The Full Wiki

More info on St. Thomas Evangelical Church

St. Thomas Evangelical Church: Map

Advertisements
  

Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:



St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India (STECI) is an Evangelical, Episcopal denomination based in Keralamarker, Indiamarker. It derives from a schism in the Mar Thoma Church in 1961, and traces its ancestry before then back almost 2,000 years. STECI firmly affirms that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. All that is necessary for man's salvation and living in righteousness is given in the Bible. It further affirms that the Church has a responsibility to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world, especially to India. The headquarters of this church is at Tiruvallamarker, a town in the state of Keralamarker which is the part of South India. The Church is going to celebrate her Golden Jubilee in the year of 2011.

History

The Christian Church in India was founded by St. Thomas, the Apostle of Christ, in A.D. 52. In those days, Arabs and Turks used to work as business men and merchants between India, the Middle East, and Europe. Europeans had no direct land or sea link with India. The merchants used to come to Kerala for trade — buying ivory, condiments such as pepper, cardamom, ginger, etc., and timber such as teak, rosewood, mahogany, sandalwood, black wood, etc. which were greatly appreciated, treasured, and sought after like gold by the Europeans and the Middle Easterners. Thus, along with these traders, St. Thomas came to Kerala in 52 A.D. on a merchant ship from the Middle East.

The present Kerala State (named Kerala in 1956; "Kerala" means "the land of coconut palms") includes most of the former Travancore, Cochin, & Malabar princely provinces. Then Kodungallore was the main sea port in Kerala. Upon his arrival, St. Thomas was received as a dignitary by the King of Cochin, a sea port in Kerala, India. Cochin was a powerful and prominent princely state at that time. St. Thomas explained his religion, Christianity, to the king. The king was impressed by his words and more by the prospects of expanding business by establishing new trade links. The King of Cochin, as well as the natives in Kerala, were very hospitable and accommodating towards Apostle Thomas and the visitors. Brahmins — the highest among the Hindu castes — were the only people who had any type of education. The communications of the king were carried out by the Brahmins. The legend has it that the King was so enamored with the new religion that he ordered sixty four well-to-do Brahmin families to join the new religion. The king gave prominence to the Christians in his palace and in his kingdom. The two dozen Christian families who had come with St. Thomas along with the local Brahmins constituted the first Church. St. Thomas converted many to Christianity, and eventually went to Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) to preach, and was later murdered by the natives at Mylapore near the city of Madras (now Chennai). He is buried at St. Thomas Mount, near Madras.

Thus the first Church in India was established on the Kerala Coast and became known as the 'Malankara Church'. Kerala is bordered on its north and east by the mountains and on its west and south by the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The strip of land — Kerala - lying between these mountains, the sea, and the ocean [consisting of Travancore, Cochin, & Malabar (Calicut or Kozhikode)] was known as 'Malankara' in the old days (Mala = Mountain, Kara = Coast). After the British came, they started referring to the region as the 'Malabar Coast' instead of 'Malankara'. Thus the ancient Malankara Church in Kerala was also called the 'Malabar Church'. From the Sun worshipping Brahmins, the ancient church adopted some customs; namely facing to the East (rising sun) when praying, tying "Mangalyasutra" or "Minnu" (means a necklace with a special cross) and the giving of a Sari - "Pudavakoda" or "Manthrakodi" - (means wedding dress) to the bride by the bridegroom at the time of marriage, etc.

As it was started with the Middle Eastern visitors and immigrants, a relationship to the Antioch Church was developed from the early centuries. From the second century onwards, the Churches in Kerala got their Bishops ordained by the Patriarch of Antioch. This system continued for a long period of time. Except for the ordination of Bishops, the Church was independent. For the first three centuries this church had no other contact with Churches outside. Middle easterners comprising of Christians, Jews, and Muslims kept migrating to the Kerala coast even into the early 20th centuary.

In the fourth century, many Christians left Persia because of the religious persecution of Christians during the reign of Emperor Sapor II of Persia (310-379 AD). Knai Thoma, a prominent and wealthy Merchant escaped from Persia and came to Muziris (Cranganore), Keralamarker in 345 AD, with a group of 400 Persian Christian immigrants. Knai Thoma and his group were wholeheartedly welcomed by the kings and their subjects in Keralamarker, and were granted several special privileges. In Kerala they are known as Kananites. One subsect of the present day Syrians in Syria are still called 'Knanaye Christians' and can trace their origins to this group of immigrants from Persia. The Persian Christians who immigrated with Knai Thoma joined the Malankara Christians in their Churches for worship. From thence in the fourth century, the 'Malankara Church' came to be known as the “Syrian Church” or the “Malankara Syrian Church” and its members as the "Syrian Christians".

Catholicism in India

In the sixth century the Syrian Church came under the influence of the Nestorians. Then in the 16th Century, the Portuguese, under Vasco de Gama, came to Kerala. Soon after the arrival of the Portuguese in India in the sixteenth century, this small church was brought under the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church. They forcefully converted the Church members to Catholicism. This led to the historical Koonan Kurishu Satyam, by which many members of the Church declared themselves out of the yokes of Catholics. Thus after fifty-four years (in 1653 A.D.) it was able to reassert its indepenence, though it lost a good number of its members to the Catholic fold.

