Report No. 15
15. Recognimdl Churches.-
That leads us on to the question as to which of the Churches are to be recognised. There is no difficulty so far as the established Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon and similar Churches are concerned. The difficulty arises with reference to other Churches, whose number is said to be legion. It appears from the evidence that there is a movement among several Protestant Churches to merge themselves into a single Church.
In 1947, the four southern dioceses of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon united with the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Scottish Church of South India to form a new Church called the Church of South India. It is said that there is a similar movement for union among the Protestant Churches of North India. If that fructifies, the task of recognition would, to that extent, be rendered easy. But it is admitted that there are several Churches which are functioning as independent units, and, on the materials before us, it is not possible for us to say which of them deserve recognition.
16. The evidence also disclose that new Churches are in the course of formation and expansion, such as, for example, the Indian National Church. This is said to have been started in 1947 with the object of establishing a national Church, which will be wholly free from the influence of foreign Churches and missions, which will propagate the Christian faith on lines suited to Indian notions and traditions, and in which the ministers of religion would be Indians. This Association has been registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950, and is stated to have a following of about 60,000 persons.
17. Nov, what are the criteria which should be taken into consideration before a Church is recognised for the purpose of the proposed Act? They are that the Church must have a sufficient following and strength to justify recognition, that it should have a place of worship, that there should be, in the Church organisation, a proper authority to appoint and control ministers, that the Church must have clear and definite rules as to solemnization of marriages such as will prevent hasty and clandestine marriages, and that it should be registered in accordance with the law relating to registration of societies. These are, in general, the factors that would be relevant in deciding whether a Church should be recognised under the proposed legislation.
18. Then there is the question as to the authority which is to decide whether a Church should be recognised. We have provided that the power of recognition should be vested in the State Governments, and that they should be guided by a committee consisting of Christians not exceeding five in number. It will be the duty of the committee to examine applications for recognition in the light of the considerations set out above, and recommend to the State Government whether the Church should be recognised. and it will be for the State Government to come to a decision on the recommendation of the committee.
19. To summarise the result, marriages can, according to our recommendations, be solemnised in three modes;
(i) by or before the Marriage Registrar-and that is a civil marriage;
(ii) by ministers of recognised Churches; and
(iii) by ministers licensed by the State- the two latter being sacramental marriages; religious denominations having clear and definite rules for solemnisation of marriages by ministers constituted under the rules of the Church should be classed as recognised Churches: a committee of Christians should be constituted to recommend to the Government which Churches should be recognised; and the State Governments should have the power to grant or withhold recognition on such recommendation.