Church of South India

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Church of South India
Logo of the Church of South India
OrientationUnited and uniting
Leader/ModeratorActing Moderator K. Reuben Mark
Leader/Deputy ModeratorK. Reuben Mark
Distinct fellowshipsChristian Conference of Asia,
National Council of Churches in India,
Communion of Churches in India
AssociationsAnglican Communion,
World Methodist Council, World Council of Churches,
World Communion of Reformed Churches
RegionAndhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Telangana and Sri Lanka
Origin27 September 1947 (Day of Union, not date of establishment)
Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu (Presently Under the Pastorate of Karaikal - Tranquebar, Tiruchirappalli - Thanjavur Diocese)
Merger ofAnglican Church, the Methodist Church, South India United Church (which was a union in 1904 of the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches), Basel Mission Churches in South India[3]
SeparationsAnglican Church of India (1964)
Anglican Catholic Church (1984)
Secondary schools2000 schools, 130 colleges[5]

The Church of South India (CSI) is a united Protestant Church in India. It is the result of union of a number of Protestant denominations in South India that occurred after the independence of India.[3][7]

The Church of South India is the successor of a number of Protestant denominations in India, including the Church of England; Church of India, Burma and Ceylon (Anglican); the South India United Church (Congregationalist); the British Methodist Church; and the Church of Scotland after Indian Independence. It combined the South India United Church (union of the British Congregationalists and the British Presbyterians); the then 4 Anglican dioceses of South India and one in Sri Lanka; and the South Indian District of the Methodist church.[8]

The Church of South India is a member of the Anglican Communion, World Methodist Council and World Communion of Reformed Churches.[9][3] It is one of four united Protestant churches in the Anglican Communion, World Methodist Council and World Communion of Reformed Churches, with the others being the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan, and the Church of Bangladesh.

Being a United Protestant denomination, the inspiration for the Church of South India came from ecumenism and the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John (17.21); as such "That they all may be one" is the motto of the Church of South India.[5]

With a membership of nearly four million,[4][5] it is the second-largest Christian church based on the number of members in India.



Four different church traditions were brought together in the CSI: Anglican, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Methodist. All these churches had been established in India through the missionary work of churches in Europe, America, and Australia, which had started their work in India at different periods from the beginning of the 18th century.

The Church of South India Scheme was the first practical attempt of its kind toward a union, on the basis of the following points enunciated in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:

  • The Holy Scripture of the Old and the New Testaments as containing all things necessary to salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
  • The Apostles' Creed as the Baptismal Symbol and the Nicene Creed as sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
  • The two sacraments, ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with the unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution and elements ordained by Him.
  • The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying need of the nations and people called of God into the union of His Church.[10][11]

The first three points could be accepted without any controversial question. But the fourth became contentious, as the Anglican Church maintained episcopal polity within the historical episcopate and believed that all its bishops and priests could trace an unbroken line of succession from St. Peter; whereas the rest of the churches in the negotiations conformed to other ecclesiastical polities and did not subscribe to the Anglican views on apostolic succession. After extensive dialogues, an agreement was reached that all who were already ordained in any of the uniting churches would be received as ministers in the united Church; provided all new ordinations after the union, would be conferred by episcopally ordained bishops of the united Church, with the imposition of hands. The intention was to introduce an episcopate in historic succession (from Anglicanism) into the new united Church and to ensure its maintenance in the future, by keeping all subsequent ordinations episcopal.[12][13][14][15][16]

The Church of South India as it exists today came into being with the perseverance and committed efforts of Rev. Vedam Santiago,[citation needed] who for a long period of time took leadership of the SIUC, the South Indian United Churches, which later, with the joint efforts of Rev. V Santiago[citation needed] and Bishop Azariah became the Church of South India.


The Church of South India union ceremony happened at St George's Cathedral in Madras on 27 September 1947, a month after India achieved its independence from the United Kingdom. It was formed from the union of the SIUC, (South India United Church itself a union of churches from the Congregational Presbyterian and Reformed traditions); the southern provinces of the (Anglican) Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon; and the Methodist Church of South India.[17] The inaugural service was presided by Bishop Rt. Rev. C. K. Jacob, of the Anglican diocese of Travancore and Cochin.[18] As part of it, nine new bishops, drawn from all the traditions, were consecrated to serve with five Anglican bishops already in the office.[18] Each new bishop was ordained with the imposition of hands by the presiding bishop, along with two more Anglican bishops (Rt. Rev. A. M. Hollis and Rt. Rev. G. T. Selwynthe) and six presbyters from the uniting Churches, also laying hands.[18] This reconciliation of the Anglican views with those of the other uniting denominations, on the doctrine of apostolic succession, realized in the formation of the Church of South India, is often cited as a landmark in the ecumenical movement.[19][20][21][18]

Rt. Rev. Dr. C. K. Jacob presiding over the Church of South India inaugural service
St George's Cathedral


The logo of the Church of South India consists of a Cross superimposed on a stylized Lotus flower in a white backdrop; around which the motto and name of the Church, is embossed.[22] It was designed by J. Vasanthan of the American College, Madurai.

