 17, 2012

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Bishop Christopher Asir

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A bishop fighting tax fraud charges brought by the Indian government has died.  On 3 February 2012 the former Deputy Moderator of the Church of South Indian and current Bishop in Madurai-Ramnad, the Rt. Rev. A. Christopher Asir, died at the Madurai Meenakshi Mission Hospital from cancer.  He was 64.

Elected bishop in Madurai-Ramnad in 2003, Bishop Asir was elected deputy moderator of the CSI in 2008.  In 2010 he stood for election as Moderator, but lost by 8 votes to Bishop S. Vasanthakumar.

Last month Bishop Asir was called to testify before the District Revenue Collector of Madurai to respond to charges that he had been part of a criminal ring that included a serving government minister that had defrauded his diocese of £925,000 by selling church land and pocketing the proceeds.

Bishop Christopher Asir and Mr. M.K. Alagiri – the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers – were ordered to appear before the tax authority on 4 Jan 2012 following a year long investigation into the bishop’s stewardship of church lands.

On 28 Jan 2011 Justice V. Kuruppiah of the Madras High Court directed the police to investigate Bishop Asir, Mr. Alagiri and Pauline Sathyamurthy, the former treasurer of the CSI who is currently being sought by police in connection with the theft of tsunami relief funds for selling land given to the diocese by an American mission society for £2.2 million and then pocketing £925,000 of the proceeds.

A prima facie case of malfeasance was found to have occurred by the district officer and the case passed to his superiors for investigation.

Indian bishop sacked for theft: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2012 p 7. January 24, 2012

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Bishop Dorai leaving the CSI synod hall after being turned away on 13 Jan 2012 : Photo CCC

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A trial court of the Church of South India (CSI) has found the Bishop in Coimbatore guilty of misconduct and directed he be removed from office and deposed from ordained ministry.

On 9 January 2012 the Moderator of the CSI, the Rt. Rev. S. Vasanthakumar released a letter written to the clergy of the diocese reporting that the synod court had “unanimously passed the sentence that Bishop Manickam Dorai cannot be continued as Diocesan Bishop any longer.”

The “Bishopric of the Coimbatore Diocese has become vacant with immediate effect,” the letter stated, and as per the CSI’s canons, the moderator of the CSI will serve as diocesan bishop until a new bishop is elected. Bishop Vasanthakumar asked the clergy to “kindly make an announcement of the above mentioned facts during the worship services in your churches” on 15 January.

On 2 July 2010 the executive committee of the CSI’s General Synod placed Bishop Dorai on an indefinite leave of absence and dissolved the diocese’s executive council. The bishop and his cronies were accused of embezzling diocesan funds and taking kickbacks on construction projects amounting to over £500,000.

An October 2010 report by a fact finding committee led by retired Karnataka High Court Justice Michael Saldhana found evidence of criminal behavior by the bishop. It said Bishop Dorai had pledged diocesan bank accounts, trust funds and pension funds as collateral for personal loans, sold admissions to diocesan schools, took kickbacks on building contracts and diverted diocesan funds for his personal use. They found the bishop had authorized the sale of diocesan property to real estate developers at approximately 20 per cent of their market value, in return for what the committee believed were kickbacks from the real estate developers.

“These transactions are not a mere case of mismanagement but point to rank dishonesty and criminality,” the committee said.

On 17 May 2011 the Crime Branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu Police filed a 500 page charge sheet with the Chief Magistrate in Coimbatore, accusing Bishop Dorai, his two brothers, and four other accomplices with defrauding his diocese of over £500,000. The former bishop’s criminal trial is expected to begin later this year sources tell The Church of England Newspaper.

The former bishop’s removal from the ministry must be affirmed by the CSI Synod executive committee, which is scheduled to meet later this month in Kanyakumari. However, his dismissal has already been enforced. When the former bishop attempted to enter last week’s meeting of the CSI General Synod, he was ejected.

Should Bishop Dorai seek a civil injunction to block his removal, the CCC – a lay anti-corruption advocacy group in the CSI – reports the “CSI Constitution states in Rule 28 of Chapter XI on ‘The discipline of the church and settlement of disputes’ that ‘No decision or judgment of the Court of the Synod shall be subject to appeal or revision by any person or court outside the Church of South India.’ Were Bishop Dorai to challenge his dismissal before the Madras High Court it would be interesting to see how this provision holds up as it appears to be prima facie in violation of the Indian [civil] Constitution.”

Dunedin dean jailed for theft: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21, 2011 p 7. October 24, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Dean of Dunedin has been sentenced to three years, two months’ imprisonment for fraud by a New Zealand court.

