HISTORY OF THE SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH
The Syro-Malabar Church was known as the Church of the
St.Thomas Christians until the 18th century because it was
founded by St Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ.
St.Thomas came to India in 52 A.D. He died as a Martyr in a
place called Mylapore near the present town of Chennai (Madras).His
tomb is still venerated there.
As a Church that existed outside the Roman Empire, the
Church of the St. Thomas Christians had little contact with
the Roman or the other Churches within the Empire.At the
same time it maintained communion with the Church of Rome
through the Church in the Persian Empire,which later came
to be known as the East Syrian or Chaldean or Babylonian
Church. It is believed that Christianity in Persian Empire
was introduced by the disciples of St. Thomas. It seems that
the Christians in India had contact with these Christians
of the Persian Empire from very early times. Given the
commercial relations of India of those days such a contact
In the middle of the 4th century or later a group of
Christians from these communities under the leadership of a
merchant called Thomas of Kinayi migrated to the southern
parts of India Known as Kerala now. The descendants of this
latter group are called Knananites or Southists and the
former Northists. Both of them belong the Syro-Malabar
Church. Even now they live as two separate communities with
their own diocese and parishes.
For some unknown reasons at least from the 8th century until
the end of the 16th century the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar
Church were sent from the East Syrian Church, appointed by
the Patriarch of the East Syrian Church. There is a
tradition which says that there were Indian Bishops in the
beginning. But written proofs are very few to say anything
concrete about them.
Because of the Portuguese colonisation of parts of India in
the early 16th century and of the consequent ecclesiastical
arrangements, from 1600 onwards European Bishops from the
Latin Church were appointed by the Pope to govern the
St.Thomas Christians. Their rule ended in 1896 in which year
indigenous Bishops from among the St.Thomas Christians were
appointed to the Church of St.Thomas Christians. By that
time the ancient name "Church of St.Thomas Christians" had
given way to the present name "Syro-Malabar Church".
During the period from 1653 to 1887 many divisions took
place in the Syro-Malabar Church mainly in the attempt of
the Syro-Malabarians to get rid of the rule of the Latin
Bishops who often gave little value to the ancient system of
administration of the St.Thomas Christians and their
Christian heritage. The missionaries seems to have had the
impression that the St.Thomas Christians were not Catholics
but Nestorians since they accepted Bishops from the East
Syrian Church which officially had adopted Nestorianism. As
they were living at a time soon after the council of Trent
in which decision was taken to deal toughly with heretics,
they were all out to "reduce the Syro-Malabarians to the
Roman obedience." There were also the commercial
interests of the Portuguese behind the appointment of Latin
Bishops to rule the Syro-Malabarians. As the last Bishop
appointed by the East Syrian Patriarch died in 1597 the
Portuguese tightened their hold on the Syro-Malabarians and
never permitted any more East Syrian Bishops to enter
Malabar. In 1599 the Latin archbishop of Goa convened a
synod at Udayamperoor in the present Kerala and made the
people accept many customs with which they were not
familiar. He also spread the news in Europe that
Syro-Malabarians were "reduced to the Roman obedience" and
accepted Catholicism as well the authority of the Pope in
this Synod. The fact,however,was not so.The Syro-Malabarians
had never accepted Nestorianism even though they had contact
with the East Syrians and they were not at all involved in
any of the Christological controversies. On the contray
whenever they got a chance they reiterated their allegiance
to the Pope and their communion with the Church of Rome. In
any case the rule of the Latin Bishops was never accepted by
the Syro-Malabarians and the climax of their protest was
what is known in the history as Coonan Cross Oath. The
leadership of the St.Thomas Christian community pledged in
this oath not to accept any more the rule of the Jesuit
missionaries from among whom the Bishops were appointed. It
was in 1653. History tells us that the St.Thomas Christians
who gathered at Mattancherry near Fort Kochi under the
leadership of the archdeacon to receive a Bishop from Persia
took the oath touching the cross there that they would not
obey any more the Jesuits who were the main European
Missionaries in India at that time; Coonan Cross Oath was a
revolt against the oppressive rule of the Europeans and not
against the Pope or the Holy See. After the Oath 12 priests
at the instigation of one of them laid hands on the head of
the archdeacon and "ordained him Bishop". There began the
division in the Church of the St.Thomas Christians.
There was tension in the Church because the faithful wanted
to keep the true faith but not under the Bishop who was
appointed by the Portuguese crown. Some remained in schism
while others came back to the obedience of the Latin Bishop.
Those who remained under the "pseudo Bishop" later accepted
the tradition of the Antiochean non-Catholic tradition and
were known as the Orthodox Church. Later because of the
missionary work of the Protestants there arose other
non-Catholic Churches in India, particularly in Kerala.
There were continuous attempts for reestablishing the lost
communion. But nothing succeeded mainly because of the
opposition from the European missionaries. It was to obtain
permission for receiving this group into the Catholic Church
that Fr. Joseph Kariattil and Fr. Thomas Paremmakkal, two
priests from the Church of St.Thomas Christians, went to
Rome in the 18th century. Fr.Kariattil was ordained
archbishop of the St.Thomas Christians, and had received a
mandate to receive the dissident group with its bishop to
the Catholic communion. Unfortunately Bishop Kariattil on
his way to Kerala died in Goa in 1786. Finally, in 1930 a
group of them under the leadership of their archbishop
called Mar Ivanios reestablished their communion with the
Catholic Church and the Holy See accepted it as a separate
Catholic Church with the name of Syro-Malankara Church.
Those who remained in communion of Pope after the Coonan
Cross Oath later came to be known as the Syro-Malabarians.
It was a name given by the Roman authorities to refer to the
Catholic St.Thomas Christians. The name Syro-Malabar was
chosen apparently to avoid confusion with the Malabar rite
which existed as a part of the Latin Church in the
Coromandel coast of India. Even those who remained in
communion were fighting for getting Bishops of their own
rite and nation. It became a reality only in 1896 when the
Apostolic Vicariates of Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanachery
were established and three indigenous priests were appointed
as vicars apostolic.
Ever since the Syro-Malabar Church grew phenomenally in all
aspects. Because of the increased mobility of people many
members of the Syro-Malabar Church emigrated to other parts
of India and foreign countries. Though they remain members
of the Syro-Malabar Church, they had little chance of
following their own traditions in their life of faith
because only the Latin Church was present in many of the
lands they migrated as U.S.A and Canada. As a result of the
teaching of the second Vatican council there was an
awakening both in the Bishops of this Church as well as the
faithful scattered all over the world about their identity
and their duty to preserve and promote their tradition. The
Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches or the Oriental
Canon Law prescribes that these traditions be preserved and
fostered. That means that provision must be made for these
faithful to practice and grow in their own tradition
everywhere in the world.
Various ways are prescribed for providing pastoral care for
these migrant Eastern Christians. The first one is to set
apart a priest in the Latin Parish for the care of Eastern
Christians. If that does not ensure proper care, then vicar
general under the local Bishop is to be appointed. If that
too becomes ineffective because of any reason, particularly
because the number of the faithful to be taken care of is
too big,then a diocese should be established for them.
The Knanaya community had
their own parishes and in 1911 a separate vicariate
apostolic, Kottayam was erected for them. Bishop Kuriakose
Kunnacherry is their present bishop. He has jurisdiction
over all the Kananaya faithful within the provinces of
Ernakulam , Changanacherry, Trichur and Tellicherry. The
auxiliary bishop of Kottayam as Syncellus or representative
of the Bishop of Kottayam resides at Kannur in Northern
Kerala and looks after the needs of the Kananaya faithful in
the Northern Kerala.
At the time of the Coonan
Cross Oath many of the Kananaya parishes also had accepted
the "pseudo bishop" ordained by the twelve priests. In the
course of time they too accepted the Antiochean way of
worship and customs. When the reestablishment of communion
came about in 1930 some of the Kananaya parishes also
followed the same. However instead of joining the
Syro-Malankara Church they joined the diocese of Kottayam in
the Syro-Malabar Church even though they follow the
Antiochean liturgy. They have separate parishes and parish
priests within the diocese of Kottayam.
