11.06.2016 Views

MM

You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.

MADATHILPARAMPIL MAMMEN THOMAS

1


Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas (Pennamma), MM's wife.

She passed away on 22 December 1969

in her 51st year due to cancer.

2


3


4


5


Madathilparampil Mammen Mammen

Printer, Publisher, Freedom Fighter

Father of M.M.Thomas

7


Mrs. Mariamma Mammen

Teacher

Mother of M.M.Thomas

8


9


1951

10


11


12


13


May 15: Born to Mr. M.M.Mammen (Printer, Freedom

1916

and Mrs.Mariamma Mammen (Teacher);

Fighter)

School Education:

1921-1931

Girls School (till 4th standard)

Melukara

Degree education

1931-35:

College, Trivandrum, Kerala

Science

Medal for good conduct;

Gold

of BA in Chemistry with first class

Degree

At Christava Ashramam, Alappuzha

1937:

Manganam (Kottayam)

and

Balabhavan, Thiruvananthapuram:

1938:

among street children, giving technical

Working

Youth Christian Council of Action;

1939:

against the construction of the statue of

protest

With Dr Kheytan at Bangalore,

1941:

with A.K. Thampi.

along

Active member of

1942-44:

Christian Council of Action.

Youth

at Christava Ashramam, Manganam,

Staying

with A.K. Thampi and E.V. Mathew

along

Life of M.M.Thomas

Madathilparampil, Kozhencheri, Kerala, India

St Thomas High School, Kozhencherry

1935-37: Teacher, Ashramam High School, Perumbavoor

education to make them self sufficient

Sir. C.P. Ramaswami Ayer

Reading and study

14


First term as General Secretary,

1944-47:

Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam

Mar

Secretary, World Student Christian Federation,

1947-50:

organising the World Christian Youth

Geneva;

at Oslo (August 1947);

Conference

in the making of the book on

participation

and society published

church

connection with the WCC inaugural Assembly

in

December: Leadership Conference of WSCF

1948

Candy, Sri Lanka

at

WSCF Vice Chairperson from Asia

1949-52:

also serving as its part-time Secretary

and

International Youth Christian Conference

1952:

Kottayam, Kerala;

at

the book,

publishing

Bharathathile Rashtreeya Chinthagathikal;

Adhunika

of Committee for Literature on Social

Secretary

Concerns;

Reading and Study at Union Theological

1953-54:

New York.

Seminary,

1944-45: SCM activities; Editor of the Student Outlook

1945: Marriage with Ms. Elizabeth Thomas (Pennamma)

at Amsterdam.

1949: Conference of Asian Church Leaders, Bangkok

WCC Central Committee at Luknow, India.

1954: WCC Assembly at Evanston

15


Associate Director, CISRS;

1957:

of its journal, Religion and Society

Editor

Secretary of the Committee on Social

1959:

Transformation,

by the East Asia Christian Conference;

Nominated

the Asian journal, Church and Society

begins

Chairperson,

1961-68:

to Study Church and Society, WCC

Commission

Chairperson, Third World Conference towards the

1966:

of a Christian Social Ethics, Geneva.

formation

Visiting Professor, Union Theological Seminary,

1966-67:

York New

Chairperson, WCC Central Committee

1968-75:

in the Uppsala Assembly of WCC in 1968,

(Elected

till the Nairobi Assembly in 1975);

continues

Guardian Weekly, Madras

Editor,

Pennamma (MM’s wife) passes away due to cancer

1969:

her 51st year.

at

Activism and writing against the Emergency

1975-77:

India

Rule,

1961: WCC Assembly, New Delhi

1962-76: CISRS Director

1972-73: William Patton Fellow, Selly Oak College

16


Chairperson, Kerala People’s Union for Civil

1976:

(PUCL)

Liberties

Writing and publishing of Bible reflections

1977-1995:

interpretations in Malayalam for

and

Visiting professorship at Bochum University,

1979-89:

(1979),

Germany

Seminary, USA (1980, 1982-88),

Princeton

Dover Newton, Boston (1981),

Ann

Methodist University (1989)

Southern

Governor of Nagaland

1990-92:

K.C. Varughese: MM Thomas: Mathathmaka Chinthakalile Darshanika

(Courtesy:

Tiruvalla: CSS, 1996)

Prathibha.

M.M.Thomas

Dr.

of Nagaland

Governor

World Council of Churches,

Chairman,

Director,

Institute of Study of Religion and Society

Christian

to:

Married

Thomas,

Mammen

CA

Sunnyvale,

Elizabeth Kurien

Prof.

Amallore, Tiruvalla

Maliyakal,

Dr.Syamala

Thomas

Mary

Kurien Thomas,

Dr.

Vellore

CMC,

Christian Literature Society (CLS), Tiruvalla.

1996 December 3: Death

17


Mammen Thomas Family

Arun,Thampy, Ajit, Ammu, Anila

Syamala John Family

John, Sunil, Syama, Tina

18


Kurien Thomas Family

Rohan, Pushpa, Kurien, Roshen

PENNAMMA BHAVANAM,

Manjadi P.O., Tiruvalla - 5,

Pathanamthitta District, Kerala.


Front Veranda


Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Place:

22 August to 4 September, 1948

Dates:

Man's Disorder and God's Design

Theme:

churches: 147

Member

was on the 23rd of August 1948, in Amsterdam, that the World Council of Churches

It

officially founded. 147 churches from different confessions and many countries came

was

the assembly in Amsterdam, four sections were organized to examine aspects of the

At

"Man's Disorder and God's Design":

theme

• the universal church in God's design

• the church's witness to God's design

• the church and the disorder of society

• the church and the international disorder.

First assembly, Amsterdam 1948

together to commit themselves to the ecumenical movement.

22


Evanston, Illinois, USA

Place:

15-31 August, 1954

Dates:

Christ - the Hope of the World

Theme:

churches: 161

Member

only WCC assembly to date held in the United States, it

The

some degree reflected - and certainly reflected on - the

to

tensions of the cold war. The Assembly divided

East-West

work into six sections:

its

Our oneness in Christ and our disunity as churches


The mission of the church to those outside her life


The responsible society in a world perspective


Christians in the struggle for world community


The churches amid racial and ethnic tension


The laity: the Christian in his vocation.


New Delhi, India

Place:

19 November to 5 December, 1961

Dates:

Jesus Christ - the Light of the World

Theme:

churches: 197

Member

remembered for the incorporation of the International

Best

Council into the WCC, and the admission of 23

Missionary

member churches, including significant sectors of

new

Orthodoxy and churches from newly independent

Eastern

the Assembly focused on the theme "Jesus Christ -

nations,

Light of the World" with three sections on witness ,

the

Second assembly, Evanston 1954


Third assembly, New Delhi 1961

service and unity .

23


Behold, I make all things new

Theme:

churches: 235

Member

assembly at Uppsala bore further testimony to the

The

membership of the Council, as well as the

expanding

breezes of Vatican II that brought Catholic

fresh

to participate in the meeting and discuss

observers

opportunities for cooperation. Sections were

further

under the headings:

organized

• The Holy Spirit and the catholicity of the church

• Renewal in mission

• World economic and social development

• Towards justice and peace in international affairs

• Worship

Nairobi, Kenya

Place:

23 November to 10 December, 1975

Dates:

Jesus Christ Frees and Unites

Theme:

churches: 285

Member

Christ frees and unites" the delegates sang in the midst of Nairobi's life: people

"Jesus

around the earth, standing before God in their captivities and disunities and naming

from

divine possibility.

a

assembly section titles echo concerns of that turbulent decade:

The

• Confessing Christ today

• What unity requires

• Seeking community

• Education for liberation and

• community

• Structures of injustice and

• struggles for liberation

• Human development

Fourth assembly, Uppsala 1968

Dates: 4-20 July, 1968

Place: Uppsala, Sweden

• Towards new styles of living.

Fifth assembly, Nairobi 1975


M. Thomas (left),director of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society in Bangalore,

M.

and Rev. T. C. Thomas, Principal of Mar Thoma College, Kerala, India, are delegates to the fourth

India,

M.M.Thomas Speaking in the Podium WCC

Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Uppsala, Sweden, 1968


Central committee moderator M.M. Thomas


M. Thomas of Bangalore, India,

M.

of the WCC Central Committee,

chairman

an honorary member of the

became

Indian Tribe of Oklahoma

Ponca

he was presented with the tribe's

when

feather headdress

eagle

the Rev. Thomas Roughface (right),

by

Methodist district superintendent.

a

Chief).

(Big

Mr Roughface it was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition. "I've always wanted to meet

For

real Indian",

a

told Mr Thomas.

he

Thomas was christened

Mr

Gah-hee-gah Don-Gah

Executive Committee Meeting, Tulsa, January 1969.


Juvenaly of Zaraisk;

Bishop

Eugene C. Blake,

Dr

secretary elect),;

(general

Margaret Mead,

Miss

at the American Museum of Natural History);

(Curator

M. M. Thomas,

Mr

of the Christian Institute for religion and society(;

(Director

Richard Andriamanjato,

Pastor

in the National Assembly of Madagascar

(Deputy

mayor of Tananarive).

and

Left to right:

World Conference on Church and Society, Geneva, July 1966


Hall at Raj Bhavan, Kohima

Durbar

Nagaland


Baptist Church of Kohima

Ceremonial Procession During Nazo Festival By Nagaland Tribes


and the associated fertility cults were the sources of inspiration for all aspects of Naga culture

Headhunting

religion, folklore, the arts. Thus, skulls were generally exhibited at what was considered the village's most

-

place, e.g. inside the morung, the chief's house, the log-drum house, at the fertility pole or at the

fertility

stone-settings.


Funeral of Dr MM Thomas


Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose and priests

leading the prayer at maliackel


The last journey starts


40


CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

41


The Procession through the Tiruvalla Town

The State Salute to an ex-governor, thinker, theologian and activist


A Diaconal Approach to Indian Ecclesiology


Salvation and Humanisation: Some Crucial Issues of the Theology of Mission in


M. M. Thomas

.

1916 - 1996

Dr. M.M.Thomas was one of the foremost Christian leaders of the nineteenth century.He

was Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and Governor

of Nagaland. An ecumenical theologian of repute, he wrote more than sixty books on

Theology and Mission, including 24 theological commentaries on the books of the bible in

Malayalam (the official language of the Indian state of Kerala).

Books authored or edited by Thomas, M. M.

Contemporary India

• New Creation in Christ: Twelve Selected Sermons Given on Various Occasions


Ideological Quest Within Christian Commitment (1939-1954)


My Ecumenical Journey, 1947-1975


The Realization of the Cross: Fifty Thoughts and Prayers Centred on the Cross


The Church's Mission and Post-Modern Humanism: A Collection of Essays and


1992-1996

Talks,

The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance


Towards an Evangelical Social Gospel: A New Look at the Reformation of


Malpan

Abraham

Response to Tyranny: Writings Between July 1975 and February 1977


Risking Christ for Christ's Sake: Towards an Ecumenical Theology of Pluralism


The Nagas Towards A. D. 2000


The Gospel of Forgiveness and Koinonia: Twenty-Five Selected


including Some to Academic Communities and Some

Sermons/Homilies

Recalling Ecumenical Beginnings


The First-Born of All Creation: Letter to the Colossians, Philemon


In the Beginning God: Genesis 1-12:4


God the Liberator: Exodus


Christian participation in nation-building


Christian Council of India and Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and

National

1960

Society,

Towards an Indian Christian theology Christava Sahitya Samithi, 1998


Comrade Koshy YMCA Publishing House, 1953


The secular ideologies of India and the secular meaning of Christ


for The Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society by The

Published

Literature Society, Madras, 1976

Christian

Church and human community ISPCK, 1985


New Creation in Christ: Twelve Selected Sermons Given on Various Occasions


The Church's Mission and Post-Modern Humanism: A Collection of Essays and


1992-1996

Talks,

The Gospel of Forgiveness and Koinonia: Twenty-Five Selected


including Some to Academic Communities and Some

Sermons/Homilies

Recalling Ecumenical Beginnings


The Indian Churches Of Saint Thomas by Late Mathew C.P and Late Thomas.


M.M.

Confronting Life : Theology Out of the Context by I.S.P.C.K. (Organization), M.M.


M. P. Joseph

Thomas,

Some theological dialogues Published for the Christian Institute for the Study of


& Society, Bangalore, by the Christian Literature Society, 1977

Religion

Man and the universe of faiths for the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion


Society, Bangalore, by the Christian Literature Society, 1975

and


Renascent Religions and Secularism in India The Princeton Seminary Bulletin


(1991)

12:2

A Spirituality for Combat The Princeton Seminary Bulletin 5:2 (1984)


The Core of the Gospel and the Whole Gospel The Princeton Seminary Bulletin


M. Thomas Reader: Selected Texts on Theology, Religion and Society by (ed.)

M.

Jacob T.

Thomas,

Outlook in India Today: A Pre-election Study by (ed. and contributor) Thomas, M.

Political

and Chandran, J. Russell

M.

Changing Pattern of Family in India (Enlarged and Revised Edition) by (ed.) Thomas,

The

M. and Devanandan, P. D.

M.

Religion and Society: Essays in Honour of Richard W. Taylor by (ed.) Chatterji,

Culture,

K. and Mabry, Hunter P.

Saral

Prospects in India: A Post Election Enquiry by (ed. and contributor) Chatterji,

Political

K. Saral

in Indian Christian Theology Volume 1 by (ed.) Hargreaves, Cecil and

Readings

R. S.

Sugirtharajah,

4:1 (1983)

Books with a contribution by Thomas, M. M.

The Asian leaders conference 1949

India's Quest for Democracy by (ed. and contributor) Devanandan, P. D.

Religious Freedom by (ed.) Thomas, M. M. and Chandran, J. Russell

Cultural Foundations of Indian Democracy by (ed.) Thomas, M. M. & Devanandan, P. D.

Christianity by (compiler) Rao, K. L. Seshagiri

Prejudice: Issues in Third World Theologies by (ed.) Nehring, Andreas

The Christian Teacher by (ed. and contributor) Thangasamy, D. A.

Christian Contribution to Indian Philosophy by (ed. and contributor) Amaladass, Anand


and Society Vol. 26 No. 1, March 1979: The Praxis of Inter-Faith Dialogue by

Religion

Chatterji, Saral K.

(ed.)

Expressions of Christian Commitment: A Reader in Asian Theology by (ed. and

Asian

Francis, T. Dayanandan and Balasundaram, Franklyn J.

contributor)

Issues in the Struggles for Justice: Quest for Pluriform Communities (Essays in

Ethical

of K. C. Abraham) by (ed.) Chetti, Daniel

Honour

Love Community: Festschrift in Honour of Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios

Freedom

(ed. and contributor) George, K. M.

by

State and Communalism: A Post-Ayodhya Reflection by (ed.) John, J. and

Religion,

Jesudas M.

Athyal,

Boundaries: Perspectives on Faith, Social Action and Solidarity, a

Transcending

in Honour of Bishop A. George Ninan by (ed. and contributor) Sail, Rajendra

Festschrift

Witness: Dr. K. Rajaratnam's Platinum Birth Anniversary Commemoration

Liberating

1 by (ed. and contributor) Kumari, Prasanna

Volume

CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

Rural Work in the Seventies - YMCA's Vision by (ed.) Sundarsingh, John D. K.

The Bible in Today's Context by (ed. and contributor) David, S. Immanuel

Bread and Breath: Essays in Honour of Samuel Rayan, S.J. by John, T. K.

The Future of the Church in India by (ed.) Gnanadason, Aruna

The Community We Seek: Perspectives on Mission

Renewal for Mission by (ed. and contributor) Lyon, David and Manuel, A. D.

Orthodox Identity in India: Essays in Honour of V. C. Samuel by (ed.) Kuriakose, M. K.

Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader by Mabry, Hunter P.

K. and Muricken, Ajit

Bread and Breath: Essays in Honour of Samuel Rayan, S.J. by John, T. K.

Tribal awakening Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, 1965

46


a Re-Reading of M.M. Thomas

Contextualization,

Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, Bangalore, G. Shiri

Christian

Introduction to Indian Christian Theology

An

Boyd, Robin H. S. Christianity by (compiler) Rao, K. L. Seshagiri

by

M. Thomas: The Man and His Legacy

M.

(ed.) Athyal, Jesudas M.

by

Mohan, Interpreting Society: A Study of the Political Theology of M. M. Thomas

Chacko,

Its Implications for Mission

and

Word Became Flesh: A Christological Paradigm for Doing Theology in India

The

Kuruvila, K. P.

by

M. Thomas Reader: Selected Texts on Theology, Religion and Society

M.

(ed.) Thomas, Jacob T.

by

and Religion: Essays in Honour of M. M. Thomas

Society

(ed.) Taylor,

by

the Twentyfirst Century: Essays in Honour of Dr. M. M. Thomas

Into

(ed.) Robinson, Gnana

by

Stanley “Theology of Mission in Indian Context; A Study of Madathilaparamil

Sumithra.

Thomas”, Doctoral Thesis submitted to Eberhard Karls University, Tubingen,

Mammen

T Wolters, Theology of prophetic participation : M.M. Thomas' concept of salvation

Hielke

the collective struggle for fuller humanity in India.

and

Christus im neuen Indien Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989

Christians in the technical and social revolutions of our time : World Conference on

Church and Society, Geneva, July 12-26, 1966 : the official report with a description of

the Conference / by M.M. Thomas and Paul Albrecht

BOOKS ON MM

Paths of Indian Theology by Mundadan, A. M.

1981


: Published for the United Theological College by the Indian Society for Promoting

Delhi

Knowledge, 1996.

Christian

M Philip , The encounter between theology and ideology : an exploration into the

T

theology of M.M. Thomas

communicative

for the Newday Publications of India by the Christian Literature Society ;

Published

S. India Distributed by C.L.S. Bookshop, 1986.

Tiruvalla,

Philip, Beyond humanisation : a Trinitarian search on mission

Sabu

: Dharma Jyothi Vidya Peeth ; Tiruvalla : Christava Sahitya Samithy, 2004

Faridabad

Jacob Thomas, Ethics of a world community : contributions of Dr. M.M. Thomas based

T

Indian reality

on

K.C, Christian Witness in Society.

Abraham

Tribute to Dr M.M. Thomas (1916-1996). 1998,

A

Thomas, Ethics of a World Community - Contributions of Dr. M.M. Thomas Based

,Jacob

Indian Reality

on

in the Cultural Context: An Exploration of Dr. M.M. Thomas' Theology of Religions

Christ

Abraham Stephen BANGALORE THEOLOGICAL FORUM XXXV December 2004

-

Devanandan, M.M. Thomas and the task of indigenous theology, Morton. S,

P.D.

