About Us – Mar Thoma Syrian Church In Singapore

The Mar Thoma Syrian Church, also known as the Mar Thoma Church is a Christian denomination based in Kerala, the south-western state of India. The Church traces its origins to the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle. The Mar Thoma Church defines itself as Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical In faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental/Eastern in worship, Democratic in function and Episcopal in character.

It is independent and indigenous. Its regular work as well as all the special projects is almost entirely financed by contributions from its members. The Church sees itself as continuing the apostolic succession and traditions first introduced by Apostle Thomas. The growth of the Church was particularly influenced by the introduction of the first Malayalam-language version of the Bible. The Mar Thoma Church became officially independent of the Malankara Church and its hierarchy in the late 19th century.

Objectives of the Church

  • To be the repository of the divine doctrines revealed by Jesus Christ and proclaimed by His Apostles;
  • To maintain these doctrines in their purity;
  • To Promote the spiritual life of its members through the administration of sacraments and by the ministry of the WORD;
  • To make disciples of all nations by the proclamation of the Gospel to the entire world, and through the administration of Holy Baptism in the name of the Triune God.

The Purification Movement (Reformation)

The reformation that happened in the Church was during the 19th century and was spearheaded by Abraham Malpan, a churchman loyal to the traditions of the Church. He wanted to reform the Malankara Church consistent with the apostolic and evangelical traditions. He tried to accomplish this by translating and revising the liturgy; by doing away with what he believed to be unscriptural practices; and by restoring the Church to what he considered to be its original doctrinal position. He also insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy alike. All this created ferment in the Malankara Church.

In 1806, Rev. Dr. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Malankara during the reign of Marthoma VI. With his help, the Bible was translated from the original Aramaic into Malayalam and was distributed to the parishes. By 1811 the Bible translation into Malayalam was completed (known as Ramban Bible). As people began to read and study the Bible, they realized that it was necessary to follow the Biblical teachings and to reform the Church.

So Mar Thoma XI convened a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church on December 3, 1818. At that meeting a committee was appointed to recommend reforms in the Church. This was the first step in carrying out Reformation in Malankara Church. Strategy was determined by a group of 12 senior clergy under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. When the Malankara Church rejected the reform proposals the Mar Thoma Church was established, as a “Reformed Church”. A letter describing what they believed aligned better with biblical and Christian teachings were issued. A statement listing twenty-four practices of the Church which they believed were essential was published. The principal reforms were:

  1. Gave first preference to the Open Bible.
  2. Worship services including Holy Communion were conducted in the mother tongue, Malayalam.
  3. Holy Communion was not celebrated when there were none to receive.
  4. Mandated that Communion under both kinds should be distributed separately, during Holy Communion
  5. Prayers to the saints and prayers for the dead were discarded.
  6. Auricular confession was discontinued.
  7. Icons, pictures, statues, and drawings of saints were removed from homes, churches, and places of worship.
  8. Changes were made in the liturgical books accordingly.

Administration

The Church has a constitution and has a democratic pattern of administration. There is an ‘Episcopal Synod’, a Grand Assembly known as ‘Marthoma Suriyani Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam’ (House of Representatives), a council to aid the Metropolitan in administrative matters and a Vaideeka Selection Committee, to select candidates for the ministry of the Church.

The home and global affairs of the Church are managed through a number of dioceses (12 as of Jan 2010). Each of these is headed by a Bishop. Each diocese has its own council and an assembly. The assembly members are elected by the individual parishes, and the council members, by the Assembly. All members of a parish are members of Edavaka Sangham (General Body) and they also have the right to elect their representatives to the Diocesan Assembly and Prathinidhi Mandalam (Church Parliament).

The title of the head of the Church is “Marthoma” and is addressed as “Marthoma Metropolitan”. He is installed from among the consecrated Bishops (Episcopas) of the Church, the choice being ordinarily that of the senior most among them. The present “Marthoma Metropolitan” is the Most Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma who resides at the Church’s Headquarters in TiruvallaKerala.