The re-established Church consecrated Mar Thoma I as the Metropolitan by the laying on of hands of twelve presbyters of the Church. The Roman Catholic association, though brief, had left its indelible mark on the emancipated Church. However, this led to more dependence on the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch and his extremely Orthodox doctrines engulfed the Church. The Church came into close contact with the Jacobite Syrian Church of Antioch. As a result of this, some of the doctrines and practices of the Antiochean Church such as the doctrine of Consubstantiation, Invocation of Saints, Prayer for the dead, Traditions of the fathers and most of their rituals, gained firm ground in the ancient Church of Malabar.

Reformation

Church Missionary Society and the Malayalam Bible

Perhaps, the greatest event in the history of the Malabar Church was the publication of the Malayalam Bible, a glorious achievement of the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.), an arm of the Anglican Church of England. (Malayalam is the mother tongue in Kerala and is one of the major Indian languages.) The free and easy access to the Word of God and the influences of the C.M.S. Missionaries had already begun to produce results. Their mission work led to a revival and reform in the Church. Mainly due to the labor of the Rev. Abraham Malpan (Malpan = A Syriac Professor) and a few others, a movement was set afoot with a view to purify the Syrian Church, in light of the teachings of the Bible. He emphasized the place of "the open Bible", the message of sinners’ direct approach to God through Jesus Christ, and the importance of the worth and freedom of the individual. In a memorandum submitted by Abraham Malpan and his associates to Col. Munro, the then Bristish Resident in Travancore-Cochin, requesting his help and support, they stated what reforms were necessary in the Church. This was naturally resisted by the authorities of the Church which had by this time become steeped in ritualism, lifeless sacerdotalism, and even superstitutions. In fact, the only course open to the Reformists by then was to secede from the parent church.

The movement to separate was spearheaded by Abraham Malpan Achen (Achen means Priest) and Palakunnathu Mathews Athanasius (Bishop), who was excommunicated by that time thanks to the tricky dealings of Pulikottil Metran (Metran means Bishop) who wanted to declare himself as the Malankara Metran (means Presiding or Chief Bisop) with the support of some others in the Church. This led to the formation of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar which had by then lost all court cases (against these tricky dealings in the parent church) and started with just five and a half Edavakas (parishes). The Rev. Abraham Malpan accordingly made certain changes in the liturgy of the Holy Communion and other offices of the Church as some of the prayers of the liturgy were against the Scriptures. Today the Marthoma Church is a towering institution among Kerala Churches.

The Basis of Reformation

The changes made by Abraham Malpan Achen (Achen means Priest) in the liturgy for the Holy Communion and accepted by the General Synod of the Mar Thoma Church show the fundamental tenets of the Reformed Church enumerated below:

Expurgated all invocations to the saints.Expurgated all prayers for the dead.The following prayers of the minister while taking the consecrated bread in his hand, "Thee who holdest the extremities of the universe, I hold in my hand, Thee, who rulest the depths, I grasp with my hand", and after putting the bread into his mouth, "Thee, who are God, I put into my mouth", were expurgated.Instead of the prayer: "We offer into Thee, O Lord, this bloodless sacrifice (referring to the Eucharist) on behalf of Thy Holy Church which is in all the world", the following prayer was inserted: "We offer into Thee, O Lord, this prayer on behalf of Thy Holy Church which is in all the world", leaving out the words "bloodless sacrifice" and inserting instead "this prayer".The declaration that “Living Sacrifice is offered” (the reference is again to the Eucharist), was changed into: "living sacrifice, which is the sacrifice of grace, peace, and praise".Expurgated the declaration: "this Eucharist is sacrifice and praise".The declaration that “the Holy Spirit is the sanctifier of the censor” was removed.The note that the censor should be sanctified was taken away.The prayer: “Let Him (Holy Spirit) make this bread the life-giving and saving body of Jesus Christ”, was replaced by: “Let Him (Holy Spirit) come upon and make this bread to those who partake of it, the body of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and life everlasting”. (This clearly teaches the Receptionist Theory.)The prayer: "Thou are the hard rock which was set against the tomb of our Redeemer" (referring to the Eucharist bread), was replaced by: “Thou art that tested and precious hard rock rejected by the builders” (converted it into a reference to Christ).

Changes made to practices

It was decided that the Eucharist should be administered in both kinds.The practice of auricular confession and obtaining absolution from the priests was abolished.The practice of celebrating the Eucharist when there was nobody to partake of it was abolished.

The Mar Thoma Church

The new Church grew up as an independent, indigenous, episcopal and evangelical Church. Its sole basis for all matters of faith was the open Bible. The Church grew in strength extending its sphere of influence to distant places in India and abroad. The frequent spiritual revivals in the Church also played a very significant part in the development of the Mar Thoma Church.

Anti-Reformists

While the Church was making rapid progress in all spheres of its life, there was an Anti-Reformists group silently working its way up from the early decades of this century. A band of young educated men, who were opposed to the Open Bible and the evangelical tradition, slowly started to undo the work of the reformers and return to the orthodox doctrines of the former church.

The endeavours of the Anti-reformists group to shake the evangelical faith and doctrines of the Mar Thoma Church yielded results. With the consecration of one from the anti-reformist group as Bishop in 1937, it gained considerable momentum. Bishop Abraham died in 1947 and Bishop John was installed as Metropolitan Juhanon Mar Thoma. After this, the Anti-reformists gained the upper hand in the Church. Steadily and enthusiastically they went ahead with their programme of bringing the Church back to sacerdotalism. The reformists, a minority, felt that the essence of evangelism and the teachings of the bible were being set aside because of the newly adopted theological and hierarchal ways. The new ways included the adoption of new treatises put forth by the hierarchy in addition to the 66 books of the Bible as the foundation of the church. The Church was abandoning its core fundamental principles and the reason for its splitting away from its parent church almost a century earlier. Discontent, protests, and disenchantments developed among the followers of Metropolitan and the followers of the reform powers.