Univ. (United Kingdom) 1981

Nottingham

United Kingdom, Humanities, psychology and social

http://hdl.handle.net/10068/515647,

sciences

Bird, “M.M. Thomas: Theological Signposts for the Emergence of Dalit Theology”

Adrian

Thesis submitted to University of Edinburgh, February, 2008

Doctoral

Calcutta : Punthi Pustak, 1993

(BTE-SSC Bangalore)


journey has taken me through a critique of "missions" in the narrow sense to the more inclusive

My

of the "mission" of the church in the modern world. Perhaps I can share this best by

concept

My Pilgrimage in Mission

M. M. Thomas

M. M. Thomas is a lay theologian of the Mar Thoma Church in India, and the authorof many theologicalstudiesin both English and

Malayalam. He is widely known as an ecumenical statesman of the church, both in India and in the World Council of Churches, where he

has served as chairman of the Central Committee.

concentrating on some important turning points in my spiritual-theological pilgrimage


was through an evangelical spiritual experience as a first-year college student in Trivandrum in

It

that Jesus Christ became real to me as the bearer of divine forgiveness and gave my life,

1931-32

to adolescent urges, a principle of integration and a sense of direction. It led me to take

awakened

three Christian youth fellowships then active among students:

seriously

an informal fellowship group helping students to find new life in Christ,

(1)

the Youth Union, which was part of the Mar Thoma Church congregation, and

(2)

the parish Youth Union I became devoted to the church; and besides availing myself of its

Through

and sacramental resources, I joined a youth team in regular visits to a locality of low-caste

liturgical

residences to preach Christ to them, and during the vacationsI joined a student group visiting

Hindu

Mar Thoma parishes to share Christ with young people.

the

Student Christian Movement under the leadership of K. A. Mathew, through its Bible studies and

The

on inter-church relations and current national issues, and through student surveys of slum

discussions

and organizing games and literacy work among the street boys, was seeking to bring

conditions

an awareness of the ecumenical and social implications of the gospel. The emphasis in my

students

at that period was personal devotional life and personal evangelism. I remember that for a long

life

Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ was the basis of my daily self-examination; and books like

time

Weatherhead's Transforming Friendship, Brother Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God,

Leslie

Alan H. McNeile's Self-Training in Meditation were resources for building my spirituality. The book

and

Hyde by Basil Miller impressed me so much that after my graduation in 1935 I organized the

Praying

informal fellowship of friends into an Interceding Fellowship and made my own

Trivandrum

1935 I joined the Mar Thoma Church Ashram at Perumpavoor. There I was part-time teacher in the

In

and part-time engaged in organizing evangelistic activities of the ashram in the neighboring

school

I remember organizing an evangelistic team to a rubber estate to conduct evangelistic

parishes.

for the workers, and coming away with the feeling that the gospel of salvation we preached

meetings

not have much relevance to the oppressive conditions of work and housing in which the estate

did

lived. It raised many questions for me. This was also the time when my friend M. A. Thomas

workers

begun work as secretary of the Inter-Religious Student Fellowship. It opened for me contacts with

had

and non-student leaders of Hinduism and Islam and with their religious experiences. Debates

students

All-Kerala Conference to which Mahatma Gandhi sent a message asking that "all religions

The

be treated with equal respect" and warning that if there are "mental reservations there will

represented

no heart-fellowship" remains in memory. The "Aim and Basis" of the Inter-Religious Student

be

created a lot of discussion. Gandhian nonviolence also raised the social implications of

Fellowship

and the meaning of the cross for politics. M. A. Thomas and I spent hours together in

religion

about the truth and meaning of Christ in the inter-religious setting.

discussion

I

(3) the interdenominational Student Christian Movement.

intercessions elaborate and systematic.

on interfaith relations were lively in the meetings of the fellowship.


was against this background that I was roused to my inquiry on Christology. It was an intellectual and

It

struggle. Out of it came my reflections on The Realisation of the Cross (1937) affirming the

spiritual

of the crucified Jesus for the movement of the kingdom of God in history, which included

centrality

work in all religions and all urges toward love and justice. (This was published in 1972 by

God's

1937 I joined the Christavasram at Alleppey where the fellowship under the leadership of Sadhu

In

had a comprehensive vision of the gospel. They were in charge of the church's missionary work

Mathai

some coastal villages; they conducted a Home for Waifs and Strays (street boys) of the town;

among

had inter-religious dialogues. It was there that I met Svi Baliga, the Brahmin who acknowledged

they

without leaving the Hindu fold, and from whom Mathai had received Kavi dress initiating him into

Christ

life of a Christian sadhu patterned after the Hindu samngasa. Spontaneously Sadhuji became my

the

He put me in charge of the worship side of the ashram life; and I produced a book of daily

Guru.

in Malayalam (published later), which emphasized Christian spirituality as the basis of the

worship

misison in the world of religions and the social life of the nation. But Sadhu Mathai felt that my

church's

was too pietistic and subjectivist and not sufficiently world-oriented. It was in search of the

spirituality

of interiority with active life that in 1938 I returned to Trivandrum, where I had my college

unity

to organize a home for street boys with the help of the Student Christian Movement (SCM)

education,

under an inter-religious foundation. I also took the initiative to tackle the beggar problem in the city

but

organized charity in cooperation with the municipal authorities. Charitable social service

through

was during the period of my social service activities in Trivandrum that the political agitation for

It

government increased in the princely state of Travancore. The Student Christian

responsible

at its annual conference supported it and formed the Kerala Youth Christian Council of

Movement

(YCCA) to promote Christian witness in national politics. I got deeply involved in it from the

Action

as its secretary. The YCCA became a dynamic movement of thought and action among the

beginning

young people of Kerala, with its base in Christavasram of Sadhu Mathai (which had now

Christian

of the YCCA's most challenging programs was the study courses to help young people to

One

liberal secularism, Gandhism, and Marxism-ideologies influencing the Indian national

understand

to evaluate them in the light of Christian. faith. R. R. Keithahn's village-oriented

movement-and

coupled with his prophetic passion and Leonard Schiff's combination of AngloCatholicism,

Gandhism,

Neo-orthodoxy, and Marxism, made a tremendous contribution to our spirits and minds.

Niebuhrian

studies raised for me the role of the politics of justice in Christian social witness and the relation

The

Christian Literature Society, Madras, as Lenten meditations).

became the expression of my personal commitment to Christ, without emphasizing verbal witness.

II

moved from Alleppey to its new house in Kottayam).

between faith and ideology in Christian social ethics.


pursuance of these questions I spent a year in Bangalore reading in the theology of society and the

In

understanding of our Indian social reality. The Neo-orthodoxy of Nicolas Berdyaev and

scientific

Niebuhr coupled with an appreciation of the Marxist analysis of Indian social history gripped

Reinhold

I returned to full-time work with the YCCA convinced that Marxism was a necessary ideological

me.

for political action for social justice in India but that its utopianism, which elevated it to a scheme

basis

total spiritual salvation, was a source of tyranny; and that therefore the Christian has the double task

of

cooperating with the communists in the politics of class-struggle and intensifying the spiritual

of

against the character of communism as a scheme of salvation by works. Here class politics

struggle

justice and evangelistic witness to justification by faith became equally central to my understanding

for

Christian mission in India. The evangelistic witness to Christ, to be relevant, has to be within the

of

of a politics of justice and not in isolation. The church as the fellowship of transcendent

framework

and mutual forgiveness must be present as the ultimate destiny of those involved in the

divine

tragic powerpolitical struggles in a sinful world. An amendment I proposed for the "Aim and

necessarily

of the Youth Christian Council of Action wanted it to "accept the Catholic Christian Faith and

Basis"

Scientific Socialism," reacting against "both Fundamentalism that is indifferent to science and

Marxian

questions and the Liberal Social Gospel which denies the fact of sin" and to offer "the Orthodox

social

Faith as in the long run the only possible basis for social and scientific realism." It was to

Christian

this double task of the Christian mission that I asked for ordination in my church and for

pursue

Bishop [ohanon Mar Thimotheus (later Mar Thoma metropolitan), who had participated in the

But

activities for several years and perhaps had faith in my theological integrity, urged the church to

YCCA

the early 1940s Malcolm Adiseshiah of the Madras Christian College, Tambaram, began inviting me

In

speak at the SCM Leaders' Training Courses. For a period I was also the editor of the SCM Student

to

I also became involved in the dialogues of the Indian SCM with the British SCM and the

Outlook.

Student Christian Federation (WSCF) on the Indian political situation. All this led to my being

World's

1947 to 1950 I was full-time secretary and from 1950 to 1953 an officer. This gave me

From

for dialogue with the "West" within the setting of the ecumenical movement. My

opportunity

in the volume on Church and Society in preparation for the first assembly of the World

participation

of Churches (WCC) and especially my conversations with J.H. Oldham, the chairman of the

Council

and Society Committee; and the endless discussion in the Political Commission of the WSCF,

Church

led to the publication of the book, by J. D. McCaughey and myself, TheChristian in the World

which

(1951)-all made for new thinking. I had also to rethink my ideological stance in the light of

Struggle

independence and Nehru's ventures into nation-building. I began to question my thesis that

India's

technology was a matter only of "natural necessity" and that divine justification was

political

only "after politics."

experienced

led me to a new appreciation of the ideologies of liberal democracy and Gandhian nonviolence

This

to a revision of my understanding of Marxism in their light. In my talk at the WSCF General

and

in 1952 I referred to this change in my approach as follows: "There was a time when I

Committee

that the New Age of Christ was so much beyond history that it could be experienced in politics

thought

as Forgiveness and not as Power; that political philosophy could be only a philosophy of sinful

only

where the cross was relevant only as forgiveness to the politician, and not as qualifying

necessities

political parties, techniques and institutions as such." Of course, the depth of sin in collective

politics,

made for a permanent tension between the politics of justice and redemptive love until Christ came;

life

membership in the Communist party. Both rejected me, for opposite reasons.

appoint me its youth secretary. That was in 1945.

III

invited to Geneva as a secretary of the WSCF.

but "it is possible for politics itself to be redeemed of its extreme perversions and be made more or less


Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society was founded in Bangalore in 1956 with

The

Devanandan as director and myself as associate. It was founded by the NCC of India (then the

Paul

Christian Council, now the National Council of Churches) to help the churches understand the

National

religious and social environment in which they had to discharge their mission in independent

changing

Devanandan was convinced that the church's faith and evangelistic mission must be set

India.

and challengingly within the context of Christian participation in nation-building and of the

relevantly

dialogue on the nature and destiny of human-being-in-society (anthropology) inevitable in

interfaith

participation. Devanandan saw Christ at work in the struggle of Hinduism to grapple with the

such

anthropology" derived from Christianity and Western culture informed by Christianity, and in the

"new

this grappling exerted on the "classical theology" of Hinduism. I had long been concerned for

pressure

secular dialogue with the political ideologies of India. Under Devanandan's influence I incorporated

a

my concern dialogue with NeoHindu religious and cultural movements. And I became interested

into

only in the anthropological basis of national politics but also in the exploration of an Indian theology

not

Christ, church, and Christian mission in this context. After the death of Devanandan in 1962 it was

of

effort to make the institute an instrument of this exploration. My own studies Acknowledged Christ

my

the Indian Renaissance (1969), Secular Ideologies of India and the Secular Meaning of Christ

of

and Salvation and Humanisation (1971) deal with the theology of mission in its several aspects.

(1976),

same theological concerns within the larger world-setting of secular ideological and religious

The

were present in my participation in the life and work of the World Council of Churches over

pluralism

years. the

I spend my time in Kerala mostly doing two things-

Today

keeping contact with the radical Christian social action groups in India and their theological

(l)

and

reflections,

writing my theological reflections, on biblical books, in the Malayalam language.

(2)

me, technical socioeconomic developmental creativity and the politics of liberation of the poor and

For

oppressed are the realms of modern life that most need the judgment and redemption in Jesus

the

to make them the signs of the kingdom. But my tragic sense of history prevents me from

Christ

any historical movement of human creativity or political liberation as totally continuous with

identifying

movement of the kingdom. The church's message is power to transform-always through judgment

the

forgiveness in the crucified and risen Christ.

and

human, if it recognizes and receives into itself the power of the gospel."

IV

V


Church leaders celebrate the life and

work of Dr M.M. Thomas


Dr Hielke Wolters and Metropolitan Joseph Mar Thoma at the centenary celebration of M.M.

Rev.

birth in Kerala, India. © Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India.

Thomas’

centenary of the birth of the late ecumenical leader and Indian theologian Dr M.M. Thomas

The

was celebrated in a seminar at his home state in Kerala, India on 31 August,

(1916–1996)

by his home church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, in India. The participants paid

organized

to Thomas’ significant contribution to the ecumenical movement.

tributes

served as moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee from 1968

Thomas

1975. His work as a WCC moderator for the Church and Society Commission, as well as his

to

for other ecumenical organizations, was recalled by seminar participants. The first member of

services

laity to serve as WCC moderator, Thomas was director of the Christian Institute for the Study of

the

and Society in Bangalore from 1962 to 1975 and served as governor of the Indian state of

Religion

from 1990 to 1992.

Nagaland

Dr Hielke Wolters, associate general secretary of the WCC, delivered the keynote address at the

Rev.

He stated that “contributions from M.M. Thomas were not confined within the four walls of the

seminar.

02 September 2015


His profound theological and ecumenical thoughts created ripples in society thereby fostering

church.

change in ‘doing theology’.” The presentation by Wolters addressed the theme “Dr M.M. Thomas’

a

of Prophetic Participation in Salvation and the Struggle for Humanization” and highlighted

theology

of justice and peace in faith as practiced and promoted by Thomas.

dimensions

mentioned aspects of M.M. Thomas’ theological articulations, which he said are “still helpful in

Wolters

the WCC vision of a pilgrimage of justice and peace”. Wolters said that upon “studying his

fulfilling

one discovers that M.M.’s theological methodology shows a refinement which might be

writings,

for a pilgrimage of justice and peace”.

helpful

Dr Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, said that “M.M. Thomas

Rev.

a man of deep commitments, faith and ideological convictions which enabled him to lead a simple

was

profound life committed to ecumenism that upholds the values of humanization.” Metropolitan

but

Mar Thoma officially inaugurated the birth centenary celebrations of Thomas.

Joseph

Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), spoke

Dr

contributions by Thomas to the worldwide ecumenical movement. He highlighted Thomas’

about

Thomas gave new insights to the ecumenical movement which have sharpened the WCC and

“M.M.

programmatic directions over time and helped these ecumenical bodies in taking radical action

CCA’s

Rev. Dr T.M. Philip, a biblical scholar and contemporary of Thomas, gave a presentation on

The

between theology and ideology” in which he highlighted theological developments made

“Encounters

Thomas K. Oommen, deputy moderator of the Church of South India, Rev. Dr K.M. George of

Bishop

Malankara Orthodox Church and Bishop Dr Zacharias Mar Theophilus Suffragan Metropolitan

the

seminar took place a day before the annual meeting of the Representative Assembly of the Mar

The

Church, which had the theme "Faith and Witness in the Public Space". This meeting was

Thoma

by over 1000 delegates and participants. Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters participated in the opening

attended

and delivered a devotional talk. He highlighted the significance of the theme for the WCC

session

contributions in shaping the WCC’s ideological and theological values.

to address the emerging concerns in the world,” he said.

by M.M. Thomas in his work and their relevance to the present context.

chaired various sessions of the seminar.

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.


15, 2015 marked the birth centenary of Dr.M.M.Thomas, the renowned theologian, social thinker,

May

and practitioner of new humanity. Dr. M.M. Thomas was India's precious gift to the world in

prophet,

twentieth century. He presented varied and new visions in theology and was a strong

the

of the ecumenical movement and an exemplary humanitarian. As one whose life

spokesperson

his message, MMT began his church life as the first General Secretary ofthe Mar Thoma

embodied

Sakhyam in the early 1930s. As a

Yuvajana

par excellence, he was a true model for the youth. He gave Yuvajana Sakhyam a visionary

visionary

model, the basis of which was a theology with deep-rooted social commitment. In the 1940s,

working

interpretations of political and independence ideologies made an impact on college campuses,

when

M.M. Thomas had a unique role in forming a distinctive stream ofthought. It is worth noting the role

Dr.

U.C. College, Aluva, in moulding great people with visionary ideologies made an impact on college

of

Dr. M.M. Thomas had a unique role in forming a distinctive stream ofthought. It is worth

campuses,

the role of U.C. College, Aluva, in moulding great people with visionary background and

noting

them to the society. It had its influence on Dr. M.M. Thomas as well.

presenting

on May 15, 1916 as the son of Madathipparambil M.M. Mammen and Mariamma of

Born

and growing up in the spiritual, social, and educational milieu of Kerala, spreading

Kozhencherry,

across the large horizon of universal humanist philosophy, yet being an iconic figure of ideals

wings

humble lifestyle, In world history, the twentieth century is considered an era of change. National

and

progress of science, impact of education, commitment to value-based democracy,

consciousnesses,

new trends in communication, all have contributed to change in all aspects. In the early years

and

last century, faith and hope in the imminent Kingdom of God was clear and active in the hearts

ofthe

But the II World War shattered those dreams. Even though many nations became

ofpeople.

they later fell prey to dictatorship and military rule. Despite the realization of Gandhiji‘s

independent,

for an independent India, his dream ofa new India where the oppressed,the exploited, the

dream

and the marginalized will enter the mainstream of independent India and make a Ramarajya

voiceless,

summarily elusive.

remained

in the world as well, there was a pervading feeling of hopelessness, frustration, and in

Elsewhere

amid questions of what needs to be done. It is in this global context and especially from the

security

of the tragic events of the II World War there emerged a Theology of Resurrection like a Phoenix

ashes

fluttering its wings of hope. The emergence of this stream of thought in theology provided a

bird

Theology of Liberation to the Christian Church, with Dr. M.M. Thomas being its leading

Christocentric

spokesperson, and practitioner. This thought pattern spread across the world in the form of

prophet,

DR. M. M. THOMAS: PROPHET OF NEW HUMANITY

IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan, Marthoma Church.


that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless

all

(NRSV). This resulted in the development of a theology based on the Creator of a Created order.

you"

influence of both Manganam Christhavashram and Students Christian Movement inspired Dr. M.M.

The

to creatively respond to Liberation Theology.

Thomas

words and deeds of Dr. M.M. Thomas were a reminder that it is the dharma of the church to stand

The

solidarity with those who suffer pain, are oppressed, exploited, and marginalized, and also to act

in

taking the’ U stance for righteousness in political and secular spheres. He was careful to

responsibly

a model for Christian witness in India by bringing about the harmony of Christian dharma and

form

heritage. The Acknowledged Christ of Indian Renaissance (CLS Madras: 1970), The Secular

Indian

of India and Secular Meaning of Christ (CLS Madras: 1976), and Bhagavad Gita: A

Ideologies

Appreciation (Malayalam, CLS Madras: 1987), are his books that laid the foundations of

Christian

Christian Theology.

lndian

firm roots on Indian soil, Dr. M.M. Thomas was instrumental in sowing the seed for the

With

of a post-colonial theology by bringing the subaltern voices of the marginalized in society

emergence

the purview of philosophical discussion. The visions and actions of Dr. Thomas also had a great

to

on the approach of the church towards providing space for those who lacked a living space. For

impact

South Travancore missionary Vedanthachari was a person who worked within a framework

example,

his o\vn. After his death his followers were stranded as sheep without a shepherd.

of

churches and fellowships in the area were unwilling to receive them. Even though they

Those

the Mar Thoma priest in Trivandrum, it remains a fact that even the Mar Thoma Church

approached

a cold shoulder to their needs.However, in those days, Dr. M.M. Thomas, Dr. K.K. George and

turned

who were then students at the University College. Trivandrum, ventured to visit those flocks

friends

a shepherd and catered to their spiritual growth. This is how the South Travancore mission

without

of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association got established and later parishes formed.

fields

theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas is that of a new humanity. The foundational principle of post-colonial

The

which swept over Europe and third World nations was new humanity. In the discipline of

philosophy

it assumed the form of Liberation Theology, Black Theology, Dalit Theology, or Feminist

theology.

Dr. Thomas played an important role in evolving this vision of new humanity as the form of

thought.

Thomas sojourned through the path of Reformation in the Mar Thoma Church. Mar

Dr.

Church has a heritage of resistance against the Portuguese invasion and the influx of foreign

Thoma

disputes. The reformation ideals of the church influenced Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma

liturgical

Dr. M.M. Thomas, Mr. T.M. Varghese, Adv. K.T. Thomas and others in taking a firm

Metropolitan,

in the struggles against the move towards Independent Travancore at the time of independence

stance

later against the state of Emergency in the seventies.

and

Thomas's views about the church, and his creative criticisms gave a sense of consciousness to the

Dr.

churches in India. His use of terms like Open Church. Secular Koinonia, gave more clarity

Christian

his book on the reformation of Abraham Malpan. In the contemporary social, economic, and political

in

where the rights of the minorities are eclipsed and the process of marginalization of the weak

setting

Liberation Theology.

