ELCA companions in India
Who are our companions in India?
Who is the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church members
The Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, a member of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF), has over 1 million members and is one of the largest Lutheran churches in Asia. There are more than 5,000 congregations, 600 ordained pastors, and a large number of lay workers in areas of evangelism, education, health, and other diaconia ministries. The AELC is one of 11 members of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI).
AELC's work is mainly in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a Telugu-speaking region. Nearly 80% of AELC members are from rural backgrounds. The church serves people through educational, medical and social ministries. The AELC is actively engaged in evangelical outreach. The Bible Women, a small group of very devoted women church workers, play a vital role in reaching out to people of all castes and classes. The church also operates a college of education, 24 primary and secondary schools, a school of law, and cooperates with others in running an interdenominational theological college. For vocational training, it operates an agricultural school, a sewing school, two industrial schools for boys and girls, and a Bible school.
The Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church once had eight hospitals, products of the work of pioneer missionary Dr. Anna S. Kugler of Philadelphia. Beginning in 1883, her work attracted many influential Indian women and men. In recent years, many of the hospitals have been turned over to the government or private agencies, but the AELC continues to operate two.
The Andra Christian Theological College, an ecumenical theological institution that uses Telegu as teaching medium, has strong ties with the AELC.Who is the Arcot Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
Arcot is a City and a Municipality in Vellore District, Tamil Nadu. It is located on Palar River, and straddles a strategic trade route between Chennai and Bangalore, between Mysore Ghat and the Javadi Hills. The people who lived in the Arcot region especially in and near Tiruvannamalai, belonged to a clan called the Arcots. These were warriors and landowners, some of them were descended from ancient Dravidians and Hindu Marathas.
The Arcot Lutheran Church
, a member of the Lutheran World Federation, has around 30,000 members, 40 parishes, nearly 50 ordained pastors and many evangelists. It has a very strong education ministry, with 40,000 students in 90 schools. In addition, the church has active ministries among tribal people and disadvantaged population, including work among a gypsy tribe, the transgender people, leprosy children and the elderly who are of low-income. The comprehensive development program among 60,000 tribal people on the the Kalvarayan Hills is among ALC’s most significant ministries. In addition, it operates two hospitals The Quo Vadis, an interfaith dialog center, is among ALC’s newly established ministries.Who is the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
NELC Don Bosco School
The Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church, a member of the Lutheran World Federation, has approximately 85,000 members. The Santals, one of India's tribal peoples, form the majority. The Boros—originally a Mongolian tribe but long in Assam — and the Bengali comprise the rest of the membership. Most of the Santals, Boros, and Bengals are challenged by the successive ravaging of cyclones, flood, drought, and famine. Another group, of Hindu and Muslim origin, is the fruit of the Swedish Mission in Cooch Behar and the Norwegian Mission among Muslims.
The Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church has two main hospitals, the Mohulpahari Hospital in Jhardhand and the Parkijuli Hospital in Assam. There are several other health centers and community health programs, including The Saldoha Leprosy Home and Hospital.
Mohulpahari Christian Hospital
The NELC has established a mission board and has active mission work not only among the ethnic groups which have been the traditional focus, but also work in Nepal and Bhutan.
With 460 congregations and nearly 100 ordained pastors, NELC headquartered in Dumka, Jhardkand. Theological training is provided by the Santal Theological Seminary, the only Santali language media theological school in India. Theological education by extension (TEE) is being developed to provide training for local leaders in teaching, pastoral and sacramental ministry as well as offering continuing education to pastors.Who is the South Andhra Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
The South Andhra Lutheran Church, a member of the Lutheran World Federation, is a Telugu-speaking church that serves mainly in the Nellore, Cuddapah, and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh. Most of its 33,000 members are from rural areas, but there are also city congregations, including some in Chennai,Tamilnadu. The church's 40 parishes are served by more than 40 pastors, and many evangelists, Bible women, and workers in other related ministries. Education is high on the agenda of the church. The SALC maintains ten elementary schools, six boarding homes, five secondary schools, and one industrial school. Church hostels also help young people from rural areas to continue their education.Who is the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI) and what are its ministries?
The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI)
is a communion of eleven member churches spread out mostly in the East and Central India including North Eastern states with a membership of approximately 2.5 million. The Lutheran communion in India is predominantly Dalit and Adivasi. Each member church has its own unique cultural and historical context, with different mission histories. The communion was founded in 1926 as a Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India and went through a metamorphosis and now is known as the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India.
