Eggoni Pushpa Lalitha becomes bishop of Nandyal in a first for a mainstream church in India
In a first for a mainstream church in India, a woman has been made the bishop of a diocese. Fifty-seven-year-old Eggoni Pushpa Lalitha is the Chennai-headquartered Church of South India’s new bishop of Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh.
Born in Diguvappad village in Kurnool district, Rev. Pushpa Lalitha was ordained a priest in 1984. She holds degrees in economics and divinity from the Andhra Christian Theological College. She was also the director of Vishranthi Nilayam in Bangalore and the administrative head of the CSI’s women fellowship.
“My parents had decided to dedicate me to the lord even before I was born, as they had already lost two sons. My life has been God’s mercy, and I wish to be his servant for life,” she said. She added that she had decided to be a nun when she entered college.
Rev. Pushpa Lalitha has worked in several villages in south India, and wishes to strive towards improving the state of women in the church.
“Be it any institution, women are always given second-rung treatment. We need to change that by promoting values that teach us to not to discriminate and treat all humans the same.”
“I hail from a village and my parents sold their land to educate me. I want every girl from such a background to get the best education possible. Only education can change lives,” she said. As a bishop, Rev. Lalitha said she would look into the affairs of the educational, welfare, spiritual and cultural activities of the church.
“As a priest, my primary responsibility was towards my congregation. As a bishop, the responsibilities are much more,” she said.
The bishop selection committee constituted by the CSI Synod Executive met in Chennai on Wednesday after interviewing four candidates elected by the Diocesan Council of the Nandyal Diocese.
The Church of South India was inaugurated in September 27, 1947, and is the union of Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches.
One of the 38 Member Churches of the Anglican Communion, it has nearly 4.3 million members in 15,000 parishes spread over 22 dioceses in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Sri Lanka.
It was only a few days ago that the Church of Ireland elected Pat Storey — a mother of two — as the bishop of Meath and Kildare, the first woman to hold the position in that country. Women already serve as Anglican bishops in countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
However, such moves have been opposed by Anglican churches in many other countries. Churches such as the Catholic Church do not permit women to serve as priests.
CSI general secretary Mani M. Philip said they have been working to bring in many reforms which will get more women involved in the church hierarchy.
“The appointment of a female bishop will empower women,” he said, adding that the CSI already had around 110 women priests. One-fourth of the members of the governing committees of the church, diocese and senate should be women, he added.