In the words of a South American theologian, whose thought was captured

when he read

and reflected on Psalm 145: 9-l0."The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over

witness for the Indian Church.

and content to his

ecclesiology. Dr. Thomas explains the plausibility of the witness ofan open church

accelerated, the ecclesial theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas becomes all the more pertinent.


election as Moderator at the Nairobi Assembly was a great endorsement for his vision and

His

The Christocentric theology of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Hendrik Kraemer helped

personality.

his ecumenical social thinking and missionary outlook. Jiirgen Moltmann was his contemporary

form

both of them benefited each other in streamlining their theological discourse.

and

and visions of Dr. Thomas who declared that the ecumenical vision of the Mar Thoma

Memories

involves universal brotherhood and solidarity with the weak, will always remain a source of

Church

not only to the Mar Thoma Church but the global Christian Church as well. He could not

inspiration

as a priest in the church though he had wished to become one in yester years. However, he did

serve

service than any priest by his active presence in the ecumenical endeavours of the church and

more

his lucid contributions to the understanding of theology.

by

priestly vision of the Mar Thoma Church is open. broad, and democratic. It is the tradition of the

The

Thoma Church to give ample role to the laity and to encourage their diversified ministries. Dr.

Mar

presence and suggestions in the committee for selecting ministerial candidates in the

Thomas‘s

were greatly honored. His contributions towards upholding the legacy of the Mar Thoma

church

in the ecumenical realm will always be appreciated. His contributions in the ecumenical arena

Church

CISRS and WCC were honored by all. Dr. Thomas‘ life partner Mrs. Pennamma, his sister Mrs.

of

and her husband Mr. A.K. Thampy complemented and enriched his visions and actions.

Sosamma,

holding to ethical integrity. Dr. Thomas had an impact on the perspectives of Dr. T.V. Philip

together

death is an irreparable loss to the church and society. Society must continue to discuss his

His

and standpoint. Such continuing thought processes and discussions will make an appropriate

thoughts

to his legacy during the birth centenary celebrations. As prophets of new humanity, let us march

tribute

in the divine plan to create a new church, a new humanity, and a newworld.

together

the birth centenary commemoration of Dr. M.M. Thomas make the dream ofthe Book of

May

of the apostle St. John that ‘I have seen the new heavens and the new earth,’ a real

Revelation

Dr. M.M. Thomas is the gift of the Mar Thoma Church to the world ecumenical movement.

and Dr. T.K. Thomas.

Dr. Thomas passed away on December 3,1996.

experience giving us all a new vision and sense of direction.


is a great honour for me to be invited by His Grace the Most Rev.Dr Joseph Mar Thoma

It

to give an address about the work of Dr M.M. Thomas. My own theological

Metropolitan

started with my study in the Netherlands and in Bangalore at the United

journey

College. My stay in Bangalore brought me in contact with M.M.Thomas and

Theological

me to study his theologicalthinking. In those days, we very much focussed

encouraged

what was called ‘doing theology’ as we felt that academic theology can only be

on

if it is rooted in the day to day struggle of people for their basic needs. To me

relevant

theological journey seemed to be an excellent example of ‘doing theology’ as

Thomas’

did not began his reflections in an academic setting, but through his involvement with

he

concerns. My study of his thinking was therefore inspired by an eagerness to

social

Dr. M.M. Thomas’ Theology

of

Prophetic Participation in Salvation

and

the Struggle for Humanisation

Presentation at the seminar of the Birth Centenary Celebration of M.M.Thomas

in Tiruvalla, 31 August 2015 by

Rev.Dr Hielke Wolters, Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches

Introductory remarks

know from where he got his ideas and theologicalinsights: from being involved of the


struggle for fuller humanity or from studying theologicalbooks. Fortunately,

people’s

had the good habit to archive almost every piece of writing, from very small

Thomas

to extensive papers and articles. So I started off to read all these documents as

notes

of his theological journey. It was a blessing to visit him several times here in

witnesses

In the mornings we reflected on his thinking in the various stages in his life, in

Tiruvalla.

afternoon we played chess and in the evenings we had a walk meeting several

the

his friends. This personal encounter with Thomas has very much shaped my own

of

reflection. I am extremely grateful for his guidance, his humour and his

theological

reflect on Thomas’ thinking during this Birth Centenary Celebrations has placed me

To

a dilemma. Thomas’ theological reflections have a profound contextual nature.

before

developed his thinking in response to developments in the society, the churches, the

He

movement. He tried to discern insights which might help us further in

ecumenical

our Christian responsibility. His theology is by nature a dialogical

understanding

developed in the conversation with people of his time. So, if we want to honour

theology,

we need to do that by inviting him to participate in our current theological

Thomas

It is for this reason that I want to ask him: Dr Thomas, what is your idea about

debates.

new proposal from the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan that the

this

should join in a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace? After all, you have been

churches

of the WCC’s central committee. What would you have said as moderator

moderator

people would have come to you with this new initiative? What would have been

when

my presentation this morning, I propose to open the conversation with Thomas by first

In

his own ecumenical journey of ‘understanding and responsibility’ as he called

reviewing

in his unpublished autobiography.1 How did he develop an effective balance between,

it

instance, participation in the nation building processes and prophetic witness against

for

economic and political injustice in India? How did he sharpen his understanding

social,

justice and peace while reflecting on the theological concept of divine grace? What

of

his contribution to the ecumenical debates of his days on the relation between

was

and humanisation? Is his work on spirituality, spirituality for combat, still

salvation

for our search for pilgrimage spirituality? I am sure that he would have loved to

relevant

in the ecumenical debate on a pilgrimage of justice and peace, and that his

participate

would have been challenging, ‘challenging relevant’, to use a phrase of A.G.

contribution

(1875-1954), frequently cited by Thomas.

Hogg

before we go deeper into Thomas’ reflections I need to say a few words about

However,

WCC’s initiative to launch a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

the

was the 10th assembly of the World Councilof Churches, held from 30 October to 8

It

2013 in Busan, Republic of Korea, thatcalled for a pilgrimage of justice and

November

The assembly message says: “We intend to move together. Challenged by our

peace.

in Busan, we challenge all people of good willto engage their God-given

experiences

in transforming actions. This assembly calls you to join us in pilgrimage.” (2) A

gifts

of aspects are interesting in this call to join a pilgrimage. Why did the WCC call

number

patience with me.

your theological response?

The call to move together

for a pilgrimage?


the churches and ecumenical movement around a thematic decadehas a long

Mobilizing

The last thematic decade, the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001 - 2010),

tradition.

with an impressive International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston,

concluded

17-22 May 2011.The possibility of a next thematic decade was already

Jamaica,

while reflecting on the results of the Decade to Overcome Violence. There

discussed

still enough work to be done around Just Peace with the on-going economic and

was

problems. Also newly emerging concerns, for instance around religion and

ecological

made clear that the peace-agenda was not completed. Yet, the general feeling

violence,

that a joint ecumenical action and reflection process should not be shaped again in

was

form of a decade.

the

leadership of the WCC had at least three reasons to move from the concept of a

The

towards a more ecclesial metaphor.Firstly, the WCC felt that the added value of

decade

ecumenical body in the public debate is not only to advocate for political solutions,

an

important they may be. The unique contribution of ecumenical advocacy work is

how

it can mobilise churches through addressing spiritual and theological dimensions of

that

problem.At the same time the theological approach helps to deepen the political

a

addressing social, cultural and religious root causes. Secondly, a new

debatesby

was needed to highlight a new methodologicalapproach. Earlier ecumenical

metaphor

have shown a regular tendency of self-confidence: we know what needs to be

debates

in this world; we have an alternative. In recent years, this attitude has slowly

changed

towards a more modest self-understanding: would it be possible that we develop

moved

relevant contribution to the public debates knowing that the search for alternatives is

a

and needs the wisdom of all. Thirdly, the terminology of a decade was felt to be

complex

from a planning perspective. The WCC has every seven or eight year an

problematic

have planning cycles of 10 year questions the role of assemblies in the process of

To

the agenda and evaluating the results.

setting

theological, methodological and practical considerations have helped to

These

that in the ecumenical movement the metaphor of a pilgrimage is more

understand

than the concept of a thematic decade. This change in understanding our

appropriate

calling today can already be found the wording Assembly message. It says:

ecumenical

intend to move together.” Moving together is at the very heart of a pilgrimage.

“We

the words ‘we intend to move together’ is also an implicit reference to the

However,

of the First Assembly of the WCC, Amsterdam, 1948, which said: “We intend to

Message

together.” The major achievement of the 1st assembly was that churches were able

stay

establish a Council in spite of the severe political and ecclesial divisive forces of those

to

The reference in Busan to Amsterdam was based on an assessment of the needs

days.

the day. Unity among churches cannot be limited to mutual recognition of important

of

aspects, such baptism, eucharist and ministry. It also needs to empower

ecclesial

to work together ecumenically. Unity finds its expression in mission. This does

churches

mean that Busan wants to replace the unity affirmed in theological and cclesiological

not

by practical unity in the form of ecumenical cooperation. Busan rather

agreements

the need for a more holistic understanding of unity.

highlighted

assembly.


quest for an integrated understanding of unity and mission was clearly expressed in

The

Unity Statement of the 10th assembly. This Statement tries to articulate the unity

the

for the coming years in the light of current developments in the world, in

agenda

and in the ecumenical movement. It says: “The unity of the Church, the unity of

churches

human community and the unity of the whole creation are interconnected. Christ who

the

us one calls us to live in justice and peace and impels us to work together for

makes

and peace in God’s world.”(3) The three layers in the search for unity - church,

justice

community and the whole creation - need to strengthen one another. Although

human

holistic understanding is not entirely new in the ecumenical movement, it helps to

this

for a sound theological understanding of the pilgrimage.

provide

we have embarked on this pilgrimage, further theologicaland ecclesiological

Now

is urgently needed. The metaphor of a pilgrimage is rather new in the

reflection

movement and needs to be developed further as an inspiring concept that

ecumenical

motivate churches and ecumenical bodies to move together. Similarly, the

can

of justice and peace needs further reflection to avoid that secular

understanding

are copied into ecumenical language and approaches without critical

concepts

way of encouraging theological and ecclesiological reflection on the pilgrimage of

One

and peace is to open the conversation with the fathers and mothers of the

justice

movement. Can their experience and insights help us attain a deeper

ecumenical

of our current journey?

understanding

would M.M.Thomas have said about this proposal to begin as ecumenical

What

a pilgrimage of justice and peace?

movement

know his answer we cannot only refer to his major publications, but we need to

To

his own faith journey. After all we are talking about his response to the idea

understand

a pilgrimage, a journey through which we try to discern what the Holy Spirit wants us to

of

about Christian responsibility for promoting justice and peace. What can we learn

tell

Thomas’ theological journeyhe did not start with a fomal theological

Interestingly

He graduated in chemistry and started his career as a teacher at the

education.

Asram High School (1935-1937). During his years as student and later at

Perumpavoor

High School he got in touch with the SCM and the Mar Thoma Youth Union. Being

the

to learn more about Christian faith, he started reading books, whatever was

eager

to him. He began with books which strengthened his spiritual life, from authors

available

Thomas à Kempis, Weatherhead, Baron von Hügel, William Temple, Canon Streeter,

like

Carvie, W.R. Malthey. Through the SCM he also got to know scholars like Reinhold

A.E.

Nicolas Berdyaev, John Macmurray, V.A.Demant and Hendrik Kraemer. These

Niebuhr,

helped him to understand the wider perspective of Christian faith.

thinkers

1984 in a meditation at the Princeton TheologicalSeminary, where he was visiting

In

at that time, he referred to a saying of Hendrik Kraemer that every person

professor

assessment.

from Thomas’ own faith journey?

Towards a theology of prophetic participation


to go through two conversions: the first conversion from self to God and the

needs

from God to the world.(4)

second

spiritual and theological formation very much followed that pattern. First, he

Thomas’

his personal, pietistic faith through reading spiritual literature; later his

deepened

in society was theologically undergirded by reading scholarly articles and

engagement

about Christian responsibility in social, economic and politicaldevelopments.

books

later explained that this way of doing theology through practical engagement in

Thomas

day-to-day reality of the people needs to be at the heart of every theological

the

In the Introduction to hisMan and the Universe of Faithș he explained that

methodology.

have to move between looking at religion as a function of society and looking at

“we

as a function of religious truth, of man’s search for and faith-response to God,

society

is, between sociology of religion and theology of society”.(5) His own theological

that

is an example of this interaction between analysis of developments in society

journey

theological reflection on the meaning of Christian faith.

and

his early years, Thomas’ theological thinking was very much influenced by what he

In

called an ‘evangelical and sacramental piety’. In the late 1930s he developed a

himself

perspective through his work with street boys in Trivandrum and his reflection on

wider

concerns. Later he testified that this practical engagement with young people had

social

him tremendously to understand the meaning of genuine love and human

helped

concepts that are central in his later writings. His pietistic faith and social

personality,

got increasingly integrated through his reflections on the meaning of the

involvement

He later published his mediations and prayers of those days in a booklet with the

cross.

title The Realization of the Cross (1972). Focus on God’s self-emptying love as

telling

core of Christian faith brought him closer to Gandhi’s philosophy and political

the

of non-violence. In his article ‘Gandhism and the principles of Jesus’, he used

ideology

description of Jesus as the ‘transcendentsatyagrahi’.7 Faith in God’s

A.G.Hogg’s

love, revealed through the cross of Christ, finds expression in a non-violent

self-giving

of the people for freedom and justice.

struggle

the 1940s, Thomas became more critical of this approach. He discovered, with so

In

others in those days, that the concepts of love and non-violence are not strong

many

73)’. Where is God in the coastal regions around Shertallay where people die of

(Ps

and thirst due to the war in Europe? He reflected: “Mankind is one brotherhood –

hunger

man will not learn it through love, he shall be taught it through judgement. What man

if

to take to heart in a kiss, he shall realise in a catastrophe.”8Here we see that

refuses

became more critical to his earlier trust in the power love and non-violence. In

Thomas

early 1940s he came closer to Marxist thinking, having doubts about the ffectiveness

the

Gandhi. His theological reflection was more and more influenced by people like

of

Berdyaev and Reinhold Niebuhr. He felt the need for a more realistic

Nicolas

my research, I discovered that his thinking went through a number of stages

Through

he arrived at the theological approach as known in his later books, such as

before

Salvation Humanisation.(6)

and

to fight social, economic and politicalinjustice. One of his most impressive

enough

of those days is the one published in a ‘Famine Special’ of Arunodayam

articles

(November 1941) with the title ‘Where is God?


esponse to what he saw as a crisis in modern civilization leading

theological-ideological

dehumanisation and the disintegration of the human person as well as the community.

to

critical analysis of the developments in society helped him also to revisit his

This

understanding. At a SCM Leaders’ Training Course in 1943, he presented a

theological

which he later gave the title ‘From Utopianism to Tragic Realism’. In this paper he

paper

“The liberal understanding is only a conflict between human righteousness

concluded:

human unrighteousness; but the Christian understands that the basic conflict is

and

human righteousness and divine righteousness, or to put it differently, between

between

righteousness turned to proud or self-righteousness and divine righteousness.

human

it is that history must be understood as the story of man’s sin and God’s

Hence

is quite a different theologicalinterpretation of the developments in

judgment.”9This

than he had in the 1930s. The tragedy of famine and war and the influence of

society

thinking in Kerala, helped him to see the dark side of humanity. He articulated

Marxist

crisis in modern civilization and of the modern human person in terms of

the

spite of this far more critical theologicaland ideological approach, compared to his

In

‘divine love / non-violence’ framework, there are important elements of continuity

earlier

his thinking. Probably the most important are his focus on the Christian understanding

in

the human person and the community. His critique on liberal thinking made him aware

of

the human person is not result of human efforts but is essentially a divine gift.

that

his critique on individualism helped him to understand that the human person

Similarly,

profoundly a person-in-community. This theologicalbasis for understanding the

is

person as a divine gift becomes the ground for prophetic witness. His critique on

human

society, its disintegration and search for totalitarian solutions, challenged him to

modern

a kind of a ‘negative theology’: in the name of humanity, the Christian has to

develop

a prophetic witness against dehumanizing social, economic and political

formulate

For this reason, Thomas never fully embraced Marxism and rejected its

forces.

emphasising the discontinuity between human efforts and divine grace, he further

While

his understanding of the church. Influenced by St. Augustine’s reflections on

developed

two cities, Thomas saw the church as the order of grace, while the social

the

the state, represents the order of law. It is interesting to see that Thomas

organisation,

the struggle for justice as being part of the order of law which is necessary but at

sees

same time problematic. In 1945, he wrote: “Justice means the affirmation of the due

the

of human nature; and rights mean also power to affirm them, for power is a

rights

element of the natural structure. Hence the problem of justice is a problem of

constitutive

humanity, according to Thomas at that time, could only be found in the order of

True

being the church. “Charity is not continuous with Justice in the fallen world. … To

grace

theology of the two cities was soon very much challenged by his own experience,

This

also by the dialogues with his colleagues in the WSCF, which he had joined in 1947

but

its Asia secretary. His recognition of the tremendous task of the rebuilding of

as

and political structures in the newly independent states in Asia, and especially

economic

self-righteousness.

totalitarian interpretations of human reality.

power-politics.”(10)

live a responsible life is to live a life of tragic tension.”(11)


growing awareness of rapid social changes in these countries, made him aware that

his

‘negative theology’ was not sufficient.

a

theology was needed that could give guidance to ‘nation building’. His radical

A

position was also challenged by his new colleagues. For instance, Philippe

theological

wrote to him:

Maury

must confess that I am very puzzled and disturbed by that dichotomy you establish

“I

political and theological realms. … In the same way, I should refuse to make

between

distinction between the theology of Justice and a theology of Grace. There is no

any

to the wider reality of Asia and engagement in ecumenical conversations,

Exposure

Thomas to rethink his theology.

urged

years later, in 1952, in an address to the WCSF central committee, he confessed:

Five

was a time when I thought that the New Age of Christ was so much beyond

“There

that it could be experienced in politics only as forgiveness and not as power, that

history

philosophy could be only a philosophy of sinful necessities where the Cross was

political

only as forgiveness to the politician, and not as qualifying politics, political

relevant

techniques and institutions as such.”

parties,

he continued wondering: “Cannot forgiveness be realized as power in the structures

And

the collective and institutional life of man in society?”(13)

of

question has guided him for the many years to come. Is the power of God’s grace

This

redeeming and giving direction to the social, economic and political struggles for

also

and peace? He had discovered that his early understanding of God’s self-giving

justice

revealed through the ‘transcendent satyagrahi’, was not realistic enough to cope

love,

the deadly forces in society. He also learned that a too strong separation between

with

order of grace and the order of law, would not help to root the struggle for justice in

the

reality of divine grace. In other words,a sound theological interpretation of the

the

for justice and peace needed a deeper reflection on, as he phrased it, the

struggle

between salvation and humanisation. This would be a theology which provides a

relation

ground for prophetic witness, but at the same time helps Christians to take up the

firm

for participation in society. In other words, he arrived at what I called in my

responsibility

a theology of prophetic participation.(14)

research

In these publications, he further elaborated and applied a theological

(1975).

which is still very relevant and useful, especially for the ecumenical

methodology

justice but the justice of the Grace of Jesus Christ.”(12)

Salvation and humanisation

and Humanisation’ is the title under which Thomas published his Carey

‘Salvation

Lectures of 1970 in Bangalore. In fact, the title captures his entire theological

Memorial

in the first half of the 1970s. It includes his well-known studies onThe

work

Acknowledged Christ of the Renaissance(1970), Indian The Secular Ideologies of India

and the Secular Meaning of (1976), and his Christ Man and the Universe of Faiths

pilgrimage of justice and peace, as we will see later.


core of this methodology is as we saw above, a constant interaction between

The

of religion and theological of society. The question where to begin has been

sociology

subject of many theological debates. Several schools of Christian theology are

the

that any theology or missiology needs to begin with reflection on the Christian

convinced

Thomas was fully aware of these discussions. Reflecting on the mission

Gospel.

in his publication Salvation and Humanisation, he saw the value of both

perspective

of entry. “The question is not where you enter, but whether you reach a point

points

you are aware of the inter-relatedness of the historicaland the eternal.”(15)

where

he later addressed a similar question from the perspective of inter-religious

When

he affirmed the need to put the human quest at the centre. “Our thesis is that

dialogue,

among faiths at spiritual depth can best take place in the modern world at the

dialogue

where they are all grappling with the spiritual self-understanding of modern man,

point

the problems of true self-realisation or fulfilment of true humanity within modern

and

existence.”(16)

many of his writings, whether books, articles or comments on current affairs, he

In

this approach. In his analysis of current social, economic and political

followed

he tried to understand what is behind the facts and events. How to

developments,

their spiritual dimensions? Doing so his analysis focussed on the human

interpret

of his writings in the 1970s, focussed therefore on the theological interpretation

Several

the human self-understanding in modern societies. This has raised several

of

and conflicts especially with theologians from conservative and

misunderstandings

circles. The most ardent critique came from the evangelicalmissiologist

evangelical

Beyerhaus who accused him of leading the ecumenical movement into a direction

Peter

replaces theology by anthropology which finally may (14) I gave my study of the

that

of Thomas’ thinking the title Theology of Prophetic Participation as an

development

of this search. lead to developing anti-Christian symptoms.(18)

expression

others did not always fully accept Thomas’ approach as for instance

Also

with Bishop Newbigin shows.(19)

correspondence

most systematic exploration of the meaning of human self-understanding can be

The

in Man and the Universe of Faithṣ There he pointed at four important dimensions.

found

the human person experiences ‘self’ as freedom and power of creativity.

