The National Council of Churches in India is the Ecumenical Forum of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India. The Council was established in 1914 as the National Missionary Council. In 1923, the Council constituted itself as the National Christian Council of India, Burma and Ceylon. The Councils of Burma and Sri Lanka separated, and in 1979 the Council transformed itself into what is known as the National Council of Churches in India. It is an Inter-confessional autonomous Council and an ecumenical expression constantly initiating, promoting and coordinating various forms of ministries of Witness and Service in the wider community and society. The Council also serves as a common platform for thought and action and as such it brings together the Churches and other Christian organisations for mutual consultation, assistance and action in all matters related to the life and witness of the Churches in India. The NCCI is committed to the Gospel values of Justice, Unity & Peace.

The NCCI is made up of 30 Member Churches, 17 Regional Christian Councils, 18 All India Organisations and 7 Related Agencies. It represents about 14 million people in India. Ever since it’s inception in the year 1914, the Council and its constituent members are actively engaged in the work of spiritual upliftment, nation building and social transformation. It is an inter- confessional autonomous Council which embraces, promotes and coordinates various kinds of activities for responsible life and witness, for upholding human dignity, for ecological and economic justice, for transparency and accountability, and for equity and harmony, through its constituent members and in partnership with civil society, NGOs, People’s Movements and well wishers at local, national and international levels.

The member churches and the regional councils are the primary members of the council. The Assembly which is the supreme body meets every four years. The Executive Committee meets annually to oversee the work of the Council and also appoints the Working Committee which meets twice in a year to guide and monitor its activities.

Logo

ncci_blue_logoThe NCCI logo symbolises an open and inviting church lit by an Indian lamp placed in India’s national flower, the lotus, and welcoming all creation into wider ecumenical fellowship.

History

From the beginning of the 19th century, when the missionary movement got going in full vigour and vitality, cooperation among Missions and missionaries was emphasised since their aim was winning the ‘lost souls’. William Carey, who in 1793 came to India as a missionary of the British Baptist Missionary Society, felt the need for cooperation and fellowship among missionaries working in different parts of the world and so proposed as early as 1806 for a world level meeting of missionaries to share with their fellow-missionaries their experiences in the mission field such as their agonies, failures, successes, stumbling blocks and the like, as well as to ask for prayer support, so that a sense of oneness could be developed. He even suggested a location for such a meeting, viz. The Cape of Good Hope, on the tip of South Africa and the probable year for it to be 1810 or 1812. But his proposal at the time was considered as a ‘wild dream’. It took one hundred years to organize a world-level missionary conference with a purpose proposed by William Carey. That such a proposal emanated from a missionary in India is considered as a significant contribution of India to the Ecumenical Movement.

The British East India Company which was a colonial ruler in the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Presidencies began to permit missionaries from the British Isles to officially engage in missionary activities in its territories from 1813. Those missionaries began to come together unofficially mainly for fellowship and prayer. The first such meeting took place in 1825 in Bombay. It was copied by the missionaries based in Calcutta and Madras in 1830; they came to be referred to as city-level missionary meetings. Such gatherings led to periodic regional gatherings, such as Bengal Missionary Conference, South India Missionary Conference etc., and from 1872 to All India Decennial Missionary Conferences. Though these were unofficial, yet they fostered a feeling of oneness in Christ and in God’s Mission. As a result, feelings were expressed to have a national body (meaning an All India forum) to give more impetus and thrust to their missionary activities as well as to tackle problems forced on them. The impetus we can say for the National Missionary Council came from South India Missionary Conference held in 1900 at Madras where a drastic change was made in the composition of participants, in its convening and even in its agenda. It became a role-model for future missionary conferences not only in India but also in other countries. The 1910 Edinburgh (Scotland) World Missionary Conference too followed the 1900 Madras model. That too can be considered as an ecumenical contribution of India.

The 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary conference proposed the formation of national – level missionary councils (NMC) affiliated to and with the International Missionary Council (IMC) which the 1910 Edinburgh Conference had unanimously decided to form, and Dr.John R.Mott, the President of the IMC was requested to tour around the world with that said purpose. He came to India in 1912 and held consultation and conferences in different parts of India. The one at Calcutta known as the Calcutta 1912 Missionaries Conference was held from 18-21 December 1912 in the Hall of the Asiatic Society. After Dr.John R.Mott addressed it, a decision was made to form a national body, to be known as ‘the National Missionary Council’. The delegates numbering 58 were from all parts of India and represented practically all the missionary societies then working in India. It recorded with conviction that ‘whenever capable and spiritually minded men and women are discovered Churches and Missions should make a real and unmistakable advance in placing Indians on a footing of complete equality in status and responsibility with Europeans, and thus open for them the highest and most responsible positions in every department of missionary activity. The work of foreign missionary Societies be gradually transferred, as opportunities offer, to the Indian Church, and suitable plans and modifications of existing organisations should be adopted whenever necessary’. The said Calcutta meeting began a discussion on Church Union too. In the matter of missionary cooperation it took several important steps. It framed the basis upon which the Provincial Missionary Councils and the National Council could be formed. The Calcutta Conference decided that the main objects of the National Council should be to coordinate the activities of the local councils and deal with matters that affected the entire mission field which come under the IMC; its functions should be solely consultative and advisory and not legislative or mandatory; it was to be composed of two persons from each of the provincial Councils and a number of co-opted members. The Calcutta Conference set up an Interim Committee having the Anglican Metropolitan G.A.Lefroy as Convener and Herbert Anderson, a Baptist Missionary as Secretary to give final shape to the constitution and matters related to the National and Provincial Councils. The Interim Committee had 30 members including Ms.Bose, S.K.Datta, S.C.Mukerji and K.T.Paul.

