Operation Nehemiah III

Operation Nehemiah III – A Report

The history making through the Operation Nehemiah movement continues. This was evidenced through the deliberations of 27 senior Church leaders across denominations ranging from Catholic to Pentecostal traditions, and 5 institutions comprising theological education and Christian Media, alongside 17 top leaders from Christian para-church organizations. This group of 49 leaders met in Bangalore over two days on 19th and 20th September 2013 to continue deliberations, celebrate progress and plan further action on key focus areas towards the elimination of Financial Corruption in the Church in India. This was the third edition of the Operation Nehemiah (ON) event, the first being held in September 2011 and the second in October 2012.

At the very outset this small but significant group of leaders shared stories among each other of the progress within their own organizations. Two of the participants from the previous edition of the event, who could not make it for this one, shared their stories through video conferencing. Bishop Samantaroy – the deputy moderator of the Church of North India (CNI) had made a commitment in ON-2 that he would declare his personal assets. At ON-3, he was able to share how he went about fulfilling his commitment. Beyond the commitment he made he has influenced his church organization to issue a circular making it mandatory for all diocese to follow suit. Towards the end of his address through video conference, Bishop Samantaroy stated his pride in the Operation Nehemiah movement and affirmed the potential for causing change that resides within movements like these.

Samuel Jayakumar of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) shared how the NCCI has adopted the Operation Nehemiah Declaration against Corruption (ONDAC) and is promoting the same within all the member churches. Additionally, the NCCI is working on creating Bible studies and a justice declaration in which the ONDAC is used as a contributing document and Captain Jose Palamootil Oommen – Director Operations of Transition Network – is a special invitee on the commission that is working on this exercise.

Mohan Phillip shared how the ONDAC was shared in 2000 villages where more than a lakh Christians at the grassroots have signed the declaration. After hearing Mohan, in a conversation with this writer, Dr Manfred Kohl, the visionary behind this movement, through moist eyes, shared his delight and near disbelief at what God had done.

Transition Network is a group of businessmen and professionals that came together at the behest of Dr Manfred, who, apart from many other spiritual and professional credentials, is also a fund raising professional. Dr Manfred shared this vision with Santosh Shetty a successful businessman and first generation Christian. The source of this movement being the laity, made it possible to extend the scope to the whole Christian church in India, breaking denominational boundaries hence making the movement a catalyst for unity.

The marvelous response of the Church establishment and the openness of the leaders who responded indeed brings a lot of hope into what might humanly seem like a hopeless situation. The humility of these leaders was showcased in their openness and their participation. Their overall demeanour throughout the consultation was marked for special appreciation by the volunteers they worked with.

ON-3 was facilitated by Francis Fernandes, a top human process professional, working with Shell at Singapore. The other resource persons included Dr. Rajkumar Ramachandran, Director of Logos Ministries, Paul Jeremiah, Senior Elder of Kingdom Advance Community in Singapore, Sq. Ldr. Mohan Phillip from Yeshu Bhakt Pavithra Sabha, UP and LT Jeyachandran former Director Asia-Pacific for RZIM. Transition Network members who contributed through short presentations included Capt Jose Palamootil Oommen, Amy Purushotham, Sanjay Patra, Malcolm Ezekiel, Joshua Prabhakar and Arpit Waghmare. However, in keeping with the short tradition of the movement, the maximum time was spent on tables as deliberations among participants.

Dr. Rajkumar Ramachandran, began the proceedings of the day describing how those who know Christ tread the path from familiarity with the world to being strangers to it.

Given that the movement is now 3 years old, it was time to get back to the basics of scripture and anchor this movement in scripture. One of the first workshops of the consultation was that of having short expositions of relevant scripture passages by each participant on their table groups. This was captured in a summary form and will be used towards the validation of the actions of the movement. Since the group was highly representative, this exercise also lends itself towards a Biblical foundation that is acceptable to the whole church in India irrespective of traditions.

Paul Jeremiah in his talk brought out the demarcation between moving in the anointing of the Spirit and personal governance. Samson moved in the Spirit but had no personal governance. Hence his eyes were put out. Those of us, following his example are in danger of being similarly blinded of good judgment.

The workshop session led by Sq. Ldr. Mohan Phillip, had the participants identify the types of financial corruption that exists, the systemic reasons that foster them and finally, the principles of governance that, if followed, could create an environment that would discourage financial corruption. Each table then shared different aspects of their findings in the plenary. This sharing was a fairly comprehensive enumeration of the root causes of financial corruption and how it could be systemically contained.

Dr. Rajkumar then exhorted the gathering to respond to the love of God and find true treasure by making Jesus the centre of our pursuit. This was followed by a time of worship through song and a beautiful time of reflection, recommitment and prayer.

The morning devotion by Dr. Manfred was an exposition on the Emmaus walk of Jesus with two of his disciples. He challenged the gathering to reflect on whether they were having similar experiences with the Lord – of interacting with him by talking and listening. Of recognizing His presence and inviting Him to speak into our lives.

This was followed by a session by LT Jeyachandran where he challenged the gathering to reflect on whether they were behaving like slaves or like sons of God.

The visioning session challenged the gathering in three ways – firstly, the Transition Network visioning and its outworking was shared with them, next audio recordings of some church members and their feedback to their leaders were played out. This was a moving experience for many of the participants, two of who responded by saying that they would like to do a self searching exercise of this sort with their congregations to understand how they are seen and how they need to change.

This was followed by a time where each participant had the opportunity to think about, and articulate their own dream for their own organization in the area of financial integrity.

With all these deliberations covering various aspects of the challenge of financial corruption, the group was now ready for action. The four workstreams that were created at Operation Nehemiah two were presented to the gathering and the participants were encouraged to join one of the workstreams. Each workstream had a facilitator that helped create a working plan of action for their workstreams.

On this note, with the appropriate formalities, the event was brought to a close.

While this is a report on the proceedings of the 3rd edition of Operation Nehemiah, this is also an exhortation to the reader to join the movement – through prayer and action. If you feel led to be a part of this, please write to Captain Jose Palamootil Oommen who is the Director Operations of Transition Network. You can write to him on organiser@operation-nehemiah.in.

Arpit Waghmare
Co-ordinator – Transition Network.