INDIA – On September 26, 2018, the Madras High Court ruled in favour of President Y. Suvisesha Muthu as the duly elected head of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC). President Muthu was elected in May 2017 but his administration had faced legal challenges by an opposing group.
The International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which the IELC is a member church, greeted news of the legal resolution with satisfaction. “We are overjoyed to be able to finally extend our formal recognition of your administration,” wrote ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Albert Collver in an October letter to President Muthu. “It is our fervent prayer that, under your continuing leadership, the IELC may advance towards an ever-strengthened unity of faith and confession, and that the hitherto endless strife and legal disputes that are so displeasing among Christian brothers may come to an end. May our Lord give you the grace necessary to bring this about and to guard and guide His Church in India.”
“The ILC wishes all the best for you and your presidency, and stands ready to support you in any way that we can,” they continued. “We pray that the Lord would bring those opposing your administration to repentance for the sake of His Church in India, and so that their own souls might avoid judgement in the afterlife.”
President Muthu was elected on May 26, 2017, receiving 35 of 65 ballots cast. Because of leadership challenges in the IELC in recent years, representatives from the IELC’s partner church, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), were on hand as observers to verify the vote, in addition to the IELC’s own election commissioner and presidential candidates. An installation service for President Muthu took place later that evening, with IELC Vice President Y. Sukumaran presiding.
“We are encouraged that faithful men like you and your fellow officers continue to tirelessly seek to reform the IELC administration,” wrote LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison in a letter to President Muthu after the September court decision. “We join you in looking forward to the day when the dissension and strife within the IELC has ceased.”
President Muthu succeeded President Gambeeram, who had previously been elected to office in 2014. As a result of internal disputes, the courts likewise had to declare his administration legitimate after legal challenges from opposing groups.