The Interim Committee took more than a year to complete its task. It enabled the constitution of Provincial Councils which were eight in number, namely, Bihar, Bengal-Orissa, Bombay, Punjab, Mid-India, Upper Provinces, Madras and Burma. They were suggested to elect their representatives to the National Council. Then it scrutinized the Constitution of the National Council. It proposed the National Council to be affiliated with the IMC. Thus the stage was set for the founding meeting of the NMC.

Evangelization of the World in this Generation! This slogan captures the zeal and the perspective of the Christian mission bodies of the 19th and early 20th centuries as they came to India and other parts of Asia and Africa to bear witness to and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. However this enthusiasm and commitment was tempered by challenges and difficulties in the mission fields. There was the need to share experiences and learnings. There was the need to have fellowship. There was the need to cooperate in missionary endeavours. All these concerns eventually led to the formation of the National Missionary Council (NMC) in 1914.

One of the significant achievements of the NMC was the Statement on Comity which “laid down specific rules for arbitration and conciliation, territorial arrangements, transfer of mission workers, etc. But above all, it emphasized that Comity basically consisted in cooperative efforts for the common purpose, the evangelization of India.” However as the name suggests, it was a council of missions and not of churches.

Self-Rule is our Birthright! We want freedom! Such were the slogans which gave stronger expression to the desire and movement for freedom from colonial rule during the first half of the 20th century. Therefore there was much thinking among Christians about shifting the focus from foreign missions to Indian churches. J.H. Oldham, in a booklet entitled, The World and the Gospel (published in 1916) had said, “The aim of the foreign missionary work is to plant the Church of Christ in every part of the non-Christian world as a means to its evangelisation.” Something of the spirit of that discussion was captured when the NMC was renamed as “National Christian Council (NCC) of India, Burma and Ceylon” in 1923.

The NCC was established on the basis ‘that the only bodies entitled to determine the policy of the Churches and Missions are the Churches and Missions themselves’. Regarding membership it was made a constitutional rule that half the members in both the National and the Provincial Councils should be nationals. After Independence, in 1956 the Council adopted a new constitution in which, regarding membership, it was stated, “ Only organised Church Bodies are entitled to direct representation in the Council. Missions not yet integrated with a Church Body in India, may become associate members.” The period of transition from mission to church which started in 1923 thus came to its completion.

In the early decades after Indian independence, the main emphasis of the NCC India was not on the expansion, but on the up-building of the Church, and so the Council engaged in a number of activities having the intention of contributing to the final goal: a self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating Church. The major activities of the Council were: Adult Education; Christian Literature; Christian Higher Education; Theological Education; Evangelism; Relief; Social Service projects; Christian Home; Youth Council; Audio-Visual Communication; Welfare of the Handicapped; Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society; cooperation among churches; and representing the non-Roman Churches with the Government.

Jesus Christ is not only Saviour and Lord, but also our Liberator! During the late1960’s and 1970’s this kind of a slogan articulated the frustration of the Christians in Latin America, Asia and Africa, who saw that though most of their countries were free of the foreign yoke, the political-economic and socio-cultural structures in the country were still enslaving. They discovered Jesus afresh as the liberator, bring in the reign of God (Lk.4:18-19).

Between 1965 and 1977, the Council made serious attempts to reorganize itself such as divesting of responsibility to Service Agencies which were too dependent on outside initiative, giving autonomy to its departments, decentralisation of office and secretariat to bring them nearer to the churches, activisation of the Regional Christian Councils, etc. However the question still remained: Was the Council playing an effective role in the life of the churches and the Indian society?

The Council appointed an Evaluation Commission in the mid-seventies (the time when political Emergency was declared in the country) drawn from its own constituent members. The Evaluation Commission asked the fundamental question whether the NCCI has a rationale for its continued existence, and if so, what and in what form. The Commission was convinced that the Church in India could not do without the NCCI. In discussing the nature of the Council, the Commission proposed that the Council should be seen as a covenant relation among the Churches of India engaged together in a common mission and moving towards a goal.

It was in the context of this perspective that it was suggested that the name of the Council be changed from National Christian Council of India to National Council of Churches in India. This change of name would help the Council to break away from the momentum of the NCCI’s past in the missionary era when it was oriented to Churches outside and dependent on their spiritual initiative and financial aid. In defining the “Churches in India” the Commission proposed that (1) the new National Council of Churches should give a decisive central place to the Churches as officially organised according to their own conceptions of polity; (2) that at the same time, the Council should open itself to those movements and organizations which promote the Church’s mission and ecumenism in India at various levels and which are prepared to give in their own structure clear expression to their decision to work “in association with the Council” and be oriented to the Churches e.g., Regional Christian Councils, autonomous ecumenical agencies engaged in special fields and frontier movements.

