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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 IX


Church Unity in Action

There is a reason to believe that the Mar Thoma Church has an ecumenical avant la lettre – the church had started an ecumenical way of corporate living well before the theoretical formulations on ecumenism were articulated. This is evident while reviewing its church unity engagements and its ecumenical history. An insight into the Mar Thoma Church’s church unity engagements – which started even before ecumenical thoughts took institutional shape at the international level – would potentially be of a considerable historical and ecumenical benefit.

The next important stage in the church’s life and work was its search for a dynamic participation in inter-communion relationships with other denominations at the national and the international levels and in the modern ecumenical movement. In its formative phase, after the loss of the case in the British royal court in 1889, the Mar Thoma Church sought deliberate ecumenical engagements with the MISC and “occasional inter-communion”455 relations with ← 153 | 154 → the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon456 (CIBC) of the worldwide Anglican communion.

This “occasional inter-communion” relationship paved the way for future church unity engagements with member churches of the Anglican communion. This chapter tries to unearth the history of the Mar Thoma Church’s ecumenical praxis that progressed in two phases. The period relevant here is roughly 1816–1961, during which the church developed its ecumenical relations with the MISC, Church of England (Anglican Church), World Council of Churches (WCC), Christian Conference of Asia,457 National...

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