On 6 Oct 2011 the Auckland District Court ordered the Rev. Jonathan Kirkpatrick  be jailed and to pay a fine of $20,000.  In August, Mr. Kirkpatrick, who served as head of the business innovation centre at the Auckland University of Technology, pled guilty to 82 counts of theft.

Court documents show Mr. Kirkpatrick began stealing from the university shortly after his appointment in 2002 by generating false invoices from companies he controlled, bilking AUT out of almost £330,000.

The Diocese of Auckland suspended Mr. Kirkpatrick following his arrest from his post of Priest in Charge at St Alban’s Church in Balmoral in central Auckland.  The Bishop of Auckland has withdrawn the licence of the 53 year old priest, who served as Dean of Dunedin before his move to Auckland.

Prosecuting attorney, Rachael Reed told the court “this is a man who should have no need to steal but who obviously had taste beyond his salaried means.”  The proceeds of his crimes were spent on luxurious living, she said.

However the court did learn that Mr. Kirkpatrick was a good corporate citizen.  To facilitate his thefts, he generated false invoices from companies he controlled and then authorized payments from the university’s account.  Judge A.A. Sinclair noted it was an unusual situation in that the defendant had paid income and sales taxes via his companies on the money he stole.

Indian bishop accused of swindling diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 6. October 7, 2011

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Bishop Christopher Asir

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Tax authorities in India have questioned the Church of South India’s (CSI) former moderator, investigating allegations he illegally sold church land and pocketed the proceeds.

On Sept 23 the Revenue Divisional Officer in Madurai issued a summons to the Bishop in Madarui-Ramnad ordering him to a hearing at his office on Oct 3 to answer questions over his stewardship of church lands.

The tax investigation follows a Jan 28 order by Justice V. Kuruppiah of the Madras High Court directing police to investigate Bishop Asir for defrauding the diocese by selling church land at below market prices in return for a kickback from the buyer.

The tax and criminal investigations are reviewing a 2008 sale of land. Upon the creation of the CSI in 1947 an American missionary society assigned 46.71 acres of land belonging to the Lucy Perry Noble Institute for Women to the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA). The terms of the transfer required the CSITA to hold the land in perpetuity on behalf of the church and rent the property, using the income to support women’s ministries in the church.

However, Bishop Asir in collusion with Pauline Sathyamurthy, the former treasurer of the CSI who is currently being sought by police in connection with the theft of funds donated by Episcopal Relief and Development to assist survivors of the 2004 tsunami, sold 6.74 acres of land for £2.2 million, pocketing £925,000 of the proceeds.

Though several complaints have been filed by members of the diocese over the alienation of the church’s land, no action has been taken so far by the police. In his Sept 23 petition to the RDO, a lay member of the diocese, Mr. J.M. Bhaskar, has asked the tax authorities to cancel the sale and return the land to the church.

Indian bishop hits back against accusers: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 6. October 7, 2011

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Bishop Manickam Dorai

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The battle between the suspended Bishop in Coimbatore and the Church of South India’s (CSI) standing committee took a new turn last week, after charges of fraud were leveled against the bishop’s accusers.

The Hindu newspaper reported that a court has ordered police to investigate charges of fraud leveled against the moderator of the CSI, Bishop S. Vasanthakumar, the acting bishop in Coimbatore, and the general secretary and treasurer of the CSI general synod along with six other church officials by supporter of Bishop Manickam Dorai.

According to a complaint filed in the Madras High Court by Arul Prabhu, the moderator and his confederates misappropriated 1 million rupees (approximately £13,000) from the accounts of the CSI Engineering College in Ketti.

Last year the Bishop Dorai was suspended by the CSI synod while he stood trial on criminal charges of embezzling funds from the college.  The synod appointed Dr. Paul Vasantha Kumar, Bishop in Tiruchy-Thanjavur, as acting bishop for the diocese and assumed management of its financial affairs.

Mr. Prabhu alleges the church leaders withdrew the funds from the operating accounts of the college to underwrite the costs of the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore last year.  However, an inquiry found the funds were not paid over to the conference.

When he brought this discrepancy to the attention of the CSI moderator, Bishop Vasanthakumar took no action.  Last month he brought the matter to the attention of the Madras court, which directed the police to conduct a probe and register a case, if a cognizable offence was made out in the inquiry.

Church leaders did not respond to requests for clarification, but the anti-corruption watchdog the CCC (Christ Centered Coalition) told CEN they were encouraged by the investigation.

