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 was possible.

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. Thomas.


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 Major Archbishop.

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 Christian Museum

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 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 and properties.

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 Communion.

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.

Location: India, small diaspora

Head: Baselios Mar Thoma Didimos I (born 1921, elected 2005)

Title: Catholicos of the East; Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan

Residence: Kottayam, Kerala State, India

Membership: 2,500,000

(From the CNEWA site)

Heritage and history of the Mar Thoma Church
From the official site of the Malankara Syrian Mar Thoma Church

The history of the Mar Thoma Church is divided into three main eras viz. 1. Pre-Reformation 2. Reformation and 3. Post Reformation.

Pre-Reformation Era

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 Madras.

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 Thiruvalla


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 independence.

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 traditions.

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 Malabar.

Malankara Throne

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.

Reformation Movement

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 Jesus Christ;
2. Cleansing of wrong ways of life, and
3. Taking up responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to other;
4. All importance be given to the primacy of the Word of God.

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 became common.

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 Era 990.

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.

Post Reformation

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 Malankara Church.

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 Episcopal Synod.

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 India).

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.

 The 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 tree.

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 tradition.

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 Major Archbishop.

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 sisters".

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 Kyrie Eleison.

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 Syro-Malankara faithful.

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 www.ewtn.com

History of 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 Episcopal church.

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 Great Biitain.

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 hands.

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 do so.

Ordained Ministry
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.

Administrative Structure

The administrative structure of the CSI consists of 21 dioceses. The following are the Dioceses:

Diocese Headquarters

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.

(e) Headquarters

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 occasions.

(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 Christian service.

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 Headquarters.

Theological Education

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 theological colleges.

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 mission.

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 Church Universal".

Liturgical Developments

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.

Ecumenical Relations

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.

Wider Union

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

Mission Statement

"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 Beginning


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 Church.

The Symbol...

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 eternal verities."

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 fellowmen.

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 for us!

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 decentralizing administration.

(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.

The Concerns

~~~Social Services

~~~Health Services




List of the Senate Affiliated Colleges

                                                      S. No. / NAME / PLACE











































[From the CNI Synodal Site]


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