An archbishop’s spiritual factory

While carrying out its drive against fake godmen and street-side spirituality retailers, investigating agencies in Kerala stumbled on the empire of Kerala-based evangelist and self-consecrated archbishop Dr K.P. Yohannan.

Last week, Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had revealed that Believers' Church, founded by Yohannan, had received foreign remittances of Rs 1,040 crore in the last 18 years. "The state will seek a probe by a Central agency to look into the foreign funds Yohannan received," he said.

Yohannan has been a Pentecostal follower and president of Gospel for Asia (GFA), a group set up in the early eighties to promote biblical teachings. Yohannan's highly spirited preaching won him lakhs of followers across the world. Athmeeya Yathra, one of the dozen trusts Yohannan set up, has been broadcasting religious radio programmes. Yohannan's GFA has 54 Bible colleges in various countries, where over 8,000 missionaries train to spread the word of Christ. The GFA Biblical Seminary near Thiruvalla houses students from 31 different evangelical denominations. His GFA had faced the wrath of Hindu organisations several times in the past, over forced conversions.

But Yohannan's real tryst with controversy began after he set up Believers' Church about eight years ago at Thiruvalla, the NRI town in Pathanamthitta district. It was then that this preacher decided he was cut for higher things in life. He voluntarily donned the garb of a bishop and hired the service of K.J. Samuel, a bishop of a sister church. In normal course, only a priest can become a bishop and his action stunned his community. Both the Church of South India and the Church of North India pulled up their bishops for conducting the installation ceremony, the nature of which had been unprecedented in Christian circles. But Yohannan wouldn't stop at that. He later upgraded his post to that of an archbishop and appointed six other junior bishops.

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