The St. Thomas Christians in
India were under the rule of the Latin bishops from 1600 to
1896. In 1887 the St. Thomas Christians were given two
separate ecclesiastical circumscriptions called Apostolic
vicariates. They were Trichur and Kottayam. In 1896 there
took place a reorganization as a result three vicariates,
namely Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanacherry came into
existence. Three Syro - Malabar priests were ordained
bishops and put in charge of these units. These indigenous
bishops were John Menacherry (Trichur), Louis Pazheparampil
(Ernakulam) and Mathew Makeil (Changanacherry). In 1911 a
new vicariate at Kottayam was established for the Knananites
and Mar Makeil was transferred to this new vicariate. Later
in 1923 the Apostolic Vicariates were made dioceses and the
diocese of Ernakulam was made Archdiocese and its bishop
archbishop. In the same year the Syro-Malabar hierarchy was
established. In 1957 the diocese of Changanacherry was made
archdiocese. Having two archbishops with no common head is
not customary in the Eastern Churches. So this new provision
created an anomalous juridical situation in the Syro -
Malabar Church. As the new Oriental Canon Law was
promulgated in 1990 this situation could not be continued.
Canon Law foresees only four
categories of sui iuris Churches and the Syro-Malabar Church
did not fall into any of them. The four categories are the
following: Patriarchal, Major Archipepiscopal, Metropolitan
and other. So on 16 December 1992 Pope John Paul II declared
the Syro- Malabar Church as a Major Archiepiscopal Church
and appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara, the then Archbishop
of Ernakulam as the first Major Archbishop. Had such a step
not been taken the functioning of the Syro-Malabar Church
would have been very difficult. Taking into consideration
the particular situation of the Syro - Malabar Church and
the poor state of health of Cardinal Antony Padiyara the
Pope had appointed also a delegate of him to discharge the
duties of the Major Archbishop. He was Archbishop Abraham
Kattumana, who was a Vatican Ambassador in African
countries. Archbishop Kattumana died unexpectedly during his
visit to Rome in April 1995. Since the post was a temporary
one none else was appointed to take his place.
In November 1996 Cardinal
Padiyara resigned from his office as Major Archbishop. In
his place instead of allowing the synod to elect a new Major
Archbishop the Pope appointed an Administrator in the person
of Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil, C.Ss.R. He was a priest
belonging to the Redemptorist Congregation. In December 1998
he was appointed Major Archbishop by the Pope. In February
2001 Archbishop Vithayathil was created a Cardinal by Pope
John Paul II.
According to the Oriental
Canon Law the Major Archbishop is the head of the Syro -
Malabar Church immediately under the Pope. However his
authority is limited to the dioceses that are the suffragans
of the archdioceses of Ernakulam, Changnacherry , Trichur
and Tellicherry. The Syro - Malabar dioceses in other parts
of India and abroad are directly under the Pope. Even though
according to the Oriental Canon Law the Synod of this Church
has the right to appoint new bishops, these rights were
reserved to the Pope until recently. On 3 January 2004 the
Pope restituted this right to the Bishops' Synod.
The Major Archbishop of the
Syro-Malabar Church is automatically the archbishop of
Ernakulam - Angamaly archdiocese also because it is
determined so by the Holy See. So whoever is elected as
Major Archbishop or whoever exercises his authority unless
otherwise decided by the Holy See will have two offices. As
Archbishop of Ernakulam - Angamaly he has his office at
Ernakulam. His office as Major Archbishop is at Mount St.
As in the secular
administrative systems there are three wings in the
administration of the Syro-Malabar Church also: Executive or
administrative, legislative and judicial. The Major
Archbishop, his officials, various commissions and
committees, the Permanent Synod and the Major Archiepiscopal
Assembly form the executive. His officials include his
chancellors and finance officer or officers. Various
commissions are appointed by the Major Archbishop for
dealing with matters as liturgy, pastoral care of the
migrant Syro-Malabarians and so on. The members of the
commissions are ordinarily bishops. The Permanent Synod is
an advisory council of bishops to help the Major Archbishop
in fulfilling his function. Three of them are elected by the
Synod and one is nominated by the Major Archbishop. Among
the three elected at least two must be bishops who govern
dioceses. Including the Major Archbishop there are five
members in the Permanent Synod.
The Major Archiepiscopal
Assembly is a meeting of the representatives of the various
sections of faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church. It is to
meet at least once in five years. If necessary the Major
Archbishop can convene it as often as needed. The first
Major Archiepiscopal Assembly of the Syro-Malabar Church was
held from 9 to 12 November 1998 at Mount St. Thomas.
The Synod of Bishops is the
legislative body. All the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church
are members in it and have voting rights. It can enact laws
for the Syro-Malabar Church. If they are liturgical laws
they will be applicable for all the dioceses; but if
disciplinary they are applicable only in those dioceses
which fall within the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar
For judicial activities there
are the Superior Tribunal and the Major Archiepiscopal
Ordinary Tribunal. The Superior Tribunal is the Synod
itself. However it exercises this function through three
bishops elected from among the members of the synod. One of
them is nominated as the Moderator. The Major Archiepiscopal
Ordinary Tribunal will have its own personnel. They are not
bishops. The personnel can be anyone with the prescribed
qualifications. The head of the Ordinary Tribunal is known
as president. ( From the official site of the
Syro Malabar Church)
The St. Thomas
One of the interesting places
to visit on Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad is the St. Thomas
Christian Museum there maintained by the Liturgical Research
Centre of the Church. Its presence on the hill is indicated
from a distance by the huge open air granite (rock) cross
erected after the cross at Angamaly. The entrance courtyard
has depictions of events from the history of St. Thomas the
Apostle. The Sound and Light programme exhibiting events in
the history of the Thomas Christians is a popular
attraction. The mission of St. Thomas in the court of King
Gondaphares in Gandhara/Taxila, the arrival of the saint in
the Kerala port, miracles performed by St. Thomas, the
arrival of Thomas of Cana or Kinayi Thomman, 72 privileges
granted to the Christians by copper plate grants by Ayyan
Adikal Thiruvadikal the emperor's governor at Tharisa Palli,
the arrival of Vasco da Gama in India at Calicut, the Synod
of Diamper or Udayamperur called by Archbishop Dom Menezes
of Goa, the Coonen Cross Oath, Archbishop Kariattil and
Paremakkal Gobernador in the Portuguese Court at Lisbon are
some of the themes shown in this light and sound programme.
A short documentary produced by the Museum on the Art and
Architecture of the St. Thomas Christians is shown round the
clock. The original Ms. of the Varthamanappusthakam is among
the valuable treasures of the museum. Items in sculpture,
painting, architecture, metal work, wood work, ivory, and
many rare documents exhibit the glorious history and culture
of these ancient Christians.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
In the mid-17th century, most of the
Thomas Christians in India (see the
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, above) had
become increasingly upset with the high-handed methods of
the Portuguese and the increasing latinization of their
Church. This led thousands of faithful to gather at the
Coonan Cross in Mattancherry on January 3, 1653, and to take
an oath to submit no longer to the authority of Archbishop
Francis Garcia of Crangannore or his Portuguese Jesuit
associates. This oath would later become a rallying point
for those who wished to break entirely with the Catholic
Church. The leader of the dissidents attempted to
reestablish communion with the Assyrian Church of the East,
but this was not achieved. Then in 1665, the Syrian
Patriarch agreed to send a bishop to head the community on
the condition that its leader and his followers agree to
accept Syrian christology and follow the West Syrian rite.
This group was eventually administered as an autonomous
church within the Syrian Patriarchate.
However, in 1912 there was a split in the
community when a significant section declared itself an
autocephalous church and announced the re-establishment of
the ancient Catholicosate of the East in India. This was not
accepted by those who remained loyal to the Syrian
Patriarch. The two sides were reconciled in 1958 when the
Indian Supreme Court declared that only the autocephalous
Catholicos and bishops in communion with him had legal
standing. But in 1975 the Syrian Patriarch excommunicated
and deposed the Catholicos and appointed a rival, an action
that resulted in the community splitting yet again. In June
1996 the Supreme Court of India rendered a decision that (a)
upheld the Constitution of the church that had been adopted
in 1934 and made it binding on both factions, (b) stated
that there is only one Orthodox church in India, currently
divided into two factions, and (c) recognized the Syrian
Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch as the spiritual head of the
universal Syrian Church, while affirming that the
autocephalous Catholicos has legal standing as the head of
the entire church, and that he is custodian of its parishes
The precise size of these two communities
is difficult to determine. But reliable sources indicate
that in 2004 the autocephalous Malankara Orthodox Syrian
Church had about 2,500,000 members, while the autonomous
church under the supervision of the Syrian Orthodox
Patriarchate had about 1,200,000 faithful.
