Church Of South India
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 1960 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:
3. East Kerala Melukavumattom
Vaddukoddai, Sri Lanka
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.
headquarters of the Church is located at Madras where there is a
(f) Missions and Committee,
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
(1) Ministerial Committee: which deals with issues relating to the ordained
(ii) Theological Commission: which deals with questions relating to the
faith of the Church.
Liturgy Committee: for advising the Church on matters relating to
worship and orders of service for different occasions.
of Mission and Evangelism: for
promoting missionary outreach both within the CSI area
Union Negotiations Committee: for
negotiations with other churches towards wider union.
Commission on Political
considering issues of justice and peace from the perspective of the Church's
witness to the Gospel.
(g) Order of
Women and Women's Fellowship
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.
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.
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.
(i) Mission and
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.
(j) 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".
(k) 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
(1) Ecumenical Relations
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,
(m) Wider Union
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
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 A Brief History and
Interpretation By J. Russell Chandran
A Brief History and Interpretation
By J. Russell Chandran