Thus as a follow-up to the evaluation Commission’s report, the NCCI came to called the National Council of Churches in India in 1979.

The Gospel in a Groaning World! This was the theme of the 27th Quadrennial Assembly of the NCCI which met during April 25-28, 2012. The situation in India had become quite complex since the last 30 years. Fundamentalism and communalism were on the rise, thereby causing much tensions and even violence in the Indian pluralistic society. Globalization had been impacting the economy causing an ever increasing divide between “Shining India” and “Suffering Bharat”. Dalits, Indigenous Peoples, Maoists, and the like were all engaged in struggles for justice. Ecological exploitation of the natural resources of the country has been proving to be hazardous. At the same time, the Church in India is faced with the rise of charismatic movements, new church groups, mushrooming Bible schools and theological colleges, as well as the emphasis on confessionalism rather than ecumenism.

Towards Integral Mission and Grassroot Ecumenism! This was the slogan for the centenary celebration of the NCCI in 2014. Implied in this theme is the concern for wider and deeper ecumenism, for justice, peace, love and growth, for the realization of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the vibrant integration of humans and all creation with God, the author and fulfiller of life.

The quadrennial theme of 2016-2020 is ‘Toward Just and Inclusive Communities’.

One can go on citing so many different categories of injustice and exclusivity in the country: migrants, asylum seekers, political detainees, ethnic and religious minorities, elderly people, children, sexual minorities, people living with HIV and AIDS, etc. All excluded groups have certain experiences of pathos in common such as: poverty, marginalization, oppression, victimization, rejection and discrimination. These include experiences of violence, physical, psychological and emotional suffering, demonization, humiliation, rejection, the experience of being made to feel that oppression is the result of personal or inherited sin, a religiosity that is considered liberal, and the experience of having their voices silenced in oppression.

The need to foster solidarity among excluded people as they struggle to dismantle structures and cultures that exclude and deny, and as they strive to realize the vision of more just and inclusive communities, is a gospel imperative.

We believe that the Church as ‘Just and Inclusive Community’ is called to become a community without walls, to reach out to people who are stigmatized and demonized, and be a listening community to understand their pains, desires, and hopes.

We envision Church as a sanctuary to the ostracized who thirst for understanding, friendship, love, compassion and solidarity, and to join in their struggles to live out their God given lives.

As indicated in the quote above, the excluded people also have experiences of hope–in the form of resistance, celebration, solidarity and a vision of a new society. It is these experiences of hope that inform this exercise of discerning the directions for the pursuit of just and inclusive communities. We have to move towards articulating the contours of a theology from within the church, from a legitimate part of the church who are excluded within and who yearn for its transformation so that the church is able to hold itself forth as a sign, as an alternative to the unjust, discriminatory and oppressive world and its institutions.

Constituent Members

Member Churches

  1. Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church 2. Arcot Lutheran Church 3. Baptist Church of Mizoram 4. Bengal-Orissa-Bihar Baptist Convention 5. Chaldean Syrian Church of the East 6. Church of North India 7. Church of South India 8. Convention of Baptist Churches of the Northern Circars 9. Council of Baptist Churches in North-East India 10. Council of Baptist Churches in Northern India 11. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh 12. Good Samaritan Evangelical Lutheran Church 13. Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chota Nagpur 14. Hindustani Covenant Church 15. India Evangelical Lutheran Church 16. Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church 17. Malabar Independent Syrian Church 18. Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church 19. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church 20. Marthoma Syrian Church 21. Mennonite Brethren Church 22. Mennonite Church in India 23. Methodist Church in India 24. Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church 25. Presbyterian Church in India 26. Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches 27. South Andhra Lutheran Church 28. Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church 29. National Organization of the New Apostolic Church 30. The Salvation Army

Regional Christian Councils

  1. Andhra Pradesh Council of Churches 2. Bengal Christian Council 3. Bihar Council of Churches 4. Chattisgarh Christian Council 5. Gujarat Council of Churches 6. Jharkhand Council of Churches 7. Karnataka Christian Council 8. Kerala Council of Churches 9. Madhya Pradesh Christian Council 10. Maharashtra Council of Churches 11. North-East India Christian Council 12. North-West Frontier Christian Council 13. North-West India Council of Churhces 14. Santalia Council of Churches 15. Tamil Nadu Christian Council 16. Utkal Christian Council 17. Uttar Pradesh & Uttranchal Council of Churches

All India Christian Organizations

  1. All India Association for Christian Higher Education 2. Association of Theologically Trained Women of India 3. Bible Society of India 4. Board of Theological Education of Senate of Serampore College 5. Christian Association for Radio and Audio Visual Services 6. Christian Endeavour in India 7. Christian Union of India 8. Ecumenical Council for Drought Action and Water Management 9. Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 10. Inter-Church Service Association 11. The Leprosy Mission 12. Lott Carey Baptist Mission in India 13. Lutheran World Service India Trust 14. National Council of YMCA’s of India 15. National Missionary Society of India 16. Student Christian Movement of India 17. United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India 18. Young Women’s Christian Association of India

Related Agencies

  1. All India Sunday School Association 2. Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society 3. Christian Literature Society 4. Christian Medical Association of India 5. Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action 6. Ecumenical Church Loan Fund 7. Henry Martyn Institute.

