Communion of Churches in India
The Communion of Churches in India (CCI) is a representative body of three mainline non-Catholic denominations in India: the Church of North India, the Church of South India, and the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The three churches are in full communion with each other. They accept each other's clergy, interpretation of the Bible, creeds, and mutually accept one another’s baptism, eucharist, and ministry.
Formation and History
Prior to 2004, the CCI was known as the Joint Council of Churches in India which constituted of the same member churches. The Joint Council of Churches was formed on July 4, 1978 after a 5-year study by a Joint Theological Commission of delegates from the member churches to explore possible areas of cooperation and unity.
In 1973, Theological Commissions from each of the three churches met to consider the matter. At the very outset, representatives of the Mar Thoma Church led by the present Metropolitan, Alexander Mar Thoma, made it clear that they had no intention to enter into an organic union with the other Churches which would involve merging of the three Churches. The Mar Thoma Church wished to explore possibilities of working together especially in the field of evangelization in India and other areas of cooperation in the fulfillment of the mission of the Church.
As the Mar Thoma Church has oriental traditions which it wishes to preserve, the Church did not want to lose its identity by merging with the other Churches. The C.S.I. and C.N.I. was formed by the merging of different denominations from the Western tradition and had less difficulty with the idea of again merging to form a new Church. Recognizing the need to work and grow together in the spirit of unity, all the three Churches agreed to form a joint council consisting of 30 representatives from each Church including five Bishops, ten presbyters and fifteen laymen (of which five should be women).
A constitution of the joint council was drawn up and sent to the churches for their approval. Any decision of the Joint Council would be binding on any of the constituent churches only when the church's supreme legislative body accepted the decision. The three churches considered the recommendation made by the negotiating body and accepted the constitution. Thus, the Joint Council was formed and inaugurated at Nagpur on July 4, 1978.
One of the recommendations made by the Joint Council to the Churches was the adoption of a common name for the three churches. This question was discussed by the different churches. The C.N.I. and Mar Thoma Church decided against having a common name. The C.S.I. suggested the name "Church of India." The Mar Thoma Church did not accept the suggestion to have a common name as a new church did not come into existence.
The Mar Thoma Sabha Mandalam (General Meeting) which met in May 1985 however resolved to recommend to the Joint Council that the Joint Council be renamed as "The Council of Churches in Communion - C.N.I., C.S.I., M.T.C.", in order to express clearly the bond of unity realized by the communion relationship among the three Churches. The Joint Council did not accept the recommendation.
- Aims to serve as a common organ for visible manifestation of unity, witness and service.
- Will assist the churches to address the issues affecting and threatening life.
- Will focus on issues of peace, justice and integrity of creation.
- Will explore new avenues to share and affirm God’s love through diakonia.
- Will seek other churches in India to consider joining this union
It has also appointed three commissions to explore the ways of working together: (1) Commission on Mission to find out the possibility of opening new mission centers in different language areas of India in cooperation with one another (2) Commission on Theological matters: to study the implication of closer relationships (3) Commission on Peace and Justice: to consider national and international issues pertaining to Justice and Peace and the response of the Church to such situations.
- Most Rev. Govada Dyvasirvadam, Presiding Bishop, CCI, Moderator, CSI
- Most Rev. P. K. Samanthroy, Moderator CNI
- Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, The 21st Mar Thoma Metropolitan and the primate of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
- Rev. Dr. D. R. Sadananda, Hon. Executive Secretary, CCI (General Secretary, CSI)
- Adv. Prakash P. Thomas, Hon. Treasurer, CCI (Treasurer, MTC)
- Executive Committee of 18 members including the chief executives of the three Churches
- Commissions and Committees to organise programmes and activities among bishops, pastors, youths, women, and children
- The CCI publishes a common Lectionary and Diary for the regular use of congregations and individuals each year
The second Sunday in November is set apart as Unity Sunday in all three churches to celebrate the unity that has been already attained, and local parishes are encouraged to conduct joint services.