0481 - 2563921 (0); 2563928 (R)

History

 

The Mar Thoma Church is one among the churches which was founded by St.Thomas, the Apostle in A.D.52.  The ministry of the Church is the continuation of the ministry of the incarnated Son.  To continue this ministry Christ calls many in every generation as his disciples.  It needs committed training.  That makes training people for ministry an integral part of Christianity.  The function of the Mar Thoma Syrian Theological Seminary is to train those who are called out by Christ in this generation.

Prior to the coming of Western missionaries, theological training were carried out through Malpanate (students training under a renowned theological teacher).  The Church also maintained Rambanate teaching (students learning under famous Rambans).  Through these training in-depth knowledge of the Scripture, worship orders and theological vision of the Church was imparted.  

Even though the Church in  Malabar  has  a  long heritage  and  tradition,  the  establishment  of  a  formal Seminary  to  train  the  clergy  emerged after the coming of the Portuguese.  The first of that kind was established at Kodungalloor in 1541.  The intention was to train ministers for the Malankara Church with Latin orientation.  However, it failed.  Another Seminary was started at Vaipikotta by the Jesuits.  Following the Synod of Diamper, this seminary became the cradle for training ministers for the Malankara Church with Latin theology and practice but with Syriac language and dress.  Following the Coonen Cross Oath, the Malankara Christians associated with the Mar Thoma moved away completely from this Seminary and reverted back to their Malpanate.  

Vision to have a formal Seminary for the Mar Thoma section of the Malankara Church became strong following the meeting between Metropolitan Mar Dionysius and the leaders of the Church with Claudius Buchanan in 1806.  Kandanad meeting of the representatives of the Malankara Church held in 1809 decided to establish two padithaveedukal to train children and Semsanos in Scripture and languages.  However, after some time the intention to start two padithaveedukal shrunk into one.  That created tension.  One group demanded to have it in the North at Kandanad, while the other group argued for establishing it at Niranam in the South.  Finally, Punnathra Kurien Kathanaar (later known as Punnathra Mar Dionysius) suggested Kottayam as a compromise place.  This was accepted by all.

Pulikkottil Ramban gave leadership and Col. Munro, the British resident supported it.  The foundation stone for the Seminary was laid in 1813, on a property given to the church by the Travancore Government.  Munro also gave the interest of the endowment deposited by the Malankara Church with the East India Company to Pulikkottil Ramban for the building of the Seminary.  This  endowment  is  known  as  'Vattipanam'.  The Seminary was formally inaugurated in 1815.  The  first  principal  of  the  seminary  was  Joseph  Fenn,  one  of  the  first missionaries from the 'Mission of help' sent by the Church Missionary Society of the church of England.  The work and inspiration of the CMS missionaries were influential and helpful for a better understanding of the word of God which was at that time translated into Malayalam. A deeper understanding of the Bible, faith and practices of the Church resulted in a remarkable reformation in the Malankara Church.  Two Syriac professors of the Seminary Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan of Maramon and Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan of Kottayam felt the need for a reformation and became pioneers to give leadership to the revival of the Malankara Church. 

Following the reformation in the Malankara Church, Mathews Mar Athanasius who was the Metropolitan of the Church druing that time took charge of the Seminary.  The  training  of  the  clergy  of  the  Malankara  Church  had  been  effective  and  fruitful  during  the  time  of  Mathews  Mar  Athanasius. In 1868 Thomas Mar Athansaius was consecrated at the Seminary Chapel.  He stayed at the Seminary and gave leadership.  However, following the demise of Mathews Mar Athanasius, Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius, the president of the Malankara Yakobaya Suriyani Kristhyani Assoication filed a case against Thomas Mar Athanasius for the custody of the properties of the Church.  The Royal Court judgement of 1889, July 12 favored Pulikkottil.  Thomas Mar Athanasius was sent out of the Seminary.  He came and stayed at the Zion Hills (where the Mar Thoma Syrian Vaidika Seminary was established later) on that night after being ousted out of the Seminary.  

The church of Malabar was divided into two sections one favouring the reformation and the other not in favour.  The reformed section came to be known as the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, affirming the faith and practices of the ancient church founded by St.Thomas, the Apostle. The church lost the old seminary  which  is  now  known  as  the  Orthodox  Theological  Seminary.  Cherukara Philipose Malpan left the Old Seminary and stayed at Ayroor.  Many deacons who were with the Mar Thoma Syrian Church went to him and continued their learning.  Some few were sent to CNI (Cambridge Nicholson Institute) run by the CMS missionaries.  Reason for sending them there was on account of the presence of Olaseril Youseph Malpan as the Syriac Teacher there.  

The  Church  felt  the  need  of  a  Seminary  of  her  own.  There was a common feeling to have the Seminary at Kottayam.  Under the leadership of Thazhathu Chandapilla Kathanaar, the land known as Zion Hill the place where Thomas Mar Athanasius stayed the night when he was sent out of the Old Seminary was bought.  During  the  time  of  Metropolitan  Titus­ I,  the  foundation  stone  for  the  "Mar Thoma Syrian Seminary" building was laid at the Zion Hill Kottayam on 5th May 1896. But the church had to wait for another 30 years to start the work of the Seminary.  Even though a decision to establish a "Vaidika Seminary" was made by the Samudaya Alochana Sabha  in 1921, it could not be materialized due to financial constraints.  However, through individual contributions and memorial funds, the "Mar Thoma Syrian Vaidika Seminary" was inaugurated along with the Mar Thoma Seminary School at Zion Hills, Kottayam on 3rd July 1926 (the St.Thomas Day) as the Episcopal Silver Jubilee Memorial of His  Grace  Titus­ II  Mar  Thoma  Metropolitan.  Needless  to  say  that  this  was  a  turning  point  in  the  history  of  the  Mar  Thoma  Church. Mr.K.K.Kuruvilla a former professor of the United Theological College served as its first Principal.