AUTONOMOUS BODIES OF NCCI

  1. Urban Rural Mission 2. India Peace Centre
Vision

STRATEGIC PLAN 2014 – 2020

 The Context

In 2014, as NCCI celebrates its centenary, the world is very different from the one at its inception. There is a radical reordering of international relationships, with the economic contours being totally rewritten. The world has just moved back from the brink of economic collapse, and is not out of the woods yet. Colonialism has gone, but exceptionalism still rules in international relations. Triumphalism has acquired religious overtones, as also the several ‘wars’ on terror, drugs, crime and even international trade. The planet-wide climate crisis exacerbates these tensions, rather than ensure a common effort against certain destruction. Globally we are staring at a leadership crisis of apocalyptic proportions.

The euphoria of ecumenism has matured into institutions of common communion, though the momentum has slowed. The role of the church, and religion itself, in international and personal relationships is being questioned as never before. Though inter-religious dialogues have been institutionalised, there is as yet no credible platform for such dialogue, and the discredited clash of civilisations has several adherents in high places. The advances in human rights has found uneven expression within the institutional church, with ordination of women and sexual minorities yet to be initiated, let alone institutionalised, in several denominations. The disconnect between stated position of the church and their lives have seen declining church attendance across the world.

India mirrors this transition in several ways. Exceptionalism in international relations is mirrored by impunity within the country of dominant groups and sections. The demographic transition to a younger, more aspirational India has higher expectations in terms of governance and standards—in personal and public life. The maturing of the media as a public voice, the citizens movement for probity in public life, for security of the person especially women, the rule of law is finding more and more space for expression. There is the simultaneous cultural assertion that sometimes accentuates regressive practices such as caste and gender based discrimination. Polarisation on regional, communal and political lines has left the country with no credible leaders. The venality of the political class and the avarice of the corporate class have hollowed out institutions leading to a vacuum that is being filled by demagogues.

Today’s India faces challenges of growing poverty, migration, displacement, ecological degradation, climate change, high rates of crimes, corruption, ultra-rightwing fundamentalism, rightwing ideologies such as cultural nationalism, moral policing, rebel and resistant ideologies, communalism, attacks on minorities, caste, race and gender based violence, and the dangers connected with the IT boom. On the other hand governments are moving from a welfare state model to a market-led model, resulting in increased privatization of education and health care, withdrawal of subsidies and welfare programmes for the poor, and rise in the cost of living. The people who are kept on the margins of society are the worst sufferers: the poor, women, children, Dalits, Adivasis, Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs), PLWH, LGBTQs, migrants, refugees, religious and linguistic minorities.

The role of the NCCI

The NCCI has given expression to its life and work in the context of the historical developments in the country. India has gone through several changes and challenges since its independence. The 1950s and 60s were characterized by India declaring itself as a republic, with its concerns for nation building, implementation of five year plans, etc. Churches too were committed to nation building. The seventies witnessed the imposition of the Emergency. The churches had to play a responsible role. The NCCI was transformed into a Council of Churches. The struggles of development caught up with country during the 1980s, while movements for justice and liberation for the poor, for women, for Dalits and tribals/Adivasis also began to take shape. Since the 1990s India has opted for a new economic policy leading to globalization. The information technology revolution also started changing the Indian context. At the same time India witnessed the intensification of fundamentalism and communalism, as well as growing power and impact of regional political parties and coalition politics.

The church is called on to provide savant leadership in this context, ensuring inclusion, equity, and justice to all sections of society. The church needs to work in a multi-cultural environment, in which there is decreasing respect for institutions and higher standards of behaviour and delivery. There are no holy cows, and the church must be bold enough to question and humble enough to be questioned. Such a response requires the church to be in solidarity with the excluded, a difficult task in the best of times, but difficult when diversity is seen as a threat and difference is labelled terrorist.

At the same time the Church is riddled with internal problems such as divisions among churches, mushrooming of church groups and theological institutions, prosperity theologies, effective and responsible administration of educational institutions, hospitals, etc., expressions of fundamentalism and communalism, increasing confessionalism at the cost of ecumenism, etc.  The Church in India is therefore struggling to understand her identity, role and witness in such a context.

The Strategic Planning Process

Mandate

The General Body of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which met on 6-7 August 2012 in Nagpur, discussed priorities of the NCCI for the new quadrennial (2012-2016) and the question ‘How should NCCI function in the context of the socio-economic, cultural, political, scientific-technological, religious (including Christian ecclesial) challenges of the 21st century?’ In view of the fast approaching Centenary of the NCCI in 2014, it mandated the Secretariat to initiate a Light Assessment of the life and work of the NCCI Secretariat and to engage in a Strategic Planning Process (SPP) for the future ministries of the NCCI, including the structure of the NCCI and its governance.