Firstly,

freedom is seen as self-determination and a search for self-identity. Thirdly,

Secondly,

modern human being sees the destiny of his/her‘self’ in the involvement of history,

the

movement of human liberation. Finally, Thomas acknowledged a new awareness

the

human freedom is realised in universal love. This way of describing the

that

in human self-understanding is in many ways interesting. Especially the

developments

on creativity and freedom is helpful in understanding modern scientific,

focus

social and economic developments. The human being understands these

technological,

“Christian theology is not just the Gospel but the interaction between

self-understanding.

Gospel and the self-understanding of humans in every age”, he wrote inReligion and

the Revolt of Oppressed.(17)

the

developments as expressions of freedom and creativity. They are our historical destiny.


the same time, Thomas also acknowledged that there is a growing awareness that

At

freedom is realised in universal love, a new spirituality which is open for dialogue

human

did not begin with judging these developments as being good or bad. He rather

Thomas

to understand them as expressions of modern human self-understanding and was

tried

aware of the positive and negative, creative and destructive, sides of human

fully

and creativity. It is precisely at this cutting edge that the Gospel needs to be

freedom

before doing so, he further deepened the analysis of human

interpreted.However,

from the religious perspective.

self-understanding

he pointed at the messianic nature of modern self-understanding. As an

Surprisingly,

thinker, he was fully aware of the vitality of Eastern religions, like Hinduism and

Indian

However, the impact of Western politics, economy, science, technology and

Buddhism.

Christian faith, has brought a new spiritual ferment to the Eastern

education,including

“Our thesis is that the universe of unitive faiths is today being brought into the

religions.

and ‘theological’ circle of messianic faiths in a radical way”(20), he

‘anthropological’

interpretation of the developments allowed him to analyse the spiritual

concluded.This

of modern human self-understanding from the perspective of messianic faiths,

dimension

analysing the messianic dimension of current developments, Thomas saw the

While

to get a deeper understanding of the nature of messianism. He referred to

need

distinction between the national messianism of the Conquering King and the

Berdyaev’s

messianism of the Suffering Servant. The endless conflict between these two

universal

became already clear in the history of the Hebrew people. The kings

messianisms

the national, conquering forces, while they were throughout the history of

represented

Hebrew people challenged by the prophets calling for justice and peace in the name

the

God. This prophetic tradition is essential to Christian faith, as Berdyaev sees it.

of

also the history of Christianity is a manifestation of the conflict between the

However,

(18)

is interesting to note that around 40 years later two students of Beyerhaus and

It

Thomas Schirrmacher and myself, were instrumentalin bringing together the

Thomas,

of the World Evangelical Alliance and the World council of Churches into a

leadership

retreat (February 2015) as a significant sign of growing Christian unity.

joint

messianisms. Berdyaev saw even a continuation of this fundamental conflict in

(19)two

modern secular ideologiessuch as communismand capitalism.

the

used this interpretation of history as a continuous conflict between the

Thomas

of the Conquering King and that of the Suffering Servant to explore what the

messianism

response to the modern search for human self-understanding needs to be. He

Christian

three alternatives.(21)

saw

first alternative is the one in which several conquering messiahs compete with one

The

leading to balances of power. This alternative will not lead to a human solution,

another

Thomas saw it: “For, with the power which technology has put at the disposal of

as

this becomes a balance of terror, with the sense of chaos and deadly conflict

messiahs,

and relations, broadening the community to include all mankind.

What is the religious and theological interpretation of modern developments?

whether religious or secular.


at hand.” One can recognise the truth of this observation in many of the current

always

and political conflicts in different parts of the world.

economic

second alternative, Thomas observed, is to put a break on the growth of human

The

and creativity. This alternative means in a way the return of messianic faiths to

freedom

spirituality of what Thomas called the ‘unitive’ faiths. This is probably what many

the

of a ‘green’, sustainable development would see as the best alternative.

advocates

saw the potential of this way, but had serious doubts about its viability:

Thomas

this path will help humankind to save itself from self-destruction in

“Evidently,

but only at the cost of the responsibility of growth to mature manhood.”

totalitarianism,

(22)

did not only reject this alternative as unrealistic. For him, growth of humanity

Thomas

a greater maturity is at the heart of his theologicalcritique of the so-called

towards

religions. His experience of poverty, casteism, and oppression in the Indian

‘unitive’

helped him to see that a static society sanctioned by religious beliefs, prevents

society

he proposed a third alternative which does not stop growth and also does not

Therefore,

to self-destruction. This alternative is “the path of the reinterpretation of the modern

lead

forces and spirit within the framework of the messianism of the suffering

revolutionary

and faith in the cruciform humanity in Christ as the ultimate destiny of mankind.”

servant

sentence is key in Thomas’ interpretation of the relation between salvation and

This

He translated his affirmation of the messianism of the suffering servant

humanisation.

a language that relates to the human self-understanding in modern developments,

into

coined in that discourse the concept of cruciform humanity.

and

further exploring what he meant with this concept, it is good to note the relevance

Before

these three alternatives for the current ecumenical debates on justice and peace. It

of

that in these debates several voices tend to support the second alternative, a

seems

to further growth. The ecumenical movement has in this respect a strong affinity

stop

the so called ‘green’ social justice movements without exploring in depth the

with

implications. Thomas’ doubts about the second alternative and his proposal

theological

explore a third, are rooted in his search for a Christian theologicalinterpretation of

to

and creativity leading to justice and peace. One wonders what that exploration

freedom

mean for a better understanding of the ecumenical contribution in the pilgrimage of

could

and peace to the current ‘secular’ debates on sustainable development,

justice

order to fully understand what Thomas meant with his concept of cruciform humanity,

In

is important to study his more general observations on Christology. He developed his

it

reflections primarily in dialogue with the major religious and ideological

Christological

in India, especially Hinduism and secular ideologies. Being aware of the

streams

plurality in the India and Asia, he stated that there is also need for more than

religious

Christology. He wrote: “There is therefore the need for pluralism in Christology to

one

growth towards a mature understanding of human freedom and creativity.

(23)

resolution and peacebuilding.

conflict

‘Cruciform humanity’


the diverse needs of the situation. We must think in terms of Christologies rather

meet

Christology. Each type will have its own apologetic problems … The Indian religious

than

is more prone to emphasise the divinity of Jesus at the cost of his humanity …

tradition

peril from secular temper is that it might deprive Christ of his divine nature.”(24)

The

preference for contextualising Christology again underlines Thomas’ theological

His

of moving forward and backward between social and religious analysis

methodology

extensively developed his Christological reflections in relation to Renascent

He

The primary question in this dialogue is the relation between the universality

Hinduism.

particularity of Jesus Christ. Several Hindu thinkers do not have difficulties with the

and

of Christ.

universality

Gandhi affirmed the universality of the message of Christ. The sacrificiallove

Mahatma

by Christ gave full support to Gandhi’s principle ofahimsa.But Gandhi,

proclaimed

observed, did not “move through the principles to the Person”.

Thomas

(25)

essence of incarnation is that Jesus Christ was fully divine but at the same time fully

The

In order to emphasise the particularity and historicity of Jesus Christ, Thomas

human.

stressed the need to locate him in the prophetic tradition in the history of the

frequently

people.

Hebrew

inter-relation between universality and particularity of Jesus Christ is important for

The

way in which one understands his crucifixion and resurrection. Thomas never

the

the theological view of thedivine absence in the event of the cross. He rather

supported

the cross as a moment of divine revelation. One can find this interpretation

understood

in his meditations of the 1930s; it was still the core of his understanding the

already

and 1980s. Reflecting on Revelation 13:8, he explained that “the Book of

1970s

speaks of the Cross as the eternal reality in the life of God, with the Lamb

Revelation

from the foundation of the world”.(26)

slain

cross reveals God as a suffering God whose very nature is self-giving love.However,

The

than in the 1930s, he later gave a far more critical dimension to this

different

more critical interpretation was certainly influenced by his deeper involvement in the

This

economic and political struggles in India. It was certainly also influenced by the

social,

debates on liberation theology and people’s theologies. In a sermon on ‘The

ecumenical

of the Cross for our Times’ on Good Friday 1972, he said: “The Cross is the

meaning

of God with the suffering of the poor and the oppressed, of the refugee and

identification

disinherited, of the Negro and the outcaste, and is therefore a source of hope for their

the

clearly shows how Thomas saw a great value in liberation theology as it

This

the divine solidarity with the suffering of human beings.

emphasises

and theological reflection.

interpretation of the cross.

liberation and their future”.(27)


the divine solidarity with the suffering is only one dimension in his

However,

of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. His writings show also another dimension

interpretation

is rooted in his theological developments of the 1940s, when he discovered that

which

fundamental human problem is not that of lack of righteousness but the inherent

the

on this aspect of the cross, he came closer to the classical theologies of

Reflecting

by faith. In his attempt to develop theological insights for a secular

justification

he pointed at the centrality of divine forgiveness: “The Cross of Jesus is

anthropology,

the answer to the human problem of justification of human existence. Responding in

also

to the free Divine forgiveness and acceptance offered by the Crucified, man is

faith

from the necessity to seek security and justification by his own spirituality and

released

he highlighted the liberating aspect of divine forgiveness in an almost pastoral way.

Here

other places he pointed at the far more critical dimension of the need of faith in divine

At

Acceptance of divine forgiveness and divine grace is the only way to avoid

forgiveness.

self-righteousness ends up in violence and destruction in the name of secular or

that

we have seen earlier, this attempt to find a theological basis for resistance to human

As

turning violent has been the ground for his prophetic witness against

self-righteousness

ideologies and regimes. However, it was also his theological motivation to be

totalitarian

with people’s movements and people’s theologies. In his address to the 5th

cautious

struggle for liberation and justice. But he also expressed his hesitation to the spirit

Asian

the report: “I find it difficult to identify the People with the Messiah, and people’s

of

of liberation with the movement of the revelation of God and the Kingdom in

movement

– which the Introduction tends to do.”(29)

history

then he continued to give a theological motivation: “Such idolatry of the people will

And

bring into the movement of justice a spirit and ideology of self-righteousness which

only

betray the human ends of liberation from within.” This observation reminds us of the

will

of people like Berdyaev and Reinhold Niebuhr who taught Thomas that

warnings

saw the need to further develop in an interrelated way the two dimensions of his

Thomas

of the cross: the divine solidarity with the suffering as wellas the divine

understanding

as judgement of self-righteousness. He is also aware that these two dimensions

grace

led to severe tensions in the ecumenical movement at different levels. Especially,

have

the period after the 4thly in Uppsala, 1968, when liberation theology in all its varieties

in

and the tension was growing between supporters of those theologies and the

emerged

of the more traditional theological interpretations of cross and resurrection. In

advocates

address as moderator of the central committee to the 5th assembly of the WCC in

his

1975, he referred to this growing tension in the ecumenical family and beyond

Nairobi,

between the ecumenical and evangelicaltheologians and churches. As an Indian

that

leader and theologian, he fully supported the struggle for justice in solidarity

ecumenical

the poor and oppressed. He saw the need for changing the existing power

with

tendency towards self-righteousness.

moral or social idealism.”(28)

religious ideals of good or God.

of East Asia Christian Conference, July 1973, reviewing the Introduction of

assembly

E.A.C.C.-Urban Industrial Project he affirmed the need to work together in the

Reporț

revolutions easily turn to be self-righteous, destroying its own children.

structures as an important agenda for the ecumenical movement. But he wondered:


can the struggles and conflicts to bring human dignity to the poor and the

“How

even the power politics which oppose institutionalized violence with

oppressed,

be kept within the spiritualframework of the ultimate power of the

counter-violence,

Christ and the ultimate goal of recognition of all people in Christ?”(30)

crucified

him it was important to see that our struggles, even our struggles for justice, have a

For

nature. He quoted the Latin American liberation theologian J. MiguezBonino:

penultimate

of our battles is the final battle. None of our enemies facing us is the final enemy,

“None

ultimate evil. … Similarly, it prevents us from seeing our achievements in absolute

the

He also went back to Beryaev, affirming that “Christians know that social justice

terms”.

not solve all human problems”. For Thomas the key question, so relevant for the

will

in the Nairobi assembly, was: “How can the Church be the visible expression of

debates

double awareness, that of the significance and urgency of all politics of justice, on

this

one hand, and that of the ultimate tragic character and the inescapable relativity of all

the

achievements, on the other?” He wondered how the church can participate in

historical

struggle for justice with this awareness and concluded that “We need a theology of

the

engagement that will help Christians and churches in such participation, a

political

that will clarify the dialectical relation between faith and ideology in the light of

theology

cross and resurrection”.(31)

the

dialectics between the ultimate and the penultimate was developed further by him in

The

reflections on the meaning of cross and resurrection in relation to the human

his

up elements of his early theology, he stressed the need to look at the cross and

Taking

as a revelation of the divine way of addressing dehumanising forces in their

resurrection

manifestations. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ has to be

manifold

as one event or movement. Resurrection is not God’s victoryover the cross,

understood

as the victory of God’s way of the cross. “The Cross is the Kingdom of God moving

but

power into the history of mankind, taking control of the powers of this world, bringing

with

men the righteousness of God in which every man becomes a brother for whom Christ

to

died.”(32)

the two dimensions, as described earlier, are coming together from the

Here

of the overwhelming life-giving power of the way of the cross, affirmed by

perspective

in the resurrection. He developed this thinking further from the perspective of the

God

Christ as the first fruits of the new creation.

risen

reading of the letters of St. Paul and the influence of the reflections at the WCC

His

in Uppsala, 1968, especially around the document ‘Renewal in Mission’,

assembly

him to deepen his understanding of the meaning of cross and resurrection for

helped

for human self-understanding.

quest

foundation, the source of judgement, renewal and ultimate fulfilment of the

spiritual

of mankind today for its humanity.”(33)

struggle

self-understanding.

increasingly used the phrase ‘new humanity’ as he articulated inSalvation and

He

“Jesus Christ and the New Humanity offered in Him are presented as the

Humanisation:


concept of new humanity gave him a theologicalanswer to the quest for human

The

expressed in the search for freedom and creativity in the current

self-understanding

Thomas’ use of language suggests that he understood salvation as personal

Although

he increasingly made clear that God’s grace revealed through cross and

salvation,

concerns the human, social and the cosmic dimensions of creation. As we

resurrection

seen earlier, he already wondered whether salvation could include redemption of

have

collective and institutional aspects of live. In his later writings he also included the

the

dimensions while reflecting on the risen Christi as the first fruit of the new

cosmic

Some of the critical voices, however, have stated that this broader concept of

creation.

has not led him to a well-developed theology of care for creation. Probably he

salvation

concept of ‘cruciform humanity’ has the potential to be elaborated as Christological

His

for a prophetic participation in the struggle for social and ecological justice.

startingpoint

the concept of ‘new humanity’ primarily refers to the reality of the resurrected

While

the concept of ‘cruciform humanity’ points more to the life-giving power of the way

Christ,

the cross. It brings together the perspectives of hope through faith in resurrection and

of

moral perspectives of the suffering servant. The concept of ‘cruciform humanity’

the

not block the further development of human freedom and creativity but redefines

does

from the perspective of the divine revelation in cross and resurrection. This means

them

the search for human self-understanding in the modern social, economic and

that

developments needs to be nurtured and guided by a spirituality of cruciform

political

he in his moderator’s address to the Nairobi assembly struggled with the tensions

When

the ecumenical movement around the understanding of Jesus Christ crucified and

in

he pointed at the need for a stronger focus on spirituality. It should be noted

resurrected,

in the 1970s many became aware that spirituality is an important dimension in the

that

struggle for justice. In his closing address to the assembly in Nairobi, the then

Christian

Secretary Phillip Pottercharacterized the 1960s as a period of Exodus: “At

General

the mood was one of Exodus, going out to change the structures of society and

Uppsala

relations between persons, especially between races. Now we find ourselves in the

the

A pilgrim people in conflict and penury, we have discovered a need for

wilderness.

a spirituality of penitence and hope.”(34)

spirituality,

referred not only to the changes in the ecumenical movement, but also if not more to

He

disappointment in the nation building processes in many newly independent

the

The initial optimism that justice and peace could be established through a

countries.

period of struggle turned into disappointment and frustration. Many realised that

short

and peace is not around the corner and that the struggle for it would take a long

justice

period.

CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

developments.

was too much engaged in the social questions of the 1970s and 1980s.

humanity.

Spirituality

Thomas saw the need for a spirituality that would help people to walk this long road

Also

justice and peace. In his lectures at the UTC in Bangalore, 1980, published as

towards

Religion and the Revolt of Oppressed, he explained: “We should find a spirituality

the

75


can keep people in the power-struggle without turning corrupt and oppressor.

which

the gospel of forgiveness or justification by faith has great relevance to collective

Here

movements, in moulding their spiritual Unity for struggle, liberating the

liberation

movements from becoming self-idolatrous.”(35)

liberation

identified two possible dangers when the struggle for justice becomes seemingly

He

One danger is that defeatism: people lose hope and give up the

endless.

for justice. The other danger is that people betray the struggle for justice

power-struggles

radicalism, turning corrupt, oppressive and self-idolatrous. A spirituality that can help

by

to avoid these two dangers has to be informed, as he saw it, by a theology in

people

the struggle for justice is rooted in the Gospel of divine grace.

which

the second half of the 1970s, he frequently used the phrase ‘spirituality for combat’.

