Unlike on this forum, someone on the SOCM forum answered my question of how the current situation in India is different from when the Greek Orthodox Church decided to become autocephalous:
Though we recognize the Byzantine churches as Orthodox, the reality is that
we've been separated from each other for almost 1500 years. As a result, we've
both developed different praxis in that time. So just because they might do
something (i.e., grant autocephaly), doesn't mean we are compelled to do it.
There are two major differences: Necessity and Minority Views.
There was no necessity for a split to occur in India. Further, I would argue
that there was no real necessity for the GOC to split either, but I think their
position is more understandable.
The Greeks splitting from Constantinople occurred because of war between two
ethnic, neighboring rivals: Turks and Greeks.
I can understand a temporary arrangement (which has happened just about
everywhere, including the Near East) where extended autonomy (what some would
call autocephaly) is granted due to dire circumstances. But the monks of Mt.
Athos give us a better example. When the Turks were perched to conquer
Constantinople, the monks from the Holy Mountain went to the Turks, explained
their situation to them, and offered their allegiance to the Turks. If you get
the opportunity to read any material on this topic, you'll see how the monks are
very critical of the mixing of nationalism with the church: especially on
In India, there was no war, nor anything that would have facilitated this action
On Minority Views
As your message points out, "the Hierarchs of the Greek Church did not wish to
remain subject to a captive Patriarch in Constantinople."
Whereas in Greece you see the synod moving to be separate from Constantinople
because of the war difficulty, in India, less than the majority of the bishops
wanted to split from Antioch, and half of
those bishops ended up creating a Roman Catholic Uniate group (the Malankara
Now as we compare the situation with Greece and India, let's first understand
how the ideas of self-rule entered into the minds of the Malankara culture. If
you study the demographics of churches in Kerala, you'll see the Syrian Orthodox
concentrated in the North of Kerala, and the IOC concentrated in the South.
When the British ruled India, they had it in mind to conquer all the indigenous
Christians of the land, and bring them under British thought. Their Church
Mission Society helped to incite the Marthomite movement in Southern Kerala,
which led to a schism in the late 19th century. The British strategy was to
incite xenophobia in the Christians, encouraging them to reject any foreign
hierarch (they would of course be permitted their own hierarch if they were
united with the Anglican-communion). So this notion of rebellion against
foreigners began with the British. In one generation, the SOC in the South
shifted to an anti-foreigner view; this was due in large part to their close
affiliation (such as inter-marriages) with Marthomite families. I challenge you
to ask 10 random IOC individuals if they have at least one Marthomite parent or
immediate relative. I suspect that over half of them would confess a close
family relation to these individuals.
In any case, the Syrian Orthodox Church in India had only one bishop until the
time of the Marthomites. ONLY ONE. After this, the Patriarch of Antioch split
Malankara into several diocese. Until this point, there was no chance of bishop
rivalries or struggles because there was only one bishop. Now there were more.
Those in the South later fell to the idea of nationalism.
A little recap:
- The Greek hierarchs wanted this split, the Indian hierarchs didn't.
- The Greeks split from other ethnic Greeks because of a direct war with their
foreign ethnic neighbors. The IOC's goal was to split from non-Indians, while
no war was affecting the Indian population.
NOW... Had the SOC in India truly sought a holy separation of administration,
there is no doubt by any party that it would have been granted if it was a)
necessary or b) the majority. Instead, it was a minority of a few individuals
who found a means to sieze property and lock the Orthodox Christian community in
India in a never-ending spiral of litigation. There was nothing holy or
spiritual about this.
The fruits of these actions were poisonous to the Christians of Kerala. With
the British support for the Marthomite subversion, and the immediate fruits of
the IOC split being half of the IOC splitting from themselves and creating a new
Roman Catholic Uniate group, it makes one wonder who the real architetct of this
whole situation was.