Oppression and persecution

Though the Metropolitan preached comprehension and toleration, he was not prepared to tolerate the reform movement. He was determined to see that faith of the reformed Mar Thoma Church was gradually but definitely wiped out and the Church eventually left with a different faith altogether. Those who held on to the reformed faith were denied all facilities to meet together or to strengthen their fellowship. They were denied all opportunities to occupy any position of influence in the Church or in any of its organizations.

The catastrophe that has befallen the Mar Thoma Church was the election and consecration of three persons of the anti-reformist group as the bishops of the Church. This was a calculated stroke against the faith of the Church since all of them wholeheartedly joined with the Metropolitan in his cause.

Mr. K.N. Daniel’s Endeavors

Mr. K.N. Daniel, one of the lay leaders of the evangelical group in the Mar Thoma Church, an eminent liturgiologist, theologian, an author of many books, a prominent lawyer, and a church historian of renown, published on his own several books and pamphlets about the dangers the Church encounters. Since all the efforts of the Pathiopadesa Samathy (see the section below) were not fruitful in turning the Church away from the clutches of the anti-reformists, he filed a court case for a declaration that the doctrines sought to be propagated by the Metropolitan and his associates were alien to the Mar Thoma Church. The Metropolitan used the civil case to get the anti-reformist doctrines imposed even more harshly on the Mar Thoma Church.

Pathiopadesa Samathy

Pathiopadesa Samathy was the group formed by the Reformists in the Marthoma Church to adhere to its founding principles. Up to 1958, Mr. P.S. George, an attorney, was the president of this Samathy. In 1958, Rev. P. John Varghese (Palakkattu Achen) took charge as the president of the Pathiopadesa Samathy and Rev. P.I. Mathai, Rev. K.O. John, Rev. C.M. Varghese, Rev. P.C. Zachariah, and very many others also began to participate in the activities of the Pathiopadesa Samathy. They conducted Bible classes and taught the fundamentals of Christian faith. They were not allowed to conduct these classes at the Mar Thoma Parishes. But the members of the Mar Thoma Church who sided with the reformists warmly and whole heartedly welcomed the above clergy and other leaders of the Pathiopadesa Samathy into their homes. They conducted classes in specially erected ‘pandals’ (means tents) in several places.

Their classes and fellowship meetings gave momentum to the reformists, and the Metropolitan and his anti-reformist group became very worried about the growth of the reformists. Suddenly, the Metropolitan and anti-reformists decided to ex-communicate four presbyters from the Church - Rev. P. John Varghese, Rev. P.I. Mathai, Rev. K.O. John, and Rev. C.M. Varghese. The ex-communication order was signed on November 7, 1960. The reformists were driven out of the churches which they had built with their own labor and money and were forced to hold their worship services in private homes or temporary sheds and tents or even under the shades of trees.

What could be done in this desperate situation? There were three choices available:To resign to one’s fate and remain silent in the Church silently holding to one’s faith.To resist constitutionally and when the right to do that is persistently denied, to resort to legal remedies, thereby contributing to tension and bitterness within the Church.To avoid all wrangles and come out peacefully leaving all the temporalities of the Mar Thoma Church and to revive the reformation Church in Kerala.

A costly decision

Realizing that the Church could not be saved from within, and that the evangelical reformed faith could not be maintained under the existing conditions, the reformists decided to follow the last of the three above mentioned courses.

The decision to separate was a very painful and costly one indeed. In every parish in the Mar Thoma Church there were members who were in sympathy with the reform movement. In some places the majority sided with the Reformists. More than 50% of the Church buildings, Seminaries, Colleges, Schools and other institutions in the Mar Thoma Church were built during the previous 25-year period leading up to 1961, and also mostly by the Reformists. Leaving the Mar Thoma Church meant giving up everything which they themselves had built with their money and labor; and start building them all over again with no help from any quarter. Knowing all this and realizing how much it would cost, the decision to separate was taken by the Reformists. This led to the formation of the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India.

St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India

Inauguration

The Reformists' leaders told the world that they were leaving everything, with no shelter and no roof over their heads and no churches to worship in, but only guided by the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His teachings and for reviving the essence of His church through evangelism and missionary work.

The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India was formally inaugurated on January 26, 1961. Over thirty thousand people drawn from all the different Christian denominations, from Roman Catholic to the Pentecostal gathered together at Bishop Abraham Nagar at Thiruvalla, in Kerala. Priests of the Roman Catholic, Jacobite, Church of South India, and the Mar Thoma Churches were present. Twenty presbyters who had been ordained in the Mar Thoma Church joined the new Church and declared acceptance of the faith in the Church and pledged allegiance to the new Church and its constitution.

Consecration of Bishops

After the inauguration service, two ministers of the new Church, viz: Rev. K.N. Oommen, Rev. P. John Varghese, were consecrated as Bishops in the ‘Church of God’.

