St. Thomas Evangelical Fellowship of India
St. Thomas Evangelical Fellowship of India, now merged with St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 52. In those days, Ionians Greeks (Yavana), Romans, Arabs and Turks used to work as businessmen 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 and black wood, which were greatly appreciated, treasured, and sought after by the Europeans and the Middle Easterners. Thus, along with these traders, St. Thomas came to Kerala in 52 AD, on a merchant ship from the Middle East.
- 1 History
- 2 Office Bearers
- 3 Facts and legends about Christianity in ancient Tamilakam
- 4 Catholicism in India
- 5 Acts of Thomas
- 6 Work of the Church Missionary Society, the Malayalam Bible, and the Reformation
- 7 Basis of the Reformation
- 8 Mar Thoma Church
- 9 Anti-Reformists
- 10 Oppression and persecution
- 11 Mr. K.N. Daniel’s Endeavors
- 12 Pathiopadesa Samathy’s Activities
- 13 St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India
- 14 Attitude of the Mar Thoma Church towards St. Thomas Evangelical Church
- 15 Growth of St. Thomas Evangelical Church
- 16 External links
- 17 References
On 10 July 1965, Bishop John Varghese died and the Prathinidhi Sabha (Representative Body) of the church authorised the church council to take steps to consecrate two persons as bishops but the consecration was thwarted by the underhand dealings of a few council members. Hence, no person was elected at the special session of the representative body called for that purpose. This created tension in the church and Prathinidhi Sabha was dissolved as per the Episcopal election rules of the church. Even though a new Prathinidhi Sabha was constituted, it could not elect a new bishop to the church. To crown it all, the Prathinidhi Sabha and the council passed motions ex-communicating the only bishop in the church, the Most Rev. Dr. K.N. Oommen, in utter violation of the constitution of the church.
Thus after a few years, some members of the new church slowly decided to abandon and move away from its guiding principles. They wanted to abandon the Episcopal character of the church and move away from some of its fundamental founding principles. The violation of the constitution by the majority of the Prathinidhi Sabha and the council led the church to a stand-still. The St. Thomas Evangelical fellowship was formed in 1971 to ensure that the church adhered to its founding principles of keeping the 66 books of the Holy Bible as the foundation and authority for all spiritual matters of the Church and to carry out its service to the church members. The members of the Church who accepted the Most Rev. K.N. Oommen as the presiding bishop of the church formed a society under the Travancore Cochin Literary and Charitable Societies Registration Act XII of 1955, and got it registered in 1971. Even though a settlement to the disputes in the church was reached in 1974, it could not last because of the adamant attitude of the then ruling group in the church.
In 1977, Rev. P. S. Varghese was consecrated as the bishop of the fellowship. That was the only choice left for the faithful members of the church to safeguard the interest of the church as well as the Episcopacy of the church. The reformists who came out from the Mar Thoma Church decided this new church should be an Episcopal church. The fellowship made remarkable progress under the able leadership of Rev. P.C. Zachariah and leaders like Bishop K.N. Oommen and Bishop P.S. Varghese. Bishop K.N. Oommen was called home in 1984, and Rev. M.K. Koshy, who was the Secretary of the Fellowship, was consecrated as bishop in 1985.
A plot of land containing 2 acres (8,100 m2) and 65 cents was purchased for the fellowship in 1985, and Rev. P.C. Zachariah donated the present office building of the fellowship, which has an area of 6,000 sq ft (560 m2), in memory of his late wife, Mrs. Elizaba Zachariah. Rev. P.C. Zachariah and his children gave another remarkable gift to the fellowship which is the present auditorium that can accommodate nearly 1000 members - the Poozhikalayil Thomas & Mariamma Chacko Memorial Auditorium, as a memorial to Rev. Zachariah's late parents.
A Sevinee Mandiram (Women’s Home) was constructed with the help of our church members. Our women workers are unmarried and they are working in different parts of Kerala. A seminary in memory of our late Bishop K.N. Oommen was started in 1989. The foundation stone of the Seminary was laid down by Dr. Carl McIntire, President of the International Council of Christian Churches in 1987.
The Rev. P.C. Zachariah’s contribution in the formation and growth of the Church as well as the Fellowship is outstanding. After he was called Home in 1992, his children, Dr. Chacko P. Zachariah, Dr. Mammen P. Zachariah, Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, and Mrs. Mary George, donated their ancestral property at Trivandrum to the Fellowship.
