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Ecumenism in Praxis

A Historical Critique of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church


Joseph Daniel

The Malankara Mar Thoma Church’s ecumenical outlook – marked by twin facets of openness and autonomy – has been the underlying ethos guiding its history, helping it to establish a unique identity. The book retells the church’s ecumenical history dating back to its founding in 52 CE. This study throws ample light on the period between the significant changes of 1889 and the present times. It deals with questions such as: How did the church start practising an ecumenical outlook even before the word ecumenism was coined? Could this have resulted from the church’s interaction with Indian culture that upholds unity in diversity?
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Chapter VII


Blending Hindu, Christian Ascetism

The outlook of openness that the Mar Thoma Church has followed since its inception meant the church could accept, embrace and internalize the monastic traits that prevails in other religions as well as in other Christian denominations. This was dealt with in some length in the previous chapter that describes how this openness helped the church develop an indigenous mission culture that gave rise to a partnership with NMS in the North Kanara Mission. That mission was to later take the form of an ashram, that effectively mixed concepts from the Hindu, Roman Catholic and Protestant monastic movements.

This chapter reviews the historical evolution of the ashram movement in the Hindu, Roman Catholic and Protestant streams and how the church was able to synthesise the ascetic principles in these streams to develop its own brand of monasteries.

The ashram movement, as we mentioned in the last chapter, started in the church as it found in that concept an Indian way of communicating the message of the Gospel. The movement could be seen as another example of the church’s ability to adapt major Indian religious life experience in its missionary praxis. The Mar Thoma Church’s ashram movement also drew copiously from the Indian Christian monastic tradition.

Closely linked with the concept of ashram life, as understood by the Mar Thoma Church, is the Hindu way of life to salvation. India’s ashram concept may be defined as “a spontaneous community...

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