Whirlwind Trip to India

whirlwind-trip-to-india

Bishop Stephen on the left; Alex on the right.

WHY DID I GO TO INDIA FOR THIS WHIRLWIND TRIP

These are difficult times for the Christian church in India. The entire Christian Church in India represents 3% of the population. ( Hindus represent 80% and Muslims represent 13%). However 3% of the 1.2 billion population of Indian still represents millions of people.

Radical Hindus in India often view Christians as agents of the West with an assignment to change the culture. These Hindu activists are predicting that within a few years they will achieve their goal to eliminate Christianity from India and restore India to its fully Hindu roots. The present government in India, the world’s largest democracy, has alliances with the radical Hindus. Consequently the government often does not effectively respond, turning a “deaf ear and blind eye”, when churches are burned or pastors and church members are persecuted for their Christian faith.

Historically following India’s independence from Britain in 1947, the Anglican Church had a recognized position with the Indian government.. By contrast the rapidly growing Evangelical/ Pentecostal churches were organized originally as independent societies without the legal definition as churches. As a consequence they often needed to get someone from a church within the Anglican tradition to give legal validation to their marriages.

As pressure develops against the church, the independent evangelical/pentecostal churches found that there was a need for more administrative structure for their own protection. Thus they attempted to position themselves within the administrative structures recognized by the government for churches so as to have the legitimate support of those structures, as long as such positioning did not lead to compromise of their faith and values. Recently Evangelical/ Pentecostal churches have formed organizations which meet government specifications and give participating pastors an administrative structure with legal authorization to legitimize marriage ceremonies and to do the other functions of church life.

One of these organizations is called CEFI (Churches Episcopal Fellowship International). CEFI organizes pastors in dioceses with bishop oversight. Pastors must have passed basic theological studies. Thus CEFI offers independent pastors the opportunity to be organized under one administrative umbrella. Pastors credentialed by CEFI are recognized by the state and have a certain protection from the State. Although CEFI uses an episcopal administrative structure , the CEFI doctrine and mission remains fully evangelical/pentecostal. This CEFI administrative structure relates to how pastors and churches relate to the State and does not involve itself in the administration or control of the church apart from the state relationship.

For over ten years I have partnered with PTL-India, a church with over 20,000 baptized believers and organized in 100 congregations. This network of churches, primary/secondary schools and a college was founded and directed by my good friend and brother, P.C. Alexander (“Alex”). I chair a board which represents the interests of PTL-India in the States. this board is called PTL India Partners.

Recently I learned that P.C. Alexander and his pastors were thinking of joining CEFI. Alex asked me to pray and participate with his leaders in the discernment process. As we sought to hear the mind of the Lord, it became clear that God was calling PTL India to join CEFI. The leaders of CEFI share the same heart and vision for missions as do the leaders of PTL India. I met and interacted with the bishops and leaders of CEFI. I found them to be men of prayer, of faith, of love and of good works. They have a love for and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord which makes them immediately recognizable as brothers. I was honored to have learned to know them.

CEFI is a servant of the Church and will in no way be involved in the administration or control of PTL india. PTL India churches, as well as other churches in CEFI, continue to be “evangelical/ pentecostal from ‘head to toe’.”

Membership in CEFI will give participating pastors in PTL India the ‘legal identity’ as pastors with credentials authorizing them to legitimize marriages and perform the other duties of a pastor. This membership will also provide the opportunity for PTL India pastors to relate to an even broader network of evangelical/pentecostal pastors throughout India.

Tonight I will represent Kingdom Life Network (KLN), the global network of churches of which PTL India is a member. in a credentialing service. I will participate with the Leaders of CEFI, as they credential the pastors of PTL-Inda. Tomorrow I will participate in the ordination of Alex as a bishop within CEFI.

I came to India because, as one Indian brother said, “You have a heart in the shape of India.” I was eager to stand with Alex in this time of discernment and decision making. I wanted to insure along with Alex, that this new association with CEFI would in no way compromise the ministry and calling of PTL India. I praise God for the clarity He gave to move forward with confidence. And I praise God for the way He prepares and connects His people for even greater fruitfulness in this time of the great end-time Harvest.

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