Brethren in Christ Church Society-Bharatiya Khristiya Mandali, India

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Bharatiya Khristiya Mandali
In-map.gif
India: World Factbook, 2011[1]

Location

Bihar, India
[2]

Date established

1904
[2]

Presiding officer

Rev. Samuel Hembrom, Gen. Sec'y
[2]

Church members

4,841
[2]

Number of Congregations

65
[2]

Bharatiya Khristiya Mandali, or the Brethren in Christ Church Society, is a BIC conference in the northern state of Bihar, India. Bharatiya Khristiya Mandali is affiliated with a variety of Anabaptist organizations: Mennonite World Conference, Mennonite Christian Service Fellowship of India, Mennonite Central Committee and the All Asia Mennonite Fellowship.[3] At the end of 2007 Bharatiya Khristiya Mandali reported to have 4,841 members in 65 congregations.[2]

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History

Origins

Early mission attempt

In 1903, the BIC General Conference authorized the Foreign Mission Board to establish a mission in India under the supervision of the Brethren in Christ Church. The mission began to take form in 1904 and a year later the BIC missionaries arrived in Bombay. The group took up residence in Arrah, near the India-Nepal border in the state of Bihar. But after the first year, it became evident that the mission was struggling. In 1905 the leaders of the mission group left the Brethren in Christ to work with a different mission society. Beyond this initial setback, the missionaries were not providing large numbers of converts. In fact, by 1909 the mission community numbered a mere 15 individuals. Around this time the BIC at home was experiencing a church-wide shift in preference, favoring the fruitful missions in Africa. Eventually, in 1912, the missionaries returned home. They had been unable to successfully establish a permanent mission station but they set the stage for later mission work in India.[4]

Founding of the Brethren in Christ Church Society

The Foreign Mission Board soon issued a statement that a second mission to India would soon be established. The group solidified and in 1913 the missionaries reached Calcutta under the leadership of Henry Smith. The missionaries spent their first month observing the facilities and methods of other established Anabaptist missions in India. After this short period the group began looking for a place to start their own ministry.[4] Smith approached the comity committee, a collection of Christian churches and missions in India that guided new missions to yet un-evangelized regions of India.[5] Through the guidance of their fellow Christians, the group eventually decided upon a location in the densely populated Bhagalpur District of Bihar. The mission, established it's first residence house in the village of Saur. Several months later the group decided to move twelve miles north of Saur to Madhipura. By 1918 the mission had established a presence in Bihar with mission stations in Saharsa, Madhipura and Supaul.[4]

Timeline

1905 The first BIC missionaries arrive in Bombay on January 6. The missionaries station themselves in Arrah, in north India. While they spend most of their time engaged in language studies, the Missionaries set up a preliminary Sunday service and Sunday school for those able to speak English. By October the the missionaries had baptized the first three converts: a Brahman and a Muslim father and daughter.[4]
1906 The leaders of the BIC mission, the Angeneys leave the BIC for a different mission society. The 1906 General Conference directed the Foreign Mission Board to seek a capable leader to take charge of the mission. Meanwhile, the remaining missionaries conducted Sunday services, engaged in visitations, ministered to the sick, attempted to meet the needs of widows and conducted bible classes. The mission also expanded their ministry to education programs for women and the poor.[4]
1912 Missionaries return home after struggling for seven years. In the end the missionaries were unable to establish a permanent mission in India. But they did give the next generation of missionaries valuable insights into what is required for establishing a successful mission in the region.[4]
1913 Foreign Mission Board sends over a second group of missionaries led by Henry Smith poised to conduct a mission informed by the difficulties of the past mission in Arrah.[4]
1918 The mission had established three stations in Bihar: Saharsa, Madhipura and Supaul. After five years of mission work, Saharsa and madhipura reported to have two members and four inquirers; Supaul had 16 adherents.[4]
1919 Marked the beginning of the church's orphanage ministry. The missionaries began by simply caring for a motherless boy but soon formed both a boys and girls orphanage each with their own school. The orphanages would eventually become the principle source of members for the church as it developed through the mid-century.[4]
1922 The mission adopts a new statement of purpose to explain their shift in mission tactics. Because of the lack of response to their evangelistic efforts, the mission had already begun focusing their attention on various social ministries to address issues related to orphans, widows, education and health. To continue the mission's direct evangelical work, leadership began to hire Christian nationals to supplement the foreign missionaries.[6]
1924 After a decade of mission work in India, Henry Smith dies of Smallpox. Leadership passes to Amos Dick who would give a lifetime of service in India. In 1935 the General Conference made Amos Dick the Bishop of the India Mission field.[4]
1939 The church in India celebrated its Silver Jubilee. While the church had been growing slowly, the church's 25th anniversary would be seen in retrospect as a turning point for the mission and the growth of the church.
1945 The mission to the Santals begins. The Santals were less bound to the Hindu caste system and were thus more responsive to evangelism. Because of this reason, a new mission, Banmankhi, was established within access of the Santal villages. This outreach to the Santal villages largely accounts for the fourfold increase of the Indian church in the decades following the Silver Jubilee.
1954 The first three India nationals are ordained by the church.[6]
1967 The first constitution for the Brethren in Christ Church in India went into effect.[4]
1974 The BIC Mission in India was officially terminated. At this moment the BIC in India became fully autonomous.[4]