“This is a welcome sign that the the long existing pact among thieving bishops in the CSI not to squeal on each other is falling apart. Disgraced Bishop Dorai of Coimbatore, who is facing a battery of criminal cases and blames the Moderator and his fellow office bearers for his plight, has found a way to hit back … by getting one of his followers Mr Arul Prabhu to file the case against the CSI top brass.”

NZ dean pleads guilty to fraud charges: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 12, 2011 p 7. August 17, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Dean of Dunedin has announced he will enter a guilty plea to 82 counts of theft from the Auckland University of Technology.

The Rev. Jonathan Kirkpatrick, who was head of the university’s business innovation centre, told reporters after his Aug 4 arraignment that he was “not looking forward to dragging it out” and had admitted the truth of the prosecution’s case.

Court documents alleged Mr. Kirkpatrick began stealing from the university shortly after his appointment in 2002 by generating false invoices from companies he controlled, bilking AUT out of almost £330,000.

The Diocese of Auckland has suspended Mr. Kirkpatrick from his post of Priest in Charge at St Alban’s Church in Balmoral in central Auckland.  Further ecclesiastical disciplinary proceedings are expected against the 53 year old priest, who was one of the Anglican Church’s leading gay campaigners in New Zealand.

In a statement issued by university vice-chancellor Derek McCormack, AUT said the thefts “relate to money in the research and development field” and were not from “student fees. Nevertheless, AUT is largely a student and taxpayer-funded organisation and remains accountable to the highest accounting standards.”

The case has been adjourned for two-weeks to permit a full accounting by the university.

Moderator’s suspension quashed: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 6. July 28, 2011

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Bishop S. Vasanthakumar

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

An Indian appeals court has thrown out a Madras civil court order suspending the moderator of the Church of South India (CSI).

On 15 July the court voided a 28 June order that suspended Bishop S Vasanthakumar from exercising the office of moderator, and further ordered a return to the status quo of the administration of the CSI pending a final adjudication of the dispute.

Last month Judge Thiru Chandrasekaran suspended the powers of all “office-bearers” of the church elected at the 17 January, 2010 general synod, including the moderator, deputy moderator, treasurer and general secretary in response to a lawsuit filed by a lay member of the synod from the Diocese of Madras who argued the elections were fraudulent.

The court found that a prima facie case could be made that the elections were voidable. On 25 February, 2010 the court issued an order suspending the elections that was subsequently overturned. On 28 June the court issued a second order suspending the elections, which was also overturned.

The church anti-corruption campaign group, the CCC noted the order suspending the moderator had “huge negative implications for the CSI and [put] into jeopardy several major policy and administrative decisions including the recent appointment of some bishops.”

The matter has now been set down for adjudication.

Cash for admissions scandal rocks Church of South India: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2011 p 5. July 24, 2011

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The Bishop-elect in South Kerala, the Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Officials of the Diocese of South Kerala have been accused by an Indian television network of selling admissions to a church-affiliated medical school.  The scandal over the sale of admissions has prompted a walkout of the opposition in the Kerala Assembly and appears to have implicated leaders of the Church of South India (CSI) in another corruption scandal.

Last week the Asianet broadcasting network reported that it obtained a list of 50 students admitted to the church-affiliated Dr Somervell Memorial Medical College located on the grounds of the London Missionary Society (LMS) hospital in Karakonam.  However, the admissions list was drawn up two days before students sat for their entrance exams.

A reporter for Asianet, posing as an official of the Church of South India (CSI), contacted the students on the list and learned that each had made cash payments of up to Rs 50 lakh (£70,000) for a place in the college.  However, the payments were not considered tuition payments and were “off the books.”

Asianet reported that “All those who spoke to us admitted the money was accepted by the CSI management without providing any receipt.”

The funds were collected by “the treasurer of CSI located at the CSI headquarters at LMS in cash. The applicants were clearly told the amount was just a token and annual fees should be paid in extra,” the broadcast said.

After the story was aired, reporters descended upon the LMS compound.  An Asianet reporter and cameraman were allegedly assaulted and had their cameras smashed.  The attack prompted other journalists to visit the hospital, and in the ensuing mêlée police beat a reporter for India Vision TV.

On July 15, the leftist members of the Kerela Assembly walked out in protest.   The Leader of Opposition and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan told the state’s Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, the scandal “should should have been more seriously viewed by you and you failed to come out with any strong measures.

In response to the allegations made in the Asianet broadcast and in the subsequent fracas, Mr. Chandy said his government would investigate the affair.