After the death of Rev. P.C. Zachariah in 1992, there were some reconciliation talks with the ruling group in the church. At the end of the reconciliation talks in 1995, the Vice-President of the Fellowship, Bishop M.K. Koshy, along with a few Presbyters and their followers, switched sides and joined the dissident group. To strengthen the fellowship, Rev. A.I. Alexander was consecrated as the bishop of the fellowship in 1995. Bishop P.S. Varghese was called home in 1996. The disputes between the two factions in the church were settled in 2000, and the two sides have decided to function as two independent churches; viz. St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India (Fellowship) and St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India. However, on 25 December 2007, The St. Thomas Evangelical Fellowship of India merged with St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India. The St. Thomas Evangelical Fellowship of India will remain as a charitable organisation for the propagation of the Gospel.
- Mr Zacheriah George FCA, Kottayam
- Rev Joy Mathew
- Mr M J Mathew
Facts and legends about Christianity in ancient Tamilakam
||This section needs attention from an expert in Christian history. (September 2012)|
||This section possibly contains original research. (September 2011)|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
Some legends of St. Thomas were created during the Portuguese times. The Portuguese imagined that Namboothiris and Kingdom of Cochin actually supported by the Portuguese in 1503, founding a new dynasty existed in the Jesus Christ's time too. Portuguese imagined that the Syrian immigrants from Babylon at the 9th century AD practising Nestorianism were actually Namboothiri Brahmins converted by St. Thomas himself. Ancient Tamilakam including the presentday Tamil Nadu and Kerala was actually ruled by the Tamil Chera Dynasty not the Kingdom of Cochin. Namboothiris first appeared in the 7th century AD after the invasions of Chalukya dynasty when they migrated from Tulunadu. The Namboothiris migrated to Karnataka during the rule of Kadamba king Mayuravarma from Ahichatra in 345 AD not earlier.Sangam Literature written during the early first millennia never mentioned Christianity.Christianity was not a Known religion in ancient Tamilakam while Jainism and Dravidian Hinduism. Numerous Sangam Literature never mentions Syrian Christians in ancient Kerala.Tharisapalli plates at 825 AD was the first instance when Syrian immigrants signing in Hebrew, Pahlavi and Kufic. Very few Christians existed in Kerala prior to Fr Jordanus a French Dominican monk converted Hindus to Christianity at Quilon increasing the population to thousands.
While the Acts of Saint Thomas written by Jewish poet Bardaisan mentions clearly that Saint Thomas was martyred at Indus Valley or in the adjoining areas of Persia, the legends created during the Portuguese era state that he was martyred at Mylapore. Roman Catholicism was introduced by Europeans and it became the major religion of Kerala during the Portuguese era (1498 AD - 1575 AD). Most of the Kerala Christians were practising Roman Catholicism during that era. All the Portuguese settlements in Kerala and Tamil Nadu such as Mylapore Mattancherry Angamaly and Quilon housed large number of Christians. Vasco da Gama with his 150 Portuguese soldiers could protect the Kingdom of Cochin against Samuthiris. The descendents of Portuguese soldiers completely disappeared from Kerala. Some with physical features of Caucasian race such as fair colour, sharper features, Blue Grey eyes and big build randomly appear at Kerala contrasting with the indigenous dark Dravidian people since then.
The present Kerala State (named Kerala in 1956; "Kerala" means "the land of coconut palms") includes most of the former Travancore, Cochin, and 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 installed by Portuguese in 1503, 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. 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 (a necklace with a special cross) and the giving of a Sari - Pudavakoda or Manthrakodi - ("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 2nd 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, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims kept migrating to the Kerala coast even into the early 20th century.
In 345 AD, one Thomas, a prominent and wealthy Merchant of Cana (Syria - Palestine), came to Cranganore (ancient Muziris) in Travancore (now part of Kerala) with a group of 400 Persian Christian immigrants as their leader. In those days, many Christians left Persia because of the religious persecution of Christians during the reign of Emperor Sapor II of Persia (AD 310-379). Thomas the Merchant and his group were wholeheartedly welcomed by the kings and their subjects in Kerala, and were granted several special privileges. The people in Kerala started referring to Thomas, the Merchant of Cana, as "Syrians' Knaye Thommen". 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 Thomas of Cana joined the Malankara Christians in their Churches for worship. From thence in the 4th century, the 'Malankara Church' became known as the "Syrian Church" or the "Malankara Syrian Church" and its members became known as the "Syrian Christians".
Catholicism in India
In the 6th 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 16th 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 free of the yokes of Catholics. Thus after fifty-four years (in AD 1653) it was able to reassert its independence, 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 Real Presence (metousiosis), 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.