An order of service for the consecration of the Bishops had been prepared. The Bishops were consecrated by the laying on of hands by the entire body of the presbyters representing the whole Church. They were guided and supported in this step by the word of God (The Acts 9:11-12; 15-18; 13:1-3; Romans 10:15; I Timothy 4:14; etc.) and by clear precedence in the early Syrian Church of Malabar.

We believe that men are called upon by God to the ministry and set apart in the Church. We also believe that in ordination, the Lord in answer to the prayers of the Church, assures and bestows on those whom He has called upon to lead His Church for any particular form of ministry, His sufficient grace and strength to carry out the ministry. We further believe that in all ordination and consecration, the true Ordainor and Consecrator is God, who in response to the prayers of His Church, and through the words and acts of its representatives, commissions and empowers for the office and work to which they are called, the persons it has selected. In the ancient Church of Alexandria before 328 A.D., presbyters used to consecrate Bishops.

“The twelve presbyters of Alexandria elected one of their number as Bishop whenever there was a vacancy and perhaps jointly consecrated him. This custom lasted up to time of Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria (A.D.328).” See 'Lights and Shades of Christendom', by Bishop Pakenham Walsh: Vol: 1 Page 72.

Founding principles

The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India is an Evangelical and Episcopal Church. We have decided to stand as true Christian fellowship dedicated to preserve the real Mar Thoma Church and its original faith and doctrines. We hold the Bible as our sole basis and authority for all matters of faith and doctrines. We accept the Nicene Creed and the two sacraments as they are in full conformity with the Bible. Christian charity will be governing principle of our administration. Our Bishops will not belong to monarchical hierarchy, but will be ministers of Christ, the successors of the humble Apostles who walked the shores of Galilee. But they will have powers and authority as provided in the constitution of the Church to which they owe allegiance.

Salient Features

The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India is one of the branches of the Malankara Church (Kerala's Malabar Church) founded in A.D. 52 by Apostle St. Thomas. The Church is Evangelical in faith and Episcopal in administration.The Church accepts the Holy Bible which consists of 66 Books of the Old and the New Testaments as the basis for all matters of faith and doctrine.The Church accepts the Nicene Creed which is in conformity with the Scriptures.We believe in the Triune (Trinity): God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.We practice the two sacraments instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ viz: The Holy Communion and the Holy Baptism.We have three Orders in the Church: Episcopa (Bishop), Presbyter (Kasseesha), Deacon (Semmash).The Holy Communion is a thanksgiving service to remember the death of our Lord on the Calvary and the elements used in the Holy Communion are the sign and symbol of the Christ’s Body and Blood. We deny the Transubstantiation Theory, Consubstantiation Theory, Localization Theory, the Spiritual Presence Theory, etc.The Representative Body of the Church is the supreme body which can decide on all the spiritual and temporal matters of the Church. The Presiding Bishop is the administrative head of the Church who is elected from among the bishops of the Church for a term of five years.

Prominent Leaders

The prominent leaders of the new church included Bishop Dr. K. N. Oommen, Bishop Rt. Rev. P. John Varughese, Rev. P. I. Mathai (Plavunkal Achen), Rev. P. C. Zachariah Poozhikkalayil, K. N. Daniel Kurumthottickal, Rev. P. S. Varughese (after Bishop Most Rev. P S Varghese), Rev. C. M. Varghese, Mr.Madathilparampil Mammen Mammen, Mrs. Mariamma Mammen, Adv. A. G. Mathew, Mr. K. Abraham, Adv. K. S. Joseph, Rev. K. O. John, Rev. A. C. Mathew, Rev. P. T. Thomas, Rev Dr T. C. George, Rev. K.C. Paily, Mr. K. Abraham Kurumbel Alunkal Kurudamannil (Ranni) Mr. K. A. Abraham Kurudamannil Kaippallilidathil, Mrs Mariamma Abraham, Adv. P K Varghese, Mr. P T Oommen Panangottu Bunglow Mukhathala, Dr S A Paul, Prof M G Koshy, Mr. P S George Alappuzha, Dr. N V Eapen Neduvelil Vazhoor, Adv Simon Mathews etc.

Rev. P.I. Mathai was the presiding presbyter at the consecration service of the new Bishops at Thiruvalla, Kerala, India, on January 26, 1961. Rev. P.C. Zachariah and Rev. P.T. Thomas were the first General Secretaries of the Church. Rev. T. C. George became the Treasurer of the Church. Advocate A.G. Mathew and others made remarkable contributions in framing the constitution of the Church. Mr. P.K. Mathew (Valakom) was in the forefront in the North Travancore region. There are other eminent evangelists who came out from the Mar Thoma Church viz: Mr. K.T. Philip, Mr. V.C. Zachariah, Mr. P.C. Chacko, Mr. K. K. Baby and Sevinees like Miss. K.T. Annamma and Miss. P.T. Mariamma. Mr. K.A. Abraham was the General Secretary of the Pathiopadesa Samathy and the Chief Editor of the Suvisesha Prakasini which was the organ of the Pathiopadesa Samathy. After the inauguration of the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Suvisesha Prakasini became the official organ (publication) of the New Church.

