During the times of 1900 onward, the Episcopal Synod of India played an increasingly important role in the life of the Indian Church. It met in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1910, 1912 and again in 1913. At its last meeting the Synod consecrated the first Indian bishop.
Within the period of 1903 to 1904, Theodore L. Pennell (1867-1912), a medical missionary, undertook a 3000-mile bicycle journey through India dressed as an Indian fakir. He determined that by wearing Indian attire. Pennell experienced increased sympathy and more open communication with the Indian population using his mode of operation. This Franciscan ideal drew the attention of Reverend C. F. Andrews (1871-1940) and others in incorporating those aspects where one could participate on more equal terms in Indian society. Britons had made it mandatory to make the fourth phase of religious and missionary activities in India a remembering one, which would never ever be erased from Indian history.
In January 1903, the Oxford Mission Sisterhood of the Epiphany was organised under the auspices of the Bishop of Calcutta, Rt. Reverend Reginald S. Copleston (1845-1925). Led by Edith Langridge, the four sisters began their service of pastoral, educational and medical work at Barisal in Bengal.
Lord Curzon's policy for the Partition of Bengal in 1905 presented severe challenges to missionary and religious endeavours by the earnest Britons in mission to India. His measure significantly alienated the educated Bengali student from Western religion. Open air preaching by missionaries became problematical in the face of physical attack. Bible classes and indoor events experienced a dramatic drop in attendance. Only the production and distribution of Christian literature went on untouched.
In the phase of 1907, J. Mather's writings and speeches on Indian nationalism took the position that India's future rested in the conditions leading to the development of Christ's ideal kingdom. This missionary position typified that of a significant number of missionaries seeking political and religious reform. This is evidence enough that British religious and missionary activities in India had benefitted a boost post the Partition of Bengal, 1905.
In 1908, sixty-five years after the "Disruption", the Presbyterian Church of India was formed from the union of the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland. This resulted in combined missions and the formation of a Scottish Churches' College.
Within the period of 1909 to 1910, A. G. Hogg (1875-1954), Principal of the Madras Christian College, argued for a flexible doctrine in which Christianity would transcend cultural backgrounds and would seek a commonality in the presence of God through the historical person of Jesus. This thinking was expressed in his Karma and Redemption (1910).
On 22nd February 1910, at the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore, Bishop George Alfred Lefroy (1854-1922) inaugurated the Brotherhood of the Imitation of Jesus. Reverend Samuel Stokes (1882-1946), an American missionary, became the provisional Minister-General of this Franciscan Brotherhood. Reverend Frederick Western (1880-1951) of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi and Reverend C. F. Andrews (1871-1940) possessed loose personal associations with the Brotherhood. Its intent embraced service to the sick and education for the young. The Brotherhood was located at Kotgarh in Punjab. It had ties with the Church Missionary Society and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. The Brotherhood collapsed in 1912 when Stokes left it to marry an Indian woman. The fourth phase of Chritistian religious and missionary activities had started to take on a dramatic turn.
Within the days of 14th to 23rd June 1910, in Edinburgh, the World Missionary Conference convened with approximately 1300 Protestant missionaries in attendance. The fourth of eight commissions addressed the subject of non-Christian religions including those of India. The commission reported on the importance of an approach to the heathen that included intellectual understanding linked with sympathy while rejecting any religious compromise with the ultimate supremacy of Christianity. From the commission's work it became evident that British missionaries were in the main unable to accept the concept of racial equality. The Conference issued the Policy forestalling missionary involvement in the political issues of the colonial people or colonial governments.
In the days of 18th to 21st December 1912, the India National (Missionary) Conference convened in Calcutta. One of its principal conclusions recognised the need of good Christian literature in both English and the vernaculars. This was evidence enough that British missionary and religious activities in India was already flowing in 'heathen' blood. The Conference established a committee consisting of Reverend John N. Farquhar (1861-1929), Reverend C. F. Andrews (1871-1940) and ten others. By 1914, the Committee proposed three series: The guest of India Series, The Indian Religious Life Series and The Heritage of India Series. This literature aimed at embracing the standards of high accuracy, sympathy and faithfulness to Christian principles.
On 29th December 1912, in St. Paul's Cathedral in Calcutta the Anglican Church consecrated Vadanayan Samuel Azariah (1874-1945) as its first Indian bishop. He was assigned to the Dornakal Diocese in south India.
In November 1913, Reverend C. F. Andrews (1871-1940) sought to organise the bishops of India to send a letter of protest to the Archbishop of Cape Town regarding the oppression of Indians living in South Africa. He hoped to make the case that the South African situation was a menace to the Christian faith in India.