Acts of Thomas
The acts of Thomas written by Jewish poet Bardesan at 220 AD indicate that St. Thomas was martyred in Western India at Indus Valley at present-day Pakistan. The Acts of Thomas, sometimes called by its full nameThe Acts of Judas Thomas: 2nd/3rd century (c. 180-230) The Apostles cast lots as to where they should go, and to Thomas, twin brother of Jesus, fell India. Thomas was taken to King Gondophares the ruler of Indo-Parthian Kingdom as an architect and carpenter by Habban. St. Thomas spent the money allotted to him by King Gondophares for the construction of the palace to poor. When the king's seriously ill brother Gad convinced the king that he actually saw the palace built by St. Thomas in heaven for King Gondophares, the king allowed St. Thomas to leave the country. The journey to India is described in detail. After a long residence in the court at Taxila he ordained leaders for the church, and left in a chariot for the kingdom of Mazdei. According to the Acts of St.Thomas the Kingdom of Mazdai, in the Western India, Indus Valley, was ruled by King Misdeus. Parts of Indus Valley were then ruled by Persians called the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. Some Greeks Satraps, the descendents of Alexander the Great, were vassals to the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. The king Misdeus was infuriated when St. Thomas converted the Queen Tertia, Son Juzanes sister in law Princess Mygdonia (a province of Mesopotamia) and her friend Markia. The King Misdeus led St. Thomas outside the city of Calamina and ordered four soldiers to take him to the nearby hill where the soldiers speared St. Thomas and killed him. Syphorus was elected the first Presbyter by the brethren after the death of St. Thomas while Juzanes the prince became the deacon. The names of the King Misdeus, Tertia,Juzanes, Syphorus, Markia and Mygdonia suggest Greek descent or Hellenised Persian descent. There, after performing many miracles, he died a martyr. During the rule of Vasudeva I, the Kushan emperor, the bones of St. Thomas were transferred from Indus Valley to Edessa.
Work of the Church Missionary Society, the Malayalam Bible, and the Reformation
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 labour of the Rev. Abraham Malpan (Malpan means 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 emphasised 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 Colonel Munro, the then British 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 superstitions. 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 Mar 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 (the "presiding or chief bishop") 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 the Reformation
The changes made by Abraham Malpan (Malpan means Priest who is a scholar is Syriac language) 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 were expurgated:
- the prayer said by 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",
- 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".
- The declaration: "this Eucharist is sacrifice and praise" was expurgated.
- 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).
The following changes were made to the practices of the Church:
- 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.
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.
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 last 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. Abraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XVII) died in 1947 and Juhanon Mar Timotheos episcopa was enthroned as Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XVIII). 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 hierarchical 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 organisations.
The set-back that befell the reformists of 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 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. "But later K.N. Daniel return back to the Marthoma Church by fooling the reformists".
Pathiopadesa Samathy’s Activities
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 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 ("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 7 November 1960. The reformists were driven out of the churches which they had built with their own labour 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.
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 labour; and start building them all over again with no help from any quarter. Knowing all this and realising 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
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 26 January 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 the bishops and the laying on of hands
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.
Adherents believe that men are called upon by God to the ministry and set apart in the Church. They 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. The Church 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 AD 328, 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 till the time of Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria (A.D.328).—
The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India is an Evangelical and Episcopal Church. It has decided to stand as true Christian fellowship dedicated to preserve the real Mar Thoma Church and its original faith and doctrines. It holds the Bible as its sole basis and authority for all matters of faith and doctrines. It accepts the Nicene Creed and the two sacraments as they are in full conformity with the Bible. Christian charity will be the governing principle of its administration. Its 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.
The St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India is one of the branches of the Malankara Church (Kerala's Malabar Church) founded in AD 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.
It believes in the Triune (Trinity): God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
It practices the two sacraments instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ viz: The Holy Communion and the Holy Baptism.
It has three Orders in the Church: episcopa (bishop), presbyter (kasseesha) and 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. The Church denies 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.
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, Esq., Rev. P.S. Varughese, Rev. C.M. Varghese, A.G. Mathew, Esq., Mr. K. Abraham, K. S. Joseph, Esq., Rev. K.O. John, Rev. A.C. Mathew, Rev. P.T. Thomas, Rev. T.C. George,Rev. K.C.Paily Mr. K.A. Abraham, etc.
Rev. P.I. Mathai was the presiding presbyter at the consecration service of the new bishops at Thiruvalla, Kerala, India, on 26 January 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 and Mr. P.C. Chacko, 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 towards St. Thomas Evangelical 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 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 offence 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 St. Thomas Evangelical 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. Two hundred 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.
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.
- A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 By Stephen Neill
- Acts of St.Thomas, translation by M.R. James 1924 Gnostic Society Library
- Acts of Judas Thomas
- India and the Apostle Thomas: an inquiry, with a critical analysis By A. E. Medlycott p. 260
- Chandragupta Maurya and his times By Radhakumud Mookerji P. 28
- Greek Satrap of Indus Valley
- Acts of St. Thomas
- India and the Apostle Thomas: an inquiry, with a critical analysis By A. E. Medlycott, Page 152, page 153, 1905
- 'Lights and Shades of Christendom', by Bishop Pakenham Walsh: Vol: 1 Page 72