Attitude of the Mar Thoma Church

Upset that the Reformists left the Marthoma Church, the Mar Thoma Metropolitan issued his Bishop's Circular No.156 dated 14 February, 1961 which was printed in large quantities and sent not only to the parishes and every Marthomite but also to sister Churches and members thereof, instilling such passion and prejudice against the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India and its members. In his Circular he prohibited the issuance of letters for "publishing banns for marriage" to the Evangelical Church, the acceptance of such letters from the new Church, the "publication of banns of marriage" of couples if any one of them happens to be a member of the new Church, the marriage of women members of the Mar Thoma Church to members of the Evangelical Church, and the partaking in the services conducted by ministers of the new Church.

In the same Circular he ridiculed the consecration of the Bishops in the new Church. In addition, he prohibited the members of the Mar Thoma Church from partaking or co-operating or even attending any worship or sacraments conducted by the new Church and he defined such conduct as an offense involving forfeiture of his or her membership in the Mar Thoma Church and, further, he directed the Vicars in the Church to take disciplinary action against such members and to remove them from membership. This was followed by similar letters in similar tone, for circulation in foreign countries.

Growth of the Church

The members of the new Church had left all that they had in the Mar thoma Church and started vigorously to build up the whole new Church. 200 congregations with total membership of over 25,000 were formed. A small building was constructed immediately for the Bible Seminary. The Church could sent evangelists and women workers to almost every state in India within a short time. For mission work - a Board for Evangelistic Work, for women’s work - a Board for Women’s Work, for youth work - a Board for Youth Work, and for Sunday school Work - a Board for Sunday School Work, were formed. The Church made rapid progress under the able leadership of its Bishops and clergy.

It is worth mentioning that the membership of the new Church in the International Council of Christian Churches gave the new Church status in the international circle. Dr. Carl McIntire, the then President of the International Council of Christian Churches and its leaders came several times to the new Church's Annual General Conventions as speakers. The new Church constructed its Central Hall and office complex during early sixties with the help of Dr. Carl McIntire.

St. Thomas Evangelical Church is one of several groups of Saint Thomas Christians tracing their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle who, according to tradition, came to India in AD 52.STECI is the church that stands for biblical doctrines with its limited resource.STECI started their vision as walking by faith rather than sight and IN HIS TIME LORD who called the church helped to construct many new churches and new institutions.STECI is considered to be the last episcopal church evolved through the reformation of Churches in Kerala. God has enabled STECI to do the mission work in several parts of India.The vision of the early leaders like Rev P T Chandapillai ,Rev P.T.Thomas, Rev. K.M. Ninan,Rev K.C Paily Mr. Mathai John etc had helped the church to focus on the mission. According to tradition and historical records, St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, came to the coast of Kerala in south-west India and established seven churches. These churches continued to exist till the Portuguese came to India in the sixteenth century for trade and to establish colonies. Many of these ancient Christians converted to Roman Catholicism. But a remnant church continued to exist with a fraternal relationship with the Holy See of Antioch, often getting their bishops consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch and conducting their liturgy in the Syriac language.

This was the situation the evangelical British missionaries saw when they came to Kerala in the earlier part of the 19th century. With the help of local people they translated the Bible into Malayalam, the local language. Soon reformation began in the ancient Church of St. Thomas under the leadership of Abraham Malpan, a Syriac professor at the Seminary, who is often called the 'Martin Luther' of Kerala. He removed many of the customs, practices and doctrines from the Church. The reformers separated from the ancient Church in 1879 forming the Mar Thoma Church.

The new reformed Church marched forward with great success until a group of young people who were trained in liberal seminaries began to think that reformation had not gone too far. After the death in 1947 of Abraham Marthoma Metropolitan, who was a strong missionary minded and evangelical Bishop, the anti-reformation group gained upper hand in the hierarchy and the reformers were slowly pushed out of the Church. The reformers, under the leadership of K. N. Daniel, a renowned Church historian and Seminary professor, resisted the efforts of the anti-reformation group. An organization called Pathiopodesa Samithi (Organization for the Propagation of Sound Doctrines) was formed for the purpose of advancing the cause of reformation. A prolonged struggle ensued between the two sides. In 1961, when the reformers realized that they could not continue in the Mar Thoma Church, St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India was organized. The new Church had to leave everything behind. However, within a year, 150 parishes were established. The current presiding Bishop is the Most Rev. Dr.C.V.Mathew

The Purpose

“The Purpose: This Church affirms that the purpose and task of this Church is the stewardship of the divine Doctrines and teachings as revealed through Jesus Christ and proclaimed by the Holy Apostles and the maintenance of these teachings in their pristine purity and the development of the spiritual life of its members by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, all over the world and baptizing those who believe, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and making them disciples.”

The Fundamental Teachings

Principal Aim and Objective

St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India affirms that the purpose and work of the Church is the stewardship of the divine doctrines and teachings, as revealed through Jesus Christ and proclaimed by the Holy Apostles, and the preservation of these in their pristine purity, and the enrichment of the spiritual life of the members of the church.

The Uniqueness of the Bible

Our Church believes that the Holy Bible consisting of 66 books -– 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament –- is the sole authority for all matters concerning our faith and doctrines and that nobody has any authority to add to, or subtract from, the contents of the Bible. In other words, all questions regarding our faith and conduct have to be judged strictly in accordance with the word of God. We subscribe to the Nicene Creed because it is in conformity with the word of God. The uniqueness of an evangelical is that he/she will always stand within the squares of the 66 books contained in the Bible. This is all the more reason why we should study the Bible very carefully.