There are two other churches in Kerala
that originated in the Malankara Orthodox community. Due in
part to the activity of Anglican missionaries, a reform
movement grew up within this church in the 19th century.
Those who adhered to the movement eventually formed The
Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which to a great
extent conserves oriental liturgical practice and ethos.
This church, whose episcopal succession derives from the
Syrian Orthodox Church, tends to accept reformed theology
and has been in communion with the Anglican Provinces since
1974. It now has about 700,000 members.
In the late 18th century, a Syrian prelate
from Jerusalem ordained a local monk as bishop, but he was
not accepted by the Malankara Metropolitan. This bishop then
fled to the north and established his own group of followers
at the village of Thozhiyoor. Less than 10,000 faithful make
up this church today, which is called The Malabar
Independent Syrian Church of Thozhiyoor. While
preserving its oriental heritage, this group has links with
the Mar Thoma Church and increasingly with the Anglican
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
administers the Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam,
which was founded in the early 19th century and now has
about 140 students. New facilities have recently been built,
including the “Sophia Centre” for the theological training
of lay men and women, and a School for Liturgical Music
affiliated with Kottayam’s Mahatma Gandhi University. The
St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary was opened in
Bhilai in 1995 to train priests to serve parishes and
missions in north India. It moved to Naghpur in July 1999.
The church also operates 17 colleges, 240 schools, 30
hospitals and 35 orphanages.
This church also has a modest monastic
tradition. There are four communities of men that follow a
monastic rule and eleven for celibate priests and laity
without a definite monastic order. Altogether there are 210
monks. There are also 13 convents where a total of 200 nuns
live a dedicated life of service and worship.
India, small diaspora
Baselios Mar Thoma Didimos I (born 1921, elected 2005)
Catholicos of the East; Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne
of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan
Kottayam, Kerala State, India
(From the CNEWA site)
Heritage and history of the Mar
From the official site of the Malankara Syrian Mar Thoma
The history of the Mar Thoma Church is divided into three
main eras viz. 1. Pre-Reformation 2. Reformation and 3. Post
St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ is believed to have
landed in AD 52 in Cranganore near Cochin, which was at that
time an important seaport on the Malabar Coast, having trade
connections with the Middle East in those days. F.E. Keay in
his book, A History of the Syrian Church in India has
established, from the mention in the book of Kings, of the
articles brought to the court of King Solomon from India,
that even before the time of Christ, there was trade between
the Malabar Coast and Palestine in spices and luxury
articles like ivory. Therefore, it was quite natural for
Thomas to come to India with the Gospel as the disciples
went to different parts of the world in accordance with the
commission given to them by Jesus Christ. In the true
Apostolic tradition he preached first to the Jewish settlers
in and around Cochin, and then worked among the Hindus.
Through the ministry of the Word and the many miracles which
tradition attributes to him, he brought many high caste
Hindus to the Christian faith. It is believed that he
organized 7 Christians communities for the use of these
Christians, and ordained presbyters from four leading
families. The seven churches were, 1. Cranganore (Malankara)
2. Chavakad (Palur) 3. Parur near Alwaye 4. Gokamangalam, 5.
Niranam 6. Nilakkal (Chayal) and 7. Quilon (Kalyan). All
these places except Nilakkal are near the sea coast.
Nilakkal is in the ghat region near Sabarimala, the Hindu
place of pilgrimage. It is believed that Nilakkal was an
important trading centre for export of spices and other
items like ivory, and the route extended to Tamil Nadu
across the ghats. Remains of ancient human dwellings and
places of worship are still discernible among the ruins in
this area, which is now covered with forests. Many Christian
families in Kanjirappally, Ayroor and other places trace
their origin to Nilakkal. There is a Mar Thoma Church at
Ayroor which is still named Chayal (Nilakkal). Recently a
new Church has been built under the joint auspices of all
the Christian denominations of Kerala at the site agreed
upon by all concerned. This Church has having historical
significance as the first Church built and dedicated by all
the denominations together as a symbol of the heritage from
St Thomas. It is believed that St. Thomas proceeded to the
East coast of India and died a martyr's death at a place
called St. Thomas Mount, and was buried at Mylapore in
Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan concludes the Chapter on
the St Thomas Tradition in his book Christianity in India
and a Brief History of the Mar Thoma Church as follows:
"The History of the Christian Church in the first century
does not depend entirely on historical documents. Tradition
is often more true and more compelling than plain historic
proof. In this sense St Peters founding of the Roman Church
and St Thomas founding of the Malabar Church, may be said to
stand on the same footing. Both are supported by traditions
which are sufficiently early and sufficiently strong ".
Mention is made in the records of the Council of Nicea (AD
325), of the presence of a Bishop John of India.
Jawaharlal Nehru in his Glimpses of World History (1934)
commented as follows:-
"You may be surprised to learn that Christianity came to
India long before it went to England or Western Europe, and
when even in Rome it was a despised and proscribed sect.
Within 100 years or so of the death of Jesus, Christian
Missionaries came to South India by sea. They were received
courteously and permitted to preach their new faith. They
converted a large number of people, and their descendants
have lived there, with varying fortune, to this day. Most of
them belong to old Christian sects which have ceased to
exist in Europe. "
The history of this ancient Church during 4th to 15th
centuries reveals the fact that it was in friendly relations
with the Church in Persia. There is a tradition that a group
of 400 immigrants from Persia arrived in Malabar in AD 345
under the leadership of a merchant named Thomas of Cana,
known as Knaye Thommen. Mention is made also of another
immigration from Persia in the year AD 825 under the
leadership of a Persian merchant named Marwan Sabriso with
two Bishops named Mar Sapro and Mar Prodh. They landed in
Quilon. King Cheraman Perumal gave them land and extended to
them special privileges, inscribed on two sets of Copper
Plates (in Malayalam "Chepped"). Three of these are still in
the Old Seminary in Kottayam and two are at the Mar Thoma
Church Head Quarters, Tiruvalla.
Chepped II kept in the Marthoma Church Head Quarters
Thiruvalla: Side 2
Chepped I kept in the Marthoma Church Head Quarters
Chepped II kept in the Marthoma Church Head Quarters
Thiruvalla: Side 1
There was ecclesiastical
connection between the Church in West Asia and the Church in
Malabar till 16th century. The Bishops who came from
Babylonian Patriarchate were Nestorians. Even now there is a
Nestorian Church in Trichur, called the Chaldean Syrian
Church. They have connection with the Nestorian Patriarch.
Though there were such ecclesiastical connections and
ministrations, the Church in Malabar was independent in
administration under its own Archdeacons.
The Portuguese started settling in India with the coming of
Vasco De Gama in AD 1498. They established their power in
the 16th & the 17th centuries. This was also a period, which
witnessed far-reaching effects of the missionary adventures
of the Roman Catholic Church. At this time the Portuguese
were powerful in the eastern areas and had control of the
sea routes. The Roman Catholic Church wanted to use this
opportunity to bring the Church in Malabar under the
supremacy of Rome. A powerful Archbishop Alexio-de-Menezes
arrived in Goa in 1592. He then convened a Synod at
Udayamperoor, south of Ernakulam, in the year 1599, called
the Synod of Diamper for commandeering obedience to the
supreme Bishop of Rome. The representatives sent from
various congregations were forced to accept the decrees read
out by the Archbishop. Thus the Syrian Christians of
Malabar, (the Malankara Church) were made part of the Roman
Catholic Church under the Pope. The Malankara Church was
under Roman Empire for half a century. But many smarted
under the Roman Yoke. Gradually the power of the Portuguese
empire declined and the Christians yearned for regaining
They tried to get a prelate from one of the Eastern Churches
to lead the people out of this torpid state of affairs. And
when their efforts were proved futile, they declared their
independence and shook off the Roman supremacy after 54
years of submission, with the 'Oath of Coonen Cross' in AD
1653. That was a historic event, which inscribed a new
chapter in the history of the Church in Malabar. What they
wanted was to remain loyal to their ancient faith and
Their dream was finally materialized when their Archdeacon,
Thomas by name, was duly consecrated with the title 'Mar
Thoma' in 1665 by Mar Gregorius of Jerusalem who was
associated with the Jacobite Patriarchate of Antioch. Thus
the Episcopal continuity was restored with Mar Thoma I as
the first Indian Metropolitan. Thus began the relation of
the Syrian Church with the Antiochene Jacobites. Because of
the relationship with the Syrian Church, the Church in
Malankara (Malabar) was also known as Syrian Church of
The throne used for this consecration in 1655 is still in
the possession of the Mar Thoma Church and kept in the
Poolatheen, the residence of the Malankara Metropolitan at
Tiruvalla. It has been used in the installation of every Mar
Thoma Metropolitan, to this day, so that the continuity of
the throne of Mar Thoma is ensured.
