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Monday, September 26, 2022

Advent Christian Church bishop arrested for fraud

Tamilnadu that has been a fertile ground for soul harvesting Abrahamic Evangelists is witnessing yet another immorality by Christian preachers in the form of money squandering. S.D. David the bishop of Advent Christian Church, a part of the Conference of India which seems to have churches all over India, in Chennai, has been accused of committing fraud by swindling the ₹ 3.85 crores advance received for a plot he supposedly promised to sell to a philanthropist. 

Though the Advent Church does not have much inflow in the form of FCRA funds, runs 100s of churches and 50 plus schools in and around Chennai. All these are said to be under the administrative powers of David as per local news reports. He is also the correspondent of the schools in Tiruporur and Chitlapakkam areas of Chennai. As per available information, the land in Velachery that belongs to the church was put up for sale. A Trichy based philanthropist Sathyamoorthy approached David to buy the land to be used for building a school. Being a prime property in Velachery the plot is said to be valued around ₹ 50 crores. 

David received ₹ 3.85 crores in advance for the plot to be sold to Sathya Moorthy through multiple transactions as per the latter’s complaint. David neither deposited the money into the account of the church nor registered the land in Sathya Moorthy’s name. The affected party filed a complaint with the Trichy police commissioner. Last month Trichy police filed FIR promptly and brought David to Trichy for investigation. On confirming the allegations to be true, after the due process, the bishop was arrested from his Velachery residence on Thursday.

Even though David’s tenure as the bishop ended in March, he has received an extension for two more years. However, as per vernacular media reports, the extension has been objected to and challenged. It is alleged that the bishop’s family and relatives occupy key positions of the church and manage its properties and institutions and that they’re committing fraud by trying to sell off the church properties of their own volition. As per the information given by Trichy police Secretary Panneer Selvam, Treasurer Stephenson and land broker Nellai Samuel who aided bishop David are absconding and the police are on the lookout for them.

American Advent Mission, an FCRA registered organization of the Advent Church in Chennai received ₹ 29 lakhs in the 2017-18 financial year but hasn’t yet filed the annual returns for the 2018-19 financial year. In the previous two years, the organization has received 44 lakhs and 5.7 lakhs from the same two organizations Advent Christian General Conference, US, and Advent Christian Mission, New Zealand.

Almost every city in TN has A.C primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools which are run by the Advent Church. It is pertinent to mention that as per Tamil media reports they run more than 50 schools in Chennai alone. Most of these schools are government aided and their teachers are paid by the government. Their minority institution status grants them the right to avail center’s IDME scheme which provides funds to the extent of 75% and subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 lakhs as mentioned in the MHRD website.

However one can see the contrast between the government-aided school (as evident from the uniform) and the church-run by the same management from its social media posts. While the newly consecrated (the Sanskrit word Pradhishtai used in the pamphlets printed for the ceremony) church in Velachery looks like an MNC’s corporate office the school remains shabby as it has always been. This gives an insight into what the funds and profits from the institutions are used for contrary to the common line taken by its followers that the church works for the betterment of the poor. On the religious front, you name it and the Advent Church does it.

The church’s FB page claims that it has around 75 churches in Chennai and boasts of 25,000 followers. From there we also get to know that 130 pastors and Bible women serve under the church. Bible women are those who go door to door preaching the gospel in the ‘untouched’ parts of the land. As evident from the banner of the new church’s consecration ceremony, notorious evangelist Mohan C Lazarus appears to be a close associate of Bishop David.

AC Missionz, the New-Zealand chapter of Advent Church gives a different and lesser number for the schools run by the Chennai church on its website. Peculiarly it says in all these schools education is free. The Velachery campus of the church operates an orphanage (for underprivileged children with parents as well) with 250 inmates. Apart from this Advent Christian Conference of India, the parent organization of Advent Church Chennai runs

  • alcohol/drug de-addiction center in Chennai
  • residential school for disabled children in Kallakurichi, TN
  • School for gypsy children in Sankarapuram
  • orphanage for ‘underprivileged’ children in Kolli Hills  
  • Home for the AIDS-affected and their children in Salem and Chennai
  • An outreach program and school in Bihar
  • 13 churches and preaching stations in Bihar

The church in Andhra Pradesh has been conducting Bible classes for children in violation of the lockdown rules as reported in their site on August 31st. Part of the report reads ‘Sunday class sessions extended weekly four days because schools were closed by the government of A.P in this pandemic. This provides children a safe, fun atmosphere in learning the Gospel of Christ.’

Advent Church went to the courts once to settle a dispute in the election of the President of Advent Christian Conference of India, who by the rights conferred upon him will also control the trust. Bishop David as one of the respondents and a member of the Faith and Order Committee that elected the President contested the validity of the then-president.

(Featured Image Source: Facebook page of Advent Christian Church)

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