It  is  to  be  noted  that  the  Seminary  has  been  affiliated  to  Serampore  University  from  the  very  beginning.  Initially  the  courses  were designed to fulfill the requirements of the Diploma in Licentiate in Theology (L.Th).  The Seminary was upgraded to B.Th degree in 1970.  The  contribution  and  leadership  of  eminent  leaders  of  the  church,  Most  Rev.Dr.Juhanon  Mar  Thoma,  Rt.Rev.Thomas  Mar Athanasius,  Rt.Rev.Dr.Philipose  Mar  Chrysostom,  Rev.K.P.Philip,  Rev.Dr.T.C.Thomas  and  Rev.C.V.John  as  Principals  can  never  be ignored.

The Seminary was further upgraded to B.D.degree in 1974 with English as the medium of instruction. This was the fulfillment of the dream  and  vision  of Rev.C.V.John  who  served  as  Principal  until  1974.  Rev.Dr.V.P.Thomas,  a  former  professor  of  Leonard Theological College Jabalpur and a well known theologian of his day, assumed the role of Principal since 1974. The Seminary was further upgraded to B.D.degree in 1974 with English as the medium of instruction.  The inauguration was conducted on July 03, the St. Thomas Day.  This was the fulfillment of the dream and vision of Rev.C.V.John who served as Principal until 1974.

Another important stage in the growth of the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary was the introduction of Post Graduate studies in 1980. This  was  an  ecumenical  venture  of  three  major  Seminaries  in  Kerala,  the  Orthodox  Theological  Seminary,  The  Mar  Thoma Theological  Seminary  and  the  Kerala  United  Theological  Seminary,  Trivandrum.  This  was  a  unique  attempt  in  the  history  of  the churches  and  theological  education  in  India  where  the  faculty  of  the  three  Seminaries  work  together  to  run  the  post  graduate programme  under  the  title  Federated  Faculty  for  Research  in  Religion  and  Culture  (FFRRC).  The purpose was to provide opportunities of doing biblical studies and theology in our own context. It was its goal to provide quality higher education with minimum  cost.  The  professors  of  those  three  seminaries  continue  to  teach  courses  and  guide  the  research  students  with  dedication without required remuneration. The formal inauguration of the programme was held on 3rd July 1980 on St.Thomas Day. 

The FFRRC became a doctoral centre in 1999. Candidate from different parts of India and from different denominations make use of these  facilities  for  M.Th  and  D.Th  studies  in  various  subjects  such  as  Old  Testament,  New  Testament,  Christian  Theology,  Christian Ministry, Religions, Church History and Liturgical studies. Under the guidance of God and through the good will of the three churches and institutions, the FFRRC has grown as a premier post graduate centre under the Senate of Serampore College.

The Mar Thoma Theological Seminary is very ecumenical in its approach and perspectives. The Seminary is maintaining its ecumenical relationships  with  churches  in  India  and  abroad.  We  had  students  from  CSI,  CNI,  Malabar  Independent  Church,  Thozhiyoor  and  the church of the East in the B.D. programme. We had student exchange programmes with Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, Bishops College  Culcutta,  Gurukual  Lutheran  Theological  College,  Eastern  Theological  Seminary,  Jorhat  and  so  on.  We  also  had  several eminent scholars from abroad to teach different subjects . Dr.Charles Rayerson (Princeton) Rev.Dr.Philip L.Wickeri, Dr.Paul Younger Rev.Dr.V.T.Samuel,  Dr.Brian  Grant,  Dr.George  Zachariah  (Washington)  are  some  of  them. 

The  Seminary  celebrated  its  platinum Jubilee in 2001. The Senate Board meetings, the Convocation and other programmes were held at our Seminary in connection with the Jubilee celebrations. The book 'Ministry and Spirituality'was published on this joyful occasion.  Mar Thoma Syrian Theological Seminary is now celebrating its Navathy (ninety years of existence with this identity).  

Theological  education  in  India  should  be  done  taking  the  context  and  challenges  of  our  time  seriously.  Study  and  research  are  to  be done  in  such  a  way  that  the  findings  of  the  future  scholars  may  be  useful  to  promote  wider  ecumenism,  harmony  and  mutual  respect among the people of India. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God and it is our responsibility to share the message of the kingdom with the  people  of  India.  We  need  to  stand  not  only  for  the  liberation  of  our  people  from  various  kinds  of  bondages  but  also  for  the liberation from narrow mindedness and selfishness. What the churches in India need today is a renewed understanding, a spirit of love and a spirit of reconciliation. It is our hope that our sharing of thought and discussions on theologies, hermeneutics and spirituality will enhance our understanding and our perspectives to achieve this goal.