Thereafter, Ten Bishops with the title of 'Mar Thoma' were
consecrated who held ecclesiastical authority over the
Malankara Church from 1653 to 1843. Of the ten Bishops, four
had assumed the title Mar Dionysius.
During the time of Mar Thoma VI, who took the title of
Dionysius I, Mar Gregorios, a foreign Bishop consecrated a
new Bishop with the title Mar Koorilos. Mar Dionysus raised
objections and Mar Koorilos had established his seat at
Thozhiyoor, near Kunnamkulam on the British Malabar border.
This Church continued as an independent church from that
time. This Church maintains cordial relations with the Mar
Thoma Church, especially for inter-church consecration of
Bishops even on date.
By this time, Malankara Syrian Christians had developed
close relations with the missionaries sent from Church
Mission Society in London. But soon seeds of
misunderstanding were sawn and cracks appeared in their
relationship. This gap widened and ultimately resulted in
their parting of ways. With the converts they gained and
with the Syrians who joined with them eventually, a branch
of the Church of England known as the Diocese of Travancore
and Cochin was formed (1879).
But that was not the end. There was a nucleus of people in
the church who longed for the removal of unscriptural
customs and practices which had crept into the church over
the centuries. They envisioned a reformation in the Church
in the light of the Gospel of our Lord. There were two
outstanding leaders in this group, one was Palakunnathu
Abraham Malpan of Maramon (1796-1845) and the other,
Kaithayil Geevarughese Malpan of Puthuppally(1800-1855).
Both were teachers in the Syrian Seminary (established in AD
1813 by Pulikottil Mar Dionysius) and had had opportunities
to come into close personal contact with the missionaries
and to share their insights regarding the Christian life and
the nature and function of the Church as depicted in the New
Testament and to imbibe the ideas of the Western
Reformation. The group led by these two was very much
concerned about the need of a revival in the Church.
Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan from Maramon and Kaithayil
Geevarghese Malpan from Kottayam who spearheaded this
movement, never wanted to start a separate Church. They
wanted the reformation staying within the Church. This group
gradually became vocal and approached Col. Fraser, the
British Resident, with a memorandum in 1836 . But since
nothing came of it, Abraham Malpan decided to take action in
his own parish of Maramon which was sympathetic towards his
ideas of reform. He translated the liturgy of the Holy
Qurbana into local language Malayalam from Syriac and also
eliminated from it the prayers for the dead and invocation
of saints etc. He celebrated Holy Qurbana in his church
using the revised St.James liturgy on a Sunday in 1836. This
was tantamount to firing the first shot of the reformation.
He later on removed from the church the wooden image of a
saint reputed to have miraculous powers, and in whose honor
an annual festival was held that brought in huge income to
the Parish. Both at Maramon and at the Syrian Seminary at
Kottayam, and in the neighboring Parishes of Pallom and
Kollad, Abraham Malpan popularized Bible teaching and
preaching. Abraham Malpan and Geevarghese Malpan had to give
up their service in the Seminary, in 1840. Since then
Abraham Malpan concentrated his attention on the work of
reform, holding Bible classes and prayer meetings and
instructing the deacons who were loyal to him.
Most prominent elements in the Reformation were:
1. Return to the gospel message of salvation by faith in
2. Cleansing of wrong ways of life, and
3. Taking up responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus Christ
4. All importance be given to the primacy of the Word of
Thus the reformation movement was started. It was a return
to the purity of the life and practice of the early Church.
The emphasis on preaching the word of God led to revival
meetings, which were led both by the clergy and laymen. The
domination of the clergy as custodians of grace became a
thing of the past. Emphasis was given to the sole mediation
of Christ, importance of laity and priesthood of all
believers. More and more groups were formed for Bible study;
and conventions for preaching and hearing the Word of God
Metropolitan Chepat Mar Dionysius was not prepared to accept
such changes. So he refused to ordain the deacons who had
undergone training with Abraham Malpan. He also
excommunicated Abraham Malpan. So Abraham Malpan went to his
mother-parish at Maramon. He stood strong in faith and
convictions when faced with serious challenges and great
difficulties. However the whole parish stood with him.
Others who favoured the reforms went to hear his preaching
and were strengthed by his exhortations. Some other parishes
also decided to adopt the programme of reformation. Abraham
Malpan realized that unless he had the support of a bishop
who was sympathetic towards his reforms, there was little
prospect of the movement gaining ground. So he sent his
nephew Deacon Mathew, who was then studying in Madras, to
the Patriarch at Mardin in Syria. The Patriarch, being
impressed with the character and ability of the deacon, in
due course ordained him as priest and consecrated him as
Metropolitan, with the name Mathews Mar Athanasius. The new
Bishop arrived in Cochin in 1843 with credentials received
from the Patriarch.
The new Metropolitan went to Trivandrum and tried to obtain
the Royal proclamation declaring him as the Metropolitan of
the Malankara Church. Chepat Mar Dionysius opposed this.
Mathews Mar Athanasius got the royal proclamation in 1852
declaring him as the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church.
Abraham Malpan died at the early age of 49 years in 1845.
Having received the Royal proclamation, he made himself more
active and involved in the cause of reformation. Years later
a group led by Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius who was
consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch worked vigorously
against him and his attempts to continue reformation.
Mathews Mar Athanasius, consecratd his cousin Abraham
Malpan's son, as Thomas Mar Athanasius in 1868. The reformed
party had possession of the Syrian Seminary as Mathews Mar
Athanasius had been declared as the Malankara Metropolitan.
The Partriarch of Antioch himself came to Kerala in 1875. A
prolonged litigation followed, as to who was the rightful
Malankara Metropolitan. Mathews Mar Athanasius died in 1877
and Thomas Mar Athanasius had to carry the burden of
conducting the court cases, for the possession of the Syrian
Seminary and Church property. This case was decided in the
royal court of appeal in Trivandrum, in 1889. Two judges
decreed that Joseph Mar Dionysius was the rightful
Metropolitan of the Malankara Church as he expressed
allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. One Christian Judge
gave the verdict in favour of Thomas Mar Athanasius because
of his conviction that the Malankara Church has been an
independent Church from the beginning. The majority view
prevailed and Thomas Mar Athanasius had to leave the Syrian
Seminary and the properties there, because he upheld the
autonomy of the Church. It was suggested that Thomas Mar
Athanasius would be recognized as Malankara Metropolitan, if
he agreed that future consecrations of Bishops should be by
the Partriarch of Anticoh. He did not agree to this proposal
as it was against the autonomy of the Church.
Again litigation continued for the possession of individual
churches. The reform party got only Maramon and Kozhencherry
churches by court decision, and the Kottarakara church
without contest. Five churches were to be used by the two
parties on alternate Sundays. They put up small sheds in
other places to hold worship services.
Even though the reform party lost their hereditary and
rightful possession, it became the occasion for the people
to turn to God and to go forward in faith, trusting in the
power of God. This led to a spiritual revival and great joy
in spite of difficulties. It was this spiritual fervour
which sustained the people. The Maramon Convention
(Evangelistic Meeting) was started about this time in the
year 1896. The famous Maramon Convention which we have been
holding annually, for the last 108 years is a source of
great spiritual power and inspiration for innumerable
people. The losses were forgotten in the zeal of spiritual
fulfillment. The concern for the spread of the Gospel gave
momentum to the reformation movement. The successive
Metropolitans of the Church also continued in the same
spirit, with the help of dedicated clergy whose leadership
and sacrificial lives have been deeply appreciated by the
people in the Church.
Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan
Recognized as the catalyst behind the Reformation, Abraham
Malpan was born in 1796 (Malayalam Era 971) in Palakunnathu
family which is believed to be a branch of the renowned
Pakalomattam family. He lost his parents very young, and was
raised by his uncle Thomas Malpan. He learned Syriac, and
was ordained as a Priest by the 8th Mar Thoma in Malayalam
It was at this time that the CMS Missionaries started their
work in Kottayam. They appointed Abraham Malpan as Syriac
Teacher in old Seminary. As a result he came to have close
contact with the Missionaries who gave priority to the
spreading of the Gospel, and felt the immediate need of
purifying the church to be in accordance with the teaching
of Christ. He, along with ten other Priests, submitted a
memorandum to the British resident Col. Praiser, detailing
the malpractices in the church.
