I have asked myself this question a number of times before I decided to pursue it.
Cross Cultured Church began in 2008. I was chosen by the people of Cross Cultured Church and set apart for the pastoral work. Was that not an ordination event. Of course it was. It was biblical, it was congregational and was perfectly acceptable within the church. However, there is only one major problem. The Government of India (GoI) does not recognize it.
GoI does not understand or maybe will not try either to understand the doctrines of Christianity. The law concerning the marriage of Christians was enacted in 1872 [during the British Raj]. It was amended very few times post independence. So as such the law is old and requires that only recognized churches can do the sacerdotal duties especially marriage. The GoI recognizes only such pastors as “Ministers of Religion”. The recognized churches in India by large are the Churches of England, Scotland and Rome i.e. Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. Most of the mainline denominations in India are Anglican/Episcopalian in structure. They have bishops who look after dioceses and priests who look after local churches. The GoI recognizes this structure.
Apart from belonging to a mainline denomination, it is quiet a task to become a recognized Minister of Religion. It is possible but not for small churches. The GoI requires that the church be large enough with valid members, the pastor qualified with a degree and the pastor ordained by a credible group which also has undergone the same process to become credible. I know people who have been able to get the license like this. It takes years of prayer and patience. Yet there are other who have not got it.
Having understood this problem, CEFI Diocese [Church of Episcopal Fellowship International Diocese], felt called to help pastors of independent churches. They fulfill the government requirement of being Anglican as they are affiliated to Anglican Church Council Mission of India and Episcopal Diocese of New York. They are registered at the national level and have been recognized by the Indian judiciary as well. They have an Episcopalian structure. All these place them in right standing before GoI. They are committed to providing a legal covering for the independent churches yet allowing all the churches to be independent and autonomous.
When Cross Cultured Church affiliates with them, we do not become an Anglican denomination. We retain our autonomous Reformed Baptist position. We continue with the autonomy of the local church. However, legally we are affiliated/accredited by CEFI Diocese and through them to the Anglican Church Council Mission of India. We have not signed any document that pertains to a Statement of Faith. We still hold on to our Statement of Faith.
Personally, I am an ordained pastor of CEFI Diocese. After having completed a course, conferred with a Diploma in Theology from their Apollo Bible University [This fulfills the requirement of qualification]. I am ordained as pastor [This fulfills the requirement of recognition and credibility]. Hence I am now a recognized “Minister of Religion”.
Yes, they have a very interesting outfit. Personally I find it silly and humorous. I was the only ordained pastor who did not wear a cassock or surplice to the ordination. The tippet that they placed on me also I returned. I will generally dress up the way I always used to except probably while solemnizing weddings, I may chose to use a clerical collar depending on whether it seems needed or not.
So yes, I am now Rev. Edison Anthony D’Souza. I did get ordained on 26/September/2012. This I pursued so that I can serve my church well and be in right standing in the eyes of the GoI. I will continue to be personally affiliated to CEFI Diocese so long as I am personally assured of their right standing before God and the GoI.
If you have any questions I will be glad to answer by phone or email.
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