St. Thomas Evangelical Church
|St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India|
|Founder||St. Thomas the Apostle|
|Recognition||Independent Episcopal Church, 1961|
|Headquarters||Thiruvalla Kerala India|
|Possessions||India, North America, Canada, Europe, Great Britain-London & Belfast, Middle East, Singapore|
St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India (STECI) is an Evangelical, Episcopal denomination based in Kerala, India. It derives from a schism in the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in 1961, and traces its ancestry before then back almost 2,000 years. STECI holds that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. Adherents believe that all that is necessary for salvation and living in righteousness is given in the Bible. The church is engaged in active Evangelism. The headquarters of this church is at Tiruvalla, a town in the state of Kerala which is the part of South India.
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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. While STECI is considered to be an episcopal church, it is the same time deeply influenced by Evangelicalism. Early leaders include Bishop Dr K N Oommen, Bishop P John Varghese, Rev P C Zacheriah, Rev Dr T C George, K.N. Daniel was the prominent evangelical leader.
Rev P I Mathai (Plavunkal Achen), Rev K O John, Rev C M Varghese, Rev P. T. Chandapillai, Rev P.T.Thomas, Mr.N.I Thomas Neduvelil Ranny, Rev K.C Paily had helped the church to focus on the mission.
Up to 1961, the church's history is deeply connected to the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, which evolved from South Indian Christianity's contact with evangelical British missionaries during the British colonial times. The missionaries facilitated the translation of the Bible into Malayalam in 1811. This was the first vernacular Bible in Kerala. Further changes introduced by the influence of missionaries led to a schism within the Thomas Christians and led to the formation of Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
Internal struggles in reformation ideologies between progressive and traditionalist groups in Mar Thoma Syrian Church led to a further schism. 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 gathered together at Bishop Abraham Nagar at Thiruvalla, in Kerala to form the new denomination. On October 22nd. 1961 which was a Sunday around ~8pm or so the name "Saint Thomas Evangelical Church of India" was chosen at a prayer gathering (for the purpose of choosing a name) In Alleppey, Kerala, South India at the residence of Rev. Dr. K.M. Ninan.
The Consecration of the Bishops – Ordination by Presbyters
After the inauguration service, two ministers of the new Church, viz: Rev. K.N. Oommen, Rev. P. John Varghese, were consecrated as Bishops. The Bishops were consecrated by the laying on of hands by presbyters an age-old church tradition of the native Malankara sabha and of that the old Church of Alexandria (1 Timothy 4:14), thus discontinuing the apostolic succession in its traditional understanding and demurring from high church attributes of its former self.
Hierarchy of St. Thomas Evangelical Church within the St. Thomas Christians divisions
- 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.
- The Church celebrates the two dominical sacraments viz: The Holy Communion and the Holy Baptism.
- Ordained ministry is exercised by three distinct Orders: Episcopa (Bishop), Presbyter (Kasseesha), Deacon (Semmash).
- Holy Communion is understood to be a thanksgiving in line with Zwinglian theology.
- The Representative Body of the Church is the supreme governing body, deciding 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.
The prominent leaders of the new church included Bishop K. N. Oommen, Bishop P. John Varughese, Rev. P. I. Mathai (Plavunkal Achen), Rev. P. C. Zachariah, K. N. Daniel, Rev. P. S. Varughese, Rev. C. M. Varghese, A. G. Mathew, Mr. K. Abraham, K. S. Joseph, Rev. K. O. John, Rev. A. C. Mathew, Rev. P. T. Thomas, Rev. T. C. George, Rev K.C Paily, Mr. K. A. Abraham, Rev. K. M. Ninan etc.
- Bishop Most Rev Dr C V Mathew (Presiding Bishop of the Church)
- Bishop Rt Rev Dr Thomas Abraham
- Bishop Dr T C Cherian
- Bishop Dr M K Koshy
- Bishop Rt Rev A I Alexander