Present challenges

Economic and literacy challenges

Listed among the current issues that Harvey Sider cites as the main challenges for the people of Bihar and for the church was government corruption, low education and poverty.[7] In the 2011 India census, the state of Bihar was reported to have the third highest population among all other states and union territories, at the same time, Bihar also possesses the lowest literacy rate in the country with only 63.82% of the state's population being literate.[8] Furthermore, the statistics for the fiscal year 2010 showed that Bihar had the lowest per-capita income for all of India: 16,119 Rupees or approximately 340 US Dollars (the exchange rate used was 47.36 Indian Rupees to 1 USD).[9] In terms of governmental corruption the situation is bleak. Nitish Kumar, Chief minister of Bihar's state government, has said that curbing corruption is the greatest challenge facing his administration.[10] Reuters reports that "Bihar has become a byword for poverty, lawlessness and corruption."[11]

Electronic Resources

Citations

  1. "India," CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html (accessed 12 April 2011).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Global BIC Church Statistical Summary (Year ending Dec. 31, 2007)." Brethren in Christ World Missions. http://www.google.com/url?q=http://bic-church.org/wm/forms/download.asp%3Ffname%3D2009%2520Policy%2520Manual%2520Appendices.pdf&sa=U&ei=Q4R-TcWVEILYgQegl4WeCA&ved=0CAMQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNGJlLbCDpnCC4lCYGM7_dJIDllehw (accessed 14 March 2011).
  3. Sider, Harvey. Email interview. 23 March 2011.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: the Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, Ind, Evangel Press, 1977.
  5. Sider, Harvey. The Church in Mission. Nappanee, Ind, Evangel Press, 1975.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sider, Harvey R. "From Mission to Church: India." Brethren in Christ History & Life 17, (August 1, 1994): 113-144.
  7. Sider, Harvey. Email interview. 14 April 2011.
  8. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. "Census 2011 Provisional Population Totals." Ministry of Home Affairs. http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/archive/00517/India_Census_2011___517160a.pdf (accessed 16 April 2011).
  9. VMW Analytic Services. "Economy of the Federal States & Population for Year 2011." UNIDOW Financial Intelligence Services. http://unidow.com/india%20home%20eng/statewise_gdp.html (accessed 16 April 2011).
  10. "CM: Corruption biggest challenge." The Times of India. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2008-12-13/patna/27922120_1_corruption-nitish-kumar-gallantry-medals (accessed 16 April 2011).
  11. Financial Express. "Doing business the hard way in Bihar." Reuters. http://www.financialexpress.com/news/doing-business-the-hard-way-in-bihar/274316/ (accessed 16 April 2011).

Acknowledgments

Jonathan Harnish compiled much of the information presented here in a student research paper for a spring 2011 Anabaptist Mennonite History Class at Goshen College.