Missionary Commitment

While almost all the Churches believe in missionary work in one form or the other, our Church believes that evangelization (i.e. preaching, discipling, and Church planting) is the main task of the Church. Each one belonging to the Church, irrespective of his/her age or position in life, has to proclaim “the good news” and live as His witness. The task of proclaiming “the good news” should not be left to be accomplished only by a few full-time evangelists. Each one of us is duty bound to supplement the efforts being made by full-time gospel workers.

Salvation by Grace Through Faith Alone

Our Church believes that salvation can be obtained only by grace through faith and not through rituals and good work. When a person confesses his/her sins and believes that Jesus died for his/her sins and that God has raised Jesus from the dead for the salvation of mankind, he/she will be saved. This is not by any work but by faith. Salvation that is offered to the believer is to be preserved by continuously abiding in the Lord with “fear and trembling.”

Royal Priesthood

Our Church believes in the royal priesthood of all those who have accepted Christ. We believe that no bishop or clergy or other functionary of the Church can be infallible. All these functionaries are expected to abide strictly by the provisions of the constitution of the Church and the articles of faith expressly declared at the time the Church was constituted. It may be noted that while the constitution may be amended by complying with its provisions, no one has the right to change the above mentioned articles of faith.

Christ the Only Mediator– (Why do we not pray to the saints?)Our Church believes that every Christian has the right to communicate directly with our Savior Jesus Christ and no intermediary is necessary or permitted. The Bible teaches that Christ is the one and only mediator between man and God. Therefore, our Church strictly prohibits prayer to the Virgin Mary or the saints.

Prayer for the Living– (Why do we not pray for the dead?)Our Church believes that every human being has to decide, during his/her lifetime, whether or not to accept Christ. If any one fails to accept Christ during his/her lifetime, the position can in no way be rectified or improved by rituals performed or prayers offered by such person’s children or others after his/her death. The Church forbids prayer for the dead and, on the other hand, encourages intercessory prayer for the living. We should pray for, and try to help all living people around us that they may accept Christ during their lifetime.

Sacraments

The Lord’s Supper

Our church recognizes the Lord’s Supper and baptism, both instituted by Christ, as the two sacraments obligatory to all Christians. We believe that the bread and wine used in the Lord’s Supper are only the signs and symbols of the body and blood of Christ. We categorically reject the teachings that there is any mysterious or other presence of Christ in the bread and wine. The Lord’s Supper is a thanks offering instituted by the Lord Himself to be observed till His coming, for the faithful to proclaim His death, remember Him, and have communion with Him and fellowship with the other believers.

Baptism

Baptism is the sign of dying for our sins with the Lord, and of being resurrected with Him unto the newness of life, and a service of acceptance into the membership of the Church. Those who openly declare their faith in Jesus Christ should be baptized and accepted into the membership of the Church. Our Church believes that children of Christian parents (born again) are also part of the Church and this is the reason why parents are allowed to opt for baptizing their children. Baptism can be had only once and, therefore, a second baptism which disparages the duly administered first baptism is totally unacceptable.

Holy Trinity

We believe in the Holy Trinity –- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

In the personal return of Lord Jesus Christ with glory to judge both the living and the dead, andIn the final establishment of the kingdom of God in its fullness. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead -– the just will rise to live, and the unjust will rise to be condemned.