The cash for admissions scandal comes at a difficult time for the diocese, which is currently without a bishop.  In December, Bishop J.W. Gladstone retired as Bishop in South Kerala and Moderator of the CSI.  The principal of the Kerala United Seminary, the Rev. Dr. G. Sobhanam—who was also vice-chairman of the medical school’s board, was subsequently elected by the diocesan synod and confirmed by the CSI’s general synod as the new bishop.  However, Bishop-elect Sobhanam died on March 26, 2011.

The runner up in the election, the Rev. Dharmaraj Rasalam, was appointed bishop of the diocese last month in place of Dr. Sobhanam, and will be consecrated on July 23.  Anti-corruption activists are hopeful the new bishop will clean up the diocese.

The lay-led anti-corruption group, the CCC stated this latest scandal is “an unprecedented opportunity to clean up the massive corruption in medical admissions and boost the finances of the diocese should he choose to do so. The big question is whether he has both the motivation and the ability to take on such a challenge.”

The CCC stated that “selling seats in educational institutions is a major source of corruption within the CSI. It not only weakens the moral fibre of the church and those who administer it but also deprives the institution of crores of rupees that would have otherwise come to it every year.”

CSI moderator suspended: The Church of England Newspaper, July 21, 2011. July 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop S Vasanthakumar

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A civil court in Madras has suspended Bishop S. Vasanthakumar from exercising the office of moderator of the Church of South India (CSI).

On June 28, Judge Thiru Chandrasekaran suspending the powers of all “office-bearers” of the church elected at the January 17, 2010 general synod, while the City Civil Court in Chennai reviews the legality of the elections.  The court heard an emergency motion from the CSI on July 6 seeking to vacate the order, but Judge Chandrasekaran declined to modify the injunction and has set the matter down for hearing on July 15.

On Jan 17, 2010 the 32nd session of the CSI general synod met in Courtallam in Tamil Nadu and elected a moderator, deputy moderator, general secretary and treasurer.  Before the election was held, however, a court in Karnataka issued an injunction disqualifying Bishop Vasanthakumar from attending the meeting and standing for election.

However, a judge in Madras issued a second order permitting Bishop Vasanthakumar to attend.  The synod Reference Committee agreed to allow him to attend the meeting, but withheld his right to vote.  The bishop contested the election for moderator and was subsequently elected.

Immediately after the election, synod member Albert Jeyaraj brought suit asking the election be voided as it did not conform to the CSI’s constitution.  Mr. Jeyaraj, a lay member of synod from the Diocese of Madras, stated the election was improper as votes for proxy were allowed—though forbidden by the CSI constitution.  He also alleged that those exercising the proxy votes, allegedly on behalf of Bishop Vasanthakumar, were amongst those facing criminal indictment for defrauding the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund of aid money sent to India in the wake of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

On Feb 25, 2010 the court granted an injunction suspending the election, but the CSI succeeded in overturning the first order.  The second injunction, however, makes voidable all of the CSI senior management’s civil actions.

The church anti-corruption campaign group, the CCC welcomed the decision, noting the “ruling has huge negative implications for the CSI and puts into jeopardy several major policy and administrative decisions including the recent appointment of some bishops.”

Indian bishops to adopt code of conduct: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2011 p 8. July 3, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop S. Vasanthakumar, Moderator of the CSI

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Moderator of the Church of South India has called for the creation of a code of conduct to govern bishops.

Speaking at the National Consultation on Ecclesiology held at the Ecumenical Christian Centre in Bangalore on from June 14, Bishop S. Vasanthakumar stated the Church of South India “needs to establish a system of governance which is fair, transparent and accountable. In order to meet this challenge the Bishops have taken a decision to bring out a ‘Code of Conduct’ for both the Bishops in active service and the Bishops who have retired.”

Bishop Vasanthakumar announced he had appointed four bishops: Dr. Surya Prakash, Dr. J.S. Sadananda,  K.G. Daniel and Paul Vasanthakumar to prepare a draft code for discussion at the next meeting of the House of Bishops.

“Serious discussion is underway” within the House of Bishops to create a “cell for redressal of grievances” independent of the current church court structure, Bishop Vasanthakumar said.

The court of grievances was needed, he said, as “one of the severest criticism leveled against the church [was] that there is no mechanism available in the church for the redressal of grievances” against bishops.

Questions about the priest’s conduct could be brought to the attention of his bishop, but allegations of misconduct by a bishop were subject to an unwieldy canonical process, he said.

Anti-corruption activists welcomed the moderator’s call for a mechanism to keep bishops honest.  However, the CCC, the Christ-Centered Coalition—a leading anti-corruption lay association in the CSI, urged the bishops to give lay leaders a voice in the creation of the code of conduct.

