What was hailed as one of the greatest miracles ever performed by God in the first half of the 20th century was the church union movement in South India which eventually resulted in the birth of the Church of South India (CSI) on September 27, 1947.
The Provincial Conferences of the missionaries which were held during 1850’s, during which, missionaries from various parts of India participated, became an impetus towards the church union movement. The Centenary Missionary Conference, held in 1888 in London, which focused on issues such as Indianization, Self-support and Self-government encouraged the efforts of church union movement to gain momentum. The formation of the South Indian Missionary Association in 1897 and the periodical missionary conferences held under its auspicious also became a great leap towards the formation of the CSI. The South India Missionary Conference of 1900 held in Madras, where about 150 missionaries representing 45 different missionary organizations and a Christian community of 3, 50,000 participated, was considered to be a clear sign of their will towards co-operation.
The founding of various organizations and movements like Christian Literature Society, Christian Endeavour Convention, Young Men Christian Association, Student Volunteer Movement of India and Ceylon, Indian Missionary Society and National Missionary Society, which brought together different European and Indian Church Leaders of diverse denominations on a common platform and for a common cause, also was instrumental in the formation of the CSI. Some of the Indian church leaders who deserve special mention here are G.S Eddy, V.S.Azariah., K.T.Paul, C.J. Lucas, V. Santiago and A.J. Appasami.
Another major factor that led to the formation of the CSI was the evolution of South India United Church (SIUC) on July 24, 1908 which in itself was an amalgamation of the American (Dutch Reformed) Arcot Mission (AAM), the United Free Church of Scotland Mission (UFCSM), the London Missionary Society (L.M.S) and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), representing the Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions. Following the formation of SIUC, the famous World Missionary Conference that met in Edinburgh in 1910 which laid great emphasis on the need for united action and close co-operation among the different missionary bodies and churches in the mission field also contributed towards the church union in South India. In fact, it seems to have created a temper that was never again being lost.
The historical meeting which was held at Tranquebar in May, 1919 at the Jerusalem Church of the Lutherans, where the Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and SIUC were present, re-affirmed the need for unity among the denominations. After negotiations, the members proposed union on the following basis:
With great hope and great expectations, the Church of South India was formed at the St. George’s Cathedral, Madras on September 27, 1947. The CSI included the Madras, Travancore and Cochin, Tinnevelly and Dornakkal Dioceses of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon and the Madras, Madura, Malabar, Jaffna, Kannada, Telugu, and Travancore Church Councils of the South India United Church: and, the Methodist, comprising the Madras, Trichinopoly, Hyderabad and Mysore districts.
Today, the Church of South India has grown to become the second largest Church in India, next to the Catholic Church, with more than 4 Million members spread across the 21 Dioceses in the 4 South Indian States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu), 1 Union Territory (Pondicherry) and 1 Diocese in Jaffna, Srilanka. There are more than 15, 000 Congregations and 3000 Presbyters. The members of the CSI who hail from 4 Traditions (Anglican, Congregational, Methodist & Presbyterian) belonging to a number of communities speaking at least 11 languages (Bangada, English, Hindi, Kannada, Kongini, Malayalam, Oria, Singala, Tamil, Telugu & Tulu) are now spread all over the world as Diaspora communities in America, Australia, Europe and Middle- East Asia.
The ministries of the Church at the Synod Level are carried out through the following departments:
The Educational Ministry of the Church is carried out through more than 200 Colleges, 1800 Schools, 25 Teachers Training Colleges, 25 Polytechnics, 5 Engineering Colleges and 1 Law College. The Healing Ministry of the Church is accomplished through 60 Hospitals (out of which 35 are in the Villages), 1 Medical College, 22 Nursing Schools and 18 Para-Medical Institutes. Apart from these, there are at least 210 Boarding Homes & Hostels and more than 30 Institutes for Physically Challenged. The missionary outlook of the Church is very much evident in the hundreds of Mission Fields within and outside the geographical area of the dioceses, many of them being located in the North India.
Regarding the ecumenical commitment of the Church, the CSI continues to remain as a united and uniting Church, striving towards wider ecumenism engaging herself in various inter-faith and ecological activities. In fact, the Church of South India is part of a number of international and national ecumenical bodies, including WCC, WCRC, EMS, CWM, ACC, CCA, NCCI and CCI. The story of the people of God in the Church of South India is a testimony of how the Almighty has guided the Church through these years, growing in strength, receiving richer experiences, fuller life and greater participation towards building an alternative community, as a United and Uniting Church.
(As updated in NCC Review December 2012)
Rev. Dr. D. R. Sadananda
General Secretary, CSI
No. 5, Whites Road
P.B. No.688, Royapettah
Chennai 600 014 Tamil Nadu
Tel.: 044-28524166 (O), 28524121 (R)