Could Your Grace please inform me about the Indian Orthodox Church?
The Malankara Indian Church belongs to the family of the six Oriental Orthodox Churches, which include Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrean and Armenia. It has always cherished the tradition of St Thomas as the founding father of Christianity in India.
The early Christians of India were known as Thomas Christians until the advent of the Portuguese in the 16th century followed closely by the British. Until the 16th century, there was only one Church in India. The Portuguese attempted to colonize and proselytize India and bring it under Romo-Syrian prelates. The Thomas Christians rose in revolt and took a collective oath in 1653, resolving to preserve the faith and autonomy of their Church and to elect its head. Accordingly, Archdeacon Thomas was raised to the title of Mar Thoma, the first in the long line up to Mar Thomas IX till 1816.
At the request of the Thomas Christians, the bishop, Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem came to India in 1664, confirmed the Episcopal consecration of Mar Thoma I as the head of the Orthodox Church in India. Thus began the formal relationship with the Syrian Orthodox Church, as it happened, in explicit support of the traditional autonomy of the Indian Church.
Later, the British in India encouraged 'reformation' within the Orthodox Church partly through Anglican domination of the theological seminary in Kottayam, and attracted members of the Church into Anglican congregations. Finally the reformist group broke away to form the Mar Thoma Church.
The Indian church, at present, is divided into Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox families. The Orthodox Church in India declared itself autocephalous in 1912, though conflicts with the Syrian patriarchate continue.
We pray that the conflict between the Syrian Patriarchate and Malankara Church will be resolved soon.