The General Body appointed a four member Advisory Group (Rev. Dr. Chandran Paul Martin as Convener, Dr. Sushant Agrawal, Ms. Pearly Jos, and Rev. Raj Bharath Patta) to guide and facilitate the NCCI Secretariat in getting the assessment and strategic planning process done.

The Executive Secretaries were actively engaged under the guidance and support of the Advisory Group. Edwin, an external consultant was engaged to help in getting the work done professionally.

Scope of the SPP

The SPP was conducted between December 2013 and July 2014. Its primary focus was the life and work of the NCCI including its governance, perspectives, programmes, administration and finance and resources. It included a light assessment covering internal and external stakeholders of NCCI and those who had engaged with the NCCI over time. It would provide directions and guidelines for the period 2013-2020.

The objectives

The objectives of the SPP were to

  • Articulate a vision and mission for the NCCI
  • Spell out the implications of such a vision for the mission of the NCCI.
  • Draw out the implications of the mission statement for the structure of the NCCI and its governance.
  • Give directions and functional policies for the existence and relevance of the NCCI.

The light assessment

A light assessment of the status of NCCI and its preferred direction was done as part of the SPP during January and February 2013. The questionnaire was sent to 491 institutions and organisations, including all the constituent members, of whom 64 (13%) replied. 31 of the 71 constituent members (40%) replied to the questionnaire.

The light assessment found that there is a lack of ‘one big idea’ or mission, and there is a lot of level conflict. The level conflict spills over into the expectations too. The expectations from NCCI are diverse, making it virtually impossible for NCCI to fulfil these expectations. NCCI is expected to be everywhere, do everything—right from the grassroots to national and international levels. In management terms, this diversity of expectations makes NCCI as it is now designed to fail.

The key areas of concern expressed by the constituents are: (a) Distancing: Identification of the constituents (and those who were sent the questionnaire) has considerably decreased. There seems to be some distance that has built up. (b) Discrimination and social justice: There are concerns of caste and social justice within the churches, and persistent active prevalence of discrimination within the church and NCCI. (c) Internal accountability: Though there were statements and public pronouncements about transparency and accountability, there is a deficit in internal practice, both within NCCI and the constituents. (d) Leadership: NCCI and the church in India have conceded leadership in several arenas, even where they were considered ‘natural leaders’ in the past. (e) The engagement of NCCI with different levels (grassroots to national) and constituencies (members to government and Indian society at large) is more episodic and event based, rather than a process—despite NCCI designing processes. (f)Communication needs to be improved, both within NCCI and its constituents and with the larger society and the government for NCCI to be the face of the Christian community to the nation and the outside world.

In the strategic plan period, the expectations of NCCI are (a) Focus on being a platform for mutual learning, coordination and joint action. (b) Assume the mantle of the national body of all the churches in India. This includes being the face of the Christian community to the nation, state and society and being the focal point of the Christian community in India. (c) Be active in promoting human rights, theological leadership and advocacy. (d) Conduct more training programmes, and a more active advocacy.

The key benefit of being part of NCCI were the programmes conducted, with ecumenical, multi-faith, and international interactions coming second. The work on human sexuality and HIV were the most appreciated, along with the theological conversations.

The key area that needs attention was governance. It needs serious and urgent attention at the NCCI and constituent levels. Communication is another area that needs urgent attention, both internal and external (to the government). The influence of caste and class and the lack of vision were also identified as important issues. Other areas that could do with more attention are strengthening the secretariat and joint programmes (fellowship and sharing as well as joint action). The gap between NCCI and its members was identified as the key factor keeping NCCI from realising its potential. There was a strong desire to have a more inclusive NCCI, but how to do it remained ambiguous.

The key challenges identified by the respondents centred around the volatile external environment characterised by the market economy, growing fundamentalism, good governance and social justice. Unity among denominations, ecumenism and social justice were the next most important areas that would be challenging in the years ahead.

In the strategic plan period, NCCI is expected to focus on being a platform for mutual learning, coordination and joint action. The second area of focus would is being the national body of all the churches in India. This includes being the face of the Christian community to the nation, state and society and being the focal point of the Christian community in India. The NCCI is expected to have an active role in promoting human rights, theological leadership and advocacy. Constituents expect more training programmes and more active advocacy, and would not mind supporting more staff for the same.

Presentation to Executive Committee and Working Committee

The findings of the Light Assessment were presented to the executive committee on 7 and 8 March 2013, from which the delegates drew out the vision and mission and the strategic objectives for the period 2013-2020. These were presented in detail to the Working Committee on 2 May 2013, which included an objective by objective detailing of principles, methodology, stakeholders and expected output. The vision and mission statements were also presented and refined at the meeting.

Oikumene, Witness, Service in Practice

Strategic plan of The National Council of Churches in India 2014–2020

1      Who We Are

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) is an ecumenical community comprising about 14 million members from 30 Protestant and Orthodox Churches, 17 Regional Christian Councils and 24 other Church related, ecumenical bodies rooted in the Gospel as revealed in the person, life and work of Jesus Christ.

2      Vision

NCCI envisions just and inclusive communities which enable the full realisation of the human potential individually and collectively, and live together in harmony, justice and peace.