In

many ascribe this expression to Thomas himself, it was actually David Jenkins,

Although

director of the WCC Humanum Studies (1969-1975), who closed his paper

the

Inquiry Concerning Human Rights’ with proposal to develop a ‘spirituality for

‘Theological

“Perhaps what Christians are particularly called to work out (probably along

combat’:

men of other faiths and conscience, religious commitments) is what might be called

with

spirituality for combat … How might we help one another to so conduct our struggles

a

they become part of our worship?”(36)

that

call for a ‘spirituality for combat’ resonated with the need for a new stage in the

This

commitment to justice and peace, as felt by so many in those days.

ecumenical

began his exploration of the significance of spirituality for the people’s struggle

Thomas

in the early 1970s. In his opening address to the CWME conference on

already

Today’, in Bangkok 1972, he reflected on spirituality defining it as follows:

‘Salvation

spirituality, one might say, is the way in which man, in the freedom of his

“Human

seeks a structure of ultimate meaning and sacredness within which

self-transcendence,

can fulfil or realize himself in and through his involvement in the bodily, the material

he

number of elements are important in this definition. First of all Thomas was convinced

A

spirituality needs to come alive through the involvement in the day-to-day reality of

that

life. Within this reality the human being has the freedom of self-transcendence.

human

freedom is important for Thomas, especially in his assessment of Hinduism and the

This

ideologies in India. He rejected the divine or cosmic determinism of Hinduism,

secular

he also criticised the economic determinism of Marxist-Leninism. As we have seen

but

from participation in the historical reality and the gift of transcendence, Thomas

Apart

a third element to his understanding of spirituality, namely transformation or

adds

to dialogues with secular and religious faiths, he said: “Human

renewal.Referring

is integrally related to the sense of human self-hood, in which it knows itself to

spirituality

participating the necessities of nature and transcending nature in a historical

be

and transforming nature in relation to that destiny. Man’s relation to Nature is

destiny

and the social realities of his life on earth.”(37)

earlier, human freedom and creativity are essential elements in Thomas’ theology.

characterised by participation, transcendence and transformation.”(38)


is our participation in society that needs to be transformed. He frequently used

It

expression that the problem of my own bread is a material question whereas

Beryaev’s

these three dimensions of spirituality in mind, we have to go back to his address to

With

CWME meeting in Bangkok in which he made a distinction between true and false

the

core of the definition he offered in that address isthat the human being seeks “a

The

of ultimate meaning and sacredness” as a reference and inspiration for

structure

transcendence and transformation. The choice of the right ‘structure’

participation,

therefore very important.

becomes

assessed the different religions and secular ideologies with this question in

Thomas

do they encourage participation, do they acknowledge transcendence, and do

mind:

inspire transformation? And again he comes back to his Christological startingpoint:

they

secular strivings for fuller human life should be placed and interpreted in their real

“The

to the ultimate meaning and fulfilment of human life revealed in the divine

relation

of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.”(39)

humanity

stated in the beginning, the key question of this address is to learn what Thomas’

As

could mean for our understanding of a pilgrimage of justice and peace as

reflections

for at the 10 th assembly of the WCC in Busan, 2013. Are his theological reflections

called

relevant,knowing that the social, economic and political realities have changed and

still

ecumenical movement has entered a new phase? What would have been his

the

to the central committee of 2016 on the pilgrimage if he still would have been

comments

a number of aspects in his thinking may be helpful while the WCC and its

Perhaps

churches and ecumenical partners try to shape the pilgrimage of justice and

member

WCC central committee adopted, in its meeting of July 2014, a paper in which the

The

aspects of the pilgrimage of justice and peace are described.(40)

different

The first dimension proposes to celebrate God’s great gift of life, the

transformativa).

of creation and the unity of a reconciled diversity. The second dimension leads to

beauty

places of violence and injustices in which God’s incarnated presence in the midst of

the

exclusion and discrimination, is discerned. The third dimension leads to

suffering,

CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

problem of my neighbour’s bread is a spiritualquestion. Thomas concept of

the

has very much the nature of transformative spirituality, the importance of

spirituality

has again been highlighted in the latest ecumenical mission affirmationTogether

which

Towards Life.

spiritualities.

A pilgrimage of justice and peace

the moderator?

peace for the coming years. They are:

1. A refining of the theological methodology

paper highlights three dimensions of the pilgrimage which might be seen as the

This

of a theological methodology. It distinguishes between celebrating the gifts

beginning

positiva), visiting the wounds (via negativa), and transforming the injustices (via (via

77


acts of transformation encouraging a life in true compassion with each other

concrete

with nature. These three dimensions remind us of the methodology of ‘see, judge

and

would probably not deny the value of this approach. However, studying his

Thomas

one discovers that his methodology showed a refinement which might be

writings,

for a pilgrimage of justice and peace. In his analysis of what the central

helpful

paper calls the via negativa he added a few steps which do not immediately

committee

to judging what is wrong but rather to a deeper understanding of what is behind

lead

and oppression. Reviewing what he sees as current events and movements, he

injustice

to analyse the revolutionary forces in today’s reality, than interpret the human

tried

in them, and finally discern the spiritualdimension in the human

self-understanding

At that level, he formulated what the response of Christian faith

self-understanding.

be reflecting the elements of God’s gift of life and cruciform humanity. Doing so, he

might

a too easy shortcut between social analysis and biblicalmoral teachings which

avoided

do not reach the heart of the struggle for justice and peace.

often

is the first line of interpretation: moving from analysing the events and movements

This

interpreting the human self-understanding and finally reflecting on the spiritual

towards

The second line of refinement of his analysis is the way back from reading

dimension.

Scriptures towards understanding the day-to-day reality. For instance, histheological

the

on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ helped him to see thereality from

reflection

specific perspective. His discovery of the theological value of the concept of cruciform

a

helped him to see more clearly the messianic nature of the human

humanity

in freedom and creativity. His methodologicalapproach is therefore not

self-expression

moving from analysis towards theologicalresponse, but a double movement,

only

forward and backward between sociology of religion and theology of society.

moving

could object that this methodology has a too strong anthropologicalfocus, ignoring

One

fact that the current oppressive systems not only have an impact on human life but

the

that on the environment, endangering the future of all life on earth. Thomas

beyond

not deny this wider impact on the entire creation, but would probably also assert

would

the human being is the determining factor in the current processes of social,

that

and ecological injustices. For him that was the reason to discern the

economic

of human self-understanding in the current destructive processes but also to

dimensions

the responsibility of humans to transform destruction into life-embracing

address

Thomas did not deny the importance of faith in the Holy Trinity, his theology is

Although

the core Christology. In that sense he fully resonated with the theologicalfocus of his

at

in the ecumenical movement as well as in the wider theological circles. Today the

days,

theological reflection has shifted its emphasis more towards pneumatology.

ecumenical

the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and his salvation, the new statement

affirmed

“some key developments in understanding the mission of the Holy Spirit within

highlights

and act’ as common in several liberation theologies.

creativity.

2. Revisiting Christology

A good example of this shift is the new ecumenical mission affirmationTogether

Towards Life. While the earlier mission statement of the World Council of Churches

the mission of the Triune God (mission Dei)”.(41)


new statement elaborates this approach under four headings:

The

Spirit of mission: breath of life;

1)

Spirit of liberation: mission from the margins;

2)

Spirit of community: Church of the move; and 4) Spirit of Pentecost: good news

3)

wonders whether Thomas would have easily embraced this shift. His theology was

One

only too much shaped by the discussions of his time; the focus on the work of the

not

Spirit without constantly rooting it in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ

Holy

easily lead to a superficial interpretation of the darker side of human nature, or

might

one should say, the darker side of all life. How does the pneumatological

perhaps

help to understand the deep abyss of wilful destruction and the self-righteous

approach

theological problem here is that the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not

The

great signs of divine grace and a solid ground for our hope. The cross is as much an

only

of human reality. In the light, or rather the shadow, of the cross we discover

indicator

we are. In that sense, the cross and resurrection are not only the answer to our

who

they also help us to understand our reality. The current general secretary of the

reality,

Council of Churches, Rev.Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, pointed to this aspect of the cross

World

resurrection in his sermon during the installation service in 2010. In an article based

and

that sermon he explained: “The cross is more than a sign of our religious identity. It is

on

‘reality check’ of our churches of our ministry, of our ecumenicalmovement, of our

the

faith.”(42)

then refers to Martin Luther’s saying:Crux probatomnia,the cross puts everything to

He

test. This everything includes the dehumanising forces which we see in religious,

the

pilgrimage of justice and peace needs therefore to be based on a Trinitarian theology

A

which the divine revelation of grace and judgement becomes a point of entry to

in

and understand the realities of injustice and oppression as much as a source of

analyse

that inspires transformation.

hope

urge to discern the meaning of a Trinitarian theology for a pilgrimage of justice and

The

is related to the need to further reflect on Thomas’ concept of cruciform humanity.

peace

concept has the potential to become a guiding principle for Christian life and more

This

the Christian involvement in the struggle for justice and peace as well as an

specifically

seemed to have used these ancient Christian spiritual traditions but placed

Thomas

in the wider context of the Christian involvement for the struggle of justice and

them

CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

for all.

rejection of the life-giving community?

social, economic, and political developments.

3. Elaborating the concept of cruciform humanity for ethical guidance

motive for developing a pilgrimage-spirituality. The concept has deep roots

inspirational

the history of Christianity and its spiritual fathers and mothers. For instance, several

in

aspects can be found in Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.(43)

relevant

peace.

There is a related aspect which has not been central in Thomas’ writings. Christians in

79


parts of the world experience persecution, especially today now several religions

several

through reviving radicalism and violence. Several Orthodox Church leaders in the

go

East, but also Pope Francis, point at the new experiences of martyrdom.

Middle

is not seen by them as necessarily negative, but as an essential marker of

Martyrdom

Christ. Further reflection on Thomas’ concept of cruciform humanity needs to

following

a fuller understanding of martyrdom, including the question what cruciform

include

reflection on the pilgrimage needs to include a deeper understanding of the

Further

of justice and peace. Usually, it is taken for granted that we know what justice

concepts

peace mean. Lack of theological reflection on these concepts might result in

and

copying them from a secular discourse. Then the question is for instance:

uncritically

the ecumenical movement follow the theory of justice as developed by John Rawls

Does

is the egalitarian understanding of justice as supported by socialism embraced?

or

was convinced that the concepts of justice and peace need to be interpreted

Thomas

a theological perspective. As we have seen earlier, he understood the struggle for

from

as part of necessary power-politics. Following Reinhold Niebuhr’s warning that

justice

easily leads to corruption and violence, Thomas frequently cautioned of the

power

grace and judgement. Can this approach help us to develop a theological

divine

of these important concepts in the pilgrimage?

understanding

plea to develop a theological understanding of justice was undergirded by his

Thomas’

to have a spirituality that keeps one on the right track between defeatism and

proposals

Both options are part of the reality in the churches and in the ecumenical

radicalism.

There are several theologicaltraditions in the Christian history that have

movement.

up the struggle for justice and peace. Some have done so because their faith

given

are deeply rooted in a two-cities theology. Theyconsider this world as being

convictions

Others believe that the church should not interfere in political matters. Again others

lost.

given up their involvement in justice and peace efforts out of complacency,

have

that social, economic and political realities are too complex and too much

believing

by forces beyond our control.

determined

other option is to end up in radicalism and violence in the name of justice and peace.

The

radicalism and violence have become again an urgent concern in many

Religious

Christianity is known for religious radicalismand violence at certain stages in its

Also

In other instances Christian faith has been used by political forces to legitimise

history.

means for churches and Christians that do not experience martyrdom.

humanity

4. Need to root the understanding of justice and peace in faith in divine grace

in the struggles for justice. He expressed the need to

self-righteoustendencies

justice in the context of divine righteousness: the struggle for justice has a

understand

nature needs to be inspired as well as guided by the pen-ultimate reality of

ultimate

5. Developing a spirituality of pilgrimage to keep people on the right track

between defeatism and radicalism

religions.

violence and oppression.


saw the need for a spirituality which is able to help people to avoid defeatism

Thomas’

radicalism. Can his insights help the pilgrimage of justice and peace to keep people

and

the right track? Can we find ‘a structure of ultimate meaning and sacredness’ that

on

the courage to work for justice and peace without resorting into radicalism?

gives

theological thinking provides us with a relevant approach that is worth exploring

Thomas’

further.

review of Thomas’ theology started with the question what would happen if he still

This

have been the moderator of the central committee? Would he have encouraged

would

World Council of Churches, its member-churches and ecumenical partners to

the

on the pilgrimage of justice and peace? Studying his writings, I conclude that he

embark

wouldhave welcomed the call from the assembly. At the same time he would

certainly

raised a number of critical questions as a positive contribution to the development

have

a right theological approach to the pilgrimage. He probably would have offered the

of

of cruciform humanity as a startingpoint for further reflection on practical and

concept

engagement. He would have challenged us to deepen our understanding of

spiritual

and peace from a theological perspective. He would have encouraged us to

justice

a spirituality that can prevent the pilgrim from ending the journey in defeatism

develop

from self-righteously marching on into the extreme, losing a reflective eye on God’s

and

Assembly of the world Council of Geneva: WCC Publications, 2014, p.36.

Churches.

Encountering the God of Life.Report of the 10th Assembly of the world Council of Churches.p.40, par.1

3

‘A Spirituality for Combat’, in The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 1984, p.

4M.M.Thomas,

Man and the Universe of Faiths. Madras: CLS, 1975, p. xi.

5M.M.Thomas,

Ideological Quest within Christian Commitment 1939-1954 . Madras: CLS, 1983, pp. 1ff.

7M.M.Thomas,

Republished in Ideological Quest ..., p.36.

8

Republished in Ideological Quest ..., p.100.

9

Ideological Quest ..., p.131.

10

Ibid., p.132.

11

M.M.Thomas, Some Theological Dialogues. Madras: CLS, 1977, p.15.

12

Towards aTheology of Contemporary Ecumenism . Madras: CLS, 1978, p.36.

13M.M.Thomas,

I gave my study of the development of Thomas’ thinking the titleTheology of Prophetic Participation as

14

of John Hick who called his lectures: God and the Universe of Faiths. Conform Thomas note at page

hat

vi.)

Man and the Universe of Faiths, p.45.

20

Man and the Universe of Faiths , pp.37ff.

21

The Christological Task of India”, Religion and Society, Vol.XI, No.3, September 1964, pp.5f

24“Editorial:

The Acknowledged of the Indian Renaissance, p.239

25

Conclusion

grace.

M.M.Thomas, ‘Faith Seeking Understanding and Responsibility’.Unpublished manusript.Archives

1

the United Theological College in Bangalore.

of

Erlinda N. Senturias and Theodore A. Gill, Jr. (Eds.), Encountering the God of Life. Report of the 10th

2

6 Hielke T. Wolters, Theology of Prophetic Participation. M.M. Thomas’ Concept of Salvation and the Co

llective Struggle for Fuller Humanity in India. Delhi/Bangalore: ISPCK/UTC, 1996, pp.12-74.

expression of this search

an

Salvation and Humanisation , pp.9f.

15

16Man and the Universe Faiths, pp.xi-xii. (The title of Thomas’ book shows an opposite approach to t

of

M.M.Thomas, Religion and the Revolt of the Oppressed . Delhi: ISPCK, 1981, p.55

17

19 Some Dialogues, chapter 7.

Theological

Ibid., p.38.

22 23

26 M.M.Thomas, New Creation in Christ. Delhi: ISPCK, 1976, p.18.


Ibid., p.13

27

The Secular Ideologies of India and the Secular Meaning of Christ , p.199.

28

Towards a Theology of Contemporary Ecumenism , p.203.

29

Paton (ed.), Breaking Barriers Nairobi 1975. London/Grand Rapids: SPCK/ Eerdmans, 1976, p.

30David

the lack of gender awareness of those days.

eflects

Salvation and Humanisation , p.4.

33

Breaking Barriers, p.208

34

Religion and the Revolt of the Oppressed , p.53.

35

David Jenkins, ‘Theological Inquiry Concerning Human Rights’, The Ecumenical Review, Vol.XXVII,

36

April 1975, p.103.

No.2,

Towards a Theology of Contemporary Ecumenism , p.179.

37

Religion and the Revolt of the Oppressed , p.54.Italics by Thomas.

38

Towards a Theology of Contemporary Ecumenism , p.181

39

Invitation to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace Revised’, Central Committee, July 2-8, 2014, Gen

40An

Fykse Tveit, Christian Solidarity in the Cross of Christ. Geneva: WCC Publications, 2012, p. 14.

42Olav

Thomas was inspired by this book already in the early 1930s.

43

239.

Ibid., p.240.

31

32New Creation Christ, p.20. While reading passages like these, one notices how Thomas’ language r

in

eva Switzerland, Document No.5 rev.

41Together Towards Life.Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes , paragraph 11.

Downloaded from www.marthoma.in


has been attributed and widely recognised that in the history of the ecumenical movement M.M

It

belongs to the generation of ecumenical leaders who have shaped not only ecumenical

Thomas

metamorphosis of the ecumenical thought of M.M Thomas was an outcome of his direct involvement

The

the ecumenical movement for more than six decades. He made remarkable contributions in the Indian,

in

and global ecumenical movement through various Christian, ecumenical and secular

Asian

and platformsincluding the Mar Thoma Youths Union, Student Christian Movement, Mar

organisations

Council youth forum, World Student Christian Federation, World Ecumenical Youth

Christian

International Missionary Council,

Assemblies,

Thomas started his international ecumenical journey by the usual route in the years preceding the

M.M.

of the WCC: through his leadership in the Indian Student Christian Movement and in the World

creation

capacitiesuntil 1953 operating from India. He was instrumental in preparing the study on ‘The

various

in the World Struggle’ together with David McCaughey, which

Christian

an influential guide to Christian student groups in that period.This study was the first ecumenical

became

to the "revolutionary changes" resulting from the worldwide political upheaval following the

response

Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Dr. M.M. Thomas Birth Centenary Celebration Seminar

S.C.S Campus, Tiruvalla, Kerala

31 August 2015

M.M. Thomas’ Contributions

to the Worldwide Ecumenical Movement

Mathews George Chunakara

*

Dr. Mathews George Chunakara currently serves as theGeneral Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). He served the

World Council of Churches in Geneva as Asia Secretary (2000-2009) and Director of the Commission of the Churches on

International Affairs ( 2009-2014).

theology but the global ecumenical movement itself.

Thoma Youth League, Youth Christian Council

ofAction, Inter-religious Student Fellowship, National

World Council of Churches, East Asia Christian Conference (EACC)

now known as the Christian

Conference of Asia (CCA) and the Christian Peace Conference.

Student Christian Federation (WSCF).

He was on the staff

of the WSCF from 1947 to 1949 in Geneva and continued to work for WSCF in

Second World War, and the national independence movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America.His


as a WSCF staff in the Geneva secretariat brought Thomas in contact with leading theologians

position

ecumenical leaders in Europe and North America allowed him to be part of the discussions of the

and

gained international recognition for his contribution to the first World Christian Youth Conference held

He

Oslo in 1947. M.M was invited the same year to take part in the preparations for the consideration of

in

and political questions at the first WCC assembly in Amsterdam. He was the only person from the

social

World who was part of the preparatory discussions on a sub theme of the Assembly, "The

Third

and the Disorder of Society". Five years later in 1952, M.M. chaired the second World Christian

Church

Conference held in Kottayam, Kerala, India - the first to be convened outside the Western

Youth

Immediately after the Kottayam Youth Conference, he was invited to be one of the leaders

hemisphere.

a WCC-convened study conference in Luknow on the church and socialissues in Asia. It was based

of

the LuknowStudy Conference report thatEvanston Assembly made a recommendation that the

on

should focus for the next seven years on the social and political questions facing the churches in

WCC

programme on "The Common Christian Responsibility towards Areas of Rapid Social

six-year

in 1955, M.M. was also selected as a member of the Working Committee and he became the

Change"

(CISRS). At the international Christian Conference on "Rapid Social Change" in Greece in 1959,

Society

and John Bennett of the USA co-chaired the section on "Christian Responsibility in Political Action",

he

work increased M.M.'s responsibilities and role inWCC. He presented the findings of the Rapid

creative

Change study at the New Delhi Assembly together with Egbert de Vries of the Netherlands.

Social

and secular ideologies. M.M was directly involved in the preparations for the First

Inter-religious

of the WCC in Amsterdam. He was made a consultant for various preparatory meetings of

Assembly

Assembly. He attended the first Central Committee meeting of WCC held in Whitby, Canada in

the

as a substitute for Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan. At the Evanston Assembly Thomas spoke

1949

Religion and Ethics at the Union Biblical Seminary Pune, who made an effort to expound the

Theology,

of M.M Thomas, observes M.M’s presentation at Evanston was basically in agreement with

theology

understanding that the Church as the servant of the world. Sumithra says,as a layman, Thomas has

the

emphasised the secular witness of the Church and thus secularity came to stay in his views of

always

theology of mission. According to Sumithra, all the elements – “the necessity to express the

ecumenical

Faith in secular activities, the idea of participation, the inevitability of common struggles, the

Christian

as a speaker. In his presentation of a paper on the

invited

“The Christian Witness in the Society and Nation”, he anchored his thoughts and ideas based

subject,

a generalised thematic framework of his presentation at the Evanston Assembly and spelled out

on

the witness to Christ as redeemer of society and nation means. M.M.’s speech at the Ghana IMC

what

was seen as a decisive development in the theology of the WCC, namely a positive

conference

of

evaluation

formation of the World Council of Churches prior to its official founding in 1948.

