Reformed Orthodoxy (Eastern Christianity)
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The term Reformed Orthodoxy is given to an attempted Protestant Reformation of the Orthodox Christian beliefs and practices of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches. Presently the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, the Believers Eastern Church, the Evangelical Baptist Union of Georgia, Society for Eastern Rite Anglicanism, Evangelical Orthodox Church, Assyrian Evangelical Church, and the Assyrian Pentecostal Church are revised according to Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant reforms, respectively.
Malankara Church Reformation
The reformation in Malankara church was started by Abraham Malpan who was an influential priest and a leader among reformists of the church. Malankara church has been under different faith streams from time to time. Christianity sprouted in India due to missionary activity of St Thomas. Until the 15th century, the Malankara church received bishops from Persia, Alexandria and Antioch. However in 1499, there was a forceful attempt by the Portuguese and Jesuits missionaries through the synod of Diamper to enforce the Roman Catholic beliefs and practices upon Malankara church. Abraham Malpan, Kaithayil Gheevarghese Malapan and a large number of like-minded priests of Malankara church started to abandon many practices and faith. Abraham Malpan was a priest and a Syriac professor in Kottayam. British missionaries brought the printed Bible to India in the 1850s and he thought of changing the unholy things in the church. The church was following so many rituals and beliefs which were introduced by the Catholics in 16th century and later the Jacobites. He wanted to bring back the old faith and practices which was prevalent prior to the arrival of Catholicism in Malankara. This led to a rift in the church, one party supporting the reformation and other party opposing it. In due course, those who supported the reformation evolved as a separate identity and resulted in formation of Mar Thoma Syrian Church. He sent his nephew Deacon Mathew to Syria to be ordained as an episcopa Palakkunnathu Mathews Mar Athanasious. Abraham Malpan had no intentions of creating a new church but to reform the church. Presently the church is headed by Joseph Mar Thoma the title Mar Thoma means successor of St. Thomas (Malankara Orthodox church started to use the title in mid 1970s) Metropolitan. The church has more than 1,500 parishes worldwide and has 850,000 members. It is in full communion with the Anglican Communion and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church. It also has a growing ecumenical relationship with the Indian Orthodox Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Latin Catholic Church but has no special relationship or communion with any of those churches. The Mar Thoma Church has preserved, but altered parts of its west Syriac Rite liturgy, elements, etc. to conform to reformation principles and the Bible.
Most prominent elements in the Reformation of the traditional Indian Church were:
- Icons, pictures, statues, and drawings of saints were removed from homes, churches, and places of worship.
- All prayers, worship and devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints were omitted.
- All prayer requests to the dead and prayers to uplift the dead from sin and suffering were omitted.
- Insisted that Sunday services are to be held in a reverent and spiritual way. During that time reading and expounding scriptures is to be done.
- Conducted worship services, including Holy Communion only in the mother tongue, Malayalam.
- Holy Communion was not celebrated when there were none to receive.
- Mandated that communion under both kinds should be distributed separately.
- Considered the practice of praying for the dead and of doing obeisance at their graves with lighted candles as abhorrent.
- Intercession of saints and prayers for the dead were discarded.
- Auricular confession was discontinued.
- Believed that those who come for confession should ask for forgiveness with fasting and prayer, instead of offering oil, incense and candles.
- Insisted that bishops should ordain only candidates who have been examined by them and the malpans (Meaning:- Syriac scholars).
- Repudiated the custom of smearing charcoal on the forehead on Ash Wednesday.
Saint Thomas Evangelical Church of India
The 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.
The Byzantine Rite Lutheranism refers to Lutheran Churches, such as those of Ukraine and Slovenia, that use a form of the Byzantine Rite as their liturgy. It is unique in that it is based on the Eastern Christian rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, while incorporating theology from the Divine Service contained in the Formula Missae, the base texts for Lutheran liturgics in the West.
Hybridizing Western Evangelicalism with Eastern Byzantine traditions
The Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) is only Reform Orthodox denomination that got its origins reverse as The Campus Crusade missionary Peter E. Gillquist (1938–2012) who established in 1973 a network of house churches throughout the United States, aiming to restore a primitive form of Christianity. Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, and J.R. Ballew stood in a circle and self-ordained each other while creating an religious denomination called the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO).
Researching the historical basis of the Christian faith, Gillquist and his colleagues found sources for this restoration in the writings of the early Church Fathers. This led the group to practice a more liturgical form of worship than in their previous evangelical background. In 1977, the first contact with the Eastern Orthodox Church was initiated through Orthodox seminarian and former Berkeley-Christian World Liberation Front member (Karl) John Bartke, who introduced them to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1979, the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) was organized. Some of the member clergy and communities of the NCAO left prior to its transition to the EOC, including those communities which now form the Alliance for Renewal Churches, and former Apostle Elbert Eugene Spriggs, who founded the Twelve Tribes communities.