The asked the bishops to “include respected lay CSI members and those who have been advocating good governance in the church in drafting both the code of conduct and the redressal mechanism.”

The warrant for lay involvement in clergy discipline was Biblical, they said.  “The church that Jesus added people to at the beginning was a ‘called out’ or ‘gathered’ church where no clergy-laity distinction existed,” the CCC said.

Abuse of office has been an on-going problem in the CSI for the past decade from the arrest and imprisonment of Bishop M. I. Kesari of the Diocese of Kannyakumari in 2000 for corruption and contempt after he defied a court order not to declare the outcome of an election allegedly rigged by his supporters to the recent theft of disaster relief funds by the former CSI Secretary General Dr. Pauline Sathiamurthy following the Indian Ocean Tsunami.  Half a dozen corruption cases are pending against sitting bishops in the CSI, including one against Bishop Vasanthakumar.

Corruption a cancer for Uganda, archbishop declares: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2011 p 8. June 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, Corruption.
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Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Church of Uganda has called upon President Yoweri Museveni to crack down on government corruption.

Speaking on June 5 at the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Patrick Tugume as bishop of North Kigezi at Emmanuel Cathedral in Rukungiri in southwest Uganda, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said the diversion of public money into the pockets of corrupt officials held the East African nation back in developing its full economic potential.

“Your Excellency, there is need for you to put stringent measures on supervising government money that is allocated for community development but end up being swindled on its way from Kampala. There is need for serious disciplinary action against the corrupt officials who swindle public funds,” the archbishop told President Museveni, who was guest of honour at the ceremony.

While Uganda’s economy has expanded at an average rate close to 9 per cent over the past five years, and has reduced tariff barriers and disincentives to foreign investment, corruption is perceived as widespread. Uganda ranks 130th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009.

In a report on the Ugandan business climate, the Heritage Foundation in Washington observed that the “will to combat corruption at the highest levels of government has been questioned, and bureaucratic apathy contributes to perceptions of corruption.”

Corruption was also the theme of Archbishop Orombi’s speech on June 1 to the Uganda Joint Christian Council, the country’s umbrella organization for Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Elected chairman of the group in succession to Orthodox Church leader Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, Archbishop Orombi expressed his hope that one day the change in governments would be as seamless and uncomplicated in Uganda as the change in leadership of the UJCC.  He also asked the assembled church leaders to redouble their efforts in tackling corruption at all levels in society, arguing it was a cancer that was eating away at the heart of society.

Bishop denies corruption allegations over hospital sale: The Church of England Newspaper, June 3, 2011 p 8. June 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop P.J. Lawrence celebrating the St Werbergh's deal in Nandyal

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop in Nandyal has denied accusations leveled by the General Secretary of the Church of South India that he had abused his authority by granting a 40 year lease on a church hospital.

In a spirited exchange of letters, Bishop P.J. Lawrence said he was “shocked” by the rush to judgment made by the General Secretary, while the General Secretary Mr. M.M. Philip said he was “really shocked” the bishop would have signed the deal without the approval of the Synod.

On March 31, the CCC, a lay led advocacy group that has led the charge against corruption in the Church of South India, released a statement implicating Bishop Lawrence in a sweetheart deal that “virtually gifted” St. Werburgh’s Hospital to a foreign controlled “private limited company.”

Bishop Lawrence was accused of granting a 30 year lease on the hospital, built in 1931 by the SPG and valued at £8.5 million, in exchange for payments of “15 per cent of net surplus” from the operations or a minimum of Rs 25,000 (£350) per year.

The CCC claimed that “no payments to the CSI are likely to  materialize” from the deal as “sole control over accounting” was given to the firm acquiring the hospital, which also had the right to deduct from its payments “any outstanding liabilities” at the time of the takeover.

On April 8, Mr. Philip wrote Bishop Lawrence stated he was surprised by the deal and ordered the bishop to “cancel the agreement.”

The bishop replied on April 22.  St. Wergurgh’s was a “dying mission hospital” that was a drain on the limited resources available to his “poor rural diocese,” he said, adding that he had emailed a copy of the proposed lease to the CSI headquarters in Madras in September.  Having had no reply, he “took it for granted there is no objection from the CSI Synod.”

The bishop stated he was willing to re-negotiate the deal if the CSI Synod was unhappy with the terms Bishop Lawrence was able to obtain, but “there was no question of cancelling the agreement.”

Bishop Lawrence also denounced the tone and tenor of General Secretary’s letter.  “Your one unilateral letter has destroyed my unblemished reputation of 40 years ordained ministry and five years of episcopal ministry,” he said.

