Church of South India diocese to challenge ruling on properties

February 3, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] A diocese of the Church of South India (CSI) is preparing an appeal against a court order that has virtually stripped it of more than half its churches and institutions, inherited from the Basel Mission church.

“We are preparing a strong appeal to get this order quashed. We are hopeful that our appeal will be upheld by the (federal) Supreme Court,” Bishop J.S. Sadananda of CSI’s Karnataka Southern Diocese told ENInews Feb. 3 in a telephone interview.

The high court of Karnataka on Jan. 23 had ruled that the CSI diocese can no longer manage 40 of its 80 churches as well as over two dozen schools, hospitals and other institutions, citing technicalities in the transfer of these properties from the United Basel Mission Church in India (UBMC).

The UBMC, based in the west coast of India, had not joined in 1947 the CSI union, which was formed from the merger of Anglican and Protestant churches and is one of the oldest church unions in the world. The UMBC merged with the CSI in 1968 and transferred its properties to the CSI in 1972.

Some of the Basel Mission church members who objected to the church union, Sadananda pointed out, challenged it in court. The legal dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court which in 1988 upheld validity of the “merger” of the Basel Mission and the CSI.

“The [present] high court verdict against us is based more on technicalities [of the transfer of properties]. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold [the appeal] as it has already approved the merger of the Basel Mission church with CSI,” Sadananda noted.

Despite the negative verdict, he said, the high court has given 90 days for the CSI diocese to appeal the verdict, after which the court would hand over the administration of churches and institutions in dispute to a government receiver.