The Nicene Creed

The recital of the Nicene Creed is a significant aspect of our worship service. Sunday after Sunday we pronounce our faith, through the words of this creed. Along with our church, many Episcopal and non-Episcopal churches confess their faith in the triune God through the words of Nicene Creed. Therefore it is necessary to know the context in which the creed was formulated and its significance.Arius was a parish priest in Baucalis in the suburb of Alexandria. He was an eloquent and popular preacher. He was known for his piety and learning. He studied at the famous Theological school of Antioch under a venerated theologian, Lucian, who believed and taught the Christ was not the same substance with the Father, but created out of nothing by the Father. Lucian questioned the nature of Christ’s divinity and further stated that Christ is an inferior of secondary god. Arius was influenced by Lucian’s teachings and went on to challenge the accepted teaching regarding the word logos. He who assumed flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) was not true God but had an entirely different nature. To Arius Christ was neither eternal nor omnipotent. Christ was half-god or semi-god and not the eternal and changeless Creator. He was created out of nothing by the Father, who had no beginning. Christ, therefore, unlike the Father, had a beginning.The piety, scholarship and eloquence of Arius had drawn many followers to him. On the other hand, a dispute broke out a Alexandria between Arius and his bishop, Alexander. Bishop Alexander tried to correct his presbyter, but he was not a match for the ability and scholarship of Arius. Alexander then called together a council at Alexandria in A.D 320, the participants included several bishops and clergy who carefully considered the matter, condemned the teaching of Arius, and excommunicated him from his presbyter’s office. However, Arius had many followers and friends who supported his teaching both in Alexandria and in Antioch. Dispute spread beyond the boundaries of Egypt and resulted in disunity in eastern Christendom. Constantine, the emperor of Rome, saw the danger of a split in the church, and thought that such a split could compromise the unity of his kingdom; and so he wrote letters to Alexander and Arius and asked them to solve the problem and expressed his readiness to act as a mediator between them. When this effort was fruitless he sent Hossius, Bishop of Cordova in Spain and his ecclesiastical adviser, to Alexandria to settle the issue, but Hossius’ visit only deepened the problem. Therefore, he advised Constantine to call a general council of representatives from all of Christendom.The venue of the council was Nicea, a small town near Nicomedia, fifty miles east of Constantinople (presently Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey). More than 300 Bishops and Presbyters attended the council. There were even representatives from Eastern Churches, and others beyond the limits of the Roman Empire.The Arian view was presented at the council first by his seminary friend, also the Bishop of Nicomedia. This small group was convinced of the correctness of their understanding and all they wanted was a clear exposition of the logic of the argument, after which they were sure that the council would vindicate Arius, rebuking and condemning Alexander for his behavior and teaching.The group represented by Alexander believed and argued that Arianism threatened the very core of the Christian faith, and therefore it was necessary to condemn it. Most of the Bishops representing the Latin speaking Church had only a secondary interest in the debate, as it appeared to them only a controversy among the Eastern Bishops. They strongly believed and argued that in God, there were three persons and one substance.The majority of the Bishops who participated the council were not in favor of either group. They felt that the controversy could only divide the Church at a time when the persecution had finally come to an end and there were many other challenges to be discussed at the council. Finally Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, who represented the Arian view, explained their doctrine again in detail and asserted that the ‘Word‘ or ‘Son’ was a created being or a creature. Arian and his party expected victory for their side. However, the majority of the Bishops changed their attitude towards Arianism, didn’t allow him to continue his explanation, and shouted against his teaching. The council contempt Arianism and decided to agree on a creed that would express the faith of the Church.The Creed, which was formulated by the council, initially gives emphasis to the One and only True God, who is the Father Almighty. He is the Creator of visible and invisible things. Christians believe in the one and only God. The second part of Creed is the heart of it and gives a detailed explanation of the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. An extensive explanation was required because the issue of council was the deity of Jesus Christ. And the third part, briefly talks about Holy Spirit the third person in the Holy Trinity. The Creed was gone through several additions and editions without losing it’s main trust and has become the most universally accepted Christian Creed.The one who recites this Creed needs to understand that the main concern of the participants of the council was to reject any notion that the Son or Word (Logos) was a creature. The recite confesses the Son is “begotten, not made” which implies that the Son is being excluded from those things made by the Father. The keyword that was subject to much controversy was that Greek word Homoousios, which is usually translated as, “of the same substance”. Much discussion centered on this word because the majority of the participants wanted to convey that the Son was just as divine as the Father.It is always good to assess the practice of confessing the Nicene Creed every Sunday in our worship service. What is the rationale behind such a confession? When we look at the historical background of this Creed, and the early Church’s struggle we understand that the major problem the early and medieval Church’s faced was heresy of false doctrine, and not persecution. Early Church fathers like Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Augustine and Ambrose spend the major portion of their time defending the Christian faith, rather than administering the affairs of the Church. Due of the spread of heresy, they considered it the major responsibility of the Bishops and Elders.Over the centuries and even today, the Church faces the same problems – Apostasy of false teaching. All sorts of false teaching and teachers are creeping into the Church from different corners and also appeared from within the church. The effort of developing a doctrine out of one’s own experience is a major problem today. We also live in a country where majority of people believe and propagate that all the religions are the same. In this context, as evangelical Christians, we need to understand the significance of our faith. We need to see the Nicene Creed against this background, and make every effort to study it’s content may such a study strengthen our faith in Christ Jesus!

Administration of the Church

St Thomas Evangelical church has a well defined constitution and has a democratic pattern of administration. There is a 'Bishops' Synod’, a Grand Assembly known as ‘Prathinidhi Sabha’ (House of Represetatives), a council to aid the Presiding Bishop in administrative matters and a Vaidika Selection Committee, to select candidates for the ministry of the Church.Each diocese has its own council and a diocesan assembly.

All members of a parish will have Edavaka Sangham (General Body) membership and right of franchise to the Diocesan Assembly and Prathinidhi Sabha.

The title of the head of the Church is Presiding Bishop. He is installed from among the duly consecrated Bishops of the Church, the choice being ordinarily that of the senior most among them. His tenure is 5 years. Pathinidhi Sabha can extend his tenure if he is well enough to lead the Church. The present “Presiding Bishop” is the Most Rev Dr. C V Mathew who resides at Kumbanad and office at St Thomas Evangelical Church Headquarter at Tiruvalla, Kerala.

Liturgy and Worship Places

In 1961, with the approval of the Prathinidhi Sabha and the Synod, the church introduced a beautiful Malayalam liturgy. The liturgy has been translated into various languages including English, Hindi, Bengla, Tamil, Marathi and Kannada. At present, we have Worship in more than 20 languages of India, namely Malayalam, English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Marati, Gujarathy, Chatisgadi, and some other tribal languages. In Gujarat alone we have worships in 5 major tribal languages.

Neither icons nor statues are in the churches. Till the middle of 1980’s, all worshippers were seated on a mat spread on the floor. Now many churches provide chairs or benches, at least for the aged and having beautiful church buildings including parsonages.

