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History

 

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) completed in 2004 ninety years of its service to the churches in India .

 

In 1855 Bengal missionaries from different denominations and societies had met in Calcutta for the first Provincial Conference in order to consider ‘questions connected with their common work', and this example was followed in other parts of India , particularly in the South. Several such local conferences were held during the last decades of the 19 th century. In 1872 the first National General Missionary Conferencewas arranged in Allahabad , and the venture was repeated in 1882 and 1892. These national and local Conferences were the foundations on which the National Missionary Council and its local branches were built. By 1900, it developed in to a common platform for meeting each other and discussing common concerns. These meetings did not metamorphose into united action.

 

The initiative to meet the demands of the hour came from the South. In 1897 a number of Anglican, Lutheran, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries in South India organized a South India Missionary Association the aim of which was ‘to provide means of consultation and of united action in the interests of mission work'. TheLanguage School in Bangalore , the United Mission Tuberculosis Hospital at Arogyavaram and the United Theological College are living proofs of the effectiveness of this organization. These results of unity in the South also inspired missionaries in Western and Central India and in Bihar to set up similar bodies, and these three Associations became the immediate forerunners of the later local Councils under the N.C.C.

 

The first decade of the 20 th century saw the beginning of the church union movement in India . In 1901 the churches under the American Arcot mission and the Scottish Presbyterian mission united into one. An All-India Presbyterian union followed in 1904. 1905 saw a union of the churches of the London Missionary Society and the American Board in South India , and in 1908 this church and the South India Presbyterians formed the South India United Church . The National Missionary Society founded in 1905 was also a united effort, drawing together Indian Christians from different denominations. The same was true of the United Theological College which was founded in 1910, and of the reorganization of Serampore College the same year. All this, however, was regarded by both Indian Christians and missionaries at that time as merely the initial steps. The first proposals for a united church in South India were published already, and some went even further, suggesting a National Church of India or a Federation of the Indian Churches. Two conferences met to discuss this plan, and the second of them held in Jabalpur 1911, adopted a long resolution, which among other things proposed the setting up of ‘a National Federal Council' and a number of ‘Provincial Federal Councils'.

 

The Federation never came into existence, but the proposed councils did. In 1912 John Mott, visited India on behalf of the Edinburgh Conference with the purpose of setting up such bodies as would strengthen and widen the cooperation between missions. His mission was successful exactly because the Church in India was not unprepared for such an initiative.