Keynote Address on the 175th Anniversary of the Reformation of the Mar Thoma Church
20 August 2011
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary
Your Eminence Most Rev. Dr Philipose Mar Chrisostem Valiaya Metropolitan,
Your Eminence Most Rev. Dr Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan,
Honorable Bishops, Clergy,
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
1. I bring greetings to you from the World Council of Churches. I greet you on behalf of the millions of Christian brothers and sisters who belong to the 349 member churches of the WCC in more than 100 countries across the world.
I am truly delighted to be here with you this afternoon and it is a great joy to visit your country, especially this beautiful land Kerala which you call “God’s own country”. Moreover, it is a great joy and privilege for me to be at this historic event of the 175th anniversary celebrations of the Reformation in the Malankara Church. This is my first visit to India, and this is a marvelous occasion to come to India and to this particular part of the country.
As the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, I thank God for what you have done for the fellowship of churches of the WCC, and I thank you for the invitation to offer this valedictory address. By this invitation you have indicated that participation in the WCC common vision to work for Christian unity, and for the justice and peace for one humanity, is at the heart of how you understand the ongoing impact and challenges arising from the reformation 175 years ago. You also signal that you understand the common search for unity as your rich heritage of the ancient tradition of St Thomas. You also relate through your participation in the WCC to the reality of the world as it is today and might be tomorrow, as a church in India in partnership with churches in other places today. Connecting to the world fellowship of Christian on the occasion of your anniversary brings all this into focus at the centre of your identity.
The Mar Thoma Church is a founding member of the WCC and has been actively participating in the global ecumenical movement over many decades. I do recollect on this occasion the contributions of the Mar Thoma church to the global ecumenical movement over the past. Several of your church leaders have provided leadership to the WCC. Dr Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan was a President of the WCC in the 1950s and chaired sessions of the 3rd Assembly at New Delhi in 1961. Dr. M.M Thomas was Moderator of the Central Committee from 1968 to 1975. Your present-day leaders such as Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostem Metropolitan, Dr Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan and Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilus served on WCC committees in different times in the past and provided leadership at various levels. Currently, Bishop Isaac Mar Philexinos serves on the Central Committee, and a lay member of the church, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, is serving as director of the Churches’ Commission of International Affairs of the WCC.
The Mar Thoma Church traces its historic roots and tradition from A.D. 52. India had the great fortune of receiving the gospel of Christ in the first century through the Apostle Thomas himself. You belong to an ancient Christian church, and your rich tradition and heritage has very deep roots. I am delighted to find that this ancient tradition continues to be affirmed by you Christians in this area.