The bar on women's entry to the night sessions of the Syrian Mar Thoma Church's famed Maramon convention that began at Maramon on Sunday will stay due to security reasons, its supreme head said.
"There is a group here, who are trying to get media attention by raising non-issues. They want their names to be printed in newspapers and show their faces on TV. At this convention, there are four sessions where women can enter, but it's not possible in the night sessions and that's not going to be changed," said Metropolitan, Joseph Mar Thoma, in his inaugural address at the week-long 122nd edition of what is billed as Asia's biggest Christian convention.
"It must not be forgotten that our Church has always taken the lead by giving due importance to women and we were the first to give voting rights to women. The non-entry to women in night sessions is on account of security and it's not a ban," he said.
This convention, held on the banks of river Pamba, has over the years become the flagship programme of the Thiruvalla-headquartered Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which claims to have a following of a million.
The convention is held under the aegis of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association.
Incidentally, for the past one month, a group of Mar Thoma Church members under the name and style of 'Naveekerna Vedi' (Reformists) -- which has been in existence for over a quarter century but does not have the approval of the Church -- raised the issue in the Church meeting, but the matter was not taken up for discussion.
After that, they have been trying to gain public support to the idea of entry to women in the night sessions, but it has failed to get acceptance.
The Mar Thoma Church, which defines itself as apostolic in origin, universal in nature, biblical in faith, evangelical in principle, ecumenical in outlook, oriental in worship, democratic in function, and episcopal in character, has been able to make inroads in the education sector and runs numerous educational institutions.
The origin and growth of this annual get-together for a week can be traced to the great revival movement which gathered momentum along with the reformation in the ancient Syrian Church of Malabar under the leadership of Abraham Malpan.