Mar Thoma Church AD 1876
Towards the end of the 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th century the Jacobite Church of Malabar (Malankara Church) was in confusion. Life within the State and the Church was grievously disturbed by varying factors such as political, social and theological issues. There were divisions and fights for power and authority. It is at this opportune time the Anglican Church of England extended support. The English displaced the Dutch from Cochin in 1795 and with the arrival of the English, the foreign domination of South India changed hands. The East India Company under which the English operated in India, appointed a British Resident for Cochin and Travancore. The first two Residents, Colonel Macaulay and Colonel John Monroe were men of strong Christian convictions and they were prepared to help the Syrian Christians. The Malankara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius I was deeply interested in instituting schools in the parishes. Towards the close of Mar Dionysius I's life, Dr. Claudius Buchanan, Principal of Fort William College, Calcutta visited Malabar in 1806-1807. He had received a special commission from Lord Wellesley, Governor General of India, to study and report on the Malankara Church. Later, Dr. Buchanan reported the needs of the Church to Lord Wellesley. On his return to England, Dr. Buchanan warmly advocated the cause of the Syrian Christians and as a result, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) under the patronage of the Church of England, provided the services of Rev. Thomas Norton, Rev. Benjamin Bailey, Rev. Joseph Fenn and Rev. Henry Baker. The first Anglican mission (CMS) started to work in Kerala in 1816. A number of Jacobites came under their influence and reforms were introduced on Anglican lines. Leadership for this reform group was provided by Palakunnath Abraham Malpan and Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, the two professors of the Syrian Seminary at Kottayam. The first synod of the Indian Jacobites was celebrated in 1836 and it decided to sever all ties with the Anglicans. But Abraham Malpan and his party continued to carry on the reforms already started, for which they were excommunicated by Dionysius IV in 1837. There followed a period of confusion. Mathew Mar Athanasius, who had been consecrated bishop by the Jacobite patriarch in 1842/43 emerged as the leader of the reform group. The tussle continued for some time more, and in 1875 Mathew Mar Athanasius was deposed by Ignatius Mar Peter IV, patriarch of Antioch, who visited India that year. Consequent to this excommunication, Mar Athanasius and his followers were deprived of all the churches and properties. The Church plunged into a litigation known as the 'Seminary Case'. Finally, in 1889, with help of the CMS, they continued their reformation. The Mar Thoma Church is an amicable blending of two characteristic tracts, namely, the Orthodox Church features and reformation (Protestant) ideals, or in other words, blending of Eastern and Western forms. This nature of the Church points to its uniqueness when compared to other Churches. The supreme authority of the Church is the General Assembly which is consisted of the bishops, the clergy and elected representatives of the local parishes. The conventions convened time and again enriched the spiritual life of the people. Of all the conventions the Maramon convention which began in 1896 ranks first with respect to the large number of people attending it every year. There are around half a million members in this Church. The two leaders, Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan (Malpan means Professor of Theology) and Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpaan and their followers were dismissed from the Orthodox-Jacobite church. Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan sent his 23-year-old nephew who was at that time a deacon, to Syria in 1843 and done the Patriarch of Antioch ordain him as Bishop Mathews Mar Athanasius. Immediately on return, he was declared the Malankara Metropolitan by the decree of the King. Following this Pulikkotil Joseph Ramban of the orthodox tradition went to Antioch and got himself consecrated as bishop with the name Joseph Mar Dionysius. He returned to Kerala with the Patriarch of Antioch Peter III and convened the synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876. During this synod the church accepted the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. Mathews Mar Athanasios died in 1877, and was succeeded by, Thomas Mar Athanasios (1879-1889). The struggle between Bishop Athanasios and Bishop Dionysius led to the excommunication of one bishop by the other and resulted in the separation of the Malankara Syrian Church into Jacobite and Marthomite Churches. Those who supported the reformation within the church organized as Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Christian Church as an independent church without any affiliation with any foreign patriarchate. Since the Bible in the hands of the common man in Malayalam and with large number of theologically trained clergy, it was no more necessary to have any Syrian affiliation. The liturgy was translated into Malayalam with necessary changes to reflect the reformation theology. The missionary oriented Marthomite Church though started, as a small church grew strong in time. The Sunday school Samajam (The institution of Sunday School) and the Suvisesha Sangham (evangelism board) have played a big role in this reformation. Punchamannil Mammen Upadeshi, Edayaranmula Sadhu Kochu Kunju Upadeshi, Pennamma Sanyasini and several preachers led the revival in Marthoma Church at the dawn of the 20th century; I n 1895, the Maramon Convention was started in the sands of Pampa, which became the biggest convention in the world. Division in Orthodox Church.