The Church of South India

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 24 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 3 years. Episcopacy is thus combined with Synodical government, and the church explicitly recognizes that Episcopal, Presbyterian, and congregational elements are all necessary for the churchs life. The Scriptures are the ultimate standard of faith and practice. The historic creeds are accepted as interpreting the biblical faith, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lords Supper are recognized as of binding obligation.

The emergence of the Church of South India from and out of several conflicting denominations and sects into one united Church was acclaimed as the second greatest miracle in the history of the Church, next only to the event of Pentecost which gave birth to the Church itself. Different Church groups from the West, which even to this day, do not have much in common, were able to leave behind their distinguishing differences, in order to forge themselves as one Church, with a distinct new identity as an independent Indian Church in the Independent India free from the “colonial stamp and mark” which it carried earlier. This significant move took place for a well considered purpose of Witness and Service by the Indian Church with indigenous resources. Through this, the Church of South India had provided to the worldwide Church, a model for meaningful ecumenical fellowship overcoming petty differences in faith and order and presenting itself as a matured Church with its own national identity.

Discussions concerning union had begun at a conference at Tranquebar (now Tarangambadi) in 1919, and in 1947, after India attained independence, the union was completed. The Church of South India has its own service book and communion service, both of which draw from several denominational sources. The union, especially in its reconciliation of the Anglican doctrine of apostolic succession with the views of other denominations, is often cited as a landmark in the ecumenical movement.

Formation

On 27th September 1947, the General council of Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, General Assembly of South India United Church and South India Provincial Synod of Methodist Church joined together to from the CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA as the largest united national church in India. The continued growth has been further enriched with the joining of the churches of Basel Mission and the Anglican Diocese of Nandyal. A unique church was born out of the blending of the Episcopal and non – Episcopal traditions as a gift of God to the people of India and as a visible sign of the ecclesiastical unity for the universal church.

The Church leaders had to deal with the variety of legal, administrative and theological issues. They also had to find solutions to the problems of property management, administration and leadership, jurisdiction and governance, acceptable Doctrine. Common Liturgy, Order of Ministries, etc. They had to arrive at a common Constitution and Bye-laws and set a democratic process of governance. And finally on the 27th September 1947, the Church of South India emerged as an Indian Church, bringing together with it Missionary Societies and Churches from four different denominational Church traditions namely, The Anglicans, The Presbyterians, The Congregationalists and the Wesleyan Methodists. This United Church also brought together in Communion, a large family of Christians superseding caste and class considerations. This fellowship was further enriched and enlarged as the Churches from the Basel Mission tradition joined the Union of the Church of South India later.

Commitment of The Church

Being the largest Protestant church in India, the CSI celebrates her life with Indian culture and spirituality and she also raises her voice for the voiceless on matters of justice, peace and integrity of creation. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the people of India through proclamation of the good news of Jesus; responding to human need through institutional and emergency relief work; through community development projects and skill training programmes for the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the people and programmes for the integrity of creation. Translating this vision and commitment, the Synod of the Church of South India as the apex body of the church endeavors to encourage, equip and empower her dioceses, congregations and institutions through varied ministries.

The Church of South India (CSI) – Today

The Church of South India spreads over the South Indian States of Andhra Pradesh, Telungana, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry. The Church also has a Diocese in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The Church has congregations in many parts of North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, in the different Gulf Countries and also in Singapore and Malaysia. The Church has over 4.5 million people as members in 15,000 congregations served by almost 3500 Presbyters of whom over two hundred are women Presbyters. The Church also has a woman bishop.

The Church of South India is governed and administered in the administrative districts known as the Dioceses. There are twenty four Dioceses in the Church of South India each of which is headed by a Bishop functioning under a common constitution of the CSI. Each Diocese is governed by its own Constitution and Bye-laws for the purpose of local administration. The Diocesan Council is the highest policy making Body. The Executive Committee of each Diocese executives the Policies and Programmes along with the number of standing Committees elected by the Council. The Standing Committees along with their sub-committees, their sub-committees take care of the various Ministries including the management of properties and finances within the Diocese.