Chepat Mar Dionysius the then Metropolitan had a row with
the CMS Missionaries, and consequently some of the priests
withdrew their support to Abraham Malpan. But Abraham Malpan,
his close associate Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan and a few
of their disciples stood firm. The Metropolitan refused to
ordain the deacons who were with them. So Abraham Malpan
sent his nephew Deacon Mathew to the Patriarch, and he was
ordained as Bishop Mathew Mar Athanasius. On his return, he
obtained a royal proclamation which was against the wish of
Abraham Malpan. Abraham Malpan retreated to Maramon where he
lived and served the church according to his vision till his
death in 1021 and came to be known as the Eastern Wickliffe.
Though the reformists succeeded in introducing the revised
order of worship and successfully discontinued many
practices, they had to pay a heavy price for achieving the
desired result and had to face serious mental and financial
strains arising out of the prolonged legal battles. In
pursuance of the judgment handed out by the Royal Court of
Appeal, Bishops consecrated by the reformists group lost
control of the Malankara Church and had to vacate the Syrian
Seminary at Kottayam, considered as the head quarters of the
Our forefathers, however, did not lose heart. On the
contrary, the material loss and humiliation suffered by them
infused renewed vigour and hope in their minds and gave them
the confidence to start rebuilding the Church from scratch,
laying their trust on God almighty. There has been a
phenomenal expansion of the Church during the last six
decades, widening its frontiers to various countries of West
Asia, Africa, North America and Western Europe. The Church
has now 1075 parishes including congregations, divided into
eleven dioceses. There are 10 Bishops including the
Metropolitan and 786 priests. It has a democratic pattern of
administration with a representative assembly (Prathinidhi
Mandalam), an executive council (Sabha Council) and an
The Church has been active in the field of education and
owns 8 Colleges, 6 Higher Secondary Schools, 1 Vocational
Higher Secondary School, 8 High Schools, 1 Training School
and other educational institutions owned and managed by
individual parishes. We have 3 Technical Institutions at
Cherukole, Kalayapuram and Anchal.
The Church has 31 social welfare institutions, 11 destitute
homes and five hospitals. The Mar Thoma Tehological Seminary
(Estd: in 1926) and 6 other institutes cater to the
theological education of both the clergy and the laity.
Further, there are three Study Centres, at Managanam,
Kottayam and Trivandrum for arranging regular study
programmes and to provide opportunities for creative
dialogue between church and society on various ethical,
moral, social and religious issues. The religious education
of children is looked after by the Christian Education
Department (the Sunday School Samajam organized in 1905) and
the work among youth is carried on by the Youth Department,
(the Yuvajana Sakhyam organized in 1933). The Church has a
women's department (the Mar Thoma Suvisesha Sevika Sanghom
organized in 1919) which is vigorously active.
The Church actively participates in the programmes of the
World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia,
the National Council of Churches and the Kerala Christian
Council. It is in full communion with the Anglican Church.
The Church of South India and the Church of North India and
has cordial relations with the various denominations of the
Christian Church. The Church actively co-operates with the
C.S.I. and the C.N.I. through CCI (Communion of Churches in
The Mar Thoma Church is financially independent and
maintains its indigenous nature. Its regular work as well as
special projects are almost entirely financed by
contributions from its members at home and abroad.
While the history of the Church especially during the last
century shows advance and growth in various directions, it
will be admitted that there is little room for complacency.
In the life of the individual as well as the community, we
lag far behind the standard set by our Lord. The Church is
in need of renewal in Spirit in order to become more
effective and useful instrument in His hands for the
extension of His Kingdom. As members of the Church let us
therefore surrender ourselves under the mighty hand of God
so that He may exalt us and use us for His glory in the
years to come.
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
From the L'Osservatore Romano Report
Saturday, 14 May 2005, marked a day of history for the
Syro-Malankara Church, due to the official ceremony for its
elevation to Major Archiepiscopal dignity and the
installation of its first "Caput et Pater", Cyril Mar
Baselios Malancharuvil, a member of the Order of the
Imitation of Christ.
The Pontifical announcement of 10 February culminated a
succession of significant steps involving Pastors and
faithful. These began on 20 September 1930 with the reunion
of Mar Ivanios with Rome, who was joined thereafter by
various other ecclesiastics and faithful.
Like the small mustard seed of biblical fame, the
Syro-Malankara Church, blessed by the Lord and sustained by
him during these 75 years of communion with the Bishop of
Rome and with the entire Catholic Church, has become a huge
With the further development of conferral of this noteworthy
title comes greater responsibility. There is, indeed,
similarity with the lamp referred to in the Gospel, which
was placed high so as to give light to everyone in their
home. In fact, the Syro-Malankara Church is now recognized
as ecclesiastically fully-matured.
With a renewed enthusiasm for carrying out the universal
Church's mission, particularly in the context of India, as
well as in ecumenical and interreligious settings, this
Church ably asserts its fidelity to authentic religious
Moreover, it promotes a qualified and generous contribution
towards solid coexistence that pursues the spiritual and
material well-being of the Indian identity.
The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana,
proclaimed the Latin texts of both the Pontifical Bull which
designated the elevation of the Church, and that which
announced that the Church's Head was accorded the title
Both Bulls carry respectively the signature of the Supreme
Pontiff at the time, Pope John Paul II, as well as of the
Secretary of the State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
During his homily, Cardinal Daoud expressed thanks to God
and recognized the profound communion which exists between
the Roman Pontiff and the Syro-Malankara Church. He recalled
the memory of the recently departed Pope John Paul II, amid
applause which combined grief and great veneration.
He also conveyed the paternal greetings and Apostolic
Blessing of the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI, which were
conveyed to the Cardinal Prefect on the day prior to his
departure for India. Again, the faithful responded with
great joy and devotion.
In his remarks, Cardinal Daoud outlined the salient
historical features of the evolution of this event, such as
the early phase and its first contacts with specific intent
of union with the Petrine See.
"We can find a man of fire, thirsty for unity", the Cardinal
said, "one who is capable of reading the signs of the times;
who in his prophetic sight has seen clearly and afar: Mar
Ivanios. He cherished a great dream that became a great
project: unity. With his steadfast companion, Mar Theophilos,
Mar Ivanios was received into the Catholic Church, along
with one priest, one deacon and one layperson, each of whom
made their Catholic Profession of Faith before Bishop
Benziger of Quilon.
"Within one year, there was an expanded reunification within
the little Malankara Catholic Church, with the admission of
the majority of the members of the Order of the Imitation of
Christ. This incorporated all of the Sisters of the same
Order, in addition to 35 priests and about 4,500 faithful.
"By 1950, the community extended to 65,000 members.
Currently it numbers some 500,000 adherents. Eight bishops
constitute the Synod of this Church, and besides Trivandrum,
there are four other Eparchies: Tiruvalla, Bathery,
Marthandom and Muvattupuzha. There are 700 priests, 600
seminarians and more than 2,000 religious priests and
The Cardinal Prefect paid sincere homage to this Church,
indicating his strong encouragement for its future mission
and imparting good wishes to the new Major Archbishop, Mar
Baselios. While recalling the early years of their common
programme of study in Rome and their friendship in Damascene
College, the Major Archbishop was praised for his devotion
to the Church.
Mention was also made of the various offices which he held
on the local and national levels as well as within the
organizational setting of the universal Church, especially
in the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, of which he
is a member.
Given the responsibility to maintain intact the proper
tradition, and according to the spirit of the Second Vatican
Council, it is his prerogative not only to conserve that
tradition but also the liturgical language: Syriac. Indeed,
explicit fidelity to the ecumenical and interreligious
perspective was an objective of the same Council.
The proclamation of the elected (Korususo) and the prayer of
Mar Cleemis were recited in a low voice by Cardinal Daoud in
Syriac. Meanwhile, the ministers accompanied the rite by
ringing the "marbahasa" and bells, and the assembly sang the
In the final segment, there was the triple elevation by 12
priests of the new Major Archbishop, seated upon his throne.