"developing" countries. When the

newly created WCC department on Church and Society launched a

staff representative in Asia for this project. At the same time his

contributions to the wider ecumenical

concepts and principles were demonstrated

through the Christian Institute of Studies in Religion and

producing a report which became a guide for worldwide Christian

reflection and action.This kind ofa

M.M.’s contributions in shaping WCC’s ideological and theological values were

evident mainly through

his direct involvement in various areas of WCC’s programs

such as Mission, Church and Society and

on “Christians in the Struggle for a Responsible

Society in India”. Sunand Sumithra of the faculty of

criteria of responsibility, human freedom and social justice and the

ideal of secular society – have

continued both in Thomas’ theology as well as in the theology of WCC”. 1

At the International Missionary Council (IMC) meeting held in Achimota, Ghana in 1957-58,

M.M was


and it emphasised plurality as a needed element of the theology ofmission, brought the world

ideologies

Christian mission as its essential part and paved the way towards the ideological interpretation of

into

the New Delhi Assembly where the IMC merged with WCC, M.M. gave a major address on the

At

Challenge to the Churches in the New Nations of Africa and Asia”. He articulated his views in

theme”The

presentation that “Christ is present and active in the world of today, engaged in a continuous

his

with men and nations, affirming His kingly rule over them through the power of His Law and His

dialogue

M.M also advocated his convictions of a Cosmic Christ.All these ideas and theological

Love”.

M.M spoke of at the New Delhi Assembly were taken up into the Message of the assembly

convictions

are counted among the ideological influences in the milestones of the modern ecumenical

and

After the merger of the IMC with WCC in 1961, the newly formed Division of World Mission

movement.

Evangelism had its first meeting in Mexico City in 1963. Thomas had spoken at the Mexico meeting

and

“The World in which We Preach Christ” and he presented the contemporary situation of the world as

on

which would do justice to emerging concerns such as the technological revolution, the

ideology

of the people for social justice, and the resurgence of religions. He was of the opinion at that

awakening

“the search for a new pattern of human society and for an adequate spiritual dynamic for this

point,

are realities of the contemporary world which are relevant to the task of defining missions

pattern

3 While emphasising the goal of unity of mankind as a feltneed, he emphasised on various efforts

today”.

achieve it and said at the Mexico meeting that, “. There is a growing sense of humanity and human

to

in the world which finds its expression in mutual concern, a sense of participation in the

solidarity

of others for their fundamental rights” 4

struggles

spoke at the Conference on the theme “Modernisation and the Struggle for a New Cultural Ethos”,

and

said at the conference, “that the spiritual dimensions of the contemporary awakening of the

He

of building

process

cultural formulations for modernisation”. The Conference message acknowledged the fact

indigenous

“as Christians, we are committed

that

working for the transformation of society”. 5 The report of the Conference underscored that Christian

to

must expound and defend the understanding of the “human” as a criterion for judging

theology

and social change. M.M’s understanding of society, revolutions and ideology were discussed

economic

the Geneva

at

and subsequently he was appointed as secretary of the Asian Branch ofthe study series on

Conference

Social Change’. In that capacity he organised a series of study conferences in India. The Indian

‘Rapid

to the Study was included in M.M’s book, ‘Christian Participation in Nation Building’ which

contribution

of WCC at Uppsala in 1968, it was also due to the contributions of M.M. In his presentation at

Assembly

special session of the Assembly where he was reporting about the Geneva Church and Society

a

Thomas raised the question: “What does it mean to the life and work of the Church to be

conference,

in a world of revolutions?”. He was of the opinion that a dynamic reinterpretation of the Christian

relevant

is needed as traditionalinterpretation of the Christian doctrines has generally been static. At the

Gospel

Assembly M.M was named an official delegate of the Mar Thoma Church and he was elected

Uppsala

mission in the years to come. 2

a revolutionary world. His main thesis out

of his concern was about the development of an effective

The World Conference on Church and Society organised by the Church and Society

department of

WCC held in Geneva was influenced by the thinking of M.M. He was

the chairman of the Conference

people of Asia and Africa, stimulated by the Western impact and their search for a

was a summary of a series of meetings he organised in India.

When the impact

of the Geneva Church and Society conference significantly influenced the Fourth

the moderator of WCC Central Committee. During the period from 1968-1975 when M.M. was Chairman


the Central Committee of the WCC, his thinking influenced substantially the programmatic emphasis

of

WCC., It was a known factor that there was a fear among European church leaders that M.M. was

of

and theological thoughts started influencing and shaping the ecumenical movement many people

social

international ecumenical circles thought or misunderstood M.M Thomas. Some of them expressed

in

or indirectly the unspoken western anxiety that the leadership of the ecumenical movement may

directly

be safe in the hands of non-European Christians like M.M. Thomas and the then General Secretary

not

Dr. Philip Potter. There were criticisms from different corners about M.M’s theological interpretations.

of

late Metropolitan Paulose Mar Gregorios who was WCC’s Associate General Secretary once

The

that several critics in international circles thought that M.M was substituting “Revelation by

commented

Mar Gregorios further describes how his colleague, Prof. Hans Heinrich Wolf, the then

Revolution”.

of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, attacked M.M. in terms of his theological positions.

Director

to Paulose Mar Gregorios, M.M. never absolutised any Revolution, but what Prof Heinrich

According

expressed was “merely a sub-liminal fear of the German psyche stemming from some 19th century

Wolf

making them terribly scared about the word ‘Revolution’.” What M.M. stood for was full

experiences,

of the human race -- the development of the awareness of dignity, freedom and

humanisation

in every human being. So when the Human Rights movement was launched in the middle

responsibility

the seventies, it was a confirmation of what M.M. stood for -- the centrality and priority of the

of

Mar Gregorios says, “It was a good thing that M.M was not a systematic theologian. If he were

human.

would have been lost in the labyrinths of methodological precisions and terminological exactitudes

he

would have made him unreadable.” 6

which

the Western world started admiring the contributions of M.M. to the ecumenical

Subsequently

and the theological basis and the ideological clarity he was introducing. In this context,

movement

citesan instance of Western Christianity’s recognition of M.M’s contributions to the

Sumithra

movement. When M.M was distinguished for his contribution by the theological faculty of

ecumenical

M.M. and said, “By conferring on you an honorary doctorate in theology, we want to express

addressed

great significance as a lay theologian… And as the Chairman of the WCC’s Central Committee, in

your

the man who points to the very centre of our faith and the decisive role of theologicalreflection. We

are

among others particularly to you, that theologians and laymen, and First and Third World, can stay

owe

fact, his leadership as the Moderator of WCC Central Committee was also unparalleled.Norman

In

noted that“the most significant symbolic change” at WCC’s Uppsala Assembly “was the

Goodall

of an Asian, M.M. Thomas”. As the moderator of WCC’s Central Committee, Thomas did not

election

his responsibility to delivering only a moderator’s address at the Central Committee meeting. His

limit

on Salvation Today (1973) organised by the Commission of World Mission and Evangelism

Conference

WCC in Bangkok.When he delivered the keynote address at the Bangkok Conference, Thomas’s

of

loaded with theological exegesisthat social justice, physical welfare, political freedom and

speech

sufficiency form the background against which Salvation in Christ become meaningful in the

economic

context.For M.M,

contemporary

real unity” of the churches is their unity in participating in people’s struggles. This is what he said, “a

the

watering down the good old European tradition of Christianity.

While his contributions and ecumenical

the University of

Leiden, Netherlands, with an honorary Doctorate in Theology, Prof. Hendrick Berkhof

a period when many believed that the

ecumenical movement could do without theology, you were and

together”. 7

theological insights and deep Christian convictions were shared in a more pragmatic

waywhich

stimulated the ecumenical movement and helped to address the cardinal

social issues as part of the

prophetic witness of the Church. A classical example for

such a contribution was evident at the World

unity of the churches which comes of internal adjustments in the interests of the preservation of


meeting at Canterbury in 1969, M.M bluntly stated that “the churches are under divine

Committee

for their lack of solidarity with men in their struggle”. In the Berlin Central Committee meeting

judgement

said “it is time for the Church to witness to Christ and His purpose for mankind” and he replaced the

he

of the Church by “participation in the struggles for the humanisation of societies”. At the

confessions

educate, train and support their laymen, women and youth to respond to the Asian

theologically

within their secular vocations and through their associations. He added that the pastors and

struggle

9 He insisted in his speech at the Singapore EACC assembly that the church should get

struggle.

in the movement of the people for power as the path to justice”. He believes in such

“involved

interpreted his concept of spirituality as a basic issue in these quests, and affirmed that the church

M.M

lost its mission if it does not get involved in the struggle of the marginalised people and

has

for these goals.: “Here lies the mission of the Church: it is to participate in the movements

communities

human liberation of our time in such a way as to witness to Jesus Christ as the Source, the Judge and

of

of

Redeemer

human spirituality and its orientation as it is at work in these movements, and

the

as the Saviour of Man Today”. The Bangkok Conference did not negate the fact that salvation

therefore

mean various things to people in various contexts and as such pluralistic approach of mission was a

can

point of the BangkokConference. This was not digestiveto all Christian groups or churches in

focal

days and precisely for this reason the pluralistic understanding of the Christian mission was

those

criticised by the evangelicals at the Bangkok Conference. However, the Bangkok Conference

strongly

influence WCC’stheological and programmatic direction in the following years for which M.M’s

did

as a legitimate goal. In fact, M.Madvocated the need and importance of “accepting the

mankind

framework or ad hoc political goals”. In his Moderator’s Report to the 1972 Utrecht Central

ideological

Assembly held in Nairobi, where M.M concluded his role as the moderator of the Central

WCC’sFifth

a landmark and turning point in ecumenical history. The theme of the Nairobi

Committee,became

and salvation discussed at the Bangkok Conference. When Nairobi affirmed and accepted the

plurality

of the unity of mankind as a legitimate goal and a shift in emphasis from ecclesiastical

principles

to secular ecumenism, it was M.M.’s contribution that was substantial in shaping the

ecumenism

of the new direction and goal of the ecumenical movement at that time. In his address at the

process

assembly, M.M. shared a vision he developed on Christ centred approach to other religions and

Nairobi

need to shape a theology of dialogue between religions and WCC’s future programmatic

the

Sunand Sumithra summarised the role of M.M. at the Nairobi assembly and he says: that

involvement.

idea of unity of all mankind in Christ, the need for a spirituality for combat and the understanding of

the

as a movement of the tension between freedom and unity were all Thomas’ emphases at Nairobi,

history

they became the emphases also of the theology of the WCC in the coming years.

and

common interests is not of much theological value;

the unity of the churches is to be realised through

their participation in the struggles

for the unity of mankind”. 8 In his Moderator’s report to the Central

EACC Assembly in Singapore in 1973,

he emphasised that the congregations must spiritually and

theologians have a large

responsibility to sensitise the churches to the ethical demands of the Asian

participation that the Church as a fellowship of forgiven sinners,

rejects the identification of “any city of

man with the city of God” 10

contribution was significant. The program unit of

Inter-religious dialogue and ideologies came to be

recognised as an important

aspect of the work of WCC and paved the way for accepting the unity of

Committee meeting he emphasised the need for common action with other faiths and ideologies. 11

assembly, “Jesus Christ Frees and

Unites”, was influenced by the discussions and interpretations of


also articulatedhis ideas and concerns on Christian approaches and responses to revolutions. At

M.M.

Strasbourg World Conference of the WSCF, M.M.categorically rejected the argument that revolution

the

and a pietistic approach has a lopsided understanding of man and Christ”. . He had

(Cosmos)

the question whether radical and rapid changes in society necessarily involve force and

addressed

This issue was again brought to the limelight for discussion at the Christian Peace Conference

violence.

Assembly in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968. He posits that the concern for the human should

(CPC)

theology of revolution was based on the conviction that people’s participation as the necessary

M.M’s

to effect change in power structures through any revolution.

means

involvement and radical action to address the emerging concerns in the world. The

programmatic

underpinning he emphasised on spirituality was another example of his contribution to the

ideological

ecumenical movement, especially in the context of the Apartheid in South Africa. He

worldwide

the theological and ideological bases which was summarised in an ideological framework he

developed

“Spirituality for Combat”. Thomas classified spirituality in three ways: the mystical spirituality

formulated,

concerns the expression of the union of the believer with God; a second type is the Sadhu kind of

which

which emphasises not only on the union with God but on the renouncing of the world;and the

spirituality

he describes is prophetic or incarnationalspirituality, whose essence is involvement and sharing in

third

suffering of others in order to liberate them from their suffering. He had a firm conviction that neither

the

mystical spirituality of the sacraments, nor the ascetic spirituality of the monks, nor even the

the

in a spirituality which motivates one to legitimate struggles. A spirituality for combat which gives

believed

very life, the spirit with which to struggle. When WCC was spearheading the campaign to end

the

in South Africa, the theological and philosophical bases underscored by M.M. gave real

apartheid

for the accompaniment in the struggle against apartheid. Although it was not a smooth road to

impetus

the ideological and theologicalpositions of WCC and the mobilising support for an international

sharpen

against Apartheid.

campaign

beginning of its founding. At the first meeting of EACC in Prapat, Indonesia in 1957, he spoke on the

very

“The Mission and Its Encounter with the Asian Revolution”. He shared his conviction that

theme

in State cannot live on in a society with an authoritarian tradition. In doing so, he was

democracy

to the Asian church leaders who gathered at the historic meeting in Prapat to discuss

suggesting

future mission and evangelistic tasks of the Asian churches andtheir involvement in such

the

settings. In this context, he defined mission of the church “to witness to Christ as Lord

authoritarianAsian

thinking was often shared in EACC conferences. His understanding and interpretation of Christ as

his

Lord not only of the Church or of the world but of the whole cosmos. He lined the elements of his

the

to colonialism and Christian mission. In his speech at the 1959 EACC assembly, he connected

relation

mission integrally with politics. He stated: “We cannot have a new vision of the Christian

Christian

in Asia without a Christian interpretation of Asian nationalism”. In a way when M.M was

Mission

the Lordship of Christ, he was validating political actions as part of the Church’s mission in

affirming

is a revolt against God by stating that “Jesus

who is the lover of my soul is also the Lord of the world

be the criterion in strategy of any revolution.

M.M.’s interpretations about spiritualitygave new insights to the ecumenical

movement to sharpen its

incarnational spirituality of sacrificial love is relevant, but a spirituality which struggles and fights.

He

convince every member of WCC’s constituency to be part of this struggle,

M.M greatly contributed to

M.M.’s contributions in shaping the theological and ideological bases of EACC were evident

from the

and Redeemer of the whole man” .The question of

Christ’s Lordship which became a cardinal point in

thinking of Christ’s relationship with Asian revolution as well

as mission of the church in response to

emerging political realities in Asia.He approached theology of

mission through politics, especially in


to give a Christian justification of revolution. Again at the 1964 Assembly of EACC in 1964, he said

order

task of the Christian community as being defined by its relation to the struggles of the human

the

in which it lives”.This thinking of M.M has influenced EACC during the first years after its

community

in 1957. In subsequent years M.M. continued to use EACC platforms to echo his views and

formation

for the Asian ecumenical movement mainly in the context of Asia’s pluralistic religious and

convictions

contexts and Christian Action in Asian struggles. At the EACC assembly in 1964, he

ideological

stated that secularism should be the framework for the coming dialogue on common

categorically

between world religions for Asia’s pluralistic contexts. When he reminded the delegates of the

culture

a signal to the Asian churches and Christians to be mindful of emerging religious fundamentalism

giving

their own situations. Already in 1959 at the Kuala Lumpur assembly of EACC M.M spoke of the

in

and theological renaissance as the valid basis for Asian politics. He argued at the 1973 EACC

religious

that any action involves a framework of spiritualand ideological direction, without which there

assembly

no meaningful social life. He recommended to the 1973 assembly that it should give serious thought to

is

question of the ethos of Asian struggle.

the

cooperation with the East Asia Christian Conference M.M. soon became the strategist of a vital Asian

In

programme on social issues. A quick and clear drafter, he produced in these years a stream of

study

on Christian social witness, challenging clergy and laity in the churches of Asia to reflection

literature

action on economic and political goals of nation-building.M.M. Thomas, a layman who engaged

and

his career in a search for the theological and ethical basis of a Christian understanding of

throughout

witness to the tumultuous social and political developments continuously sensitised the churches

and

the worldwide ecumenical movement through his contributions in different areas. Swedish Church

and

Alf Tergel succinctly sums up M.M. Thomas' remarkable ecumenical contribution: "Along with

historian

,

1 .

Sumithra, Revolution as Revelation, International Christian Network , Tubingen, West Germany, 1984, p. 10.

Sunand

ibid p 16).

2

Report of the IMC Mexico meeting, 1963, p.78

3

Religion and Society June 1964, p. 8.

4

Message of the World Conference on Church and Society

5

Religion and Society, March 1970, p.2.

8

Report of the CCA Assembly, 1973, p.10.

9

ibid. p.82

10

Towards a Theology of Contemporary Ecumenism, CISRS / WCC, 1977

11

Bangkok EACC Assembly about the tide of secularisation rising all

over the world, he was in a way

Visser 't Hooft, M.M. Thomas has had the greatest influence on the modern ecumenical movement."

Paulose Mar Gregorios, …M. M. Thomas A Tribute ……………..

6

Sumithra,op.cited

7

Downloaded from www.marthoma.in


A Tribute To Dr. M. M. Thomas

On His 70th Birthday

Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios

90


| All Saints Company. The Dancing Saints Icons project at Saint Gregory Nyssen Episcopal

Theosebia

San Francisco

Church,

http//www.paulosmargregorios.inNVork_of_Mar_Gregorios/English%20Artlcles/Tributes

.%20M .%2OThomas.htm

/M

first met M. M. in New York. I think it was 1953. He was spending a year reading at

I

Seminary. I was an ordinary B. D. student at Princeton. He was already a Guru,

Union

known in Indian Christian circles, as well as in WSCF circles. I was totally unknown

well

India, having left the country in 1947. My few youthful exploits in Ethiopia and the

in

attached to them were most likely unknown to MM as they were

legends

to many Indian Christians until much later.

unknown

went to see him to learn and to be inspired. But I did it in the typical Indian way. I just

I

in and introduced myself, a procedure MM did not particularly like. He made me

barged

understand clearly that he had come to America to do some reading and did not have

to

time for idle conversation. Anyway there was no idle conversation. I left after

much

I come back to India and became an active, worker in the Student Christian

After

of India, contacts became easier and more frequent. We began sharing

Movement

and traveling to conferences together. I remember the WSCF conference in

platforms

That must have been 30 years ago. I had just joined the staff of Emperor

Rangoon.

M. M. Thomas and Mar Gregorios as depicted in the mural

about 5 minutes, with the satisfaction that I had met the great man face to face.

Haile Sellassie, and had come to Burma from Addis Ababa, via India.

