In another sign that Believers’ Eastern Church continues to move away from evangelical roots, the church celebrated a “sacred ceremony” using specially prepared and blessed holy oils on the Thursday before Easter. While common in Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran services, use of anointed oils is less common among evangelicals who deny that the oil has any special properties.
From the church Facebook page:
This year’s #MaundyThursday was a historical day for the Believers Eastern Church. Following the Biblical and Eastern Church traditions, we had the sacred ceremony of the Blessing and Consecration of the Holy Oils, which were consecrated by Metropolitan Dr. KP Yohannan in the presence of our Bishops, selected priests, deacons and laity representing the entire church. The process of making these oils started several weeks ago and has been done in a complete atmosphere of prayer and fasting. These holy oils which are known as ‘Myron’ or ‘Chrism’ will be used for the sacraments such as baptism and also dedication of churches, church altars and utensils for the Eucharist and to anoint and pray for the sick.
Believers Church Validates Claims Made by Former Staff
Gospel for Asia’s public problems began when a large group of former staff members, known as the GFA Diaspora, approached GFA leaders and board members in 2014 with five concerns about the organization. At the top of the list was this:
GFA leadership practices and teaches a false view of spiritual authority
As evidence that K.P. Yohannan had inappropriately elevated himself to that they considered to be an unbiblical level of authority, the former staff pointed to the practice of requiring followers in India to kiss Yohannan’s ring as well as church practices which appeared to reflect a Catholic hierarchy of authority.
To me, the issue here isn’t the correct view of hierarchy.* It is the credibility of GFA’s statements. In response to criticism of Yohannan’s ring kissing and other practices, GFA insisted that such practices didn’t exist and that GFA was thoroughly evangelical in practice. However, this does not appear to be the case, as indicated by photos of followers kissing Yohannan’s ring, and now this use of holy oil in a special manner by Yohannan.
*I mean no criticism of any religious tradition. I have my own views but what is at issue is the accuracy of statements by GFA’s leaders over the years. GFA’s leaders have at various times portrayed Believers’ Church as evangelical in practice. However, on the ground the church operates in a manner which places all power within the hands of the K.P. Yohannan, the Metropolitan Bishop. He is a papal figure with veto power over all church actions. The church celebrates his birthday as a holiday.