The imposing central position of the Cross denotes the foundation of the Church and its faith, while its four arms of the same length promulgates equality. The Lotus flower, called Pankaj meaning "mud-born" in Sanskrit, has been of great spiritual and symbolic significance in India, since ancient times.[23][24] Its placement in the Logo, proclaims the indigenous nature of the Church of South India and its dependence on the grace of God, just as a Lotus that blooms at sunrise and closes at sunset, depends on the Sun. The stylized rendering, makes the Lotus petals simultaneously depict the fiery split tongues of the Holy Spirit. The motto of the CSI embossed on the logo, which is an excerpt of Jesus's prayer in John 17:21, is used as an inclusive affirmation of the need for the unity of all people.[25][22][26]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

The Church of South India is a Trinitarian Church that draws from the traditions and heritage of its constituent denominations. The Church accepts the Chalcedonian Christological Definition,[27][28] as well as the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. Both creeds are included in the Church liturgy as the profession of faith.[29][30] The Church practices infant baptism for children born in Christian homes and adult or believer's baptism for others. Baptized children are members of the church and share in the privileges and obligations of membership so far as they are capable of doing so.[31][32]

The Church of South India practices the rite of Confirmation, by which the confirmands (those being confirmed) upon profession of their Christian faith, obtain confirmation of their baptisms and thereafter, get to partake fully in the privileges and obligations associated with Church membership. Secondarily, this is also a coming of age ceremony. Confirmation is almost always administered by a Bishop with the imposition of hands and occasionally by a Presbyter who is authorized to confirm.[29][33][34]

Social issues[edit]

The Church of South India opposes the death penalty.[35]

In 2013, the CSI consecrated its first female bishop, Eggoni Pushpalalitha.[36][37] The Church of South India, since 1984, has allowed women's ordination.[38] Additionally, "it has taken up issues of gender, dalits and landlessness."[38][39][40][41]

In 2008, CSI supported the faction of the Anglican Church—Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON)—on the battle over allowing gay clergy.[42] Indian bishops sided with traditionalists on the issue of homosexuality.[43] The church does not ordain clergy who are active in same-sex relationships.[44] Also, CSI allows ordination of transgender persons as clergy.[45] In 2015, St. Mark's Cathedral, Bangalore hosted an event, co-led by the Rev. Vincent Rajkumar, aimed at denouncing homophobia.[46] CSI clergy, working with the National Council of Churches in India, also co-led a consultation speaking out against homophobia.[47] The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) listed the Church of South India as being among the Anglican provinces open to blessing same-sex couples.[48][49] In 2016, a seminary affiliated with the CSI offered a seminar on LGBT issues. "The Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in Madurai held a two-hour seminar on gender and sexuality..."[50] However, in 2023 the Communion of Churches in India, of which CSI is a part,[51] filed an application before the Supreme Court opposing petitions for same-sex marriage, writing that marriage is a divine institution uniting two persons of the opposite sex, and also writing to the President of India on the subject.[52]

Some dioceses of the church have confirmed that transgender persons may be ordained as clergy.[45] On transgender issues, the Diocese of Madras has a ministry specifically for transgender people.[53] In 2012, the denomination invited a transgender pastor to preach.[54]


The CSI Synod Liturgical Congress has developed several new orders for worship for different occasions.[55] The order for the Communion service, known as the CSI Liturgy, has been internationally acclaimed as an important model for new liturgies. The committee has also produced three different cycles of lectionaries for daily Bible readings and "propers", and collects for Communion services. In addition, the committee has also brought out a supplement to the Book of Common Worship.[55] Cherishing the reformation principle of worship in the native language, the CSI liturgy and church services are completely in the vernacular, in all the different South Indian states and Northern Sri Lanka, which comprise its ecclesiastical province.[56][57][58]

Observances and festivals[edit]

The important observances and festivals include Lent (including its first day, Ash Wednesday), Passion Week, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Thursday, Pentecost, Lammas and Christmas.[59]


The Constitution of the CSI is the key document that governs the administration and management of the church. It comprises 14 chapters detailing rules for the functioning of the Church at every level, from local congregations to the pastorate, dioceses and the Synod.[60] The most important part of the CSI Constitution is "The Governing Principles of the Church" which sets out 21 governing principles on which the other chapters of the Constitution and the rules contained therein rest. While amending any part of the Constitution can be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Synod, amending the Governing Principles requires a three-fourths majority.[61]


As a united Protestant Church, the Church of South Indian is a member of the World Methodist Council, as well as the World Communion of Reformed Churches; as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion its bishops participate in the Lambeth Conferences.[3] It also has representation in the Anglican Consultative Council.[3] Consequently, the CSI is in full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht[62][63] and the Philippine Independent Catholic Church.[64] It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Christian Conference of Asia and the National Council of Churches in India. Through the Communion of Churches in India, it is also in partnership and full communion with the Church of North India and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.