We got to Rangoon at about 4 a.m. and since the conference was in a High School, our


were limited. MM desperately wanted a cup of tea. Harry Daniel was with us as

facilities

as our brother from Sri Lanka, whose name now escapes me. Harry taunted us,

well

“I am born in Burma. I assure you, if you want a cup of tea, just walk around near

saying

school, and you will find some Malayalee pouring out tea.” So that is what we did --

the

four of us wandering around the school in Rangoon, at about 4.30 a.m. We did not

the

to walk far before we found a Malayalee tea-shop, and all of us were so pleased, I

have

those days, I had a reputation as an interpreter of M.M.Thomas. My mind was much

In

than his. What he expressed in complex technical terminology. I could,

simpler

of course, summarise in simpler language. Quite often, after MM had

inadequately

in English, I would be asked to summarize in English, or if he spoke in

spoken

contacts became more frequent after 1961, when he was Moderator of the

Our

of Church and Society in the WCC and I became WCC’s Associate General

Department

both had come through the fifties when “nation-building" and Christian contribution

We

“Asian Revolution” had become the main concerns for thinking Christians in the

to

independent countries of Asia. MM saw at that time two forces sweeping our

newly

along with the surge and emergence of formerly subject peoples

nations,

the impact of science and technology on our cultures and ways of living, and the

--

road-roller of secularisation crushing old ideologies and religions.

sweeping

was a “Rapid Social Change’ man, welcoming the acceleration of the pace of social

He

but warming people not to idealize or idolize any particular ideology or

revolution,

No political order or political party or moral system or ideology was to be

institution.

with the Kingdom of God. This he had learned from Barth and the Niebuhrs.

identified

he saw Jesus Christ at work in the social revolution. For him Jesus Christ was more

But

work in what was happening outside the Church than inside it. But there was no room

at

any utopianism, no ideology of the inevitable success of the revolution, no easy

for

about higher standards of living yielding greater human dignity and freedom.

optimism

misunderstood MM that he was substituting Revelation by Revolution. In fact my

Many

on our staff in Geneva, Prof. Hans Heinrich Wolf, the Director of the

colleague

Institute in Bossey, attacked MM in those terms. In fact, however, MM never

Ecumenical

any Revolution. This was merely a sub-liminal fear of the German psyche

absolutized

from some 19th century experiences, making them terribly scared about the

stemming

“Revolution.”

word

MM stood for was full humanisation of the human race -- the development of the

What

of dignity, freedom and responsibility in every human being. So when the

awareness

remember.

Malayalam, to reformulate it in the same language, for the benefit of the audience.

Secretary and Director of the Division of Ecumenical Action.

Human Rights movement was launched in the middle of the seventies, it was a


of what MM stood for -- the centrality and priority of the human.

confirmation

the period from 1968-1975 when MM was Chairman of the Central Committee of

During

WCC, there were a number of attacks on MM's theology from good friends like

the

Lesslie Newbigin, Prof. Wolf and others. Behind these was a fear that M. M.

Bishop

watering down good old European Christianity and the unspoken western anxiety

Was

the leadership of the Christian Ecumenical Movement may not be safe in the hands

that

non-European Christians like M.M. Thomas and Philip Potter. Is Christianity safe in

of

hands of the West?

the

is a good thing that MM is not a systematic theologian. If he were he would have been

It

in the labyrinths of methodological precisions and terminological exactitudes which

lost

is a pious liberal Christian, devotedly committed to Jesus Christ, but not to the

MM

believed by the Church. It is a Christ about whom he learned much from Marxism

Christ

Gandhism, and whose main work is in society rather than in the Church or in the

and

soul. Christ is at work in technology, in the Asian Revolution, in allsocial

individual

is no doubt that for many Protestant Christians and others committed to social

There

MM has been a source of great inspiration and encouragement. I remember

change.

Fermandez, who, if anything is a Roman Catholic, saying in a Delhi meeting

George

which I was presiding, that he was prepared to fall at MM's feet and kiss his feet.

over

added also, for my benefit, that he could do that with no other Christian leaders. MM

He

a great teacher and a prolific writer, even as he enters his seventies. May God

remains

him many more years of mental and bodily health and vigour to further clarify the

grant

of his thought. I would like, personally, to see his thought move and develop

framework

two different directions. First, his ecclesiology, with its sacramentaltheology, will have

in

show more clearly the distinctions and relations between the work of Christ and the

to

Spirit in the community of faith on the one hand and in the world as a whole on the

Holy

Second, in developing the latter aspect, i.e. the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit

other.

the world, he would have to make the Cross on which the world is today hanging a

in

more clear. That Cross has a North-South beam and an East-West beam. He

little

still have to work out the relation between the East-west tensions as not just

would

rivalry, but also as a conflict which has its roots in the exploitation and

super-power

is both an ex-Marxist and an ex-Gandhian, though his actual involvement anddeep

MM

of Marxism and Gandhism was of somewhat short duration. He is seeking

penetration

make that Cosmic Christ make sense to Christians and non-Christians alike in the

To

of today's world is a big challenge indeed, to him as well as to the rest of us.

context

would have made him unreadable.

change everywhere. Christ is also the norm for our participation in all change.

oppression of the many by the few.

to go beyond both Marxism and Gandhism through his perception of a Cosmic Christ.


salute M. M. and pay my humble tribute to him. May God guide him and use him for

I

more years to come.

many


If at all ecumenism needs to be practical, relationship between Churches has to become

KOTTAYAM:

said the Supreme Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I. Ecumenical Movement

stronger,

face the challenges of 21st Century only if relations between Churches get deeper, added the

can

who is also the Moderator of World Council of Churches.

Catholicos,

key note address at the Ecumenical Meeting held at Old Seminary, Kottayam under the

Delivering

of Kerala Council of Churches, Catholicos Aram I stressed that India has always been

auspiciousness

and multireligious and the harmony of this Indian society is seen by the world nations as

multicultural

adaptable model.

an

by Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios and Dr. M.M. Thomas, whom Kerala has given birth, are

“Contributions

upon by the World Ecumenical Movement with utmost admiration”, remembered the Armenian

looked

Elect of the Malankara Orthodox Church Paulos Mar Milithios presided over the function.

Catholicos

of Marthoma Church Zacharias Mar Theophilos inaugurated the meeting.

Metropolitan

from the Malankara Syrian Church Thomas Mar Thimotheos and Geevarghese Mar

Metropolitans

Bishop of Central Kerala Diocese of the CSI Church Thomas Samuel, Secretary of Kerala

Coorilos,

of Churches Prof. Philip Ninan, and Principal of Orthodox Theological Seminary Dr. K. M.

Council

spoke on the occasion.

George

Catholicos.


initiative to organize a seminar on the theological contributions of M.M. Thomas and to

SAHTRI’s

the presentations is greatly appreciated. M.M. Thomas is one of those thinkers and leaders

publish

have inspired a whole generation of Indian theologians and ecumenists, whether or not they

who

with him. His addresses, articles and books are thought-provoking and can hardly be ignored.

agreed

his visible role in debates in India and outside ended, one got the impression that his influence

After

fading. New concerns and developments in India and in the world and new theological trends

was

and seminaries. New issues that were not at the heart of Thomas’ reflections increasingly

faculties

attention, for instance, the perspectives offered by feminist and Dalit theologians, the concerns

needed

of the changing agendas in theological reflection and urged younger theologians to take up

aware

new subjects in their study.

these

volume shows that this is not the case. The centenary celebrations of his birthday have revived

This

interest in his writings. Several platforms and institutions, including the Mar Thoma Church to

the

Foreword

were determining the agenda of

debates in churches, the ecumenical movement and theological

around ecological justice and, later,

increasing religious radicalism and violence. Thomas was fully

It was felt that with these changing agendas

the relevance of Thomas’ thinking would also diminish.

which he belonged, have felt that it is worth going back to his writings. They try to discern what his


eading his articles and books, one hardly gets the feeling that Thomas developed a

However,

academic theological methodology. Some remarks and insights can be found throughout

systematic,

body of his writings, but he did not bring them together in a well-developed study on methodology.

the

does not mean that he would play down the importance of a sound theological methodology. On

This

contrary, his reflections on current issues in society, churches and the ecumenical movement,

the

Bible studies, meditations and sermons, all witness a deep awareness that theology implies a

his

volume of studies on Thomas shows that his theology can rightly be called a theology of dialogue.

This

would like to add a dimension to the dialogical nature of his thinking which has often not been

I

His thinking has also a ‘journey’ dimension, or as we would call it today in the ecumenical

highlighted.

his thinking can be seen as a personal pilgrimage of justice and peace. In his unpublished

movement,

‘Faith Seeking Understanding and Responsibility’, he tried to write, probably challenged by

manuscript

of his friends, an autobiography. At that time his attempt was not really a success as he more or

some

had brought together significant passages of his most important articles and annotated these

less

with some notes with reference to the context in which they were written. It was never

passages

as a book as it would probably not have appealed to a wider audience. However, this

published

manuscript is of great importance for those who want to study the development of his

unpublished

title of this unpublished manuscript is very meaningful to understand Thomas’ personal faith

The

and engagement in and understanding of socio-cultural, economic, and political affairs. He

journey

it ‘Faith Seeking Understanding and Responsibility’. These four words precisely mark the key

called

in his thinking: his personal faith and spirituality, the need to analyse and understand, and

elements

urgency to take up responsibility. The word “seeking” forms a crucial marker for his methodology in

the

together faith, understanding and responsibility. For him it was a journey in which answers

bringing

solutions were not given once and for all. Comparing his early articles and meditations and his

and

books helps us to see that he has gone through a development in his thinking which is on the one

later

a continuous response to current issues and on the other hand a growth in theological

hand

of them leading to Christian responsibility.

understanding

methodological approach is still very relevant. I hope that re-reading his articles and books will

This

us in our own faith search for understanding and responsibility. M.M. was a person who

help

seeking out people with pastoral care and encouragement. But he was also a person

accompanied

liked critical dialogue challenging easy and comfortable assumptions. I hope that this volume will

who

approach to the questions and concerns of his days would mean

today. SAHTRI’s choice to focus on

Thomas’ contribution to reflections on theological methodologies is therefore very timely and relevant.

continuous interaction between sociology of religion and theology of society, as he formulated

in his

book Man and the Universe of Faiths.

thinking.

help the readers to engage with him in

a heuristic conversation.

Rev. Dr Hielke Wol


http://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/t-u-v/thomasmadat

Thomas, M(adathilparampil) M(ammen)

(1916-1996)

Indian church leader and world ecumenical leader

Born in the Travancore region of Kerala, Thomas was raised in the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, whose

combination of ancient sacramental liturgy with modern evangelical spirituality undergirded his life and

ministry. His early Christian youth work and social action in India projected him onto the scene after

World War ll. From 1947 to 1953 he was on the staff of the World Student Christian Federation in

Geneva. The Christian in the World Struggle, written by Thomas in 1952 with colleague David

McCaughey, was an influential guide to Christian student groups in its time.

Thomas served the World Council of Churches (WCC) as moderator of its Central Committee fro 1968

to 1975. Earlier, he was Asian staff member of the WCC church and society department, then chair of

the departmental working committee and co-chair of the World Conference on Church and Society in

Geneva, 1966. He was also secretary of the East Asia Christian Conference for church and society

concerns. He was a tireless speaker and writer, stimulating ecumenical debate and forging consensus,

expressed in countless conference and meeting reports he helped write. Towards a Theology of

Contemporary Ecumenism (1978) presents some of this work.

In India, Thomas served as associate, then director, of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion

and Society from 1958 until his retirement in 1975. His work produced a libraiy of studies and

conference reports on the religious and social dimensions of Indian life in Christian perspective. He also

wrote extensively in his own name, interpreting Christian faith in light of the Asian revolution, in Indian

society, and in encounter with Hinduism and secular ideologies. In retirement, he continued to write

biblical studies and theology in Malayalam, his mothertongue. He sewed as governor of Nagaland, by

appointment of the government of India, from 1990 to 1992.

Charles C. West,

“Thomas, M(adathilparampil) M(ammen),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed.

Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 666-7.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionaiy of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference

USA,

copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY.

All

rights reserved.


M. M. Thomas (1916 -1996)

Madathiparampil Mammen Thomas was one of the most remarkable Indian theologians, a renowned

ecumenical leader, and an outstanding scholar who made an indelible mark on the twentieth century

ecumenical movement. Thomas was a prolific writer both in English and his native language

Malayalam, and wrote over 60 books and close to a thousand articles. some unpublished.

Thomas was born on May 15, 1916 in the South Indian State of Kerala in a devout Christian family

belonging to the Syrian Marthoma Church, where he was raised in evangelical piety. After earning a

university science degree, Thomas took up a teaching job which he left in 1937, becoming involved in

social service and youth movements.

Thomas underwent a spiritual transformation which he called, “an evangelical spiritual experience.” His

personal commitment to Christ, his upbringing in a strong Christian tradition, and his own personal

meditation and study of the Bible and other devotional literature nurtured Thomas’ spirituality which he

later sought to relate to his social involvement. Thomas was influenced by Gandhi, but later became

more inclined towards Marxist ideology. From 1943, Thomas associated himself with the Student

Christian Movement, and in 1947 he became the Secretary of World Student Christian Federation

(WSCF). This new position brought Thomas in contact with leading theologians and ecumenical leaders

in Europe and allowed him to be part of the discussions of the World Council of Churches prior to its

formation. In Europe, his exposure to western liberal democracy and his disillusionment with new

developments in communism both in India and Eastern Europe led to an ideological shift away from

Marxism.

Between 1953 and 1961, Thomas became actively involved in the developing Asian ecumenical

movement and participated in the WCC assembly of 1954 (Evanston). A significant event was the

formation of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS), Bangalore, India in

1957. P. D. Devanandan was appointed the first Director of CISRS and Thomas became the Associate

Director. Thomas also played a major role in the formation of the East Asia Christian Conference

(EACC) in 1959, which became the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in 1973.

The period from 1961 to 1975 was another significant phase in Thomas’ ecumenical journey. He

became actively involved in the WCC with its New Delhi assembly in 1961, where he was elected

Chairperson of the department of Church and Society. Thomas ably led the department during a period

of turmoil and upheaval around the world. In 1962 Devanandan died and Thomas assumed the

directorship of CISRS.

An important milestone in Thomas‘ life was his appointment at the Uppsala assembly in 1967 to be the

Director of the Central Committee of WCC.

After long association with WCC, Thomas retired from both the Central Committee (1975) and also

from CISRS (1976). This period also witnessed Thomas‘ active engagement in India with political

issues of the time. He reacted to the emergency under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through his

writings and organized campaigns for human rights and freedom. In 1990, the Indian government

recognized Thomas’ contribution to public life by appointing him Governor of the Northeastern State of

Nagaland. Thomas resigned as Governor in 1992, and devoted the rest of his life writing, including the


production ofa series of commentaries on the books of the Bible until his death in 1996.

As an ecumenical theologian and a social thinker, Thomas was deeply concerned about Christian

mission. Thomas located his framework for mission in the person of Jesus Christ, the God-man, the

God-for-Man, and thus his theology of mission is grounded in his Christocentrism. He recognized the

redemptive work of God in the person of Christ and the proclamation of this message for the salvation

of humanity. This evangelistic dimension of mission, for Thomas, was essential and the cutting edge of

Christian mission. However, he did not confine mission only to this concept, what he called the ultimate

destiny, but believed that mission must be understood in a broader perspective of the struggle for

humanization, the historic destiny—human rights and social justice. For Thomas, salvation was

eschatological, but the eschatological framework must embrace “the task of humanisation of the world

in secular history.” Therefore, he maintained that humanization is an integral part of the Christian

message of salvation, and it was intrinsic to salvation. He believed the search for humanization was

embodied in the contemporary revolutions in which he discovered the mission dimension. Thomas saw

Christ at work in revolutions, and he called upon the church to discern it and participate in this mission

for an increased human dignity and fuller humanity.

by P. V. Joseph

Bibliography

Primary

Thomas, M.M. The Christian Response to the Asian Revolution. London: SCM, 1966.

. The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance. London: SCM, 1969.

. Salvation and Humanisation: Some Crucial Issues of the Theology of Mission in Contemporaiy

India. Madras: CLS, 1971.

_. The Realization of the Cross. Madras: CLS, 1972.

i. Man and the Universe ofFaiths. Bangalore: CISRS & Madras: CLS, 1975.

_. New Creation in Christ. Delhi: ISPCK, 1976.

_. The Secular Ideologies of India and the Secular Meaning of Christ. Bangalore: CISRS, 1976.

_. Some Theological Dialogues, Madras: CLS, 1977.

. Towards a Theology of Contemporary Ecumenism: A Collection of Addresses to Ecumenical

Gatherings (1947-1975). Madras: CLS, 1978.

. Religion and the Revolt of the Oppressed. Delhi: ISPCK, 1981.

. Ideological Quest within Christian Commitment: 1939-54. Madras: Christian Literature Society,

1983.

. Faith and Ideology in the Struggle for Justice. Bombay: Bombay Urban Industrial League for

Development, 1984.

. Risking Christ for Christ’s Sake: Towards an Ecumenical Theology of Pluralism. Geneva: WCC,

1987.

. My Ecumenical Journey, 1947-1975. Trivandrum, India: Ecumenical Publishing Centre, 1990.

. The Gospel of Forgiveness and Koinonia. Tiruvalla, India: CSS, 1994.

. A Diaconial Approach to Indian Ecclesiology. Rome: Centre for Indian and Inter-religious Studies

& Tiruvalla, India: Christava Sahitya Samitha, 1995.

. The Church’s Mission and Post-Modern Humanism: Collection of Essays and Talks, 1992-96.

Delhi: ISPCK, 1996.

i. God the Liberator, trans. T.M. Philip. Tiruvalla, India: CSS, 2004.


_. Spiritual Body, trans. T.M. Philip, Tiruvalla, India: CSS, 2005.

_. To the Ends of the Earth, trans. T.M. Philip, Tiruvalla, India: CSS, 2005.

Thomas, M. M. and Paul E. Converse. Revolution and Redemption. New York: Friendship Press, 1955.

Secondary

Abraham, K. C., ed. Christian Witness in Society: A Tribute to M. M. Thomas. Bangalore: Board of

Theological Education of Senate of Serampore College, 1998.

Athyal, Jesudas M. M. M. Thomas: The Man and His Legacy. Tiruvalla, India: Thiruvalla Ecumenical

Charitable Trust and CSS, 1997.

Bird, Adrian. “M.M. Thomas: Theological Signposts for the Emergence of Dalit Theology." PhD

dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 2008.

Chacko, Mohan. Interpreting Society: A Study of the Political Theology of M. M. Thomas and its

Implications for Mission. Dehardun, India, 2000.

Mitchell, Eric Robin. “M.M. Thomas’ View on Church and Society: A Comparison with the Liberation

Theology of Gustavo Guttierrez." PhD dissertation. Drew University, New Jersey, 1985.

Miyamoto, Ken Christoph. Gods Mission in Asia: A Comparative and Contextual Study of

This-Worldly

Holiness and the Theology of Missio Del in M. M. Thomas and C. S. Song. Eugene, OR: Wipf and

Stock,

2007.

Morton, Stephan Andrew. “P.D. Devanandan, M. M. Thomas and the Task of Indigenous Theology."

PhD

dissertation. University of Nottingham, 1981.

Ninan, M. M. Life, Legacy and Theology ofM. M. Thomas: An Anthology. Global Publishers, 2009.

Philip, T. M. The Encounter Between Theology and Ideology: An Exploration into the Communicative

Theology of M. M. Thomas. Madras: CLS, 1986.

Sumithra, Sunand. Revolution as Revelation: A Study of M. M. Thomas’ Theology. New Delhi:

Theological Research and Communications Institute, and Tubingen: International Christian

Network,1984.

Thomas, T. Jacob. M. M. Thomas Reader: Selected Texts on Theology, Religion and Society. Tiruvalla,

India: CSS, 2002.

Wolters, T. Heilke. Theology of Prophetic Participation: M. M. Thomas’s Concept of Salvation and the

Collective Struggle for Fuller Humanity in India. Delhi: ISPCK, 1996.

LinkS

“Dr. M. M. Thomas: Images, Memories."

“Pennamma Bhavanam: A Mother Home for Liberative Faith. Politics and Praxis."

“M. M. Thomas: Ecumenical Reading Forum."


am not a scholar and not at all an M. M. Thomas scholar. l am interested in contextual theology and

I

how we could bring a contextual approach to the Asian American experience. It's usually

wondered

asking the right questions, so l have a question for you. What if M. M. Thomas came to the

about

States, say on August 12, 2015 having read the newspapers for the last year, updated on our

United

to speak to this group? What issues would he raise for us as critical to the project of liberation?

context,

are the tools at hand to accomplish it? What is our responsibility?

