Court lets stand amendments to the Church of South India’s constitution extending the tenure of current officeholders by one year
An Indian court has dismissed a petition that sought to block next month’s scheduled elections at the Church of South India’s General Synod, ruling the amendments to the church’s bylaws do not violate the church’s constitution. On 15 December 2016 Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M. Sundar of the Madras High Court dismissed the appeal of Dr. R. Jayakaran Isaac, a prominent CSI layman, from a 12 August 2016 decision by a lower court that dismissed his motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dr. Isaac, joined by other lay leaders of the church, brought suit asking that amendments to the CSI constitution adopted in November 2015 be struck off. In January 2014 the XXXIV general synod meeting in Vijayawada elected the Rt. Rev. Govada Dyvasirvadam moderator (pictured) and the Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Oommen deputy moderator, along with members of the synod executive council. Their term of office was for two years. However in November 2015 the executive council postponed the XXXV synod from January 2016 to January 17, effectively extending the term of offices for the church’s senior officials by one year. The council also raised the mandatory retirement age of bishops, permitting current officeholders to stay in their posts. Dr. Isaac and his colleagues brought suit asking the court to declare the amendments had no retrospective force, and did not apply to current office holders, whose term of office ended on 13 January 2016. The plaintiffs argued the rule change should apply only to those elected by the next meeting of synod on 14 January 2017. The court of appeals let stand the lower court decision, and declined to issue an injunction removing the current officeholders from power. The dispute touched upon the internal political calculus of the wider Anglican Communion, however, as Bishop Dyvasirvadam had been appointed to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group. The Indian bishop stepped down from task group earlier this year after objections were lodged to his about his status.