Throughout, the song "Axios" (He is worthy! He is worthy!)
was sung several times, amid shouts of joy by the
The Cardinal Prefect presented to the new Major Archbishop a
gold medal from the last year of the Pontificate of John
Paul II, a gift of the late Pope to the Syro-Malankara which
he so loved. Indeed, the celebration was originally
scheduled for 7 April and was changed due to the death of
the Holy Father.
Coutsey Eternal Word Television Network
the Church of South India
When the Church of South India
(CSI) was inaugurated on 27th September 1947, it was
acclaimed as the most significant event in the Church Union
movement, because for the first time after centuries of
historic divisions, churches with Episcopal and non
Episcopal ministries were brought together in a united
Four different church
traditions had been brought together in the CSI, Anglican
(Episcopal), Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist. All
these churches had been established in India through the
missionary work of churches in Europe, America and
Australia, who had started their work in India at different
periods from the beginning of the eighteenth century.
The Anglican Church was
established through the work of the Church Missionary
Society (CMS) and the Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel (SPG), both closely linked with the Church of
England. The congregational churches were established
through the missionary activities of the London Missionary
with missionaries from Great Britain and Australia, and the
American Board of Commissioners of foreign Missions (ABCFM)
). The Presbyterian Churches through the work of the Church
of Scotland Mission, the Dutch Reformed Church in America
and the Basel Mission in Switzerland and Germany. They also
had Connections with the Presbyterian Churches in England
and Australia. The Methodist Church was established by the
Methodist Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in
With the growth of nationalism during the latter part of the
19th century, there developed among Indian Christians also a
concern for self-reliance and independence. There was
further the growing awareness that the divisions among the
churches in India were not the making of Christians in
India, but brought by the different missions from abroad.
Several efforts were made to bring about a united,
indigenous Christian church in India free from dependence on
denominational links with churches in the west. None of
these had lasting results.
However, faced with the challenge of the mission frontier
and the necessity of better credibility, the churches
themselves began to be increasingly aware of the scandal of
disunity and sought ways of overcoming it. As a result,
different kinds of mergers or unions among churches were
beginning to take place. In October 1901, a Federal Union
took place between the Presbyterian missions in South India,
the United Free Church of Scotland Mission, the American
Arcot Mission of the American Dutch Reformed Church and the
Base] Mission. In 1904, the Congregational churches of the
London Missionary Society in South India and the
Congregational churches of the American Board Missions in
South India and Jaffna came together in a Federal Union. In
1908, these two bodies, the Presbyterian and the
Congregational, came together to form the South India United
Church (S.I.U. C.).
Following the International Missionary Conference held at
Edinburgh in 1910, there was even greater impetus for co
operation and union among churches. One of the direct
consequences in India of the Edinburgh Conference was the
formation of the National Missionary Council in 1914, (Which
later became the National Christian Council of Churches).
The National Missionary Council organized Regional Christian
Councils. One of the objectives of the Regional Christian
Councils was the strengthening of the evangelistic outreach
as a joint or cooperative activity of all the churches. The
experience of such joint evangelistic programs of the Madras
Regional Council led the churches to raise the question
afresh as to whether there was any valid reason for the
churches to remain divided when they had the same Gospel of
Jesus Christ to proclaim in their evangelistic mission. As a
result of this realization, an informal meeting of pastors
of the Lutheran, Methodist, South India United Church, and
Anglican churches convened by the Rev. V.S. Azariah (later
Bishop of Dornakal) and the Rev. V. Santiago took place at
Tranquebar. This conference issued a call for union among
the churches and a Joint Committee was set up for
considering negotiations for union The Lutherans did not
join this committee and only the other churches, the
Anglicans, the Methodists, and the SIUC participated in the
negotiations, which followed. The first meeting of this
committee was held in 1920 and following it many meetings
were held to consider different issues, until the churches
could agree on a common basis for union.
Quite early in the negotiations it was agreed that the
Lambeth Quadrilateral could be a satisfactory basis for the
union of the churches. This meant that the four basic
principles would be: (1) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and
New Testament as containing all things necessary to
salvation and as the supreme and decisive standard of faith;
(2) the two creeds, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed
as witnessing to and safeguarding this faith; (3) the two
Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and (4) the
ordained ministry with the historic episcopate.
The first three could be accepted without any controversial
question. But the fourth became problematic because of the
fact that while the Anglican Church had the historic
episcopate, and all its ministers were ordained by the
Episcopal laying on of hands, the other churches in the
negotiations did not have an Episcopalian ordained ministry.
Finally, an agreement was reached that in so far as God had
blessed all the ministries with undistinguishing regard, all
who were already ordained in any of the uniting churches
would be received as ministers in the United Church and that
all new ordinations would be by Episcopal laying on of
It took about 20 years to reach the agreement. It took a few
more years for the churches to take their formal decisions
accepting the scheme of union. The Methodists gave their
vote in 1941. In 1945, the General Council of the Church of
India, Burma and Ceylon (the Anglican Church) gave their
consent for the four Anglican dioceses in South India to go
into the union. In 1946, the General Assembly of the South
India United Church decided to accept the scheme. These
decisions made it possible for the Church of South India to
be inaugurated on 27th September 1947.
At the time of inauguration the total membership of the CSI
was a little over one million, made up as follows:
Methodists 220,000, SIUC 290,000, and Anglicans 500,000. At
present the total membership is over 1,500,000.
The CSI practices infant baptism for children born in
Christian homes. For others, believers' (or adult) baptism
is given. Baptized children are members of the church and
share in the privileges and obligations of membership so far
as they are capable of doing so. The full privileges and
obligations belong to those who, after attaining to years of
discretion, receive confirmation of their baptism. Normally,
members are confirmed by the laying on of hands by a bishop.
Confirmation may also be given by a presbyter authorized to
The ordained ministry of the church conforms to the
traditional pattern of the threefold ministry of bishops,
presbyters and deacons. At the beginning only men could be
ordained to the ministry. But the consideration of the role
of women in the ministry has led the church to decide in
favour of ordaining women also. In 1970 it was decided to
admit women for ordination as deacons. From 1982, ordination
to the presbyterate is also possible for women.
The administrative structure of the CSI consists of 21
dioceses. The following are the Dioceses:
1. Coimbatore Coimbatore
2. Dornakal Dornakal
3. East Kerala Melukavumattom
4. Jaffna Vaddukoddai, Sri Lanka
5. Kanyakumari Nagercoil
6. Karimnagar Karimnagar
7. Karnataka Central Bangalore
8. Karnataka North Dharwar
9. Karnataka South Mangalore
10. Krishna-Godavari Vijayawada
11. Madhya Kerala Kottayam
12. Madras Madras
13. Madurai-Ramnad Madurai
14. Medak Medak
15. Nandyal Nandyal
16. North Kerala Shoranur
17. Rayalaseema Anantapur
18. South Kerala Trivandrum
19. Tiruchirapalli-Thanjavur Tiruchirapalli
20. Tirunelveli Tirunelveli
21. Vellore Vellore
Each diocese has a bishop. A Diocesan Council, consisting of
all presbyters in active service and lay representatives of
congregations and presided over by the bishop, forms the
policy making body for the whole church and meets once in
two years. The presiding Bishop of the Synod is called the
Moderator and is elected normally to hold office for two
years. He is the administrative head of the CSI.
The headquarters of the Church is located at Madras where
there is a Synod office.
(f) Missions and Committee,
For proper guidance of the life and work of the Church the
CSI Synod has set up various Commissions and Committees. The
following are some of the important ones:
(1) Ministerial Committee: which deals with issues relating
to the ordained ministry.
(ii) Theological Commission: which deals with questions
relating to the faith of the Church.
( iii) Liturgy Committee: for advising the Church on matters
relating to worship and orders of service for different
(iv) Board of Mission and Evangelism: for promoting
missionary outreach both within the CSI area and outside.
(v) Union Negotiations Committee: for negotiations with
other churches towards wider union.
(vi) Commission on Political Questions: for considering
issues of justice and peace from the perspective of the
Church's witness to the Gospel.