What

inspiration, l took the traditional path of the liberation theologian through the Exodus narrative with

For

guidance of M. M. Thomas as translated into English by Rev. Dr. T. M. Philip in a slim volume

the

text is from a series designed to offer theological and historical-critical analyses of the scripture

This

a liberation lens for lay people. The series of 25 books was written between 1977 and 1996.

through

sources are cited on the final page. There are no footnotes. The introduction includes liberation

Five

like “Human history, from beginning to end, is the history of God's acts of liberation."

zingers

points out early on that a solely spiritual liberation, like we have in the Evangelical movements

He

is a misunderstanding of the fundamental teachings of the text. Liberation, in his understanding,

today,

we gather here...

As

come having been told the stories of liberation of our ancestors, both historically and spiritually.

We

questions for us are:

The

this place where we find ourselves...

In

seeks liberation?

Who

are the movements for liberation today?

What

do we connect with them?

Where

for us And

entitled God the Liberator.

[God the Liberator, p. 32]

occurs in history. Holy Scriptures root the narrative of God's action in the world.


what or towards what do we seek liberation?

From

does the text, and maybe more importantly today, what might M. M.

What

have to say to us?

Thomas

need to start out by saying that I was raised in a Mar Thoma, Jacobite, CSI home. We were

I

until I was a teenager. What I teamed from growing up within those communities was that

undecided

community was very inward looking and striving to ensure economic security and some status or

the

I suspect many who were invisible or silent in the churches were also struggling simply to

prestige.

on modest wages or public benefits; many were committing and surviving acts of violence and

survive

many were struggling to survive psychological distress; and many must have been

abuse;

racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

encountering

noticed as a child the difference between what little my parents said about the churches they had

I

up in in India, and the churches we now attended. M.M. Thomas was the youth leader in my

grown

youth group in Kuviyoor. My mother remembers reading pieces written for teenagers and

father's

adults in general publications. Liberation Theology was a part of the formation of young Malayali

young

in the 1950's and 60's. It is hard to believe that those same people founded the kinds of

Christians

communities I was raised in and from whose children and grandchildren I regularly hear that

Christian

l am no scholar of M. M. Thomas, I thought I would bring today's world into this conversation,

Since

we can all pretend M. M. Thomas is here to provoke us to join these struggles for justice today.

and

should never become a permanent order." [p. 24]

“Slavery

would say slavery should never be. But may be Exodus only goes so far as to say it should not be

We

permanent condition. We do not have slavery per se in the United States nor in India, but by default,

a

do. We have traces of it in our social order.

we

the United States, it is the prison industrial complex that replicates the conditions of slavery. If the

In

of the text is that all human life is redeemable and no debt should eliminate a person's hope fora

intent

life with dignity, the criminalization and imprisonment of the poor. Over whelmingly young men

decent

women who are black, Latino, or Native American is our modern day rendition of slavery.

and

wonder what M. M. Thomas would expect of the church in the United States in response to the

I

crisis in policing and prisons?

current

a student at the Union Theological Seminary, someone would usually link me to new students from

As

who were coming to do an STM at Union in preparation for a Ph.D. Many of them had been

Kerala

of M. M.Thomas. Some had lived in rural villages for many years alongside poor villagers with

students

evangelical agenda but to accompany them, seeing the face of Christ in them and finding

no

as outsiders, not the people they went to live with, changed, coming to a greater

themselves

of their humanity and the humanity of these their new neighbors, an understanding that

understanding

deeply challenging to the traditions of the communities they had come from. I wonder what a

was

of teaching ike that would look like here. We cannot very well enter prisons and live among

model

accompanying them in their daily life without a marked power differential. We can go and

prisoners,

in communities in which the police treat the community more like a prison than a neighborhood.

live

can live in rural and urban areas in which Americans and American children go to bed hungry

We

night We can find communities of migrant workers here in New Jersey and in NewYork. where

every

have even fewer rights, barely ciinging to the edge of survival while participating in every step of

they

production of the clean, cheap and nutritious food we have come to this country to have in great

the

they can find no place for their interest in social justice in their Congregations.

Prisons/Policing

abundance. We should hope for our young adults that companionship with those most on the margins


think I know what M. M. Thomas might demand of us in this time, but I wonder. because I did not

I

him, and among the generation that did, I don't see churches that give of themselves radically, or

know

to one another in the hopes that they might be transformed into their full humanity through

even

the face of Jesus the Christ

seeking

Equality

Gender

community should also manifest the dignity of the humans who are created in God's own image,

‘”The

mutual responsibilities included in freedom and God's justice in the midst of human

observing

[p. 23]

communities.’

this M. M. Thomas is talking about the wandering in the desert and the lament of the people that

In

had been good enough under slavery. When we talk about gender equality in the Malayalee

things

I think sometimes we are talking about something like fleshpots in Egypt. lhings were not

churches

under slavery but maybe they were good enough. Maybe things are not ideal today, but may be it

ideal

course inequality is not good enough. When women and girls are not included in all aspects of

Of

life, it is not good enough. It is an embarrassment which means you have half or less of the

church

available to you that God has blessed you with undeservedly for the leadership of the church,

talent

by definition you are only recruiting men who are somewhat comfortable functioning within that

and

has meant that in a society in which the abuse of women is a primary concern, the church says

It

nothing, although some stalwart women activists will show up and speak on Women's Day and

almost

our embarrassment even young men find this to be good enough. The church gives away too much

to

ground and is foolish to wonder why society is not bothered when the church makes a moral

moral

What could be a more significant moral proclamation than to protect the bodies of

proclamation.

and the most vulnerable? What would be more reflective of the fullness of God than men and

children

my experience it has been generations of young nurses who have made it possible for so many

In

families to survive at home and claim a respectable. middle class status on the backs of their

Malayali

and acceptable for women to work outside of the home. Their work is highly valued, and even

possible

saving resource for our families, and still they are devalued and put in their place socially by their

a

Race

liberation and development in society is the essence of the law. It is to be recalled in this

‘Humanity's

that Jesus taught, quoting the Old Testament Scriptures that the essence of the law is

context

in the twin commandments: love God and love one’sneighbor.‘ [p. 23]

contained

2015 in the United States, Black Lives Matter tells us who our neighbor is. This movement,

In

is as much a hashtag as it is a traditional movement, is a space in which black people in

which

U.S. have been reporting acts of violence against Black people, particulany at the hands

the

the police, and so forcefully and effectively, that they are forcing media coverage, which

of

in the U.S. is a part of their Christian formation.

is good enough.

kind of discriminatory space.

women in leadership and service at all levels of Christian institutions?

In the United States it is young women who are leading the movements for social justice.

labor. In this case it is as

though we have been granted the beginnings of freedom. We have made it

religion. What a perversion of the liberative tradition we inherit.

Who is my neighbor?


police investigations, which have forced body cameras, and has given the President of

forces

United States a space in which to speak out on the disproportionate violence directed at

the

and brown people by the police. It is a mighty movementwhich isjust getting started.

black

immigrants we root in the neighborhoods we find ourselves in. I grew up in Dallas in what was

As

white and is now an Asian suburb. The people who were not white were few but there. l have

a

who grew up in all-black neighborhoods in Chicago, or in Queens in majority Indian

friends

history of the United States plants us firmly in a racist state. It was the liberation struggle of

The

ceoole in the U.S.. insbired in cart bv the places. Resonant with our own stories of

black

or exclusion. We should be the most strident. Those of us who found it hard to walk

marginalization

airports in 2002 and 2003, and who get mistaken for Latino, Black, Arab should not worry

through

clarifying that we are not; in the tradition of M. M. Thomas we have achieved blast otf. We find

about

so unwittingly in solidarity with the outcast that we are mistaken for them, or maybe

ourselves

Orientation

Sexual

people of Israel declare that living under slavery is better than dying in the struggle for freedom.

“The

leaders of revolutions raise the slogan: either freedom or death.... The awareness that their life’s

The

and sense of security rest with the system of slavery is deeply rooted, not only in the

vocation

but also in the oppressed. This in fact is the real spiritual slavery. In such a situation the

oppressors

will always view freedom and responsibility not as a means for the growth of humanity but

oppressed

let's tackle the most difficult social issue for ourcommunity. Sexuality. By this I mean

Finally,

and the LGBT movement, but there is more to be said about the idolatry of family

homosexuality

as culture which places many of our people outside of the bounds of our Christian

structure

We are actively creating other marginalized communities in which we could root

communities.

would happen if we accepted LGBT persons and taught a healthier understanding of human

What

in our churches?

sexuality

M. Thomas’s understanding of sites of freedom as space for the growth of humanity is profound.

M.

most of us some part of the justice work we are passionate about will be achieved in our lifetime,

For

it cannot be that the work is simply to make ourselves comfortable. It must be that those growing

but

where freedom is being sought are constantly drawing us because we are followers of Jesus.

edges

insight that in these places we must first confront our own fears is convicting. It is one thing to

The

our personal fears in working for our own liberation, but it is hard to consider that the fear of

confront

one’s comfort or privilege, even as a wandering, newly freed slave, might be what causes us to

losing

danger or evil when we should be hearing a crying out for liberation.

see

liberation is universal... ‘Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel?’ says the

"God's

‘Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians

Lord.

M. Thomas writes that where we see liberation we see the action of God. Not a spiritual liberation. It

M.

not solely personal and intemal, but in the acts of history which means movements of people for

is

Communities.

recognized as one of them, as followers of Jesus.

as a dangerzone." [p.95]

ourselves to team about the marginalized, which isabsurd.

A question.

Are we enslaved to one understanding of family and an ordering of desire?

from Kir?‘ (Amos 9:7) whether the(a people) recognize this truth or not. . ." [p.26]


And, as he says above in response to the Amos, whether the people acknowledge it or even

freedom.

it of God or not, God seems lo be involved in the very act of liberating, almost as if God is

ask

is the presence of God. In Galatians (5: 1), one of the earliest letters of Paul, he writes that it

Liberation

for freedom that Christ has set us free. As we are, in our true and lull humanity as M. M. Thomas

is

M.M. God the Liberator, trans. Rev.Dr. T. M. Philip, Thiruvalla, India: Christava Sahitya

Thomas,

2004. . .

Samithi,

liberation.

would say, the task for us is what work does that give us to do in this time and in this place.


“Where is God?”

written following the great famine of Shertallay, Kerala, India, 1941

There was heaviness in my heart,

A loneliness cut me through,

Have I put my trust in God in vain?

Have I placed my feet on slippery ground?


was the faith in a caring God

Vain

was the trust in a loving Father,

Vain

God is with the wicked in their pleasures,

For

slave of them of them that seek for themselves,

A

prepares a table for them anywhere they want,

He

spreads a carpet for them wherever they walk,

And

makes them shine like holy men,

He

gives the honoured places in His Church,

And

And in His Heaven, palaces decked with jewels;


for these, they must fade and fall,

But

flowers in the forest,

Like

not a soul to watch, nor a tear to mark their end;

With

dust they came, and to dust they return,

Form


no God cares.

And

then thought I,

…But

sun had set and it was dark,

The

around was silence --

All


silence of Death;

The

while I looked, I saw a flickering light far off;

And

made for it; a man was digging a little grave;

I

I, who must this man be,

Thought


has strength enough to dig a grave for his little child?

Who

was weeping as he dug;

He

sighs were deep, and his sobs loud,

his

he was alone, amidst the corpses that lay all around.

And


fear in my heart,

With

approached the man digging the grave,

I

the flickering light,

in

turned his face to me;

He

eyes were red with weeping, and his face wet with tears,

His

wept;

Jesus

said to me in a low voice, through sobs,

He

dost thou do this to me?

Why

thirst, I starve

I

in as much as ye did it not to these, ye did it not to me.

For

Lo, it is Christ!


am dying. I

dost thou break my heart?

Why

in their afflictions am I afflicted

For

their deaths I am crucified.

In

was my heart grieved and I was pricked in my reins,

Then

had almost said in my heart, Thou dost not Care,

I

foolish was I and ignorant,

So

was a beast before Thee.

I


who praise him in the sanctuary,

Ye

who call on him with doors all shut,

Ye

Open your eyes and See your God is not Before ye,


is there in the land of desolation,

He

Alone,

The dark

In

the corpses,

Amidst

with the millions that starve,

Starving

with the millions that Die

Dying


St. Gregory Episcopal Church is widely known for its experimental liturgies which mix elements of

orthodox and western Christian practice, and for its unusual building with its gigantic mural of

"dancing saints."

St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, De Haro and Mariposa Streets, San Francisco


Dancing Saints

Megory Anderson

There is a church on Potrero Hill called Saint Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church, and it is

filled with dancing. Saints dance on the walls, and people join them below. Dance as part

of the liturgical rite dates back to ancient Christian practices. (“Once there was a time

when the whole rational creation formed a single dancing chorus looking upward to the

one leader of this dance. And the harmony of motion that they learned from his law found

its way into their dancing."—Gregory of Nyssa, fourth-century Cappadocian bishop and

theologian, in his commentary on Psalm 50.)


Inside this San Francisco church, you look up and see men and women, children, and

elders; Muslim, Jewish, Christian; some dead four hundred years, some only a decade or

two. The figures are in bright blues and reds and whites, with golden orbs around their

heads. All are connected in a spiral dance, arm in arm, circling the walls of Saint

Gregory’s, inviting the community of here and now to join them. What is it about that

invitation to the dance? And how does it work to enhance a community’s spiritual life?

Many religious traditions use the body and motion in prayer. Watch an Orthodox Jew,

wrapped in prayer shawl, as his body sways back and forth in prayer. See a room full of

Muslims as they prostrate themselves on the floor, heads touching the ground, facing

Mecca, in submission to the Divine. There is something amazingly beautiful as a whirling

dervish twirls around and around as music and prayer intensify. Our bodies help us both

draw inward toward the inner presence of the Divine and reach out to the transcendent

creator of the universe. At Saint Gregory’s, however, movement and dance go beyond

traditional use of the body in prayer.

If you walk into the church on a Sunday morning, there are some things you notice right

away. One is that there is both stillness and movement. You sit and listen to words and to

silence. And then you move. You move from one space to another, from the quiet, still

space to the wide and open rotunda where the altar sits, and you dance, around and

around the table. Just like the shared silence, movement is a community action.

Another thing you notice is that you are not alone at Saint Gregory’s. The spiritual

experience is a shared one; it is intertwined. There is something profound about being

invited to place your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you and move into a

circle of prayer and communion. You go together, holding on to someone who is holding

on to you. You become an integral part of the movement, a link. And the icon saints who

dance in a circle above your head are not there for ornamentation; they are truly part of

that community. They raise you both figuratively and literally into the dance.


But does spiritual practice have to contain movement? Not always. As in the discipline of

tai chi, there is significant value to balance. Stillness is good. Movement is good.

Together, they can create wholeness. So what does it mean to go from an observer’s

experience of spiritual connection to one of bodily connection, where you are not only

moving your own body but you are moving in rhythm with so many others? One member

of the congregation said, “When I need solitary prayer, I can find it in the quiet moments.

But on Sunday mornings, I am pulled into the dance. I have to recognize that God wants

all of me, body and soul, and we are in this together. I look up at those saints—and I do

have my favorites—and realize that I have to keep moving too. One foot in front of the

other. There are times when I can barely recognize the melody, much less do the dance,

but most often, those dancing saints keep me focused and inspired. I dance because

they dance. I am here because they are here.”

Saint Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church (www.SaintGregorys.org) is located at the corner

of Mariposa and DeHaro Streets on Potrero Hill. Megory Anderson, a longtime member

of the congregation, is the founder and director of the Sacred Dying Foundation

(www.SacredDying.org) in San Francisco.


Gregory’s Episcopal Church

St.

De Haro Street

500

CELEBRATING THE LIFE &WORK OF DR.M.M.THOMAS

The Dancing Saints

Donald Schell

San Francisco, CA 94107

St Gregory's Saint Selection Committee offers these eighty saints (there are ten more not

yet listed here), to be painted as a grand icon in our church rotunda, a single statement of

God's remarkable and remarkably diverse work in human life.

Many, many more obviously belong to this group-Martin Luther King Jr., Mary and Martha

of Bethany, Raoul Wallenberg, Hildegard of Bingen, Erasmus, Emily Dickinson, Oscar

Romero, Helen Keller, Stephen Biko, and easily hundreds and thousands more we could

name and research, not to mention the legions of unknown and now forgotten holy ones

(represented for us by the Alexandrian Washerwoman).

In addition to our primary goal of showing an image of God's many and diverse ways of

working in people's lives, we aimed to achieve a reasonable representation of men and

women (and a few children) from different historical periods, life roles and kinds of work.

Whenever we heard or felt, "of course, we have to include…", we paused and gave that

person an extra skeptical scrutiny, trying to push our list beyond a self-evident "hall of

fame" and further, beyond mainstream church consensus, stretching our thinking and

enlarging our gratitude for grace overflowing in so many startling and different lives.

We were aware of our particular place and time and tried to honor its gift and see past its

limitation. Sometimes in a choice between two worthy people, we gave preference to the

local figure, emphasizing God's work here among us. We represented important events

of our historical moment, late 20th Century America - the U.S. Civil Rights movement and

140


World War II - but we also stretched to include other kinds of 20th century people and to

create a balance with other historical periods.

If we have done our work well, a hundred years from now, the congregation of St.

Gregory's and its visitors will recognize a voice from 1997, undoubtedly sensing some of

our historical prejudice and also, we hope, seeing us stretch beyond it to show a

sweeping, universal vision of God shining through human life.


Saint: M. M. THOMAS

(MADHATHILPARAMPIL MAMMEN THOMAS)

(1916 - 1997)

Right most wearing a blue Indian Dhothi and jubba, next to St.Framcis of Assisi

with his wolf.


A layman from the Mar Thoma Church, Kerala. Pioneering ecumenical leader, onetime

chair of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, director of the Institute

for the Study of Religion and Society in Bangalore, and in 1990, he became the governor

of Nagaland. M. M. did the unprecedented thing of retiring to his local village, where he

lived among the people, and began a Biblical commentary in the local language. He died

travelling on a train from Madras.

The Dancing Saints

The Dancing Saints icon is a monumental, surprising and powerful statement of faith for

the ages, created by iconographer Mark Dukes with the rectors and congregation of Saint

Gregory’s. When completed in 2008, it will be a 3,000 square foot painting wrapping

around the entire church rotunda, showing ninety larger-than life saints; four animals;

stars, moons, suns and a twelve-foot dancing Christ.

The saints—ranging from traditional figures like King David, Teresa of Avila and Frances

of Assisi to unorthodox and non-Christian people like Malcolm X, Anne Frank, and

Margaret Mead—represent musicians, artists, mathematicians, martyrs, scholars,

mystics, lovers, prophets and sinners from all times, from many faiths and backgrounds.

As the congregation dances around the altar, the saints dance above, proclaiming a

sweeping, universal vision of God shining through human life.

http://deacondukes.blogspot.com/2009/01/saint-gregorys-dancing-saints-icon.html

“I have two expressions to my iconography; my personal and my liturgical. My liturgical

work I have expressed chiefly through my Neo-Byzantine icon project The Dancing

Saints Icon of St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, San Francisco. This is a 2500 plus square

feet icon mural that decorates the rotunda of the church's sanctuary and consists of a

depiction of 90 oversize traditional and nontraditional "saints" from diverse times and


cultures from all over the world. They are all dancing with an even larger size Christ.

Among the selected 90 saints are people like Malcolm X, Queen Elizabeth, Rumi, Ella

Fitzgerald, Gandhi, Anne Frank, Cesar Chavez, John Coltrane (of course) and

Sorghaghtani Beki, the mother of Kublai Khan. The artistic challenge was to translate the

ancient Byzantine stylization and bring it to fresh and contemporary places while still

honoring the ancient tradition. The iconographic difficulties of recognizable likenesses,

culturally diverse costumes, ethnic diversity and different spiritual traditions, all brought

together in a large scale work has given this project a unique place in the history of art

and religious iconography.”

Deacon Dukes, Iconographer

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!