In a letter dated April 27 in reply, Mr. Philip said he was “very sorry for the inconvenience” caused by the dispute, but held fast in his demand the bishop cancel the agreement, or produce new terms acceptable to the CSI’s property management committee.

In a statement released on May 7, the CCC urged the CSI synod not to be swayed by the bishop’s blandishments as there was “a more sinister design involved than meets the eye.”

Criminal indictment handed down against Bishop Dorai: The Church of England Newspaper, June 3, 2011 p 8. June 4, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Dorai (centre) after his release on bail last year

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Crime Branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu Police has filed a 500 page charge sheet with the Chief Magistrate in Coimbatore, stating the Bishop in Coimbatore of the Church of South India, the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai, his two brothers, and four other accomplices with defrauding his diocese of over £500,000.

The May 17 indictment of Bishop Dorai, follows upon an Oct 2010 report by an auditing team led by retired Karnataka High Court Justice Michael Saldhana, former Karnataka Director General of Police A J Anandan and bank auditor C E Sarasam that found substantial evidence of criminal behavior by the bishop.

It said Bishop Dorai had pledged diocesan bank accounts, trust funds and pension funds as collateral for personal loans, sold admissions to diocesan schools, took kickbacks on building contracts and diverted diocesan funds for his personal use.  They found the bishop had authorized the sale of diocesan property to real estate developers at approximately 20 per cent of their market value, in return for what the committee believes were kickbacks from the real estate developers.

“These transactions are not a mere case of mismanagement but point to rank dishonesty and criminality,” the committee said.

At its Nov 30 meeting of the Executive Committee of the CSI Synod declined to take disciplinary action against the Bishop in Coimbatore.  The bishop remained suspended from office, but the synod voted to allow the criminal case to guide the proceedings of any ecclesiastical trial.

Bishop denies ‘sweetheart deal’ to defraud diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, April 15, 2011 p 8. April 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Lawrence on the way to inauguration of the 4B St Werbugh CSI Hospital in Nandyal

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Nandyal in the Church of South India has denied accusations of misconduct put forward by an anti-corruption watchdog group.  The claims put forward by the Christ Centered Campaign (CCC) that he was defrauding the diocese by “gifting” a church owned hospital to a private company were untrue, Bishop PJ Lawrence tells The Church of England Newspaper.

On March 31, the CCC, a lay led advocacy group that has led the charge against corruption in the Church of South India, released a statement accusing Bishop Lawrence of having “virtually gifted away the CSI-owned St. Werburgh’s “ Hospital “in the heart of Nandyal” to a foreign controlled “private limited company.”

On March 8, 2011 the bishop granted 4B Healthcare a 30 year lease to operate and manage St Werburgh’s Hospital.  Built in 1931 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to serve the city’s poor, the CCC said the hospital’s land, clinics and rental properties have a market value of £8.5 million.

In return for the lease, the Diocese of Nandyal is to receive “15 per cent of net surplus” from the operations or a minimum of Rs 25,000 (£350).  The CCC claims that “no payments to the CSI are likely to  materialize” as 4B Healthcare is given “sole control over accounting” in the contract, and has the right to deduct from its payments “any outstanding liabilities” for the hospital at the time of the takeover.

The CCC notes the contract gives 4B Healthcare the right to “develop the entire property by modifying, demolishing or putting up new buildings, equipment and facilities” and at the end of the lease “should the CSI want to get back the property it will have to first pay 4B for all the developments done on it.”

The anti-corruption watchdog also questioned the credentials of the buyer, noting that it had been formed in January 2010 by an American entrepreneur, who “a mere three days after the deal between 4B and the Nandyal Diocese was inked,” sold a 99 per cent interest in the company to Opportunity International Australia (OIA).

The CCC urged the CSI to “consider legally challenging the transfer of the Nandyal Hospital to a private company on terms that virtually ensure the hospital and its vast land bank are lost to CSI members forever.”

“This deal sets a very unhealthy precedent as it can be used to justify similar ‘virtual sales’ of valuable CSI property elsewhere,” the CCC said, adding that “for the many corrupt bishops who dominate the CSI this novel model shown by 4B could just be the answer they are seeking to circumvent the challenges a vigilant laity is throwing at them” to stop the stripping of the church’s assets.

Asked about the allegations, Bishop Lawrence told CEN he wished the CCC had “checked with me the fact before circulating such information” as “there is no truth in what they are saying.”

The 4B Healthcare deal was “done with the approval of the executive committee of our diocese for the good of the hospital,” the bishop said, and it was unfortunate that “a hand full of disgruntled people” were raising objections.