3      Mission

NCCI is called to facilitate and strengthen ecumenical bonds of unity among the churches, as a visible expression of being members of the one body of Christ. Through such ecumenical togetherness, it is committed to serve all of creation by giving expression to the various implications of the gospel. Through such unity and service, NCCI continues to bear witness to Jesus, the gospel and the movement for the realisation of the ‘reign of God’.

NCCI is thus called to bear witness in the Indian society and the world, sharing a common task with all of creation, participating in efforts towards realising societies based on principles of justice and inclusion.

The mission of NCCI is to participate in efforts towards realising just and inclusive communities through collaborative programmes with the churches at local, national and international levels, people’s movements, grassroots communities, community based organisations, faith communities, and governments.

Affirming solidarity with the social, economic and political initiatives of the communities such as Dalit, tribal, women, children, youth, migrants, persons with disabilities, different sexual orientations, religious and linguistic minorities, and PLWHA who have been historically disadvantaged and excluded, NCCI will facilitate and accompany the churches through joint action simultaneously reforming church and society.

4     Core Values

Equality, dignity, justice, love, peace, inclusion, transparency and accountability, are the core values of NCCI, and they will be practiced in all dimensions of our life together. NCCI commits itself to a church of the poor and for the poor.

NCCI acknowledges the complementarities of cultures, and affirms the uniqueness of all faiths, ideologies, traditions and beliefs that respect all people and do not discriminate.

5      Strategic Objectives

To actualise the vision and mission in the period 2014—2020 NCCI will have four strategic objectives (SOs). These four strategic objectives embody and express the essence of the gospel.

SO 1: Unity: Be a common platform for wider Christian communities.

It is in the pursuit of and commitment to this vision that the churches are called to play a responsible role being united together (Jn.17:21) loving one another (cf. Jn.15:12), facing all the challenges that may come in their way (Jn.15:18-27).

SO 2: Witness: Facilitate expressions of wider ecumenism.

The vision of God’s involvement is one of all embracing ecumenism in which there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (cf.  Gal.3:28), where there is an innumerable multitude of people from every nation, tribe, and culture (cf. Rev. 7:9), indeed all of creation experiencing fulfilment (cf. Rom. 8:21).

SO 3: Service: Promote just and inclusive communities with good governance.

Jesus Christ started his ministry laying emphasis on the reign of God (Mk.1:14-15), calling upon people to direct their views and ways of life to the purposes of God in all of creation, as exemplified in the Nazareth Manifesto (Lk.4:18-19).

SO 4: Practice: Actualizing a just and inclusive church for all.

Thus churches are required to so structure and administer themselves that they serve as bearers of the gospel of justice, love, fellowship, peace, and fulfilling life (cf.Phil.2:1-8).

SO 1: BE A COMMON PLATFORM FOR WIDER CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
NCCI will be a polycentric platform, providing space and opportunity for dialogue and discussion of inter and intra church issues and to widen and deepen inter and intra church fellowships.
Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Christian Unity / Oikumene They all be one (Jn 14)

Being committed to the reign of God, and being called to wider ecumenism in the steps of Jesus Christ, the churches have to introspect whether we are giving expression to God’s purposes within each of the different church traditions and in relationship with one another. The Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus (Lk.4:18-19) should be the just and inclusive basis of the life and work of every church. Paul’s Ecumenical Creed (Gal.3:28) should be constitutive ecumenical principle of individual church traditions. He reminds us that Jesus has broken all the dividing walls of social culture in the church (Ep.2:11-22). Indeed Jesus calls Christians to love another (Jn.15:12) and prays for their oneness in fellowship (Jn. 17:21). Similarly there should be holistic edifying inter-church relationships (cf. I Cor. 1:10-13).

SO:1.1 Principles of Work SO:1.2 Methodology of Work SO:1.3 Who we will work with SO:1.4 Expected Outcome
1   The Nazareth manifesto.

2   Work under the leadership of the community where possible.

4   Strategic foresight.

5   Ecumenism.

6 Polycentrism.

7 Dialogues and cross fertilisation of best practice.

1   Be a common platform for the Christian community.

2   Provide leadership in policy and theology in the evolving socio-political context.

3   Create more value based leadership within members, the congregations and the Christian community.

4   Theological conversations.

5   Ecumenical dialogues.

6   Facilitate inter-church sharing and learning.

7  Nationalise local issues, and localise national issues.

1   Community, especially the socially excluded.

2   Churches, the Christian community, church institutions, and ecumenical bodies.

1   NCCI is the platform of choice for intra-church matters and the Christian community in India, and is well known at the grassroots and decision making levels.

2   NCCI articulated policy and theology is accepted by the member churches and the Christian community in India, with increased sense of justice, equality and fellowship among member churches.

3   Value based leaders are in positions of governance within the members and society at large, leading to a more dynamic, united and vibrant Christian community.

SO 2 FACILITATE EXPRESSIONS OF WIDER ECUMENISM
NCCI will work with the state and other institutions to further the rule of law, secularism and human rights and strive to become the prophetic voice of the Christian community to the nation.
Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Church as Prophetic Voice.

