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A History of the Church of England in India
Since the Early Days of the East India Company

By Eyre Chatterton
Bishop of Nagpur

London: SPCK, 1924.

Chapter XXIII. The Diocese of Tinnevelly and Madura, 1896. A Self-Supporting Diocese.


1. Samuel Morley, consecrated 1896; resigned 1913.

2. Arthur Acheson Williams, consecrated 1905; died 1914.

3. Edward Harry Mansfield Waller, consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta, on November 28, 1915; transferred to Madras 1923.

4. Norman Henry Tubbs, consecrated 1923.

Books of Reference.--A. History of Missions in India, by Julius Riehter; History of S.P.C.K. Mission, by Caldwell; History of Christianity in India, by Hough; The Church in Madras, by Penny; Schwartz of Tanjore, by Page; Memoirs of Schwartz, by Dean Pearson; Centenary History of C.M.S. in Tinnevelly, by Paul Appaswami; South Indian Missions, by Sharrook; Things as they are, by Miss Amy Carmichael; Overweights of Joy, by Miss Amy Carmichael.

THOUGH the Diocese of Tinnevelly is one of the most recently formed dioceses of the Anglican Church in India, it has probably a larger Indian Christian population than any other. The reason for this can easily be stated. It was in this part of India that the famous Lutheran missionaries, supported so largely by the S.P.C.K., laboured throughout the eighteenth century and made so large a number of converts.

The Diocese of Tinnevelly includes the three Government Districts of Tinnevelly, Ramnad, and Madura, which are the most southern districts in British India. They lie side by side with the Native States of Travancore and Cochin, only separated by a lofty range of mountains. These three districts of the Tinnevelly Diocese were famous in the past days of Indian history. Together they formed the Kingdom of the Pandyas, who claim a mythical ancestry, celebrated in the Mahabharata. There can be no doubt the rulers of this country were men who loved to build beautiful temples and forts, and if one wants to see really fine Hindu temples one has to leave North India and go down to the Tinnevelly Diocese. The bulk of the population of this diocese are Tamils, though there are a certain number of Telugus dotted about this area. It was in this part of India that St. Francis Xavier won his great triumphs as a missionary amongst the Paravas of the East Coast. He is believed to have baptised thousands of them, the larger percentage of whom were quite illiterate. Strange to relate, the descendants of these Paravas have remained Christians to the present day, and, following the example of their former Hindu rulers, have erected all down the coast interesting and picturesque Churches. The number of Roman Catholic Christians in this diocese is about 20,000, or nearly double the number of Anglicans.

We have already referred in former chapters to the work started at Tranquebar by the Danish Mission early in the eighteenth century. Readers of Richter's History of Missions in India, and of Penny's valuable book The Church in Madras, realise the nature and extent of the work started and carried on by these missionaries for nearly a hundred years, until at length the English Church, awaking to a fuller sense of its duties, sent out Englishmen and Englishwomen to share in this great enterprise.

Tinnevelly is a part of the Mission Field which has in its records many names of devoted men and women. Unlike the heroes of the Lahore Diocese, who laboured amongst a warlike and virile race of militant Moslems, our missionaries in South India have had to work in an area which is more completely Hinduised, more superstitious, and more caste-bound than any other part of India.

Some of the English missionaries gave long periods of service to the work. In spite of the obstinate way in which he clung to his opinions, the missionary Rhenius did a great work. Along with him we may also mention the names of Tucker, Schaffter, Pettit, Ragland, Sargent, Caldwell and Pope. Like other missions, Tinnevelly has had successions of members of one family handing on the inheritance of work from parent to child. Two such are the Schaffter and Thomas families, represented in the diocese to-day.

In 1877 a great famine brought a large influx of people into the Church, a good deal of the fruits of which were retained. Tinnevelly rejoices in a Council system made up of Pastorate, Circle and District Councils, which has been adopted widely in C.M.S. Missions in India. This system, which it owes to the Rev. John Barton, has borne most happy fruit, and at the present time self-support and self-government are more conspicuous in this diocese than anywhere else in India. To-day Tinnevelly raises more than enough to pay its ninety Indian Clergy. It has built many Churches, large and small, through money raised in its Indian congregations, and it manages budgets as big as those of many an Indian Mission.