Bishop Lawrence added that the “so-called CCC is focusing on dissidents in every diocese to malign the bishops.”

The bishop stated that “anyone, including the CCC is welcome” to visit Nandyal “and get the facts.”

Bishop backs call for govt to implement the UK Bribery Act: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 6. April 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Corruption, House of Lords.
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Bishop Michael Langrish addressing the House of Lords

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Exeter has joined with other public figures in endorsing a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron calling upon the government to bring the UK Bribery Act into force.

However, Treasury minister Lord Sassoon on March 17 said the government was committed to bringing the Bribery Act into force in “a way that tackles corruption while not imposing unnecessary cost and uncertainty on legitimate business and trade”.

The open letter endorsed by the bishop and seven other religious leaders and prepared by Christian Aid, Tearfund and Cafod called upon the government to implement the law, which was adopted with cross-party support in April 2010.  “The Act will help to reduce the bribery that has such a damaging effect on poor communities worldwide and fulfil Britain’s international obligations – notably the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention,” the statement said.

Concerns over the mechanics of enforcement and implementation raised by industry caused the government to delay its implementation from October to April 2011, with the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, John Cridland, describing it as “not fit for purpose”.

In February the government said the implementation of the act had now been delayed indefinitely.

The delay has angered anti-corruption activists.  “Bribery is neither the victimless crime nor the necessary evil that some UK companies may suggest,” said George Boden of Global Witness.

“It cripples development and it’s bad for our long-term business interests. British companies should back their superior technical capacity with high ethical standards, not compete in a race to the bottom to see who can pay the largest bribes – which we would likely lose anyway,” he said.

“’Bribery is already illegal, but companies are operating under laws which are chronically outdated,” argued Mr. Boden.

Opening a debate on the UK’s record on bribery and money laundering legislation, Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams of Crosby, who was a Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s, said Britain needed to “stand up and be counted” among countries which find “corruption and bribery utterly unacceptable”.

“To try to escape the bribery convention would be deeply damaging to British business, because it would suggest our business and our trade depends upon special deals often with very dodgy regimes indeed,” Lady Williams said.

Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham noted his party was “anxious about the degree of delay not least because we look a lot weaker in this area than the US.  We look a lot weaker than Hong Kong.  We look a lot weaker than our direct international competitors.”

Treasury minister Lord Sassoon responded that the government did not consider bribery an “acceptable way to do business, it distorts markets and causes immense damage in developing and emerging economies,” he added.

The minister said guidance on the Act would be published “shortly” and the Act would come into force three months after that date.

Kenyan call to combat the “vice” of corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Standing Committee members meeting in Nairobi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

New dioceses, a new university and concerns over government corruption and political wrangling topped the bill of the Anglican Church of Kenya’s standing committee meeting last month in Nairobi.

Meeting from March 2-3 at All Saints Cathedral, the standing committee began work on a ten year plan for the church taking as its slogan, ‘Together for Christ’.  In 2011 the church will focus its energies on Kenya’s “education debate; our commitment to developing the Anglican University and engaging intentionally in programs that will address peace building and conflict management.”

Church leaders discussed the proposal to create a new diocese from the Marsabit Area Mission—some 350 miles north of Nairobi near the border with Ethiopia.  The standing committee also approved the creation of the Kenya Anglican University Trust to oversee the construction and operation of the new school which is to be built at Kanyuambora in the Diocese of Mbeere.

Sunday March 27 was designated “Provincial Education Day” by the standing committee, and a goal of raising 300 million Kenyan Shillings was set to begin the first stage of construction.

Every Kenyan Anglican was asked to contribute to the school: “at least 100 Shillings for adults,  50 for youth and 20 for children;” (20 Shillings equals 15 pence.)

The church leaders also urged government leaders to stamp out corruption and implement responsibly the constitution adopted last year, and “commit themselves to working towards ensuring an equitable distribution of resources and the strengthening of institutions that will ensure good governance and put a stop to the relentless pursuit for power.”

“We urge all our national leaders to focus on keeping Kenya united especially as we move towards 2012 general elections by desisting from dividing people along ethnic lines or running into ethnic enclaves for support in political contests,” the standing committee said, urging President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga “to rise above personal interests and focus on national issues by ensuring continuous and meaningful consultations” with the people.

The Church “notes with a lot of concern that some of our political leaders have been misleading the nation with their careless utterances,” the said, reminding politicians that they must comport themselves in a “dignified manner as they discharge their official duties in and out of Parliament and respect the codes of conduct that govern various institutions.”