The overall governance of the Church of South India vests with the Synod of the Church of South India which is the apex legislative and policy making body. The properties both movable and immovable are governed and administered through a Trust, known as the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA), which exists and functions under the authority of the Synod of the Church of South India. The Church of South India continues to grow. Many independent Churches appeal to the Synod Leadership wishing to become members of this great Church.

The Ecumenical Outlook of the CSI

The Church of South India is a worldwide fellowship. The Church is in partnership with worldwide ecumenical bodies. Thereby, the quality of its ministry is constantly enriched and its outlook widened. The Church of South India has been a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), Global Anglican Communion, Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS), Presbyterian Churches in the Republic of Korea, Uniting Church in Australia, etc. It has been partnering with worldwide service agencies such as ECLOF, Christian Aid, Compassion India, Episcopal Relief and Development, Bread for the World, KNH etc.

Special Thrust in Ministry and Mission

In order to provide a greater impact to special areas of concern, the Synod of the Church of South India has constituted Councils and Departments headed by a Director or a Convener to each of these Councils/Departments. The following Departments serve as special areas of concern in the CSI.
They are:

  • The Pastoral Concerns Department
  • Department of Mission and Evangelism
  • Department of Communications
  • Department of Dalit and Adivasi Concerns
  • Department of Christian Education
  • Department of Youth Concerns
  • CSI-SEVA
  • Ecological Concerns

Besides these, there are a number of other Committees in the CSI, promoting a variety of ministries.

The Women’s Fellowship

Right from the formation of the Church of South India, the Women’s Fellowship has been an integral part of the Church. The CSI Women’s Fellowship functions through the Diocesan and Area level Women’s Fellowships. The women are engaged in activities not only strengthening the ministry of the Churches but also involved in special ministries in the community taking active interest in Child Care, Women and Gender Issues, Concern towards Women in Crisis, etc. The work of the CSI Women’s Fellowship is co-ordinated by the General Secretary of the Women’s Fellowship.

The Order of Sisters

The Order of Sisters of the Church of South India is a special ministry of women called to a special way of life within the Church. Spinsters with a deep sense of commitment to a life of prayer and the study of Word of God constitute the Order of Sisters. They assist in the ministry of the Church in different Dioceses in several different ways as Pastors, Heads of Educational Institutions, in medical work, in Child Care work in special ministries such as work among differently abled persons, etc. The Order of Sisters is similar to the Order of Presbyters in the Church, respond to their calling to promote and strengthen the ministry of the Church.

The Church’s Commitment to the Community

As our Master Jesus Christ lived for others, the Church primarily lives and functions for the sake of others. It was Arch Bishop William Temple, who once said that Church is the only Organisation which does not exist for its members.

The foundation of the Indian Church rests on its ministries of Compassion and Charity. The former Chief Minister of Karnataka Sri S.M. Krishna once in public address stated: “When I tour around my State, whenever I see a Cross in some remote village or town, then I know that there is some good work going on there”. These statements aptly describe the services of the CSI to the Community. The Church of South India is one of the most significant social Institutions in the country providing quality education and health care to millions of people both in the cities and in rural villages and towns. The CSI administers and efficiently runs hundreds of Colleges including professional Colleges, Polytechnics including Polytechnics specially designated for women, High Schools, Primary and Middle Schools mainly to cater to the needs of the growing masses in cities, towns and villages. The Church of South India also runs Hospitals in many parts of the country. Large Hospitals do have a School of Nursing or a College of Nursing attached to them. The Church of South India has also ventured into special areas of service especially for the differently abled, deaf, dumb, blind, etc. It also runs residential schools for the orphans, semi-orphans and the poor and destitute. A special area of concern is the Child Care Ministry including the care for the children in crisis. Special efforts are also made to address areas of concern such as women in crisis including the traditional devadasis. The Church is ever alert to take up new challenges emerging in the community and is available to handle them compassionately and competently.