Simmering tensions between two bishops led to a group of people trying to disrupt the morning mass at the St Matthews North Parish Lutheran Church in Guntur City early on Sunday. The police have detained 34 people. A few supporters of Bishop Sam Sampath of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC) were able to scale the gates and enter the church and cause a fracas during the morning mass. A committee of the AELC led by Bishop Pardesi Babu is responsible for running the church. The latest disturbance was brought on by a rivalry between the supporters of these bishops.
Bishop Adam Kennedy, a supporter of Bishop Sam Sampath, attempted to halt the morning mass by arguing that Bishop Babu Rao, who is supported by Bishop Pardesi Babu, lacked the authority to lead the prayer. As the situation worsened, members of the two groups even began tossing chairs at one another. According to the police, some of the detained supporters were also from the city of Hubballi in the neighbouring state of Karnataka.
In 2019, Bishop Ch Elia claimed that the church's administration was to be overseen by a new committee. However, another committee, led by Bishop Fredrik Pardesi Babu, filed a petition with the High Court asking for guidance to reinstate their committee. The court ruled in favour of Pardesi Babul and he was given the go-ahead to run the church on a daily basis in June 2021.
One of the first Protestant churches in India, AELC is headquartered in Guntur. It is governed by an executive council, which handles the church's daily operations. In 1842, Rev John Christian Fredrick Heyer established it. With a membership of over 15 lakh, it is one of the biggest churches in Asia.