Traces of the movement towards a union of Christian denominations (or churches) in India may be seen as far back as 1810 when William Carry called a conference of all Christian denominations at Cape Town for mutual sharing of missionary experiences on common problems. This movement became more visible in the famous International Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910, commonly acclaimed as the origin of the 20th century worldwide ecumenical movement. In India this movement began to take the concrete shape of “negotiations” for “organic unity,” or re-union of churches from the famous Tranquebar Conference of 1919.
The Church of North India is a united church which came into being as the result of a union of six churches on 29th November 1970. The six churches were: The Council of the Baptist Churches in Northern India, The Church of the Brethren in India; The Disciples of Christ; The Church of India (formerly known as the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon); The Methodist Church (British and Australian Conferences); The United Church of Northern India.
The Church of North India has a three-tiered organizational structure: pastorate, diocese and synod. A pastorate consists of one or more congregations under the care of a presbyter-in-charge. A diocese is composed of several pastorates under the pastoral care of the diocesan bishop. The synod is the highest legislative, supervisory and executive body of the Church of North India comprising all diocesan bishops, elected lay and ordained representation from the 23 dioceses.
CNI has 23 dioceses with over 3,000 congregations, and approximately 1.25 million members. Each diocese has a bishop. There are nearly 1,000 ordained ministers. The ordination of women came into existence in 1980.
CNI has about 12 degree colleges, 30 inter colleges, 150 secondary schools, 500 primary schools, three technical institutes, 2 agriculture institutes. It has nearly 61 hospitals and two nursing schools, which are taken care of by Synodical Board of Health Services. The Synodical Board of Social Services has been organizing and equipping people at the grass-root level to respond to present challenges.
The Church of North India is a full member of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the Council for World Mission, the Anglican Consultative Council, the World Methodist Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The Union has not meant uniformity or absorption, of one church by another. The United Church cherishes and is enriched and strengthened by the diverse spiritual and liturgical heritages and experience of the former six churches which united. The unity in the Church of North India is a unity in diversity.
This United Church is also a uniting church. In the words of the Plan of Church Union in North India, the former six uniting churches are seeking the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, earnestly desiring the day when throughout the world, there shall be one flock and one Shepherd. Soon after the 1970 union, the Church established full communion with the Church of South India and Malankara Mar Thomas Syrian Church.
The Church of South India is a United Church that came into existence on 27th September 1947. The churches that came into the union were the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, and the South India United Church (which was 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 total population in the church is about 2.8 million in 21 dioceses, one of the dioceses being Jaffna in Sri Lanka. We have 10,114 congregations looked after by 2,244 ministers, 2,103 full-time lay workers and other honorary lay workers. There are 1,930 schools, 38 colleges, 51 vocational training institutions, 104 hospitals and clinics and 512 hostels for poor children. Most of these institutions are located in rural areas and serve a large section of the community irrespective of their religion or caste.
We endeavor to share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of India through: the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus; responding to human need through
our institutions and through emergency relief work; striving to build a more just society through community development projects and skills training programs for the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the society; and, programs to care for God’s creation.
The Synod consists of representatives of the 21 dioceses and has its office in Chennai (Madras). The Synod officers are the moderator, deputy moderator, the general secretary and the treasurer. Each diocese is under a bishop and a diocesan council. The dioceses have a great deal of autonomy in initiating programs for evangelism, development and service. The Synod has several councils/departments to help the dioceses in their work.
We have a Women’s Fellowship, a Youth Movement and a laity Fellowship in all dioceses. An Order of Sisters is committed to a life of celibacy, prayer and service.
The CSI strives to maintain fellowship with all those branches of the church which the uniting churches enjoyed fellowship before the union. We are members 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.
We are also members of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the national Council of Churches in India, and the Joint Council of CSI-CNI-Marthoma Churches.
The Methodist Episcopal Church began its work in India in the year 1856, when William Butler came from America. He began work at Bareilly.
The year 1870 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Methodism in India. The famous evangelist William Taylor was invited to India to hold special revival meetings. It was this that changed the course of Methodism in India and led our church out of its provincial boundaries and made it a national factor.
The year 1870 is also remarkable in our history as the year that marked the coming of the first missionaries of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Two young ladies arrived that year: Isabella Thoburn, to start her wonderful work of education among India’s girls and women; and Clara Swain, to inaugurate medical work among the women.
We were, however, early led into an evangelistic work in the villages of Northern India that resulted in the baptism of large numbers of people from among the depressed classes. Thus started our mass Movement work, which has brought several hundreds of thousands of converts into our church in the rural areas.
In 1930 the Central Conference of Southern Asia elected Jaswant Rao Chitambar, as first national bishop, marking the beginning of a new era.
On August 15, 1947 India celebrated her first “Independence Day” making it a national holiday. The leadership of all departments of political life became Indian. In keeping with this, on the retirement of Bishops Pickett and Rockey on November 11, 1956, two new Indian bishops were consecrated, namely, Mangal Singh with his experience in schools and pastoral work coming from the Delhi Conference and Gabriel Sundaram with his years of experience in the educational work of the church. Thus all four of the College of Bishops for India were now Indians.
From October 31 to November 3, 1956 was celebrated the India Centenary of Methodism in Lucknow Christian College, marking the completion of 100 years of service. There was a stirring, instructive and inspirational programme ending with a very impressive Communion Service at which about 3,000 people partook of communion in unison and in solemn silence.
The Central Conference of 1976 resolved to consider the status of an Affiliated Autonomous Methodist Church in India with the United Methodist Church, USA. The Central Conference held on January 7, 1981 in Madras, did in fact reorganize the church and inaugurated the Methodist Church in India.
As the Church goes forward with its work a new era of vision and achievement has begun; we realize more fully than ever before the unchanging truth of the declaration; “Not by right, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” The theme of the First General Conference of the Methodist Church in India, “Looking Back with Praise, Looking Ahead with Faith.”
Aims and Objectives: The Methodist Church in India is the Body of Christ in and for the world as part of the Church Universal. Its purpose is to understand the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, to hear witness to this love to all people and to make them His disciples. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church exists for the proclamation of the love of God, the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers and the redemption of the world.
In furtherance of this aim, it engages in evangelical, educational, medical, social, literary, agricultural, socio-economic, vocational, technical, industrial and other activities which are in harmony with policies, doctrines and Articles of Faith of The Methodist Church in India.