The Communion facilitates member churches to witness to the faith together. It enables the possibilities for constant interaction and serves as the platform to speak together on fundamental concerns of the Lutheran churches in India. The communion also enables the member churches to express their unity as part of the universal church and the church in India and explores ways to be God's effective instrument for justice, inclusiveness and for the liberation of the oppressed. Addressing and responding to the Gospel demands for social, economic, spiritual and gender justice fulfill this. The communion helps in the deepening of the understanding of our faith in God and to commit to closer and deeper cooperation in witness and service. The communion constantly explores effective and relevant ways to participate in the ecumenical movement in the midst of struggles.
The Lutheran communion in India along with the ecumenical community celebrated the tercentenary of the first Protestant mission to India. In 1706 the first German Lutheran missionaries namely Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plutschau landed at the shores of a fisher folk village called Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) in South India. UELCI is proud of its association with this historical reality.
One third of the members of the National Council of Churches in India are Lutheran churches and the communion has played a pivotal role in promoting ecumenism and ecumenical theology of justice and life.
Two important theological schools are located in UELCI’s service areas. The United Theological College
in Bangalore, Andhra, founded in 1910, is the main Protestant institution for graduate theological studies. It has one of the best theological libraries in Asia. The Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Center
in Chennai, Tamilnadu, relates to all Lutheran churches in India.How do the companions in India and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America accompany one another in ministry?
Mohulpahari Nursing School
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the companions in India.
This relationship is deepened and extended by the AELC’s relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Northwestern Minnesota Synod, the ALC with the Northern Illinois Synod, the NELC with South-Central Synod of WI and the SALC with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the companions. The ELCA has two mission personnel serving in India.
By the invitation of our companions, the ELCA walks hand in hand with them on a variety of programs and projects, ranging from leadership development, theological education, faculty development, gender mainstreaming, women’s ministry, healthcare, community development.
In the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, ELCA was invited by UELCI to participate in a number of relief and community rehabilitation programs. In addition to Church bodies, ELCA Global Mission also accompanies theological institutions such as the Andhra Christian Theological College and Gurukul Lutheran Theological College in development church leadership for the future. Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI), Christian Medical College, Vellore, Lutheran World Service in India are among our partners in medical, community development and disaster relief efforts throughout India.
The ELCA also funds significant work through the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of 140 churches (including the ELCA) and 68 million people that is grounded in a common Lutheran faith. The LWF provides space for Lutherans from around the world to share joys, challenges, and expertise as they seek the healing of the world. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s relief and development arm, and the Department for Mission and Development (DMD), which focuses on holistic ministries through which the church participates in God’s mission to all creation. In the LWF Department of World Service India program, ELCA World Hunger funds help support the work, including:
- Emergency response
- Disaster preparedness
- Urban development
- Rural development
- HIV/AIDS awareness
The ELCA also works in India through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A ministry of the ELCA, LWR is a U.S.-based agency that works with community-based partners in 50 countries. ELCA World Hunger funds help support work that focuses on:
- Training community health workers in disease prevention and awareness as well as building clinics for treatment
- Training agricultural workers in environmentally sound practices that increase production and diversification, leading to better health and nutrition
- Improving water management for retention and irrigation
- Empowering communities to advocate to authorities on their own behalf through education on causes of marginalization, legal aid, governance and social services, as well as offering advocacy training
- Training women in leadership skills, as well as creating women’s self-help groups that generate opportunities for income and increased self-reliance
- Rehabilitating and reconstructing tsunami-affected areas through re-establishing livelihoods, building temporary housing and shelters, providing boats and nets to fisher folk, repairing schools, installing irrigation systems, initiating food- and cash-for-work programs, and creating disaster preparedness task forces;
In addition, ELCA funds support Church World Service (CWS), which works in India. Supported by 36 denominations, including the ELCA, CWS is a U.S.-based ecumenical organization that works with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world.
India: the context where the churches in India serves
India, with a population of 1.1 billion, is the largest democracy in the world. It is in the midst of fast-paced, major economic and social changes; its economy has had an 8% growth rate over the past 3 years. Development is uneven; urban areas have more jobs, resources, and wealth than do the rural areas. In general the rural areas, where over 70% of the population resides, have high levels of poverty, but there are vast slums and great poverty in the urban areas. With globalization and economic growth also environmental pollution. The commercialization of water, depletion of and access to clean water continue to be a major problem in various parts of India. The official languages of India are Hindi and English, but there are more than 21 additional language groups, some of whom speak neither Hindi nor English.
The caste system permeates all of Indian society and the churches. The Dalits, formerly known as ‘untouchables,” and the Adivasi, tribal peoples, are oppressed groups who are economically, socially, and educationally disadvantaged. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, but there is religious conflict which sometimes turns violent. Hinduism is the largest religion (80.5%) followed by Islam (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.8%), and Buddhists (1.0%). About 70% of the Christians in India are Dalits.
Gender inequality continues to be a major issue both in the society and in the church. Adult literacy rates for 2000-04 were 73.4% for male but only 47.8% for women.
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