Church of South India

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Church of South India
Church of South India.png
Logo of the Church of South India
OrientationUnited and uniting
Leader/ModeratorA. Dharmaraj Rasalam
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 (CSI churches in North India are under the respective CNI bishops. CSI churches in Europe are under the respective Anglican Bishops)
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, predominantly following high liturgy, and is the second-largest Christian church in India based on the number of members. It is the result of union of a number of Protestant mainline denominations in South India after independence. Most of the churches in this denomination are Tamil churches and are widely spread across Tamil Nadu.[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 United Church of Christ (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 14 Anglican dioceses of South India and one in Sri Lanka; and the South Indian District of the Methodist church.[8] With a membership of nearly four million,[4][5] CSI is one of four united Protestant churches in the Anglican Communion, the others being the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan, and the Church of Bangladesh. It is a member of the World Methodist Council and World Communion of Reformed Churches.[9][3]

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). Just like the United Church of Christ (Congregationalist), one of their forebearer denominations, their motto is:

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.'

"That they all may be one" is also the motto of the Church of South India.[5]



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 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 Prof. 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, gets 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]

Regarding ordination and social issues, the CSI has a tendency to be more liberal than other churches in the Global South. In 2013, the CSI consecrated its first female bishop, Eggoni Pushpalalitha.[35] Likewise, relating to human sexuality, the CSI is more accepting of diversity of opinion. "The Church of South India (CSI) [is] a relatively liberal Protestant church which has, since 1984, allowed women to become pastors. 'CSI has been liberal on these issues. It has taken up issues of gender, dalits and landlessness. It has to address the issue of sexual minorities too'".[36][37][38][39] The church does not ordain clergy in same-sex relationships.[40] The church has confirmed that transgender persons may be ordained as clergy.[41]

In 2008, CSI supported the conservative breakaway faction of the Anglican Church, on the battle over allowing gay clergies.[42]

However, in 2015, St. Mark's Cathedral in Bangalore hosted an event, co-led by the Rev. Vincent Rajkumar, aimed at denouncing homophobia.[43] CSI clergy, working with the National Council of Churches in India, also co-led a consultation speaking out against homophobia.[44] Currently, the Church of South India is also listed as among the Anglican provinces open to blessing same-sex couples.[45][46] In August 2016, the CSI's publication expressed concern that the "Christian church and Christian mission to a large extent are homophobic. It has excluded the gender minorities from the church and its worship".[47]

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..."[48] The National Council of Churches in India, of which the CSI is a member, supports the legalisation of same-sex relationships in India.[49][50]

On transgender issues, the Diocese of Madras has a ministry specifically for transgender people.[51] Moreover, the CSI has opened up ordained ministry to transgender clergy.[41] In 2012, the denomination invited a transgender pastor to preach.[52] The CSI also published resources for special Sunday celebrations for transgender people including an invitation for transgender members to preach in churches.[53]

The Department of Mission and Evangelism of the CSI Synod stated their position that, "It is our bounden duty to declare our solidarity through the constant accompaniment towards the broken communities like Adivasi-Dalit, LGBTQ, and other less-privileged and underprivileged communities."[54] The church, via its monthly publication, has also taken a stance of solidarity with the Dalit community, women, and the LGBT community. One ministry, led by a priest, "took a session on 'working towards an inclusive Church' with special reference to the transgenders", and the church celebrates the "self-liberation" of the Dalit community.[55] Additionally, the church's publication stated that "the Church leaders expressed their concerns about the neglected people such as LGBT and those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS...[and] urged the listeners(Church Leaders)...[to] not only show solidarity but also moving beyond in accommodating them".[56]

The CSI also opposes the death penalty.[57]


The CSI Synod Liturgical Congress has developed several new orders for worship for different occasions.[58] 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.[58] 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.[59][60][61]

Observances and festivals[edit]

The important observances and festivals include Ash Wednesday, Lent, Passion Week, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension day, Pentecost, First Fruits Harvest and Christmas.[62]


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.[63] 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.[64]


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 and 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[65][66] and the Philippine Independent Catholic Church.[67] 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.[68]


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.[69][70][71]


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 new Moderator of the Church of South India is the Most Reverend A. Dharmaraj Rasalam, Bishop of South Kerala Diocese, since his election at the Synod on 11 January 2020.[72] The Deputy Moderator is the Right Reverend Reuben Mark, Bishop of the Karimnagar Diocese.[73]

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-four 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.[74] 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 A. C. Solomon Raj
Karimnagar Diocese Karimnagar K. Reuben Mark
Karnataka Central Diocese Bangalore Karnataka Prasana Kumar Samuel
Karnataka Northern Diocese Dharwad Ravikumar Niranjan
Karnataka Southern Diocese Mangalore Mohan Manoraj
East Kerala Diocese Melukavu Kerala VS Francis
Cochin Diocese Kochi Baker Ninan Fenn
Kollam-Kottarakara Diocese Kollam Oommen George
Madhya Kerala Diocese Kottayam Malayil Sabu Koshy Cherian
Malabar Diocese Kozhikode Royce Manoj Kumar Victor
South Kerala Diocese Trivandrum Dharmaraj Rasalam
Coimbatore Diocese Coimbatore Tamil Nadu Timothy Ravinder
Kanyakumari Diocese Nagercoil A R Chelliah
Madras Diocese Chennai Jayaraj George Stephen
Madurai-Ramnad Diocese Madurai Jeyasingh Prince Prabhakaran
Thoothukudi-Nazareth Diocese Thoothukudi Timothy Ravinder (Moderator's Commissary)
Tirunelveli Diocese Tirunelveli A.R.G.S.T. Barnabas
Trichy-Tanjore Diocese Tiruchirappalli Dhanraj Chandrasekaran[75]
Vellore Diocese Vellore Sharma Nithiyanandam
Jaffna Diocese Jaffna Sri Lanka Daniel Thiagarajah
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. 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.
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  7. ^ Author:Sushil Mittal, Gene Thursby -Religions of South Asia: An Introduction
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External links[edit]