Jaffna Church severs ties with Church of South India over ‘imposed Bishop’ dispute
By Suresh Perera

The controversial appointment of Rev. D. S. Thiagarajah as the fourth Bishop of Jaffna has triggered a bitter battle which has now resulted in the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) taking a decisive step to sever all links with the Church of South India (CSI).

With links with the CSI completely cut off, the JDCSI has reverted to the American Ceylon Mission (ACM) as a protest against what it terms "the imposed Bishop" who was appointed on August 21,2006 by the CSI Moderator, Rt. Rev. B. P. Sugandhar.

A vast majority of the Jaffna Diocesan Council decided through a circulated decision-making process (due to travel restrictions) that it is best for JDCSI to sever ties with the CSI and revert to the ACM, a statement by Rev. Milton Solomon, Secretary to the Erstwhile JDCSI said.

Accordingly, the JDCSI has no ties whatsoever with the CSI with effect from July 3, 2007.

The dispute arose after the third Bishop of Jaffna retired on March 31, 2005 leaving the Bishopric vacant.

The accepted practice was for the Jaffna Diocesan Council to meet and elect a panel of candidates before the incumbent steps down, the statement said.

But, in this case, it was not done because the successor earmarked by the outgoing Bishop was not qualified on the requirements of the minimum age of becoming a Bishop", it pointed out.

After paralyzing the Executive Committee and the Diocesan Council through legal action, the candidate earmarked by a few was consecrated secretly in a synod committee room after he attained the necessary age, the statement asserted.

"This was done by a few without the knowledge of the JDCSI council members".

"That’s not correct", Bishop Thiagarajah argued. "My appointment was upheld by courts of law both in Sri Lanka and Chennai".

"How can this Milton Solomon call himself ‘Reverend" when his ordination has been revoked and he no longer has any status in the Jaffna Diocese?", he asked.

"He is now a layman", the Bishop claimed. "He cannot issue statements on behalf of the JDCSI as a ‘Reverend’".

Asked for his comments on allegations by JDCSI that he was personally involved in getting a woman warden of a children’s home managed by the Diocese arrested in a bid to take control over the institution, the Bishop replied: "Totally false".

"The Church had nothing to do with this incident", he maintained. "There was intervention by probation officers and the court case is pending".

He said the Diocese has no jurisdiction over this home and the manager who was removed was doing an honorary job.

"Any Tom, Dick and Harry cannot just sever ties like that", Bishop Thiagarajah shot back when asked about JDCSI cutting off links with the CSI.

"All these are attempts by desperate people to create unnecessary problems", he claimed. "The Jaffna newspapers refused to carry the JDCSI statement".

Rev. Milton Solomon, Secretary to the Erstwhile JDCSI, could not be reached in Jaffna for his reaction to the Bishop’s comments.



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