Andhra Pradesh: High Court asks police to aid Bishop in administration of AELC

Power struggle at high-ranking committee set to end

March 30, 2022 09:20 pm | Updated 09:20 pm IST - GUNTUR

An arduous power struggle for the control of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church ended after the High Court of Andhra Pradesh directed the police to provide police aid to the AELC committee headed by Moderator Bishop Frederik Pardesi Babu to conduct day-to-day administration as directed by the High Court in an earlier order on June, 3, 2021.

The High Court also appointed senior advocate A. Sreedhar as Advocate Commissioner to oversee the day-to-day administrative activities of the society on the church premises and take all measures to prevent disturbances created by the respondents.

Following the High Court order, a posse of policemen were deployed outside the AELC office late on Tuesday night. Dramatic scenes were witnessed as the committee members said that they were not being allowed entry into the office premises and after another direction from the High Court on Wednesday, the committee members entered the office with police protection.

The court’s direction comes after the petitioners, secretary of AELC, Chinnam Kishore Babu and Moses Arnold, treasurer filed a contempt petition to summon and punish the respondents for wilful violation of court orders on June 2021. The petitioners said that though the High Court order allowed them to conduct day-to-day administration, one of the respondents named Lazarus Abraham, who has nothing to do with the functioning of the church, has been interfering with the affairs of the church and holding meetings on the church premises. The petitioners also alleged that they were not being allowed inside the church.

AELC is one of the oldest Protestant churches in India and was founded in 1842 by Rev. John Christian Fredrick Heyer, a missionary from the United States. AELC, headquartered in Guntur, is one of the largest Lutheran churches in Asia with a membership of over 15 lakh, and is governed by an executive council which administers the daily affairs of the church. AELC, which had expanded its activity across South India, has been mired in controversy ever since successive committees began leasing out properties in prime areas in cities including Guntur and Rajamahendravaram.

The power struggle began after 2019, when a rival group headed by Bishop Ch. Elia claimed that a new committee has been elected to oversee the administration of the AELC. The committee headed by Bishop F. Pardesi Babu filed a petition in the High Court seeking the court’s direction to reinstate their committee, and the HC gave a ruling asking the committee to conduct daily administration of the church in June 2021.

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