Order of Women and Women's Fellowship
Soon after the inauguration of the CSI, a religious Order
for Women was organized under the leadership and initiative
of Sister Carol Graham who had been a deaconess of the
Anglican Church before Church Union. The Order of Women has
both active members and associate members. The active
members take a vow of celibacy and are committed to observe
a rule of life and are engaged in some form of full time
In order to promote the participation of women in the life
and mission of the Church, a volunteer Women's Fellowship
has been organized. For both the Women's Order and the
Women's Fellowship, Vishranti Nilayam at Bangalore is the
The Church of South India supports five theological colleges
in South India, the United Theological College, Bangalore,
Andhra Christian Theological College in Secunderabad,
Tamilnadu Theological Seminary at Madurai, Kerala United
Theological College at Trivandrum and the Karnataka
Theological College at Mangalore. Candidates for the
ministry are normally trained in one or other of these
Mission and Evangelism
Apart from the evangelistic work of the different dioceses
within their own respective areas, some dioceses also have
missionary outreach in the areas of other dioceses. The
Indian Missionary Society, organised by the members of the
Tirunelveli Diocese, continues to work in Dornakal Diocese
among tribals, Hindus and Moslems. South Kerala Diocese is
supporting a missionary in Nirmal Mission in Medak Diocese.
The Madurai Ramnad Diocese also is participating in this
It has also opened another mission field at Etturnagararn in
Karimnagar Diocese. The Madhya Kerala Diocesan Youth
Fellowship has missionary work in the Parkal area of Andhra
Pradesh. The CSI also has an overseas missionary programme.
The first missionaries under the Synod auspices were sent to
Papua. The Rev. and Mrs. Satya Joseph were the first CSI
missionaries to Papua. When the continuance of this mission
was prevented by legal impediments imposed by Australia, it
was decided to send missionaries to Thailand to work in
co-operation with the United Church of Christ in Thailand.
The Rev. and Mrs. Paul Manickam were sent as the CSI
missionaries. After the death of the Rev. Paul Manickam,
Mrs. Manickam is continuing as a CSI missionary.
Enrichment through Union
Even though each of the uniting churches ceased to exist,
the experience has been one of death and resurrection to a
life greatly enriched through the Union. According to the
Governing Principles, "For the perfecting of the life of the
whole body, the Church of South India needs the heritage of
each of the uniting churches, and each of those churches
will, it is hoped, not lose the continuity of its own life
but preserve that life enriched by the union with itself of
the other two churches. The Church of South India is thus
formed by a combination of different elements, each bringing
its contribution to the whole, and not by the absorption of
any one by any other. It is therefore, a comprehensive
church". The Church of South India has in its life sought to
preserve whatever was regarded as valuable for the Universal
Church in the Anglican, Congregational, Presbyterian and
Methodist traditions. It is also the intention of the Church
of South India to conserve all that is of spiritual value in
its Indian heritage, to express under Indian conditions and
in Indian forms the spirit, the thought and the life of the
The CSI Synod Liturgical Committee has developed several new
orders for worship for different occasions. The order for
the Communion Service known as the CSI Liturgy has been
internationally acclaimed as an important model for new
liturgies. The Committee has also produced three different
cycles for lectionaries for daily Bible readings and "propers"
and collects for Communion services. The different orders of
service are put together in a Book of Common Worship. In
addition, the Committee has also brought out a Supplement to
the Book of Common Worship.
The Church of South India has been a member of the World
Council of Churches from the beginning and is represented in
several of its important committees and commissions,
particularly in the Central Committee and the. Faith and
Order Commission. The CSI also participates in the World
Reformed Alliance, the Wider Episcopal Fellowship, the
Lambeth Conference, etc.
In the constitution of the CSI in 'the section on Governing
Principles under the heading: "The Purpose and Nature of the
Union" it is said that "in every effort to bring together
divided members of Christ's Body into one organization, the
final aim must be the union in the Universal Church of all
who acknowledge the name of Christ., and that the test of
all local schemes of union is that they should express
locally the principle of the great catholic unity of the
Body of Christ". Because of this conviction at the very
first meeting of the Synod of the CSI, it was decided to
send an invitation to all other churches in South India for
joining in negotiations for wider union. The Baptists and
Lutherans accepted the invitation and Joint Theological
conversations were started. The Baptists withdrew after one
meeting. But the CSI-Lutheran Joint Theological
conversations continued and as a result of their
recommendations a Joint Inter-Church Commission was set up
in 1956, for working out a plan for a united church. This
Commission drew up a constitution for a united episcopal
church in which the CSI and the five Lutheran churches in
South India will come together under the name of The Church
of Christ in South India.
No definite action has been taken yet for implementing the
plan. Meantime the CSI has also had conversations with the
Baptists and Methodists. When the negotiations for the
Church of North India were going on, there was an
understanding that as soon as it was inaugurated the Church
of South India and the Church of North India would establish
relationships of full communion With each other and start
conversations towards union for becoming a united church for
the whole of India.
From csi Church site - J. Russel Chandran (Also see his
original contributions on the CSI in the St. Thomas
Christian Encyclopaedia Vol.I)
The Church of North India
"The Church of North India as a United and Uniting together
is committed to announce the Good News of the reign of God
inaugurated through death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
in proclamation and to demonstrate in actions to restore the
integrity of God's creation through continuous struggle
against the demonic powers by breaking down the barriers of
caste, class, gender, economic inequality and exploitation
of the nature."
The series of consultations, with a view to Church Union in
North India, began in 1929. Eventually on the "basis of
negotiations" prepared by a series of Round Table
Conferences a plan of Church union drawn up. A negotiating
committee was constituted in 1951 by the Church bodies
concerned - which were the Unwasited Church of Northern
India, the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, the
Methodist Church in Southern Asia and the Council of the
Baptist Churches in Northern India. In 1957, the Church of
the Brethren and the Disciples of Christ also joined in the
negotiations. The plan reached its fourth and final edition
in 1965 and, on that basis, the Church Union in North India
was inaugurated on 29 November, 1970 in Nagpur.
However, at the last moment, the Methodist Church in
Southern Asia Decided not to join the union.
The concern for unity of the Church grew out of a zeal for
the mission of the Church, because a divided Church could
not bear witness to the one Gospel and the one Lord in a
country like India with diverse religions, languages, races
and cultures. Through the process of negotiations and
prayerful seeking of the guidance of Holy Spirit unity was
achieved in the understanding and practice of the sacraments
of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the three-fold ministry of
Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons and in the organisational
structures of Pastorates, Dioceses and the Synod, Episcopacy
was received and accepted as both constitutional and
historic. Provision has been made for diverse liturgical
practices and understandings of the divine revelation,
provided that these do not violate the basic Faith and Order
of the Church or disrupt the unity and fellowship within the
A great deal of time, skill and devotion has gone into the
design of the badge of the Church of North India. The design
is by Frank Wesley, the well known artist.
The circle in which the whole badge is enclosed is a symbol
of eternity, for it is without beginning and without end.
Christians are always to line against the background of
eternity. They are among those who believe and remember that
behind the ebb and flow of things temporal, theres stand the
Dominating the whole design is the Cross, the universally accepted
badge of the Christian, reminding us of our Saviour, from
whom we take our name. It stands for self giving and
self-sacrifice, for patient endurance of suffering accepted
for the sake of others; and because it was the son of God
who thus suffered and died for us, it is a golden cross,
gold being the colour for godhead. Gold also suggests
victory, reminding us that the Cross of Christ is the symbol
of triumph, not of defeat.
The cross is set against a background of red, the colour of blood;
and this again is a symbol of sacrifice and self-giving in
the service of others. Red is also in liturgical usage the
colour which stands for the Holy Spirit to whom we must
still look for guidance. It is in the strength of the Holy
Spirit, and only in his strength, that the Church and the
individual Christian can hope to obey and serve God.
Behind the cross there is a lotus, dear to the heart of every
Indian, the symbol of the spiritual quest of India, which we
believe find its final satisfaction only in the cross, and
in him who died on it.
The lotus is also the symbol of purity rising in all its own pure
beauty out of mud beneath the water. This challenge of
Purity is reinforced by the use of white for the flower and
for the circle imposed upon it, "Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God."
Within this inner circle of white there is set a chalice, as used
in the Lord's Supper. Therein we receive sacramentally the
atoning and redeeming blood of Christ, and so it is
appropriately set against a background of red. But the
chalice itself is gold, for the sacrament is God's gift of
his own life.
The chalice is set at the vary centre of the whole badge, to teach
us that worship and sacrament are at the centre of Christian
living. God must be the centre of our lives. The first and
great commandment is to love God; and that love, coming from
a creature to his Creator, must find expression in worship.