In the light of our understanding of God’s participation in history ‘The reign of God’ involves standing for and living by values wherever they are found. As  Paul puts it, Christians are to be committed to whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and the like (cf. Phil.4:8-9). We have to transcend our narrow boundaries in prophetic commitment to God’s purposes, just as Jesus entered into relationships with the Samaritans, Greeks, and Romans of his day, had compassion for the poor, oppressed and ostracized, included with due dignity, lepers, women, and children in the community, and critiqued customs and practices which were inhuman, as his statement “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mk.2:27) powerfully articulates it. It is not only humans but all of creation which seeks the realization of God’s cosmic ‘oikoumene’ of justice and love (cf. Rom.8:21). Therefore the NCCI is committed to facilitate expressions of wider ecumenism.

SO:2.1  Principles of work SO: 2.2 Methodology of work SO: 2.3 Who we will work with SO: 2.4 Expected outcome
1. The Indian constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

2   Where the community can advocate for themselves, we will go with their leadership.

3   Strategic foresight.

4   Rooted in faith, but not communal.

5   Secular.

1   Create more value based leadership in society at large.

2   Articulate the Christian position to the society, the government and influence the government on policy matters.

3   Work with the common masses, other faith communities, especially the marginalised and other religious minorities, to creating awareness and promote the rule of law, secularism and other constitutional rights.

4   Encourage inter-faith dialogues for a peaceful society, and build peace communities and other institutional links between faiths and secular communities.

5   Network based on commonality of values and interests, not only commonality of interests (utilitarianism).

6  Nationalise local issues and localise national issues.

7  Promote ecological justice discourse and programmes

1   The government: bureaucrats, politicians.

2   National/ International human rights and development agencies.

3   Other faith communities, secular organisations, and social movements.

1   NCCI is consulted by the central and state governments on all matters of policy and execution regarding Christians in India.

2   Greater awareness of the rule of law, secularism and other constitutional rights.

3   A more harmonious Christian existence with other religious minorities and society at large.

4   Peaceful coexistence among different faiths and communities. Greater interfaith, inter-ideology relationships and partnerships.

SO3: PROMOTE JUST AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES WITH GOOD GOVERNANCE
NCCI will work with communities to enable them to access justice, good governance and be included in national development and progress through the creation of inclusive, equitable communities and institutions. Good (transparent, accountable, inclusive and participatory) governance shall be promoted at all levels.
Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Giving Expression to the Reign of God

In commitment to the reign of God on earth, following the mission of Jesus Christ, Christians are called upon to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of God’s favour (cf.Lk.4:18-19). We find the blessedness of our lives in realizing the struggles of the poor and being in solidarity with the suffering, in hungering and thirsting for righteousness, in being merciful, and becoming channels of peace in the world (cf. Matt. 5:3-12). Therefore the NCCI is committed to promote just and inclusive communities with good governance.

SO:3.1 Principles of work SO: 3.2 Methodology of work SO:3.3 Who we will work with SO:3.4 Expected outcome
1   Working with the socially excluded and minorities to claim their rights and entitlements themselves.

2   Constructive Christian participation in the nation building process, to challenge and be challenged.

3   The involvement in the issues of the common people will be under their leadership where possible.

4. Recognise that the traditionally excluded communities (majority communities (eg. Dalit, tribal, women, children, youth, disabled, sexualities, religious and linguistic minorities, and such others) are the majority.

1  Trainings and workshops for the socially excluded communities and sections to enable them to claim their rights and entitlements.

2   Advocacy and advocacy campaigns

3   Dialogues and deliberations

4   Networking with state agencies to demonstrate best practices and models

5   Scholarship for students in vulnerable communities

6   Make visible the unjust policies of the governments through mass movements.

7   Social Audits and policy research to analyse, critique, monitor, and provide options and best practice tools to the churches on areas such as RTI, RTE, PILs.

8  Use mass media and new media to create awareness of just society.

1   Community, community leaders, women, youth, children and the vulnerable communities.

2   Church members, Christian community.

3   The State: bureaucrats, politicians, panchayat, state and central government bodies.

4   National/ International human rights and development agencies.

5   Other faith communities, secular organisations, and social movements committed to a just, inclusive and participatory society and governance.

6   Civil society, opinion leaders, mass media.

7 Global ecumenical movements

1   Progress toward just and inclusive communities

2   Recognition of discrimination as corruption and therefore unacceptable behaviour.

3   Increased voice for the voiceless and access to benefits of vulnerable communities in rights (RTE, RTI, FRA), services and social security (RTF, REGA).

4   Improvement in the performance of state agencies.

5   Quota for SCs and STs in the private sector.

6   Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are recognised as Scheduled Castes.

