Presbyterian Church of India
The Presbyterian Church of India (PCI) is one of the mainline Protestant churches in India, with over one million adherents, mostly in Northeast India. It is one of the largest Christian denominations in that region.
|Presbyterian Church of India|
|Associations||World Reformed Fellowship, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Council for World Mission, National Council of Churches in India|
|Branched from||Presbyterian Church of Wales formerly Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church|
Origin and history
In 1799 Serampore was a protectorate of Denmark. The early British rulers of India were not in favour of Christian missionaries being active in India, but William Carey (1761-1834) established a mission at Serampore in 1799 which became known as the cradle of Modern Missions. Two Khasi were converted through the ministry of Krishna Chandra Pal, who was deputised by William Carey in 1813, and worked at the trading outpost of Pandua, situated in the Sylhet Plains. The same year a mission station was opened at Jowai in the Jaintai Hills. William Carey, heartened by the efforts of Krishna Pal, began a translation of the Bible into Khasi using Bengali script. In 1832 Carey sponsored Alexander B. Lish as a missionary at Cherrapunjee. Lish stayed six years, learning the language, opening schools, and translating the New Testament into Khasi, using Bengali script. This script was unknown to the Khasi at that time, which perhaps accounts, in part, for Lish's lack of converts. So began the history of the missionary efforts of the Welsh in Khasiland. The Secretary of the Welsh Mission, the Reverend John Thomas Jones from Aberriw in Wales who had a strong desire to work in India had applied to the LMS on medical grounds. Reverend Jones managed to obtain support from his congregation and incorporated The Welsh Missionary Society and they sent him to work in the Khasi Hills
The Foreign Missions enterprise of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (later known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) began at Liverpool in 1840. Earlier this church had supported the work of the London City Missionary Society both in terms of home support and also in overseas agency—four Calvinistic Methodists were sent out by the LMS in the years up to 1840. However, there arose a feeling among Welsh Calvinists, especially those in North Wales, that the Welsh Calvinists were not being sufficiently represented in the LMS and that, moreover, the Methodist Churches had not done what they ought to have done in evangelising the Heathen world. A former London City Missionary by the name of Jacob Tomlin had toured the Khasia Hills before 1840 and recommended that the Welsh Calvinists adopt this area as its first mission. The area had been brought under British domination with a military satation at Chrrapunji. In 1874 the Khasia and Jaintia Hills and the plains of Assam were designated the Province of Assam. The first missionary, Rev. Thomas Jones, left with his wife for Cherrapunji in November 1840. They arrived at the reputedly rainiest plain on earth in June 1841. The Rev. Jones learned the Khasi language and after one year opened schools with his publication: First Khasi Reader. The Reverend was aided by a number of other Welsh missionary workers and the first two converts to the Christian faith from Khasiland were baptised in March 1846.
The Presbyterian Church in India was founded in 1841. by missionaries from the Presbyterian Church of Wales (formerly the Calvinistic Methodist Church). Rev Thomas Jones and his wife arrived in Sohra and from the town, this work spread to Sylhet today known as Bangladesh and Cachar Plains, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura. But before this around 1813 the Serampore Mission stated working in at the foot of the Khasi Hills. This mission closed in 1838, the Welsh missionaries revived this effort. Rev. William Pyrse arrived to strengthen this work. The first Presbytery was formed in 1867 in Khasi Hills, and 5 presbyteries were established in 1895, resulting in 1896 in what was then called the Assembly. Work was started in 1896 in Sylhet and Cachar, and later another Assembly was formed in there. In 1947 India and Pakistan were divided, the greater part of the area came under Pakistan, the Pakistan Assembly discontinued. In India the Welsh reached Mizoram, and was strengthen by another missionaries, and the work developed since 1897. By the end of the 1890s the church grew in membership and character, this was the Welsh religious revival, and includes today the whole population. Various tribes in north Cachar Hills who had been evangelizedby missionaries and local workers were organised as an Assembly, but this assemblies were just regional, not the whole Presbyterian denomination was included. The Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Assam was created in 1926. The highest church court, the Synod was renamed to Assembly in 1956. In 1968 the name Presbyterian Church in Assam was changed to the Presbyterian Church in North-East India. Geographical spread and the merger of several (though not all) Presbyterian groups made the original denominational names obsolete, and the name 'Presbyterian Church of India' (PCI) was adopted as an official name in 1992, the Assembly was renamed to General Assembly by the highest court of the church in 2002.
PCI is an apex body comprising eight Synods such as Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod, Cachar Hill Tribes Synod, Manipur Presbyterian Church Synod, Biateram Presbyterian Church Synod, Ri Bhoi Presbyterian Church Synod, Khasi Jaintia Presbyterian Synod Sepngi (KJP Synod Sepngi), KJP Synod Mihngi, Zou Presbyterian Church Synod and Karbi Anglong Presbyterian Church Synod which came into existence in 2015. The PCI has its headquarters in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya state in Northeast India.
Doctrine and theology
The PCI subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith and maintains relationships with related denominations such as the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and the Uniting Church in Australia. It is also supported by its Welsh parent church. Locally, it has ties with the Council of Baptist Churches in North-East India (CBCNEI) and the Church of North India.
Rev. & Mrs. Thomas Jones from the Welsh Presbyterian Church arrived in the Khasi Hills on 22 June 1841. By 1901 there were over 15,000 Christians in this area. The Rev. D.E Jones began working among Mizo people in 1897, and a century later, over 85% of people in Mizoram were Christian.
Many other Presbyterian missionaries also served in India, for example Samuel H. Kellogg, translator of the Bible into Hindi.
The PCI started partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1999. This cooperation was dissolved in 2012 when the PC(USA) voted to ordain openly gay clergy to the ministry.
Membership and statistics
According to 2014 statistics the Presbyterian Church of India had a total strength of 1,405,781 members (807,108 communicant) and 3,210 local churches, 9 synods and 132 presbyteries and 1,030 ministers and more than 2,000 mission field workers. The Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod is the largest with 600,000 members in 49 presbyteries, which has its headquarters in Aizawl, India. This Synod has 14 departments and 560 active ministers. The Khasi Jaintia Presbyterian Synod Sepngi has 328,000 members in 655 churches and 25 presbyteries.
- pcishillong.org statistics
- Council for World Mission web site.
- Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 4, Eerdmans, 2005, ISBN 0-8028-2416-1, p. 538.
- http://www.mundus.ac.uk/cats/51/1042.htm (created 5 Jan 2012 - viewed 5 Jan 2012).
- Khasi and Jaintia Hills Missionary Minute Book 1869-1913, Fonds - 2 Volumes: University of Wales Bangor, Department of Manuscripts and Archives Reference - code: GB 0222 BMSS KJ
- Reformed Ecumenical Council web site: Presbyterian Church of India.
- Shaji Joseph Puykunnel, Christianity and Change in Northeast India, Concept Publishing Company, 2009, ISBN 81-8069-447-X, p. 150.
- D. Ben Rees, Vehicles of Grace and Hope: Welsh Missionaries in India, 1800-1970, William Carey Library, 2002, ISBN 0-87808-505-X, p. 173.
- Noel Davies and Martin Conway, World Christianity in the Twentieth Century, Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2008, ISBN 0-334-04043-4, p. 131.