After split, church sects in asset battle - Ownership issue rocks GEL

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  • Published 7.07.03

Ranchi, July 7: The ownership issue of GEL church on Main Road is likely to snowball into a major controversy with the rebel North West Gossner Evangelical Lutheran church refusing to merge with the main GEL body.

The ownership controversy came to the fore when the GEL authorities refused to allow the Lutheran church to conduct Mass on May 8 to mark its silver jubilee celebrations.

However, timely intervention by the district administration averted a scuffle between the two groups. The two factions had agreed to resolve the issue at a meeting which was would be attended by representatives of the National Council of Churches of India (NCCI) and the United Lutheran Evangelical Church of India (ULECI).

The meeting is slated for July 23. Sources said NCCI and ULECI have agreed to reach a compromise over the issue at the meeting. “However, Germany-based Gossner Mission, the theological head of GEL churches, is likely to keep away from the controversy,” sources said.

NWGEL Bishop Sunil Tirkey told The Telegraph: “For 25 years we have maintained our independent status. Now there is no question of joining the GEL faction. We want our share of the church assets. We believe in the doctrine of co-existence. Let each help other in its religious pursuit. But that does not mean that we are going to lose our identity through a merger.

“A case relating to a part of the property is pending in the court. We want the ownership issue to be decided by all-India church bodies. Since representatives from NCCI and ULECI will come attend the July 23 meeting, we hope the issue will be amicably resolved” he said.

“I had requested our Germany-based theological guiding body, Gossner Mission, to come and resolve the issue but they seem to be reluctant to intervene in the matter. We will not compromise on issue,” Tirkey added.

Moderator of GEL church Belas Lakra, however, maintained that following intervention from several organisations and administrative officials, the GEL church authorities had agreed to allow the NWGEL to conduct Mass on its silver jubilee celebration day. “But this should not be construed as our accepting their legal right over the church. That was done as gesture to avert a law and order problem.”

He added: “We belong to the GEL fraternity and we have as much right over the church as they GEL followers. Rejecting our plea was as much unjustified at the time of silver celebrations as it would be now when all India bodies are coming to effect a compromise,” said Tirkey.

The NWGEL had defected from the main GEL body in 1977 following a dispute over the constitution of GEL society. After the split, NWGEL laid its claim over the church on Main Road.