But there is a second commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself." Therefore, lest our very worship should become
selfish and self-centred, we are continually to go out from
the worship at the heart of our lives into the world, and
use the grace we have received in the service of our
Last, but not least, as we move out from the centre, we come back
to the outer circle, and there we are given the three key
words Unity, Witness, Service. The Church of North India is
to seek and work and pray for the unity of all who bear the
name of Christ. At the same time she has to use the unity
which God has given her in order that she may more
faithfully and more effectively bear witness to her faith,
and may give herself to the service of all without
distinction, after the example of her Servant Lord.
We must be extremely grateful to Frank Wesley who gave us this
splendid badge. What a wealth of meaning and teaching it has
Priorities for the First Decade of the 21st Century
1. Re-juvinating Pastoral Ministry :
(a) To rediscover the identity and unity of CNI. (b)To build
worshipping communities with adequate pastoral care. (c) To
mobilize resources for support of Presbyters in the
dioceses. (d) To develop alternate form of ministry.
2. Evangelism within and without for costly discipleship
(a) Spiritual revival within worshipping communities.
(b) Embodying and exhibiting exemplary life-style.
(c) To become a missionary congregation.
3. Re-structuring the structure :
(a) To recapitulate and implement the voice of people
expressed through different Commissions, Boards for
re-visioning episcopacy, revising Constitution and
(b) Ensuring transparency and accountability in all levels.
4. Ministry of Service :
To help the marginalized communities for access to service :
education, social and health care through different wings
and institutions of CNI Synod and the Dioceses.
5. Solidarity with subaltern :
To express our solidarity in concrete acts with the
subaltern : Women, Children, Differently able, Elderly,
Tribal and Dalits.
6. Healing Communities :
To create healing communities through inter-faith and
intra-faith initiative for common action.
7. Equipping God's People for Participatory Learning
Process : (a) To reaffirm and reformulate theological
education for ministerial formation.
(b) To train the laity for ministry of witness and service.
(c) To facilitate ongoing in-service training.
LIST OF THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES
List of the Senate Affiliated Colleges
/ NAME / PLACE
1. ANDHRA CHRISTIAN THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE LOWER TANK BUND
ROAD, GANDHINAGAR P.O. HYDERABAD - 500 080. ANDHRA PRADESH,
2. AIZAWL THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE POST BOX NO. 167 AIZAWL - 796
001. MIZORAM, INDIA.
3. ALLAHABAD BIBLE SEMINARY 60/64, STANLEY ROAD
ALLAHABAD-211 002. UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA.
4. ACADEMY OF INTEGRATED CHRISTIAN STUDIES BAPTIST HOUSE,
UPPER KHATLA, AIZAWL - 896 001. MIZORAM, INDIA.
5. BISHOP'S COLLEGE 224, ACHARYA JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE ROAD
KOLKATA - 700 017 WEST BENGAL, INDIA.
6. BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE T. CHIKRI, PFUTSERO - 797 107
7. CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY K. P. ROAD, DISTT. K. K.
NAGERCOIL-629 001 TAMILNADU, INDIA.
8. CLARK THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE AOLIJEN MOKOKCHUNG-796 601
9. EASTERN THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE P.O. RAJABARI JORHAT - 785
014 ASSAM, INDIA.
10. FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY POST BOX 1 PATHANAMTHITTA
DISTT. MANAKALA, ADUR-691 551 KERALA. INDIA.
11. FEDERATED FACULTY FOR RESEARCH IN RELIGION AND CULTURE
C/O. ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY P. B. NO. 98 P.O.
KOTTAYAM-686 001 KERALA, INDIA.
12. GOSPEL FOR ASIA BIBLICAL SEMINARY POST BOX : 8
KUTTAPUZHA P.O. TIRUVALLA-689 103 KERALA, INDIA.
13. GOSSNER THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE MAIN ROAD RANCHI-834 001.
14. GUJARAT UNITED SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY I.P. MISSION COMPOUND
(NEAR GUJARAT COLLEGE) P.O. ELLIS BRIDGE, AHMEDABAD -
15. GURUKUL LUTHERAN THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE 94, PURASAWALKAM
HIGH ROAD P.O. KILPAUK CHENNAI-600 010 TAMILNADU, INDIA.
16. INDIAN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY 22, COLLEGE ROAD ITS NAGA,
AVADI CHENNAI-600 062, INDIA.
17. JOHN ROBERTS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY MAWKLOT UPPER SHILLONG
P.O. NONGLYER SHILLONG-793 009 MEGHALAYA, INDIA.
18. KERALA UNITED THEOLOGY SEMINARY KANNAMMOOLA P.O. MEDICAL
COLLEGE THIRUVANANTHAPURAM-695 011 KERALA, INDIA.
19. KARANATAKA THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE KACES HOSTEL CAMPUS
BALMATTA, MANGALORE-575 001 KARNATAKA, INDIA.
20. LEONARD THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE P.O. BOX NO. 36 JABALPUR-482
001. MADHYA PRADESH, INDIA.
21. METHODIST BIBLE SEMINARY STATION ROAD DISTT. KHEDA
VASAD-388 306 GUJARAT, INDIA.
22. MADRAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY & COLLEGE 13-14 WADDELLS
ROAD KILPAUK-6600 010 CHENNAI, TAMILNADU, INDIA.
23. MALANKARA SYRIAN ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
UDAYAGIRI, P.O. VETTICKAL MULANTHURUTHY-682 314 DISTT.
EMAKULAM, KERALA, INDIA.
24. MANIPUR THEOLGOCIAL COLLEGE M.B.C. CENTRE P.O. IMPHAL -
795 -1 MANIPUR, INDIA.
25. MAR THOMA EPISCOPAL JUBILEE INSTITUTE EVANGELISM P.O.
BOX 10 MANJADI POST OFFICE TIRUVALLA - 689 105 KERLA, INDIA.
26. MAR THOMA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY P.B. NO. 287 KOTTAYAM-686
001 KERALA, INDIA.
27. MENNONITE BRETHREN CENTENARY BIBLE COLLEGE DISTT. RANGA
REDDY SHAMSHABAD-509 218 ANDHARA PRADESH, INDIA.
28. NEW THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE SAHASTRADHARA ROAD P.O. KULHAN
DEHRA DUN-248 001 UTTARANCHAL, INDIA.
29. NORTH INDIAN INSTITUTE OF POST GRADUATE THEOLOGICAL
STUDIES (NIIPGTS) C/O. BISHOP'S COLLEGE 224, A.J.C. BOSE
ROAD KOLKATA-700 017 WEST BENGAL, INDIA.
30. ORISSA CHRISTIAN THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE SUNNY VALE
GOPALPUR-ON-SEA DT. GANJAM-761 002 ORISSA. INDIA.
31. ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY POST BOX NO. 98
KOTTAYAM-686 001 KERALA, INDIA.
32. SANTAL THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE BENAGARIA MISSION P.O.
BENAGARIA DISTT. DUMKA-816 013 JHARKHAND, INDIA.
33. SERAMPORE COLLEGE P.O. SERAMPORE DIST. HOOGHLY-712 201
WEST BENGAL, INDIA.
34. SOUTHERN ASIA CHRISTIAN COLLEGE POST BAG 755 5, COLLEGE
PARK MANOMANI AMMAL ROAD KILPAUK P.O. CHENNAI - 600 010
35. ST. ANDREWS THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE 54/1 BARABAGH MIRPUR - 2
36. THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE OF LANKA NANDANA UYANA PILIMATALAWA
37. TAMILNADU THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY ARASARADI, P.O. ELLIS
NAGAR MADURAI-625 010 TAMILNADU, INDIA.
38. TRINITY THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE POST BOX 168 THAHEKHU
DIMAPUR-797 112 NAGALAND, INDIA.
39. TRULOCK THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY CHURCH ROAD POST BOX 52
IMPHAL-795 001 MANIPUR, INDIA.
40. UNION BIBLICAL SEMINARY POST BOX 1425 BIBVEWADI PUNE -
411 037 MAHARASHRA, INDIA.
41. UNITED THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE 63, MILLER'S ROAD BENSON TOWN
POST BOX 4613 BANGALORE-560 046 KRNATAKA, INDIA.
42. UNITED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY OF MAHARASTHRA 1/A, PRINCE
OF WALES DRIVE PUNE-411 001 MAHARASHRA, INDIA.
[From the CNI Synodal Site]