Corruption was not solely a government problem, they said, and “winning the war against corruption will not be just confined to the top leaders.”

“We encourage all Kenyans to once again take the fight against corruption seriously and personally. In order to achieve this, every Kenyan must support the institutions and structures that have been put in place to fight this vice,” the said.

Contempt citation handed down by court in Indian church corruption trial: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 8. April 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop Vasanthakumar

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Karnataka high court has issued a contempt notice to the Bangalore police after they failed to carry out a judge’s order to investigate fraud and corruption charges leveled against the Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI).

On Dec 9, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar asked the police to complete their investigations “as soon as possible, but not later than the outer limit of two months” into a criminal compaling filed against the CSI Moderator, Bishop Suputhrappa Vasanthakumar, his wife Nirmala, daughter Aparna, and personal secretary Patricia Job.

On April 30, 2010 Mr. I Sounder Raj, a member of St. Peter’s parish in Kolar Gold Fields filed a complaint in the Bangalore magistrate’s court alleging the bishop and his wife had embezzled diocesan funds.  The thefts had been on-going since April 2002, Mr. Raj said, and involved theft, forgery, fraud, and the sale of admissions to church schools.

Prosecutors told the court last year that the police had investigated similar accusations lodged against Bishop Vasanthakumar and had filed a ‘B’ report—a police form that states a case could not be made against the accused.

The Raj complaint, however, was brought after the B report was filed, attorneys told the court.  Judge Shantanagoudar ordered the police to complete their review of the case and report their findings by the end of February.  The police have so far declined to act on the judge’s order, prompting the contempt notice from the court.

Corruption charges laid against the Bishop in North Kerala: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 8. January 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Corruption.
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Bishop K P Kuruvilla of North Kerala

The Church of South India (CSI)’s synod has taken charge of the administration of the Diocese of North Kerala after its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. K P Kuruvilla failed to convene the diocesan council.

North Kerala has been the scene of heated debates between its bishop and lay leaders.  In a letter to the moderator of the CSI dated Jan 21, the CSI North Kerala Diocesan Laity Fellowship accused the bishop of pocketing school funds.

They alleged that since June 2010 the bishop had collected approximately Rs. 85 million rupees (£1.2 million) “through the appointment of thirty two teachers in four of the newly sanctioned higher secondary schools” in the diocese.

At a meeting of the diocesan executive committee held on Oct 20, questions about the disposition of the funds were raise.  The diocesan treasurer “admitted to have received only Rs. 15 million (£207,000). When asked about rest of the amount, bishop responded that the amount received cannot be divulged and the executive committee members [would] have to just trust him on this matter,” the complaint said.

A new diocesan council that included critics of the bishop was elected at the end of October, but the bishop did not convene the council.  Critics have charged the bishop with seeking to derail the new council so as to avoid an inquiry into diocesan finances.

Under the CSI’s constitution, if a diocesan council is not convened within 90 days of its election, its administrative responsibilities pass to the synod.  On Jan 24 the synod appointed an interim council that included Bishop Kuruvilla and directed that a new council be elected and installed by May.

A number of CSI dioceses have witnessed conflicts between their bishop and clergy and lay groups.  In May 2010 six clergy and a lay member of the Diocese of Rayalaseema staged a protest before the diocesan offices, calling for the ouster of Bishop K.B. Yesuvaraprasad.

A lay member of the diocese, Dr. Y.S. Thomas Reddy, had distributed tracts accusing the bishop of misusing diocesan funds and called for a protest at his residence on May 25.  Bishop Yesuvaraprasad requested police protection, and when the protesters arrived they were arrested for a breach of the peace when they did not disperse.

Allegations of misconduct have also been leveled against the moderator of the CSI, while a criminal investigation is underway into the finances of the Bishop in Coimbatore, the Rt. Rev. Manickam Dorai.  Last year the CSI synod dissolved the diocesan council and suspended Bishop Dorai pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Two other CSI dioceses are currently under the administrative oversight of the CSI synod.  In the Diocese of Madhya Kerala the Bishop in East Kerala has been given temporary charge of the diocese following the retirement of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Samuel on Jan 24.  In November the Diocesan Council nominated the Rev. Thomas Oommen and Dr. Oommen George to stand for election at the Jan 18 meeting of the diocesan synod.  However, a dispute over the balloting has postponed the election pending a review by the provincial ecclesiastical court.

On Dec 25 the former moderator of the CSI, Bishop John Gladstone retired as Bishop in South Kerala.  The Synod has appointed the Bishop in Kanyakumair to oversee the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.

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