Synod

Presiding Bishop- Bishop Most Rev Dr C V Mathew
  1. Bishop Rt Rev Dr Thomas Abraham
  2. Bishop Rt Rev Dr M K Koshy
  3. Bishop Rt Rev Dr T C Cherian
  4. Bishop Rt Rev A I Alexander


Vicar Generals

  1. Very Rev P T Chanda Pillai
  2. Very Rev P M Samuel


Dioceses

For administrative purpose, the Church is divided into five Dioceses.
  1. Diocese for Southern Kerala (HQ. at Valakom- Kottarakkara)
  2. Diocese for Northern Kerala (HQ. at Keezhillam,near Perumbavoor)
  3. Diocese for East- West Kerala (HQ. at Thiruvallamarker, Manjadi, 05 & Rannimarker Retreat Centre)
  4. Diocese for Bahya Kerala (HQ. in Mumbaimarker)
  5. Diocese for Bahya India (HQ. at New York, United States of America


Prathinidhi Sabha (Assembly)

:* Vice Chairman - Dr. P P Thomas, Valakom, Muvattupuzha


Office Bearers:

:* Sabha Secretary- Rev C K Jacob
:* Vaideeka Trustee (Clergy)- Rev John V John
:* Athmaya Trustee (Lay Trustee)- Mr. Thomas Varghese


Sabha Council members:31

Board Secretaries of the Church

  1. Evangelistic Board Secretary- Rev P C Samuel.
  2. Sunday School Board Secretary- Rev Kurian Sam Varghese.
  3. Youth Board Secretary- Rev K George.
  4. Sevini Samajam- Prof Elizabeth John.
  5. Education Board- Prof John Zacheriah.
  6. Suvishesha Prakashini Publication Board- Mr Thomas Varghese.


Affiliations

St Thomas Evangelical Church of India is a prominent member-church of Inter-national Council of Christian Churches (ICCC)[299838]

In India, the church is affiliated to INCCC (India National Council Christian Churches). Second National Assembly for 2009 from September 15 - 19 at the St Thomas Evangelical Church Fellowship Centre, Kadapra, Kumbanadmarker, Kerala

  • President of the INCCC: Bishop Rt Rev Dr M K Koshy (One of the Vice Presidents of ICCC)[299839]


  • General Secretary: Rev Joy Mathew Ayroormarker


Other Activities & Institutions

  • Jubily Memorial Bible college (JMBC), Chennai.[299840]
:Principal- Rev Dr John M Prasad


  • Bishop P John Varghese Memorial Bible Institute, Thiruvalla 05


  • Tyrannus Hall, Chennai.


  • Youth Centers -Keezhillam & Kottarakkara- Valakom.


  • Ashrams & Meditation Centers.


  • Camp Center:
St Thomas Evangelical Fellowship Centre, Kadapramarker P O, Kumbanadmarker , Kerala
:: President-Mr Zacheriah George FCA Kottayammarker
:: Secretary- Rev Joy Mathew Ayroormarker
:: Treasurer- Mr M J Mathew Thuruthikadumarker


  • Women's Home at Kadapra,Thiruvalla and several other places


  • Annual Events:
: - Annual General Convention, (January) Thiruvalla
: - North American Youth and Family Conference [299841].
: - Gulf Family Conference.
: - Bahya Kerala Family Conference.
: - General Camp for the Youths
: - General Camp for the Sunday School Children
: - Annual Fellowship of the Overseas returns
: - Baskyamma Fellowship
: - Sevini Samajam Summer Camp
: - Annual Clergy Conference
: - Annual Workers Conference (January)
: - Annual Tamil Conference, JMBC- Chennai


Institutions

  • Higher Secondary, Secondary, UP & Primary Schools
  • Boys Homes & Old Age Homes
  • 225+ Mission Fields all over India
  • Well Equipped official Choir


Mission Agencies under the Church

  • Hindi Belt Mission (HBM) for Hindi speaking states in India
  • Maharashtra Mission
  • Karnataka Jyothi
  • Orissa Mission
  • Andhra Mission
  • Gujarath Mission


Publications

  • Suvishesha Prakashini-(Monthly-Malayalam)
  • Evangel- (Monthly-English)
  • Yuva-Darshanam


Parishes

North America/Canada:Atlanta,Bergenfield,NJChicago,ILDallas,TXDetroit,MIHouston,TXNew York,NYPhiladelphia,PAQueens,NYToronto, CANADA

India:Around 250+ parishes across 17 states (Kerala, Tamilnadu,Karnataka, Andhra, Gujarathu, Maharashtra, W. Bengal, Delhi, Hariyana, UP., Jarkhand, Bihar, Orissa, MP., Rajasthan, Chattisghad & Uttaraanchal)

Mumbai:Bhandup,Borivali,Kalina,Kalyan,Panvel,Ulhasnagar,Vasai,Malad

Delhi & NCR (National Capital Region):Safdurjung,Khanpur,Faridabad,Vikaspuri,Mayur Vihar,Gurgaon(Mission Field)

Middle East:Dubai,Sharjah,Abu Dhabi,Baharin,Kuwait,Ras al khaimah,Doha,Muscat

Europe:London, New Zealand, Birmingham & Belfast

Far East- Singapore

Bishops, Clergy, Evangelists and Nuns (Sevinies)

  • Bishops: 5
  • Clergy: 110
  • Evangelists: 250+
  • Nuns: 55


For further Reading

  1. Daniel, K.N. Malankara Sabha Charitravum Upadesangalum. (Malayalam) (History and Teachings of Malankara Church). E.V.Press, Tiruvalla. 1924.
  2. Thomas, Rev. P.T. & Rev. P.C. Zachariah. It Happened in The Mar Thoma Church. 1991.
  3. Mathew N.M. Malankara Mar Thoma Sabha Charitram. (Malayalam), History of the Malankara Mar Thoma Church Vol II, Tiruvalla. 2008.


External links




Embed code:
Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message