7   Appropriate constitutional changes affirming the dignity and rights of all citizens.

8   Reservation of women in parliament and legislatures.

SO: 4 ACTUALIZING A JUST AND INCLUSIVE CHURCH FOR ALL
NCCI will embed within itself and its constituents, systems, structures and processes that enable the practice of global standards of good governance, inclusion and equity. It will build the human resource capacity to complement commitment for effectiveness in internal implementation of its core values and objectives.
Biblical and Theological Affirmation: Being and Becoming

God’s creative activity, participation in people’s histories and the incarnation are expressions of the divine presence and movement towards realization of fuller life for all. Christians and Churches are called to be engaged in this dynamic movement for realizing God’s reign. We should be careful that we do not reduce our faith and practice to a static monument. While systems and structures are important to facilitate the work of the churches in our commitment to God’s vision and mission, care has to be taken that these mechanisms do not become outdated and cumbersome, and that they do not adversely affect the holistic vision and mission. That is why Jesus was critical of the interpretations of the religious laws and practices, and of the burdens laid upon people in the community. So he declared, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt.11:28). Paul in Acts 20:18-25 advises the elders of the Church in Ephesus to ensure that the congregation is looked after with love, wisdom, sincerity and integrity. Thus through it all, churches will seek to become inclusive communities  of justice and love as we endeavour to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ (II Cor.3:18) and of God who makes the sun to shine on all, and sends down rain for all (Matt.5:43-48).

SO: 4.1  Principles of Work SO: 4.2 Methodology of Work SO: 4.3 We will work with SO: 4.4 Expected Outcome
1   Demonstrate the best practices (‘witness’) within the church, church institutions and agencies, congregations and within the Christian community what is required of society at large.

2   The tools and practices of good governance, inclusion and justice can be taught and applied.

3   Respect inclusive, participatory and gradual but firm change including decision makers.

3.  Uphold justice, equality, transparency, accountability and responsibility by upholding Christian values in our own churches, institutions and organisations.

1   Strengthen governance systems, especially at the member church, RCC, and NCCI levels, enabling a more flat governance and accountability system with more participation in decision making and execution.

2   Train members and decision makers at all levels in the latest management and governance standards, best practice, tools and monitoring systems for ensuring inclusion, diversity, justice, and good governance (transparency, accountability and responsibility).

3   Develop standards and goals for members in inclusion, diversity and good governance and enable the secretariat to monitor adherence and/or progress to these standards.

4   Teaching and sensitising (preaching, seminar, workshop, etc) and sensitising the churches and Christian community about contemporary issues (environment, gender and caste based discrimination and inclusion) and how to address them.

5   Gender, generational, environment and accessibility audits followed by support towards compliance.

1   Constituent members, especially at the leadership levels and different constituencies within the churches.

2   Ecumenical partners – national and international.

3   Secular organisations with expertise in good governance.

1   All member churches, RCCs, and NCCI decision making bodies meet regularly and have fully functional mechanisms for good governance for themselves and the constituent members.

2   A leadership nurturing process which will the requisite skills and expertise and provide space for the exercise of such imparted capacity will be institutionalised within NCCI and its constituents.

3   The constitution of NCCI and its constituent churches and organisations will be revised to reflect ‘inclusivision’ – just, inclusive and participatory governance and practices – the practice of which will lead to the Christian community becoming an exemplary model of an inclusive community in the society.

4   Substantial representation at all levels including decision making will be ensured for traditionally excluded sections

a)Women’s leadership would be at least a third preferably half, at all levels (including bishops, ordained clergy and lay leaders in church councils and other decision making bodies of NCCI, the church and church institutions) with leadership positions being in gender sensitive rotation of office.

b) Youth (below 30) would be at least a third in all positions that are open to the laity with gender sensitivity.

c) Those from traditionally excluded communities (such as Dalits and Adivasis) will be represented at all levels in proportion to their membership.

5   All constituents will meet or surpass, and adhere to international standards and legal requirements of

a) Financial, administrative and executive probity including disclosure.

b) Diversity (gender, caste, age, ethnicity and such others).

c)  Child protection.

d) Women and gender sensitivity

e)  Accessibility, taking into account special needs of persons with disability, gender and age.

6     Our pledge

The period 2014-2020 is one where the challenges and opportunities of the church in India are historic. The capacity, tools and resources to make poverty history and transition to an equitable, just society exist. NCCI pledges to demonstrate through witness and practice that Oikumene is indeed possible, and likewise inspire others to actively join in this effort.

Officers

PRESIDENT

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The Most Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh

Bishop of Jabalpur Diocese, Church of North India since 2004; Deputy Moderator of Church of North India since 2014; Currently, Moderator of the Church of North India.


VICE PRESIDENTS

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Rev. Dr. Ratnakara Sadananda

General Secretary of Church of South India; President of United Theological College, Bangalore; Professor of New Testament at Karnataka Theological College, Mangalore.


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Mrs. Aleyamma Thomas

Member of the Executive Council of the Malankara Marthoma Church; Coordinator of the Pain and Palliative Care Centre run by the Church in Kerala.


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Mr. Liju Jacob Kuriakose

Lecturer in English, St. Thomas College, Kerala; Central Committee Member of Mor Gregorious Jacobite Student Movement (MGJSM)


TREASURER

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Rev. Dr. A. G. Augustine Jeyakumar

Executive Secretary of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI); Held the post of Treasurer of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in the quadrennial 2012 – 2016.


GENERAL SECRETARY

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Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad

General Secretary of National Council of Churches in India since 2011; Belongs to Presbyterian Church of India.