The first Bishop of Tinnevelly, the Rev. Samuel Moriey, was consecrated in the year 1896. He had been a Government Chaplain, and for some time Chaplain to Bishop Gill of Madras. Before his Consecration, however, everything had been prepared for the formation of the diocese, through the appointment of two distinguished missionaries as Assistant-Bishops to the Bishop of Madras. These two missionary leaders, Bishop Sargent of the Church Missionary Society, and Bishop Caldwell of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, were consecrated in the time of Bishop Johnson, to take Episcopal oversight of the Christians of their respective Societies. It may not have been an ideal arrangement in principle, but in practice it worked fairly well. Both Bishops were men of immense learning and piety, and, though belonging to different Societies, were most cordial in their relations one to another. Working under Bishop Caldwell, who was, it may be mentioned, the most distinguished Dravidian scholar of the day, were two distinguished missionaries, Margoschis of Nazareth and Sharrock of Tuticorin. Working in connection with the Church Missionary Society were Thomas Walker, a man of extreme devotion, and Carr, a much-beloved missionary. There were also several distinguished Indian Clergy--the Rev. Rao Sahib Paul, Rev. G. Simeon, and Canon Gnanakkan.

"The Diocese of Tinnevelly is almost entirely Indian," writes Bishop Waller, "there being only four European congregations of any size. The Indian congregations are organised into ninety Pastorates, thirty Circles, and two Central Councils. In 1917 a Diocesan Council was formed, and this awakened the diocesan spirit so that plans are nearly complete for merging all the separate Society organisations into one Central Diocesan scheme. The Diocesan Committee has been incorporated and holds property and funds- formerly held and administered by the Missionary Societies. The division of the diocese into Pastorates, made by Bishops Sargent and Caldwell, was so complete that every village, Hindu or Christian, has definitely the responsibility of some parish, and there is a steady though not very rapid flow of villages into the Church. The adult baptisms average about 1000 every year."

Higher education and the training of teachers are still supported by the Missionary Societies, though Tinnevelly College is partly financed and wholly controlled by the Church Council. The education of girls is not so extensive as that of boys, but it is efficient. The Sarah Tucker College in Palamcottan, and the High School at Nazareth are the chief institutions, and there are numerous branch and other schools of lower grade still helped by the missions.

Three famous institutions must be separately mentioned. Miss Askwith's School for the Blind at Palamcottah is probably the first and best of its kind in India. She has now retired, but it is carried on by an ex-officer (himself blinded in the war) and his wife. Miss Swainson (C.E.Z.M.S.) has just retired from the Deaf and Dumb School she founded, and this school, with its connected schools in Madras and Ceylon, is carried on by her helpers and successors. Miss Carmichael, with a band of ladies who form a sort of informal sisterhood, carries on her famous schools in Dohnavur, a little village in the south of Tinnevelly. Industrial work for boys is efficiently cared for at Nazsreth, and the lace-making schools, which Mrs. Caldwell and others have founded to employ the women, are well known. The C.E.Z.M.S. have a small but efficient evangelistic and training work.

"The bulk of the Christians of Tinnevelly come from the Nadar caste, which was long ago noted as a community of people naturally inclined to Christianity. They are enterprising, hardworking, and generous. They travel far and wide, and little colonies of them are to be found in Africa, Mauritius, North India, Rangoon, Malaysia, and very large numbers in the plantations in Ceylon and India. Their cheerful giving is illustrated, not only by the support of their clergy and their insatiable Church-building, but in the Indian Missionary Society of Tinnevelly, which sends out its own missionaries to Dornakal Diocese and raises some Rs. 18,000 a year for the support of the work.

"There is much promise for Indian Christianity in the Tinnevelly Church. Its influence has spread far and wide. Let its evangelistic zeal be further quickened, let its still unconquered caste feeling be wholly subdued, and there is nothing it could not accomplish by the power of the Holy Spirit for the spread of Christianity in India."

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