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.
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