The Church of South India maintains close partnerships with the Church of Scotland, Episcopal Church of the United States, Methodist Church of Great Britain, Presbyterian Church in Korea, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, Presbyterian Church of India, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ and the Uniting Church in Australia.[65]


The church accepts the Lambeth Quadrilateral as its basis and recognises the historical episcopate in its constitutional form.[6] Like Anglican and most other episcopal Churches, the ministry of the Church of South India is structured with three holy orders of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.[66][67][68]


The church is governed by a synod based in Chennai and headed by a presiding bishop bearing the title of Moderator, who is elected every three years. The Right Reverend Dr. K. Reuben Mark, Bishop of the Karimnagar Diocese (Telangana), is now the Acting Moderator following invalidation of the election to the post of Moderator of the Most Rev. Dharmaraj Rasalam by the Madras High Court.[69] They were elected for a three-year term at the Synod meeting in Hubli, January 2023. The Moderator position is currently vacant and awaiting election.

The church runs 2,300 schools, 150 colleges and 104 hospitals in South India. In the 1960s the church became conscious of its social responsibility and started organising rural development projects. There are 50 such projects all over India, 50 training centres for young people and 600 residential hostels for a total of 50,000 children.[5]


The church is further divided into twenty-five dioceses, each under the supervision of a bishop, including one diocese encompassing Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The dioceses are governed by diocesan councils composed of all clergy in the diocese as well as lay people elected from the local congregations.[70] Each church will have representation in diocesan council based on their membership. The diocese is headed by the Bishop, who is a presbyter elected through the Diocesan Council. He is considered as the head of the diocese and all the institutions belonging to the diocese. Other than the Bishop, the following are the important administrative posts of each diocese:

  • Clergy Secretary: Manages all the activities of the pastoral & evangelical workers in the diocese
  • Lay Secretary: Manages all the lay workers' activities in the diocese
  • Educational Secretary: Manages all educational institutions and the workers of those institutions
  • Diocesan Treasurer: Manages all the income and expenditures of the diocese.

The Diocesan Council also consists of Diocesan Executive Committee, Diocesan Standing Committee, and Pastorate Committee.

Name Headquarters Location Bishop
(The Right Reverend)
Krishna-Godavari Diocese Machilipatnam Andhra Pradesh T. George Cornelious
Nandyal Diocese Nandyal E. Pushpa Lalitha
Rayalaseema Diocese Kadapa P. Issac Vara Prasad
Dornakal Diocese Dornakal Telangana Dr. K. Padmarao
Medak Diocese Medak Moderator's Commissary
Karimnagar Diocese Karimnagar K. Reuben Mark
Karnataka Central Diocese Bangalore Karnataka Moderator's Commissary
Karnataka Northern Diocese Dharwad Martin C Borgai
Karnataka Southern Diocese Mangalore Moderator's Commissary
East Kerala Diocese Melukavu Kerala VS Francis
Cochin Diocese Kochi Baker Ninan Fenn
Kollam-Kottarakara Diocese Kollam Moderator's Commissary
Madhya Kerala Diocese Kottayam Malayil Sabu Koshy Cherian
Malabar Diocese Kozhikode Royce Manoj Kumar Victor
South Kerala Diocese Trivandrum Moderator's Commissary
Coimbatore Diocese Coimbatore Tamil Nadu Timothy Ravinder
Erode-Salem Diocese[71] Erode Moderator's Commissary
Kanyakumari Diocese Nagercoil A R Chelliah
Madras Diocese Chennai Moderator's Commissary
Madurai-Ramnad Diocese Madurai Jeyasingh Prince Prabhakaran
Thoothukudi-Nazareth Diocese Thoothukudi Timothy Ravinder
Tirunelveli Diocese Tirunelveli A.R.G.S.T. Barnabas
Trichy-Tanjore Diocese Tiruchirappalli Dhanraj Chandrasekaran[72]
Vellore Diocese Vellore Sharma Nithiyanandam
Jaffna Diocese Jaffna Sri Lanka Veluppillai Pathmathyalan
Church of South India Dioceses and headquarters.
Church of South India Dioceses and headquarters.