In 1914, with the onset of the First World War, the Anglican Missions in India terminated the employment of all German missionaries.
British missionary and religious activities to India had further plans to make Christianity a household name in an 'Oriental' country. 1919-22. The National Missionary Council and the various regional and provincial missionary organisations responded to the violence in Punjab, the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh and the swaraj and satyagraha struggles of Mahatma Gandhi with a sense of ambiguity. The National Missionary Council took only a position of cautious support and prayer for better government.
During the 1920s, the growth and success of the Christian missions in India suffered varying levels of diminishment in the face of a growing Indian nationalism. Opposition to the Christian religion emanated from its Western origins and its representation by British missionaries who has a body generally opposed Indian Independence. In response, the missionaries united in a spirit of ecumenicalism in south India in support of educational and medical missions.
Religious and missionary activities of the British, in times of strict nationalism and swaraj had severely started to take a backseat. Reverend John C. Winslow, a member of the Society for Propagation of the Gospel, established the Christa Seva Sangh, a Christian ashram as an attempt to heal the racial strife in Punjab generated by the Jalianwalabagh Amritsar Massacre.
Within the period of 1922 to 1923, the Industrial Christian Fellowship of England sponsored a mission to India. It promoted the theme of the British, setting exemplary standards of conduct in India.
In 1922, a division in the Church Missionary Society over doctrinal issues resulted in the formation of the Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society. As a fundamentalist minority, they established a training centre at Bristol and built a small presence in India. On 11th June, following a year of experimentation, Rt. Reverend Edwin J. Palmer (1869-1954), the Bishop of Bombay, commissioned the first members of the Christa Seva Sangha at Ahmednagar. The ashram settlement embraced living in an Indian style and spending half the year in study and the other in evangelistic work. Reverend Jack Winslow (1882-1974), a missionary and five Indian Christians initiated the group. In 1927 Verrier Elwin (1902-1964) joined the group. Indians had started to join British religious and missionary activities unanimously once more, in the face of ongoing strife for independence. However, religion was not a field which would ever affect patriots and vice versa.
In 1923, the National Christian Council of India, Burma and Ceylon replaced the National Missionary Council of India. The new organisation was to have at least a fifty percent indigenous membership. The new Council's mission was to place the building of the Church above that of narrow missionary evangelisation. Missionaries were expected to be the servants of the Church.
In 1924, the Unity Conference, convened in Delhi, came to agreement on a Declaration of Religious Liberty. It articulated the fundamental right for individuals to follow any religion and the right of conversion and re-conversion. It barred application to those below sixteen years of age unless supported by a parent. The missionary could continue to evangelise, but with less emphasis on baptism and church membership and more on Christian fellowship. This was a declared and hugely approved smart move for the British missionaries in India, with the mission to spread Christianity and its associated religious doctrines and activities.
On 21st December 1927, the Parliament passed the Indian Church Act. It provided for the Independence of the Indian Church from the Government of India. Formal severance occurred on March 1, 1930.
On March 1932, the Ashram of St. Francis, built in the Gondi style at Karanjia, became the centre of Verrier Elwin's mission to the Gonds, a hill tribe. Elwin also initiated a brotherhood of a Franciscan nature, or the Gond Seva Mandal, which was associated with the ashram. In time, the Mandal would establish schools, encourage village industries, offer medical assistance and teach sanitation.
In September of the same eyar, Samuel Stokes of the Church Missionary Society and his family converted to Hinduism through the purification ritual of Shuddhi used by the Arya Samaj. As Hinduism was generally considered to be a birth religion, this occurrence was considered highly unusual. Likewise, the Christian community expressed shock, anger and betrayal at Stokes' conversion.
In 1947, in the course of the Partition of India, some Indian Christians in Punjab were massacred and others fled. In some cases, Christian-based institutions such as hospitals and schools simply disappeared. Though Christian missionaries and arrived in India prior to even the British East India Company, they had to go through terrible ups and downs. Rough patches were part of the long journey. Religious activities had been hugely successful in some spheres, in others, the opposite. In all, the religion had received acknowledgement in a heathen and alien country, with many even converting to Christianity. The fourth phase was the most significant in the four phases of religious and missionary activities by British in India, as it was marred by debasement in some instances. Bright spots had although stayed back. Missions, churches, schools, societies and converted Indian Christians exist even today.
|More Articles in Missionary Activities of British in India (4)|