Theological education[edit]

The church recognizes theological degrees granted by institutions affiliated with the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College. These include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Church of South India. 2010. Archived from the original on 14 February 2021. Retrieved 22 August 2020. The Church of South India is the result of the union of churches of varying traditions Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed. It was inaugurated in September 1947, after protracted negotiation among the churches concerned. Organized into 22 dioceses, each under the spiritual supervision of a bishop, the church as a whole is governed by a synod, which elects a moderator (presiding bishop) every 2 years. Episcopacy is thus combined with Synodical government, and the church explicitly recognizes that Episcopal, Presbyterian, and congregational elements are all necessary for the church's life.
  2. ^ Watkins, Keith (3 November 2014). The American Church that Might Have Been: A History of the Consultation on Church Union. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-1-63087-744-6. The Church of South India created a polity that recognized Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Congregational elements and developed a book of worship that bridged the liturgical traditions that came into this new church. It set up a plan by which existing ministries were accepted while including processes which would lead to the time, a generation later, when all ministers would have been ordained by bishops in apostolic succession. The Church of South India was important as a prototype for a new American church because two factors had come together: the cross-confessional nature of its constituent parts and the intention to be, in effect, the Protestant Christian presence in communities all across the southern territories of its nation.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Church of South India". World Methodist Council. 9 November 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2020. The Church of South India is a United Church that came into existence on 27 September 1947. The churches that came into the union were the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, and the South India United Church (a union in 1904 of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches). Later the Basel Mission Churches in South India also joined the Union. The Church of South India is the first example in church history of the union of Episcopal and non-Episcopal churches, and is thus one of the early pioneers of the ecumenical movement. The CSI strives to maintain fellowship with all those branches of the church which the uniting churches enjoyed before the union. It is a member of the World Methodist Council, the Anglican Consultative Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission, and the Association of Missions and Churches in South West Germany.
  4. ^ a b c d Team, CWM Communications (7 March 2018). "Member Church Feature: Church of South India (CSI)". Council for World Mission.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Church of South India International Resource Center". CSI Congregation of Great Lakes, Michigan. 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b "World Council of Churches – The Church of South India". Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  7. ^ Author:Sushil Mittal, Gene Thursby -Religions of South Asia: An Introduction
  8. ^ "". January 1948. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  9. ^ "The Church of North India (United)". Anglican Communion Office. Retrieved 17 September 2018. Along with the Church of South India, the Church of Pakistan, and the Church of Bangladesh, it [the Church of a North India] is one of the four United Churches.
  10. ^ Davidson, Randall Thomas (1920). The five Lambeth Conferences. London : S.P.C.K.
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  37. ^ "Meet India's first woman Bishop". Retrieved 6 December 2023.
  38. ^ a b M G Radhakrishnan (26 September 2011). "Rising cases of sexual abuse within the church in Kerala force clergy to rethink on homosexuality". India Today. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
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  43. ^ Nair, Manoj R. (27 May 2008). "No gay priests, please". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 5 January 2023. But a large group of conservative bishops who do not agree with the meeting's host, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams's liberal views on homosexuality and gay priests will defy him and hold an 'alternative Lambeth' next month. The Indian counterparts of the Anglican church, the Church of North India (CNI) and the Church of South India (CSI) have a conservative stand on the issue.
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  49. ^ "സവവരഗ രതിയം വിവാഹവം: ആംഗലികകന കമയണിയനില ഭിനനത രകഷം". Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  50. ^ "Awesome! This Tamil Nadu seminary is teaching pastors to accept the LGBT community". The News Minute. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
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  52. ^ Salam, Ziya Us (2 April 2023). "On same-sex union, faith leaders show rare unity". The Hindu.
  53. ^ "Church of South India | CSI Chennai Diocese | CSI Diocese of Madras". Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  54. ^ "Transgender in a fix over spiritual path - Times of India". The Times of India. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  55. ^ a b "Church of South India Liturgy: CSI Order of Services". CSI Congregation of Great Lakes, Michigan.
  56. ^ "Where worship began with Canarese hymns". The New Indian Express. 19 January 2017.
  57. ^ "Book of Common Prayer in Tamil (1885)".
  58. ^ "Anglicans Online: Books of Common Prayer".
  59. ^ Comparative Religion For Dummies. For Dummies. 2011. ISBN 9781118052273. This is the day Lent begins. Christians go to church to pray and have a cross drawn in ashes on their foreheads. The ashes drawn on ancient tradition represent repentance before God. The holiday is part of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian liturgies, among others
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  61. ^ The Constitution of the Church of South India. Christian Literature Society. 1952.
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  68. ^ "Orders for the Ordination of Deacons/Deaconesses; The Ordination of Presbyters; The Consecration of Bishops" (PDF). Church of South India: Congregation of Dallas. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  69. ^ Chandran, Cynthia (6 September 2023). "Madras HC annuls Bishop A Dharmaraj Rasalam's election as CSI moderator". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
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External links[edit]